As the ruling CCM party reeled from the shock by-election result in Mainland Tanzania, its CUF coalition partner in Zanzibar also suffered a shock. For many years there have been only two significant parties in the Isles – the ruling CCM, which has always come first in elections, and the Civic United Front (CUF) which is the accepted leading opposition party and has always come second. No other parties were of any significance.
However, when the results of the Uzini by-election (for a seat in the Zanzibar House of Representatives), following the death in a road accident of the incumbent, were announced, CUF found itself in third position!
The results were as follows:
CCM 5,377 Chadema 281 CUF 222 Two other parties 22
In the previous election CCM had got 2,187, CUF 383 and APT 124. There had been no Chadema candidate.
An inquest (of some sort) by CUF was obviously required and soon took place.
The Citizen quoted Mji Mkongwe MP (in the House of Representatives) and CUF Deputy Secretary General for Zanzibar Ismail Jussa as attributing CUF’s defeat to ‘mainlanders and Christians’ living in the area who had not voted for CUF. He added that people from the mainland should not be employed in Zanzibar’s substantial tourist industry.
He immediately came under heavy attack from a cross-section of politicians. In an interview with The Citizen on Saturday, the leaders condemned remarks which could ‘incite serious sectarian divisions in the country.’ Speaking separately, the politicians demanded that Mr Jussa apologise for his remarks, which they warned could steer the country into a serious tribal or religious crisis. They said that Registrar of Political Parties John Tendwa should take stern action against Mr Jussa.
Among those who attacked the MP was the Deputy Minister for Communications and Transport and CUF MP for Wawi Hamad Rashid Mohammed. The Deputy Minister was quoted as saying “What we witnessed in Rwanda, Burundi or even Kenya started in a similar way. His actions are intolerable as they send the wrong message to the international community as far as Zanzibar’s Government of National Unity is concerned” He added that it was ironical for Mr Jussa to utter such words when his Mji Mkongwe constituency was home to different shades and colours of Zanzibaris.
Other MPs felt that the by-election defeat had had nothing to do with Christianity or Mainlanders in Uzini. It was attributed to what was termed as the party’s ‘diminishing influence and appeal.’ Following a debate in the House of Assembly Mr Jussa’s proposal on restricting employment of mainlanders in Zanzibar was defeated by a vote of 22 to 21 MPs.
The junior partner in the coalition government in Britain is beginning to show strains and something similar seems to be happening to the junior partner, CUF, in the Zanzibar government following the Uzini by-election.
Attacks have been made on Zanzibar First Vice President Seif Shariff Hamad, who has asked those eyeing his position as CUF Secretary General to hold their horses because he has not yet made a decision to retire from politics. Highly regarded as the doyen of political opposition in Zanzibar, he has led CUF in Zanzibar for nearly 20 years, and maintains that he does not fear challenges for the party’s top executive post. He has welcomed whoever wishes to challenge him to do so in the next internal elections scheduled for 2014. Speaking at a press conference in Zanzibar, Hamad said he was perplexed why some people were talking about CUF elections now, while the party polls were three years away.
The reason is that Wawi MP Hamad Rashid Mohammed had launched a campaign to market himself as a suitable replacement for Mr Shariff Hamad. The Wawi MP said he wanted to dislodge Mr Hamad because, as Zanzibar’s First VP, he could no longer serve the political interests of the opposition party efficiently. The Wawi MP was then expelled from the party. Later, two other CUF MPs defected.
Meanwhile, Mr Shariff Hamad had catalogued the achievements that the power-sharing government has registered during its first year of existence, including the creation of a peaceful and tranquil country. However, he said, there were still some challenges facing the government including cross-cutting issues such as drug abuse and trafficking, the environment and HIV/Aids.