It is virtually unknown for Tanzania’s formidable ruling CCM party to lose a parliamentary by-election but, on October 13 it happened – in Tarime, Mara region. The by-election was caused by the death of the controversial CHADEMA MP Chacha Wangwe who died in a car crash (TA 91). The new MP Charles Mwera (CHADEMA) got 34,545 out of 64,795 votes cast at 406 balloting centers. 2,938 votes were spoilt. At least 149,919 voters had registered for the by-election and were expected to vote. CCM’s candidate got 28,996 and two minor parties got 949 votes and 305 votes respectively.

In a parallel council election CHADEMA also triumphed by 4,820 votes to 3,239.

Voting was peaceful but the campaign was one of the hottest on record. The CCM sent some of its top people to campaign and spent a vast sum of money in trying to regain the seat from the opposition even though CHADEMA has only ten seats in the National Assembly and CCM has most of the remaining 222. There was sporadic violence. The leader of a small party was stoned and injured as he was addressing an election rally, a group of CHADEMA supporters were beaten up.

Freedom Mbowe (leader of CHADEMA) speaking at the Tarime by-elections (photo courtesy Mussa Juma

When CHADEMA leader Freeman Mbowe arrived in Tarime to campaign he was greeted by thousands of party members and accompanied by a procession of some 200 motorbikes and cars. Three kilometres from the town he left his car and started marching with the crowd, entering the town in style as people chanted: “commander, commander”. Mbowe was in his signature khaki safari suit. Police said that CHADEMA had ‘declared war’ on them and that the party’s supporters stoned police and smashed their vehicles, as they were dispersing an unlawful assembly – Mwananchi and all other Swahili newspapers.

British High Commissioner Philip Parham and ambassadors Staffan Herrstrom (Sweden) and Janeth Siddall (Canada) with the Head of the Police Special Unit, Commander Venance Tossi. The ambassadors visited Tarime during the run up to the by-election and met with the police and the consituency returning officer (photo Mussa Juma)

The new MP-designate, Charles Mwera, was born in 1959 and went to primary school in Tarime, secondary school in Ifakara and College of Business Education (CBE) in Dar es Salaam. He was then employed as a procurement officer in the Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC). He launched Save the Children of Tarime NGO whose director he now is. He was a member of the NCCR-Mageuzi Party until 2004 when he joined CHADEMA. – Tanzania Daima.

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