by Ben Taylor
Two former Secretary Generals of the ruling party, CCM, Abdulrahman Kinana and Yusuf Makamba, stirred up a very public argument at the highest levels of the party in July. They wrote a letter to the Elders’ Council, an advisory body within the party, warning of the dangers that “unfounded allegations” in a tabloid newspaper pose to the party’s “unity, solidarity and tranquillity.”
This refers to the frequent allegations by publisher, Mr Cyprian Musiba, in his newspapers and on social media, that several senior figures within the party were involved in a plot to undermine the leadership of President John Magufuli. The supposed plotters named by Mr Musiba include Kinana and Makamba, as well as former Foreign Affairs Minister, Bernard Membe, various opposition leaders, government officials and civil society activists.
Mr Musiba has styled himself as a “media activist” seeking to “defend the President against a plot to sabotage him.” His publications have consistently backed President Magufuli and ferociously attacked many within the party and outside, on the basis of little or no evidence.
Mr Makamba and Mr Kinana, who served as CCM’s secretary generals between 2009 to 2011 and 2012-2018 respectively, called on the party’s elders to intervene. They argued that there must be something else behind Mr Musiba’s accusations, which they think is determined to drive the country “into a precipitous drop.” They suggested that for him to be doing this, he must have protection or even direction from a very high level.
They added that they preferred to seek resolution of the matter by raising it within the party rather than taking legal action against Mr Musiba, as others including Mr Membe have done, saying they want to clear their names rather than seek compensation.
The response from the party was sceptical. The secretary to the Elders Council, Pius Msekwa, former speaker of parliament, said there was little the council could do. Mtera MP, Mr Livingstone Lusinde, said the paid had gone astray and wondered how come they are agitated by the acts whose culture they helped create in the first place. Nzega Urban MP (CCM) Hussein Bashe described the letter as a “plot to deny President Magufuli a chance to contest as second term in 2020” and said it went against the party’s constitution.
More significantly, the current CCM Secretary General Dr Bashiru Ally appeared to take issue with Kinana and Makamba. Without mentioning them by name, he warned of a plot to destabilise the party and said that those behind it would “face the music.” According to newspaper reports, the supposed plot also involves Makamba’s son, January Makamba, himself a significant political figure – see next story – as well as former Ministers Nape Nnauye, William Ngeleja and Bernard Membe.
Rather than helping CCM, Bashiru said, the dispute serves the interests of the opposition. “This is a childish game and it’s not surprising that the opposition loves it. They love childish games,” noted Bashiru. He called on party members to defend their leaders when the political atmosphere “gets dirty”.
Previously, in December 2018, Dr Ally had publicly summoned Mr Membe, saying he wanted to speak to him about reports – published in Mr Musiba’s newspapers – that he wanted to challenge President Magufuli in the 2020 General Election.
Mr Membe has largely stepped back from politics after losing the CCM race for the presidential nomination to Dr Magufuli in 2015. He has largely spent his time outside the country on private business. Thus far, he has said nothing to suggest he would challenge President Magufuli for the CCM ticket in 2020.
Outside the party, ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe commended Mr Kinana’s and Mr Makamba’s letter, saying it transcends party’s interests, touching issues of national interests, especially national security.
Dr Paul Luisulie, a political analyst from the University of Dodoma, said the letter and the reaction to it could be a sign of the failure of CCM’s internal mechanisms to deal with the grievances of those in the party who have concerns with the party’s current leadership. He said the situation could “have very serious consequences” for the unity of the party ahead of elections in 2020. If the letter is ignored, he argued, the authors’ suspicions will be confirmed. “It is very important that CCM give an explanation and work on the grievances that its former leaders have pointed out,” says Dr Luisulie.
A political scientist from the University of Dar es Salaam Dr Richard Mbunda noted that Mr Musiba’s attacks attracted neither protest nor condemnation from either the party or the government. “It is very possible that the person who is steering reforms to the party thinks that getting rid of these bad elements [those with doubts about the party’s leadership] is good for the larger party’s interests. But the consequences will be disastrous if the trend continues unbroken,” he warned.