In a strongly worded leading article in its March 25 issue the Daily News summed up the exasperation many Tanzanians are feeling about the extraordinary goings on in the major opposition party in the country -the National Convention for Construction and Reform (NCCR-Mageuzi). The article looked back to the high hopes and excitement in the country in 1992 when multi-partyism was first introduced. Many people had grown weary of years of one party rule by the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the corruption which had penetrated it. The article referred to NCCR leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Augustine Mrema (without mentioning his name) who had ‘so mesmerised some people with his populist oratory … that he was virtually elevated to the status of a messiah …. (But) to their amazement and shock, the NCCR leader ‘has been conducting himself in a manner that is making many of his previous admirers thank God and sigh with relief that he was not the victor in the presidential elections of 1995 ….. The article went on: ‘the crisis now bedevilling the NCCR and the slow motion (and sometimes directionlessness) actions of other parties is undermining the very concept of multi-partyism. It is very sickening’ .
All this referred to the long running split between Mrema (probably still supported by the majority of NCCR members, who recall his crusade against corruption when he was in government) and the other faction comprising most of the party’s MP’s and intellectuals under the leadership of Secretary General Mabere Marando.
The High Court in Dar es Salaam gave its verdict on part of this longrunning saga on January 27. It declared that Mabere Marando was the lawful Secretary General of the party. The meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) in Dar es Salaam on June 20 and 21 1997 which had removed various leaders had been unconstitutional. Mr Prince Bagenda, who had been appointed by Mrema as the new Secretary General could be accepted as a lawful member of the party but he could not be Secretary General. The Judge stated that, in view of the chaotic situation in which the party found itself, ordering costs against either side in the dispute would be a burden on innocent party members. Surprisingly, the Mrema faction immediately celebrated the verdict and congratulated the winner; Marando embraced Mrema. People assumed that the party had finally resolved its differences.
SHORT LIVED HARMONY
However, the opportunity was lost and the harmony was very short lived. According to the Dar es Salaam Guardian, Marando wanted the entire original Central Committee (CC) or Secretariat to be reinstated but Mrema was not willing to accept this as the earlier CC had supported him. On February 4 Marando went to court again protesting that the Mrema faction was forcibly preventing his group from entering the party’s offices. Marando claimed that he had to buy all the newspapers each day to find out what his chairman was up to. The Guardian described the two leaders as ‘politically immature, unprincipled and power hungry’. They had effectively denied members the chance to rebuild their party, it said.
On February 25 Mrema asked the Court of Appeal to dismiss with costs a notice of appeal filed by Marando against part of the judgement. Mrema complained that the party’s Central Committee (CC), National Executive Committee (NEC) -which elects the CC -and National Conference had not met for 20 months. Marando, he said, had refused to call the meeting. Marando claimed that the CC was not recognised in the party’s constitution of 1995.
Then, very rapidly, the situation deteriorated. Marando invited delegates to a National Executive Committee meeting in Dar es Salaam on March 18. Two days before the meeting, when Zanzibar delegates had already arrived in the capital, he moved the meeting to Zanzibar to the annoyance of Mrema. Mrema started making an opening speech but then walked out accusing Marando of planting 14 ‘bogus’ delegates and refusing to admit 36 ‘bonafide’ delegates. After his departure 56 of the 62 delegates then voted, according to the Daily News, to suspend Mrema from the party for ‘contravening the party’s constitution, indiscipline and not co-operating with party officials’. Two days later Mrema convened another different NEC meeting in Dar es Salaam attended by 57 NEC members and they then suspended Marando and other members of his faction. They appointed a new 19-member Central Committee (CC). According to the Guardian, Marando then said that, as only 12 legally recognised delegates had attended the NEC meeting, it had been ‘a mere tea party’ .
On March 24.. a clearly exasperated Registrar of Political Parties, Judge George Liundi, refused to recognise the resolutions passed at both meetings and reinstated both Mrema and Marando to their original positions. He ordered the party to convene a general conference to elect national leaders or risk losing its registration. The General Conference was scheduled for May 2 in Pemba.
G L M Mwamengele, a Guardian reader, wrote to the editor on March 25 begging him to stop publishing news about the NCCR as it ‘only served to embarrass every Tanzanian’. He also protested about government subsidies of Shs 31 million a month to the parties when so many Tanzanians were ‘languishing in poverty’. He and others wondered whether what was happening, and the apparent preference of the government party CCM for the Marando faction in the NCCR, might be part of a hidden agenda meaning presumably that the CCM was trying the ‘divide and rule’ policy.
Just before this issue of TA went to press the Dar es Salaam Guardian reported that NCCR-Mageuzi Chairman Augustine Mrema had decided to set up a new party to be called ‘NCCR-Chama Cha Raia’ or ‘NCCR -Asilia’ and had selected a tentative list of some 19 national leaders. The list excludes all the Marando faction and the party’s MP’s. The next day Mrema denied the story.
Better news for multi-partyism was the announcement by the Parliament’s Spea.~er, in January that, for the first time in the history of multi-partyism, he had chosen an opposition MP to head a parliamentary Standing Committee. Dr Walid Kabourou (CHADEMA) became chairman of the Local Government Accounts Committee. The next day the Speaker announced the appointment of opposition UDP leader John Cheyo as Chairman of the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. Clearly not understanding how multi-party parliaments work, eleven CCM members promptly resigned from the committees. After a week of deliberation on rules and court decisions in other Commonwealth countries, the Speaker announced that all the committee members had been re-appointed, to the delight of the opposition MP’s. They now have a chance to prove how useful they can be and John Cheyo MP, who is the opposition speaker on finance, has already begun pointing out scandals in government expenditure.
A number of by-elections are pending. At Bunda, Musoma, the former NCCR MP Steven Wassira, who lost his seat on charges of electoral malpractice, resigned from the NCCR on March 19 saying that he could not stomach a ‘politics of squabbles’. He then went on to campaign for the UDP candidate Victor Kubini in the by-election.
Nine by-elections resulting from the nullification of the earlier results have cost over Shs 1.4 billion. After the general election some 130 court cases were filed but 80 of these were voluntarily withdrawn by losers, 4 were dismissed when appellants failed to turn up and 41 were dismissed for lack of evidence.
Further reflecting the exasperation of many Tanzanians about opposition politicians, a leading article in the East African on January 25 mentioned the Tanzania Peoples Party (TPP) of Dr. Aleck Che-Mponda which has no seats in parliament -amongst whose policies were said to be construction of a bridge between the mainland and Zanzibar, a helicopter ambulance service to take expectant mothers to hospital, the transformation of Tanzania from an aid recipient into an aid donor country and the destruction of all other opposition parties! Given, in addition, the disorder in the main NCCR-Mageuzi party the article concluded: ‘Public disappointment with the opposition has less to do with its antics than with its failure to come up with credible alternative policies. At this rate, come 2000, Tanzania’s opposition risks ‘infanticide’ at the hands of the CCM’.
There are also now two factions in the Tanzania Democratic Alliance (TADEA), one led by the widow of the party’s founder Oscar Kambona and the other by Mr John Lifa Chipaka.