The preliminary enquiry into allegations of treason against 18 senior members of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) including four members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives, was finally concluded after the alleged plotters had been in jail for 14 months. The latest of four magistrates who have been handling the case, Mr Mshibe Bakari, announced on January 5 that the full trial would begin on January 15. The previous magistrate had given the prosecution a 60-day deadline in December to complete its investigations. There had then been a further delay until, on February 12, the magistrate gave the prosecution 14 days to submit its complete case file. On February 26 the charges were finally read in court.
They alleged that the accused had made statements on November 27 1997 and on other dates which showed their intention to commit treason. The prosecution asked for more time to go through the evidence it had provided to the court and which, it said, it had not had time to study particularly the parts it considered too sensitive for public consumption which dealt with national security and should be tried in camera. The defence objected strongly and asked that they be given the evidence so that they could prepare their defence. However, according to the Guardian, the magistrate adjourned the case until March 3 and then abruptly left the court without answering the defence counsel’s demand.
On March 3 the prosecution said that CUF had planned to recruit retired soldiers in a ‘Blue Guard’ revolutionary army. According to witness statements (quoted in the Guardian) from two former CUF members who had been expelled from the party for insubordination, a secret meeting had been held at Mbezi beach in Dar es Salaam to plan the alleged coup to overthrow the Zanzibar government.
POLITICAL STALEMATE CONTINUES
CUF announced on March 1 that it would continue its boycott of the Zanzibar House of Representatives until the CCM signed the I8-point peace plan drawn up by the Commonwealth Secretariat (See TA No 62) to end the political impasse. Zanzibar President Dr. Salmin Amour had earlier made it clear that the impasse could be solved only though the House of Representatives. A CUF representative, Mr Abbas Muhinzi, speaking at a one-day seminar organised by the East And Southern Africa Universities Research Project (ESAURP) and opened by Open University ViceChancellor Prof. Geoffrey Mrnari under the title ‘Zanzibar Political Plight’, said that, while Zanzibari’s could agree on the Commonwealth proposals, there were certain forces at work on the mainland hijacking efforts towards peace. Prof. Teddy Malyamkono of ESUARP described Zanzibar as the ‘black sheep’ in Tanzania’s political development.
Prospects of a compromise solution suffered a setback when President Mkapa visited Pemba in March. According to the East African he made several defiant speeches that ran contrary to the Commonwealth proposals which had included one calling for an end to confrontational statements. President Mkapa insisted that CUF must accept that the 1995 presidential elections were won fairly by the CCM, something widely questioned by observers who were there. Western nations had no authority, he said, to tell Tanzania what kind of democracy it should have. There was nothing wrong with one party continuing to rule for many years, as had happened in Britain under Margaret Thatcher.
The first item of business in the March session of the Zanzibar House of Representatives was to debate, again in the absence of CUF members, a speech by President Amour in which he had said, inter alia that ‘a thorn goes out where it goes in’. In other words, any political consensus would be reached inside the House of Representatives and not anywhere else. Several CCM MP’s attacked foreign envoys for ‘meddling in the internal affairs of the country’. One MP said that neither the Commonwealth Secretary General nor any foreign envoy could bring about consensus in the Isles. Several MP’s attacked the media for misleading people into believing that the House was meeting to discuss the Commonwealth-brokered consensus. There was no such thing, one said.
A further element of confrontation between CCM and CUF had been reported in the ‘The African’ on February 5. It stated that Zanzibar Attorney General Ali Mohamed Ali was proposing that President Amour should be left to rule for life as he was liked by the majority of the population. President Amour’s second term of office ends next year and he is not eligible, according to the constitution, to stand again. The opposition said that the days of kingdoms and sultanates were over.
Mwalimu Nyerere wrote in the Daily News that ‘If and when experience shows that the restriction laid down in the constitution needs to be changed (which in my opinion should be very very rare) the change should not lengthen the term of the current office-holder, who is bound in honour to observe the restriction under which he or she was elected in the first place. Otherwise it is difficult to see how future presidents can honour the new restriction’ .
The Tanzania White Paper Committee on changes needed in the Union’s constitution has been debated in Zanzibar recently. The East African reported that virtually all Zanzibaris want to retain their separate identity and do not approve of proposals for a unitary government for the mainland and the Isles. One old man was quoted as saying that he was a Zanzibari first, a Tanzanian second and an African third. The opposition however favours a proposal under which there would be three governments -something opposed by the CCM.