After almost fifty successful years of leadership of Tanzania by the always united ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, and with the next general election less than a year away, the party is no longer able to conceal the extent of its internal divisions which are being publicised in the media almost daily. Some observers recalled the late Mwalimu Nyerere’s view that CCM would never be removed from power by small opposition parties. A major change would only happen if the party were to split.
The freedom with which the press and the people are now able to express themselves in Tanzania, particularly on the issue of corruption, has provided ammunition for those keen to see the end of what some consider to be a continuation of ‘one party’ government. The opposition parties never cease to attack the government on the corruption issue and, judging by recent by-election results, they are increasing in popularity in certain parts of the country. The seriousness of the situation for CCM was illustrated at acrimonious meetings of the party’s Central and Executive Committees in August last year when there were accusations that the leadership was trying to ‘gag’ its own MPs. Several of the more outspoken CCM MP’s warned the party on the dangers if vigorous action was not taken against the many leading figures in the country now being charged in court on corruption charges.
Former Prime Ministers join in
Critical remarks by two former prime ministers, Joseph Warioba and Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, supported by Nyerere Foundation Director Joseph Butiku, seem to have exacerbated the situation. Opposition CHADEMA Secretary General, Wilbroad Slaa lauded the ex-premiers for having the ‘courage’ to speak out. CUF Chairman Lipumba said they had donned the mantle of Mwalimu Nyerere who was being sorely missed by the country – Mwananchi.
Anti-sleaze MPs on war footing
At a rally in which some of the CCM MP’s, known as ‘crusaders against corruption’ said they had decided to hold joint rallies in their constituencies so as to educate the masses on the plot by ‘corrupt politicians’ to unseat them by pouring in ‘dirty money.’ They included Dr Harrison Mwakyembe (MP for Kyela) author of the highly critical report on the Richmond scandal – see below. They claimed their rivals in CCM were spending Shs 400 million in each constituency in efforts to defeat them at the next elections in 2010 – Tanzania Daima.
A Committee of three ‘wise men’ set up
In reaction, the party quickly took the decision to set up a committee of three ‘wise men’ to oversea the restoration of party unity and to fix the party’s growing image problem.
According to the investigative newspaper This Day, the committee, comprising ex-President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, ex-Parliamentary Speaker Pius Msekwa, and former Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly Abdulrahman Kinana had, as its primary task, to seek ways of healing what was described as the deep rift between a growing number of CCM MP’s and the central party establishment. The party was said to have ‘become beholden to a few rich individuals’ and the CCM secretariat had ‘even failed to meet regularly with the MPs to listen to their views.’
Political analysts were quoted in the paper as saying that many incumbent CCM MPs were choosing to become vocal about corruption for fear of being regarded by their constituencies as being part of the problem. The paper went on: ‘The National Executive Committee meeting had been virtually dominated by a brazenly overt…. campaign from within, to unseat the incumbent Speaker of the National Assembly, Samwel Sitta, who had made clear his own strong aversion to the ‘grand corruption vice.’ Political observers were quoted as saying that if allowed to escalate, the fall-out from the meeting might eventually lead to a complete disintegration of CCM as the country’s most powerful political party.
By November, the meetings of the three wise men were being described in the Swahili press as having become ‘fiery’ with divisions between the reformist and conservative camps becoming obvious. While the latter defended former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa who had had to resign following revelations about the Richmond corruption case (see below), and his supporters, the former called for their expulsion from the party. One meeting was said to have started at 8 pm and ended at 1.30 am. Some were calling for the resignation of CCM Secretary General Yusuf Makamba who was said to have left one meeting when the exchanges ‘became too hot for his hypertension.’
The media indicated that the tug-of-war seemed to be led by Speaker Samuel Sitta and prominent businessman Reginald Mengi from the reformist camp while Edward Lowassa and CCM Secretary General Yusuf Makamba lead the conservative side. Former President Mwinyi told TA that his three-man committee had encouraged the different groups to express their views freely to each other so that issues could be brought into the open. He intended to complete his report during the month of December.
Main opposition party also divided
All is not well in the main opposition party on the mainland, CHADEMA. During a Central Committee meeting attended by some 600 delegates, prominent MP Zitto Kabwe, Deputy Secretary General, (who has much support among younger party members) and is clearly ambitious, was apparently dissuaded from trying to unseat Freeman Mbowe as Party Chairman, only by the intervention of party elders including the founder of the party, one time Finance Minister Edwin Mtei.
According to numerous reports in the Swahili press, the elders knew that a tug-of-war for chairmanship between Kabwe and Mbowe would not be good for the party. Apparently, they suggested that Kabwe should instead be offered the post of Secretary General but he was said to have rejected the proposal outright, and proposed instead that both he and Mbowe should pull out and that present Secretary General Dr. Wilbroad Slaa should become chairman instead. Kabwe denied that the struggle was ideological, with him on the left and Mbowe on the right.
In elections in September for CHADEMA young peoples’ and women’s groups differences continued between young and older members of the party and the elections had to be postponed until later. Slaa complained that these party elections had already cost Shs 50 million which was enough to build a dispensary. “Our party just can’t afford this kind of expenditure” he said.
At the meeting, mother of Kabwe, Shida Salum, was quoted in virtually all the Swahili press, as standing up to defend her son, accusing some leaders of being corrupt. “I know Zitto. He is not on sale and can’t be bought,” she said.
Veteran former leader Edwin Mtei was said to have pointed out that Zitto Kabwe was still young and so would be in a good position to vie for the party chairmanship in 2015 or 2020. When asked if he intended to run for the presidency in 2015 Kabwe said that by then he would still be below the statutory age of 40 required by the constitution.
Another row erupted later when Dr Slaa terminated two party officials said to be close to Kabwe. Both then resigned from the party and one joined the small NCCR party.
When contacted about all this, Party Chairman Mbowe admitted that the party had problems but said that other parties were ‘down with cancer’ while for CHADEMA it was just a normal hiccup – Rai.