by Ben Taylor
Where next for Maalim Seif?
The political scene in Zanzibar continues to be dominated by fallout from the 2015 elections. With the next elections scheduled for less than two years from now, it appears inevitable that the hangover from 2015 will play a major part in the 2020 polls.
Central to this is the future of the Isle’s main opposition party, CUF, and its leadership disputes. The power struggle pits one faction supporting Seif Sharif Hamad, the former Zanzibar Vice President and long-time dominant force within the party in Zanzibar, against another supporting Prof Ibrahim Lipumba, the party’s chairman from 1995 to 2015 and four-time CUF Tanzania presidential candidate.
Lipumba withdrew his resignation as party chair in June 2016, having previously resigned in the run-up to the 2015 elections in protest at the party’s endorsement of Chadema presidential candidate, Edward Lowassa. This threw him into a dispute with other senior party figures, in which he won the backing of the Registrar of Political Parties, but the issue remains unresolved in court.
In September 2018, the main opposition party across Tanzania as a whole, Chadema, offered Seif Hamad a lifeline – inviting him to switch parties and run as the Chadema candidate for the Zanzibar presidency in 2020.
The Chairman of the Chadema Party Elders, Hashim Juma, said Chadema was ready to accommodate Mr Hamad. “If he accepts our offer, he will be our flag bearer during forthcoming presidential election,” he said.
He argued that there were elements currently bent on seeing CUF remaining in an endless crisis, and it was therefore wise for Mr Hamad to shift to Chadema where he would receive cooperation to try and oust the ruling CCM from power in Zanzibar.
“All CUF Members of Parliament and those who believe in change have an opportunity to join Chadema. We speak the same language,” he said.
More recently, in December, rumours emerged that Hamad was planning to join ACT Wazalendo, another opposition party, led by firebrand MP Zitto Kabwe.
Mr Hamad refuted the claims. He told The Citizen that since CUF had pending cases at the court, his faction had alternative plans that would only be implemented after the court judgement.
He said claims that they were planning to join ACT Wazalendo wasn’t among the said alternative plan, noting that being one of the CUF founders, it would not be easy for him to leave the party.
Mr Khalifa Suleiman Khalifa, an ally of Prof-Lipumba, had earlier told the press that Mr Hamad planned to join ACT Wazalendo. “Principally, ACT Wazalendo and Mr Hamad have agreed on a deal where Mr Hamad will control the party on the Zanzibar side and Zitto Kabwe will command the party on Mainland Tanzania,” he said.
Mr Kabwe said ACT Wazalendo had no agenda of lobbying CUF leaders to join them, saying Tanzania required strong and best opposition to strengthen its democracy and that disputes within the second largest opposition party were weakening struggles they were making through democratic paths.
“We won’t turn into a hyena that waits for a fight to end so that it would grab the victim in order to benefit ourselves. Our party believes that by doing so we would be committing a political sin,” he said.
There is little doubt that Seif Hamad commands great personal support among residents of Zanzibar. It is unclear, however, how many of his supporters would follow him to another party, were he to switch. Much apparent party loyalty in Tanzania is, in reality, loyalty to individual politicians. But were Hamad to run for President of Zanzibar on a non-CUF ticket, it seems likely that the main beneficiaries would be the ruling party, CCM, profiting from a divided opposition.
Zanzibar pays its electricity bills
The Zanzibar Electricity Corporation (ZECO) has paid TSh 45 billion (approximately USD $20m) to the Tanzania National Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) over the past 18 months. The money is out of TSh 65 billion debt for power supply to the Isles, and that the corporation has projected to settle the remaining bill of TSh20 billion by June 2019.
President John Magufuli last year directed Tanesco to cut power to customers with long-standing debts, irrespective of who they were. He said Tanesco should not hesitate to disconnect even State House if his office did not pay its electricity bills on time, adding that there should be no sacred cows in the cash-strapped public utility’s endeavour to recover huge sums in unpaid bills.
The Union and Zanzibar governments and institutions are among Tanesco’s biggest debtors, having accumulated debts totalling tens of billions of shillings.
Addressing the media in March 2017, Zanzibar President Ali Mohammed Shein had said Zanzibar’s debt had accumulated over 20 years, adding that he was not sure whether the archipelago would not be disconnected. “We will have no option but to use oil lamps if power is cut,” he was quoted saying.
This led to discussions between leading politicians of both Tanzania and Zanzibar, and leaders of both electricity companies, which put in place a schedule of repayments.