by David Brewin
Americans usually start campaigning for the next election contest almost immediately after the completion of the previous one. Tanzania seems to be moving in the same direction. Although the elections are not due until late 2015, those aspirants who are considering standing for the top job are beginning to quietly mobilise their support. Speculation is now rife in political circles on the issue of who will succeed President Kikwete. Unlike some of his opposite numbers in other states, notably Zimbabwe, he is expected to comply with the law and retire at the end of his second term as all his predecessors have done.
A number of prominent figures are expected to compete in the elections. One factor which could become crucial is a long established ‘understanding’ that, if the president is a Muslim, as is President Kikwete, his successor should be a Christian. President Nyerere was a Catholic, former President Mwinyi is a Muslim and President Mkapa is also a Catholic. As both the Christian presidents have been Catholics the large Protestant community might be wondering when its time will come.
Among possible candidates are the following:
Former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa is considered by many as the front runner. He is popular in many areas of the country because of his diligence and active implementation of development projects, especially the ward secondary education project. He is a Protestant and a member of the Tanzania Evangelical Lutheran Church but he was alleged to have been corrupt in the Richmond electricity scandal (see many earlier issues of TA) and has had some recent health problems.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee which investigated the Richmond scandal, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, pointed out alleged corrupt practices and gained some popularity as a result. However, most Tanzanians seem less influenced by allegations of corruption and more interested in overall competence in their leaders. Dr Mwakyembe has now taken on the post of Minister of Transport – one of the most demanding positions in government as it includes the railways, roads, airlines and ports with their numerous problems. When he addressed members of the BTS in London he impressed them by his command of every part of his portfolio and his innovative proposals for reform. It was clear that he is intolerant of corruption and inefficiency, although his candid and explicit approach might not be the best way to make friends and influence people if he has higher ambitions.
Another possible candidate who is high in the popularity stakes is the former Prime Minister under President Mkapa, Frederick Sumaye. He has the advantage of being a Protestant and is generally considered to be honest. Having been largely absent from front-line politics under President Kikwete, he has recently sought more of a public profile.
Samuel Sitta, the Minister for East African Cooperation and former Speaker of the House of Assembly, is outspoken, commands popular support, and is widely regarded as fair and incorruptible. He is a Catholic but his advancing age may harm his prospects. In addition, he does not have the same level of support as his key rivals among the party’s power-brokers and key donors.
Former Prime Minister Salim Salim who has held many senior positions outside and inside Tanzania is a Zanzibar Muslim, but he seems to be keeping a relatively low profile. His ambiguous relations with the Isles might be a handicap so far as the presidency is concerned.
Current Foreign Minister Bernard Membe seems to be growing in stature and his honesty while leading an observer mission to the recent controversial Zimbabwe election plus his serious criticism of their conduct, was brave in view of the great esteem in which Mugabe is held in many parts of Africa. Membe is a Catholic. It is to be noted that both Presidents Mkapa and Kikwete were Foreign Ministers before becoming presidents.
Dr John Magufuli, Minister of Works, is organising an ambitious road building programme and might be a candidate.
For the first time, the charismatic leader of an opposition party, Chadema’s Dr Wilbrod Slaa, is considered by some as having an outside chance of winning the presidency. He won many votes in urban areas at the last election and his party is using the time before 2015 to strengthen its support in rural areas where the government CCM has always been very popular. Dr Slaa is a Catholic.
The dynamic campaigner against corruption and Chairman of Parliament’s Finance Committee, Chadema’s Zitto Kabwe is a man with a future but because of an unusual clause in the current constitution is too young to run for the presidency in 2015.
Alternatively, this may be the time for a female candidate. Two names are regularly mentioned as among the contenders for the CCM nomination. Anna Tibaijuka is Minister of Lands, Housing and Human Developments, and the former Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, while Asha-Rose Migiro is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and served as Deputy Secretary General of the UN between 2007 and 2012. She is not currently a Minister but retains influence within the party.
By David Brewin (with considerable help from Dr Juma Ngasongwa, the former Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, later Industry and Trade and then Planning, the Economy and Empowerment. He is not standing for the presidency or for parliament. He says that he is enjoying his retirement).