The Igunga district in Tabora Region might have become prominent in the history of Tanzania if, in the recent by-election there, Tanzania’s main opposition party Chadema had wrested the seat from the ruling CCM party. Both parties made tremendous efforts to win in some of the most active political campaigning Tanzania has ever seen. But Chadema lost and Igunga will now presumably return to its previous political obscurity.
Former President of Tanzania Benjamin Mkapa was chosen by CCM to lead its campaign. In his opening speech he slammed the opposition parties for trying to persuade the public that CCM had done nothing since independence. He said that during his term in office he worked closely with the existing Igunga MP, Rostam Aziz, (a prominent figure in the CCM leadership) to bring development to the area. “Such cooperation had made Igunga one of the most exemplary districts in Tanzania in terms of social development” he said.
The ruling CCM won the by-election by a narrow margin over the opposition party. Dr Peter Kafumu of CCM got 26,484 votes while Chadema’s Peter Kashindye got 23,260. Leopold Mahona from the Civic United Front (CUF), who was earlier considered a threat to CCM although the party’s main strength is in Zanzibar, was far behind with only 2,104 votes – Majira.
It was a highly eventful by-election in which all three main candidates used helicopters. Among the incidents reported in the press:
– the CUF candidate exchanged blows with Field Force Police after he was forced down from a podium. The police discovered that CUF had organized a meeting in an area already designated for Chadema.
– former President Benjamin Mkapa asked voters to choose CCM and not ‘childish’ political parties – Mwananchi.
– all parties fielded many of their top people including Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe, Secretary General Dr. Wilbroad Slaa and youthful and charismatic MPs like Zitto Kabwe, Joseph Mbilinyi, Halima Mdee and John Mnyika.
– the media were there in strength. One journalist wrote how a CCM leader had been found in bed with another man’s wife but had escaped being beaten (Tanzania Daima). Later, CCM was reported to be buying up all newspapers in Igunga to bury the scandal – Mtanzania.
– Chadema supporters temporarily arrested the Igunga District Commissioner, who was said to be addressing an ‘illegal party meeting’ and the police then arrested two Chadema MPs said to have been involved.
How did CCM win?
The answer to this question (CCM had to defeat seven other candidates) was given by Ray Naluyaga in the Citizen. He summed it up as CCM’s clear message delivery, a well-coordinated party network, its campaign strategies and its long experience in local politics.
Admission by CCM that the national cake was small and that it must prioritise on what it does with it, made people understand why Igunga lacked bridges and roads, he explained. While Chadema enjoys immense support among the youth, CCM has women as permanent voters.
A PhD student was quoted as saying: “I attended Chadema’s campaign closing rally. It was the largest compared to those of CCM and CUF, but the crowd comprised mostly youths between 15 and 17 years of age who were not registered as voters…. “
CCM’s decision to use Rostam Aziz at its opening ceremony (after he had resigned from the party) restored the lost confidence among some voters who had started to see it as a party marred by internal conflicts. As for Chadema, he said it failed to give its candidate enough time to campaign. At the first rally party chairman Freeman Mbowe spent most of the time faulting President Kikwete, a thing that was not a priority for Igunga voters. The Chadema candidate was given only three minutes, though most people wanted to hear from the person seeking to be their MP. At other villages the candidate spoke for only five minutes. Chadema’s defeat was also blamed on the party’s failure to localise its campaign. Chadema used people from outside Igunga such as its MPs and other party officials while CCM relied heavily on locals. Wherever CCM held a rally, people close to Dr Kafumu, who were Igungans and spoke the local dialect, remained behind and chatted with the people face to face about their candidate and the party. This is something that Chadema did not do.