To say that Tanzania is in a state of election fever as the October general elections approach may be an exaggeration but there has definitely been a quickening of the pace in political activity during recent weeks.
Two factions within the ruling party
Following the revelation of differences between the leaders of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Party, its National Executive Committee (NEC) set up a group of ‘three wise men’ under the leadership of former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi to try and resolve the differences (TA No 95).
However, when the group reported in mid-February it said that it had failed to reconcile the two factions and the rift between them could not be bridged. Both sides had said that the problem was ‘not personal’ and so could not be resolved by a mere handshake. The NEC eventually decided to give the Mwinyi Committee two more months to continue with its efforts at reconciliation.
The nature of the rift
This whole saga is complicated and it is difficult to define the precise nature of the rift, but the media seem to be agreed that much of the dispute centres on what action should be taken against those found guilty of corruption (described in many previous issues of TA).
The first of the two camps is said to be led by former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa who resigned some time ago following a parliamentary investigation into the Richmond scandal (see below). The second faction is led by National Assembly Speaker Samuel Sitta who wants a much tougher line on punishing those found guilty of corruption.
When the Assembly came to discuss the Richmond case in February, its Standing Committee for Energy and Minerals caused some surprise when it recommended that, as Lowassa had resigned from his position as Prime Minister, there was no need to take any further action against him. Some members of the NEC were far from satisfied with this recommendation, saying the corrupt elements had been let off the hook.
The crucial NEC meeting at which the Mwinyi Committee’s report was discussed went on for longer than expected and President Kikwete, who was supposed to leave for a State visit to Turkey, had to postpone his departure until the next day.
CCM Party Vice-Chairman Pius Msekwa, a member of the Mwinyi Committee, revealed to the press that the NEC had had at one stage to resort to religious scriptures. He said that while he quoted the Bible, Chairman Mwinyi quoted the Koran.
Msekwa felt that, as Lowassa had taken the political decision to resign as Prime Minister, the matter should rest there. He said: “Our party has 4.6 million members. Most of them are not even aware of the ongoing debate among a handful of leaders. How can the party disintegrate?” he asked.
Meanwhile, as an indication of the extent to which CCM differences have spread around the country, during a visit to the
Tabora region by Prime Minster Pinda, scuffles broke out between supporters of the two factions and it soon became apparent to which faction several local MP’s belonged. The Prime Minster finally decided not to allow any further comments or questions from the public.
A new party
While all this was going on, a new political party suddenly arose, called Chama cha Jamii (CCJ). It claimed that it comprised members of the CCM, though at the launch no high ranking MPs confirmed membership. The official launch of the party on March 2 was not a great a success, with no international diplomats and only a small crowd of Tanzanians present.
However, as this issue went to the press, the dramatic news came of the defection of CCM legislator and frontline anti-corruption crusader Fred Mpendazoe Tungu to the new party. Announcing his defection at a well-attended news conference, Mpendazoe (as he is commonly referred to as) repeated charges that the ruling party had sidelined and abandoned the majority poor Tanzanians and embraced the wealthy minority. He suggested most CCM politicians had their eyes focused on personal interests rather than the interest of wananchi (citizens).
Both main opposition parties have begun campaigning although they are not supposed to do so until the election date is officially announced.
Civic United Front (CUF) Chairman Prof. Ibrahim Lipumba, who stood unsuccessfully for the presidency in the last three elections, revealed that he was still wishing for a meeting with President Kikwete to expound several issues including the election laws, amending the country’s constitution, restructuring the National Electoral Commission and the determination of the country’s development vision. “Since President Kikwete was elected to the topmost political office in 2005, I have never met him in a one-to-one encounter” he said.
CHADEMA leader Freeman Mbowe, who stood unsuccessfully for the presidency in the 2005 elections, has decided that in 2010 he will try to capture the Hai, Moshi parliamentary seat from the CCM and will not try for the presidency. He was campaigning in Dodoma as this issue of TA went to press. He promised that a strong candidate would be chosen. Zitto Kabwe, the young, ambitious and very popular CHADEMA MP for Kigoma, is also looking for a new constituency following boundary changes. Five constituencies around the country have invited him to stand.
Who will be standing?
Normally there would be no shortage of candidates for the post of President of Tanzania and in the CCM it has become the tradition to re-elect a first-term president as candidate without opposition. President Kikwete is expected to win whether there is or is not another candidate. So far, only one candidate, John Shibuda MP has declared his intention to challenge him.
CUF’s Professor Lipumba, has not declared what he will do.
In Zanzibar, with President Karume not allowed to stand for a third term, there is no shortage of CCM party members who might want to succeed him. Maalim Seif is expected to be the CUF candidate and two small parties, TADEA and NLD, have said that they would also be fielding candidates.
Nomination forms for CCM presidential candidates will be issued on 1 July this year, while forms for parliamentary candidates will be issued on 26 July.
Monitoring the elections
The Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) has started working on the modalities of media monitoring. Executive Director Kajubi Mukajanga, said that, as the country heads towards general elections, the media regulator had the right to monitor stories published or broadcast during the election. He said the idea was to monitor the campaign and actual polling to make sure irregularities are spotted in time and the involved media house is notified. “We shall be issuing weekly reports on the election as we approach election time, and political fever rises” he added. The MCT will be looking at the language used by the media, ensuring balance in articles and that all aspirants get equal air time during the campaign.
(Much of the above election news comes from the information and views being provided, on a daily basis, in the numerous Swahili and English language newspapers in Tanzania. This illustrates once again the remarkable freedom of expression now considered normal in Tanzania and the enthusiasm of the electorate for the coming struggle – Editor).
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