by David Brewin

Kigoma MP Zitto Kabwe (CHADEMA) has rarely been out of the news during the last few months.

In early March, the High Court in Dar es Salaam ruled in favour of CHADEMA, in a long-running dispute between Kabwe and the party. The judge also ordered Zitto to pay CHADEMA’s costs. The case dated back to 2013, when Kabwe brought a case against the CHADEMA Board of Trustees and its Secretary General Willbroad Slaa, which asked the Court to bar CHADEMA’s Central Committee from deliberating on or determining his membership of the party until his appeal was determined by the governing council of the party.

As the verdict was announced Kabwe, in his capacity as Chairman of the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, said “As you can see, I am still in a full position as an MP and am still the Chairman of the Committee”. The MP seemed concerned by the court ruling to strip him of CHADEMA membership but he termed it a surprise, saying he was used to such challenges in building his political career. He said that his politics were based on issues and not on people.

CHADEMA’s founder and former Finance Minister Edwin Mtei said he welcomed the final settling of Kabwe’s long running stand-off over his membership of the party. He had admired him because he was aggressive but later realised he was too ambitious and no longer interested in CHADEMA’s collective strength. Mtei dismissed fears that CHADEMA could suffer as a consequence although he had admitted that Kabwe still enjoyed a popular following.

CHADEMA lawyer Tundu Lissu told reporters that the party was preparing a bill of costs for the Registrar of the judiciary to ensure that Kabwe paid all the costs incurred during the case at the High Court. Lissu added that Kabwe was one of Tanzania’s most powerful politicians on matters of national interest and was dedicated and hardworking. However, he was also an undisciplined figure who had made it his mission to stop the increasing popularity of CHADEMA.

Kabwe then resigned from CHADEMA and from parliament, and joined the newly created party ‘Alliance for Change and Transparency’ (ACT)). He became leader of this party and thus obtained a platform in time for the next election, even though many people feel that Tanzania already has too many parties – over 20. It is not clear how much damage he has done to the prospects of CHADEMA, but it could be considerable.

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