POLITICS – latest developments

There have been four significant developments on the political scene since the last issue of Tanzanian Affairs. Prominent activist Augustine Mrema changed his political allegiance again; two by-elections in Dar es Salaam on July 11 gave results which could indicate important new trends; the government decided to stop providing subsidies for political parties and Minister of Commerce and Industry Iddi Simba hinted that Tanzania now had a ‘replacement’ for the Arusha Declaration.

The Chairman of what was the most significant opposition party, the NCCR-Mageuzi, Augustine Mrema, who stood for the presidency of Tanzania in 1995 and never fails to spring surprises, announced that he was leaving the party and had become Chairman of the previously insignificant Tanzania Labour Party (TLP). His relations with the NCCR party’s MP’s and its intellectual wing had clearly deteriorated beyond repair.

The NCCR leadership and several existing leaders of the TLP (a party which had now acquired not only Mrema but also many of his followers, some of whom immediately took up executive posts in the TLP) objected. Some described Mrema as a ‘political refugee’. The High Court ruled that Mrema could not become chairman of the TLP as normal electoral procedures had not been followed. He then became known as the Acting Chairman. By changing parties Mrema automatically ceased to be an MP (for Temeke in Dar es Salaam) and when the by-election was announced indicated that he would stand for his old seat. At this, the NCCR again went to court and Mrema was barred from contesting the Temeke seat. The Registrar of Political Parties said that the sudden changes in the leadership of TLP were unconstitutional. The Vice Chairman of TLP (Mainland) and the Chairperson of the Women’s wing then filed an application to the High Court and, on June 13 the Court issued an interim injunction interdicting the Acting Chairman of TPL and his fellow defectors from holding any office in the party.

A wise NCCR MP, who did not give his name, in an interview in the Guardian, admitted that the defection of Mrema had left NCCR in a shambles. He criticised the government for treating Mrema as an arch enemy and barring him from holding meetings. The more the government tried to intimidate him the more popular he became. Another NCCR member was quoted as wondering whether the NCCR could survive without Mrema. A CCM member said that Mrema had been a crowd puller and an orator but he lacked some of the basic qualities of leadership. Mrema tended to find most advice unacceptable, made rash and haphazard decisions and was too inflexible to lead.

The leading opposition party in Zanzibar (CUF), which won no seats on the mainland in the 1995 elections but almost half the Isles’ seats, sprang a surprise on July 11 when it came very close to winning two mainland seats. It would have won them if the opposition parties had stood together. The results were as follows:

UBUNGU (former seat of the NCCR’s Dr Masumbuko Lamwai)
Venance Ngula CCM 23,790
Hussein Mmasi CUF 21,530
Justina Minja CHADEMA 2,010
Abdulkarim Atik NCCR-Mageuzi 1,461
Aleck CheMponda Tanzania Peoples Party 651

TEMEKE (former seat of the NCCR’s Augustine Mrema):
John Kibasso CCM 27,090
Tambwe Hizza CUF 25,742
Abbas Mtemvu TLP 14,701
Suleiman Hegga NCCR-Mageuzi 866

CUF supporters were unhappy with these results and suspected corruption. Seventeen CUF supporters were arrested following rioting, attacks on CCM offices and destruction of CCM cars in Temeke after the results were declared. The last time Temeke was fought over in a by¬≠election, in October 1996, the NCCR’s Augustine Mrema had won the seat convincingly with 54,840 votes against CCM’s 33,113. What happened to the NCCR voters this time? According to Mrema a lot of them stayed at home in protest at the refusal of the Electoral Commission to allow him to stand. The surprising strength of CUP can be explained by the collapse of the NCCR and the influence of Zanzibar and its Muslim religion. Many Zanzibaris live in the two constituencies.

Needless to say Mrema could not conceal his glee at the humiliation suffered by the NCCR party now that he was no longer its leader. “They have reaped what they sowed” he was quoted in the Guardian as saying.
There are many lessons for all politicians to learn from these results. Firstly, the opposition must unite if it is ever to beat CCM. Secondly, although it has been dealt a body blow by the collapse of the NCCR, opposition still exists and Mrema still has many loyal supporters willing even to change parties in order to vote for him; if any opposition party could find a popular and generally acceptable leader, it could do well in the 2000 elections. Thirdly, although CCM must be happy in that it now holds every seat in Dar es Salaam, it must be aware that it is still not in the totally dominant position in urban areas that it enjoys in most rural seats.

Tanzania’s smaller parties received a shock in mid-June when Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye announced that the government would not continue to provide subsidies to parties for the elections in 2000. The reactions, quoted in the Guardian on June 19, were swift. CHADEMA party chairman Bob Makani, said that by deciding doing this the government hoped that CHADEMA would not be able to participate. “Despite everything, we will take part” he said. TLP Acting Chairman Augustine Mrema, said that the government intended to kill the opposition. “They know that if they give us subsidies, we will defeat them” he said. However, CCM MP for Mwanza Rural Antony Diallo, praised the decision. He said that subsidies were given during the previous general elections because the opposition parties were participating for the first time. If they had not put funds aside for the coming election it was their own fault.

There could be compensations for Tanzania, apart from the saving of money, from this decision. It is likely to kill off many of the smaller parties and encourage the others to work together to survive.

CCM MP for Bukoba Rural Sebastian Kinyondo has lost his appeal against a High Court Order which unseated him last year. He had got 42,169 votes compared with the candidate of CHADEMA’s 10,116 in the last elections.

Commerce and Minister Iddi Simba, who is gaining a reputation (and considerable popularity) for his strong support of indigenous African business enterprise in Tanzania was reported in the Daily News on August 12 to have told the press that his new indigenisation policy was intended to empower indigenous Tanzanians to take an active role in the management and control of the country’s economy and not to divide them on racial grounds. He was quoted in the Guardian as saying that the policy was a replacement of the obsolete 1967 Arusha Declaration, the blueprint for Tanzania’s earlier policy of socialism and self-reliance.

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