There will be significant by-elections on May 18 for 15 seats in the Tanzanian National Assembly mostly from Pemba Island in Zanzibar (but including four mainland seats) and another 17 seats are being contested in the Zanzibar House of Representatives. All but one of the seats in Pemba were previously held by Tanzania’s main opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF). The previous MP’s had been expelled from parliament because of a boycott they had conducted in protest against what they consider to have been rigged elections in 2000. The 17th seat became vacant when Tanzanian Vice-President Dr Shein had to give up his seat on taking up his new appointment.

The election results will not make any dent in the dominant position of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party in Tanzania but they should provide some indication, if the elections are free and fair, as to the correctness or otherwise of CUF’s long¬≠standing claim that it is the majority party in Zanzibar. For this reason the by-elections are being fought with great vigour by both sides.

The CCM party claimed that many people living in the main island of Zanzibar were going to Pemba to register as voters for the by­elections and accused CUF of being behind the move.

As this issue of Tanzanian Affairs went to press there was good news. Both the CCM Treasurer and the CUF Director of Planning reported a peaceful atmosphere during the voter registration exercise and the CUF Director described the behaviour of the police as commendable. But, according to Majira, registration was said to be proceeding slowly.

Also, according to the same paper ‘big shots’ from the CCM had expressed uncertainty on the outcome of the by-elections. One was quoted as saying a CCM loss in Pemba would not be a big issue. If the Party lost it would concede defeat.

Two ministers changed places in a minor cabinet reshuffle on February 1. The Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (Information and Political Affairs) and Publicity Secretary of the CCM Party, Mr Omar Ramadhan Mapuri became Minister of Home Affairs replacing the previous Minister Mr Mohammed Seif Khatib. The opposition parties, about whom Mapuri had been highly critical, were unhappy with his promotion to what they described as ‘such a sensitive position as Home Affairs Minister.’ The Guardian’s editorial on the subject was headed ‘Mapuri’s appointment raises many eyebrows.’

In a surprise result CCM has lost a ward in local elections for Musoma Town Council to the CUF candidate by a margin of six votes. Local CCM members demanded the resignation of their district chairman and secretary blaming them for CCM’s failure to win the seat.

Eleven opposition political parties drew up a provisional agreement at the beginning of February to field one presidential candidate in the 2005 elections. They also agreed in principle to divide parliamentary constituencies among themselves. Augustine Mrema’s Tanzania Labour Party however refused to join the alliance because he said that Tanzanians were not yet ripe to vote for a single opposition candidate as had happened in Kenya last year.

Turmoil has continued in the United Democratic Party (UDP)but in a surprise move on March 13 John Cheyo bounced back as the legitimate chairman of the Party. After eight months of conflict, Registrar of Political Parties John Tendwa, reinstated the ousted leader and declared his rival, Amani Jidulamabambasi, no longer chairman. Tendwa said that he was now satisfied that the Party’s constitution and procedures had not been followed when Cheyo was deposed. “The current leadership had forged the evidence and had cheated the Registrar, the Tanzanian community and party members”

Tendwa said that Jidulamabambasi had originally presented documentary evidence, which he had accepted, to justifY his claims that the UDP Central Committee which had met on 6 July last year had decided to dismiss Cheyo. Later, Cheyo submitted the original minutes of what actually transpired at the meeting written by the Deputy Secretary General, who was a regular minutes writer, in his own handwriting. When he was called to Tendwa’s office to identify the minutes early this year, he denied his own handwriting. In order to settle the dispute, the Registrar decided to present the original copy of the disputed handwriting to the Identification Bureau of the Criminal Investigations Department for technical verification which indicated that there had been ‘significant similar characteristics.’ With the documentary evidence presented at his office and technical results from the CID, Tendwa said his office had reviewed its former decision and reinstated Cheyo.

As this issue of TA went to press Jidulamabambasi was said to be wanting to take the Registrar to court.

Valerie Davey, Labour MP for Bristol West, speaking in a debate in the House of Commons on International Women’s Day compared life in the British and Tanzanian parliaments. “Looking down” (from the gallery in the National Assembly in Dodoma) she said: “I was enthralled to see a wonderful red semi-circle. People addressed the Speaker, who sat high above them -even higher than you, Madam Deputy Speaker -well above contradiction. The Mace may not have been as lavish as ours but it was carried in with as much dignity. Of the 282 members of the Tanzanian parliament 61 (21%) are women. However, only 12 of these were elected. The others hold special seats and two are presidential appointees…… An all-party woman’s group invited me to a question and answer session. They wanted to know how we in Britain planned to meet the 30% Beijing target for women on elected bodies by 2005… Tanzania will have reached this target at the 2005 election…. I could give no clear answer on how we would reach 30% in Britain, but, in the Labour Party, there will be all-women shortlists as seats become available…. I had to admit however that this would probably not result in 30% women members.”

Ms Davey paid tribute, firstly, to the British Council for what she described as its ‘incredibly good work in increasing the number of women in effective leadership positions and also, to Dr Elly Macha, the Britain-Tanzania Society-supported blind Tanzanian student who recently completed her PhD at Leeds University.

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