- Wrangling continues – and Mr Hamad’s faction has opened a number of court cases in a bid to retake control of the party, which Prof Lipumba seems to enjoy at the moment. Members from both sides of the spectrum wait with bated breath for the courts to determine their party’s fate.
Dar es Salaam. There is no end in sight to the crisis that has crippled the Civic United Front (CUF) – once a vibrant, promising but now beleaguered opposition outfit split into two distinct factions one led by Prof Ibrahim Lipumba and the other aligned to secretary general Seif Shariff Hamad.
Wrangling continues – and Mr Hamad’s faction has opened a number of court cases in a bid to retake control of the party, which Prof Lipumba seems to enjoy at the moment. Members from both sides of the spectrum wait with bated breath for the courts to determine their party’s fate.
In our desire to get updates on the goings-on in the troubled opposition, we talked to a senior CUF cadre, the Constituent Member for Malindi and former British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) journalist and lawyer Ally Salleh.
This interview took place at the Mwananchi Communications Ltd Tabata offices – and this reporter was in attendance.
QN: Your faction has filed about 13 cases, why all these?
ANS: We are forced to file cases to defend ourselves. We warned the Registration Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (Rita) and the office of Political Parties Registrar to be careful before endorsing Prof Lipumba’s board of trustee; that we would go to court to challenge the decision. The country’s laws say that the board of trustees is permanent, and CUF’s constitution mandates the party’s governing council the powers to change the members.
In 2014, the governing council made changes to the board, and the members were registered by Rita. The council is still working in spite of the five out of 53 members who decided to support Prof Lipumba. Our petition intends to establish from which council Rita received names of the proposed members.
We can’t recognise Prof Lipumba’s board because it would mean the game is over. Its decisions such as registrations, access to government subventions and formation of committees will negatively impact us.
You may be aware that Mr Thomas Malima (a senior CUF official aligned to Prof Lipumba) is threatening party lawmakers to appear before a certain committee for questioning, and those who don’t would be stripped off their party membership.
When you lose party membership, you automatically cease to be a lawmaker, which is nothing to us. We are fighting against plots to weaken CUF. Therefore, the cases have been filed under certificate of urgency, pleading with the courts to determine and stop misconduct and sabotage against CUF.
Why are you the chosen person to handle the cases?
I am a member (of the party) and Member of Parliament with interest in the party. CUF was looking for someone qualified.
How is this game playing in Parliament?
We are strong and united. We know that a lot of effort is being put to persuade some lawmakers to defect; that’s how politics is. We are aware of CCM and the State’s influence in the plot.
CUF registered a record performance in the 2015 general election by winning 10 parliamentary seats in the Mainland, got almost 27/27 seats in the House of Representatives in Zanzibar where we have been lagging behind with a difference of 10 to 12 seats.
In Pemba, the party has won all 18 parliamentary seats and all wards where previously, CCM has been getting two to three wards. The number of councillors in Unguja has increased to 13 in 2015 from two in 2010. Also, the number of Union legislators from Unguja has increased to eight from one or two seats in the 2010 elections.
CCM thinks by weakening CUF they will fix political rivalry in Zanzibar, which isn’t the case. Politics is a matter of art and strategy. When our members and supporters are directed to the north they obey. Party votes will remain unchanged despite of these divisions. They will remain there even after they are directed to join party X.
In Zanzibar, it’s all about cultural politics, which means when someone is accepted he/she is accepted. Our concern remains the brand that we have built for years. Some of our members are serving jail terms, others are now disabled; that is the identity we are fighting for.
Also, CUF has influenced presidential votes in Zanzibar, which enabled the Ukawa Union presidential candidate to harvest such a huge number of votes. The Chadema presidential candidate in the 2015 general election, Mr Edward Lowassa, collected a record number of votes in the history of multiparty democracy in the country.
If this continues, will CUF take part and win the 2019 local polls, and 2020 general election?
It is difficult, we need to rearrange ourselves. Rearrangement becomes difficult amid the ongoing political dispute. That’s why we are working hard to resolve the election dispute in Zanzibar and the one against Prof Lipumba.
We believe that a resolution can be brought through peaceful methods, not through strikes and the use of force. Anything contrary to peaceful methods in conflict resolution violates the party’s core values.
We are confident that with the strong base we have, the party will retain its constituency seats and add more, especially in areas we were defeated by CCM by only a small margin in 2015. And I think as Ukawa, we will need to rearrange ourselves. The problem is that CCM does not believe in itself anymore, and they have resorted to scaring us.
What exactly do you mean by that?
CCM is not ashamed to win election by any means necessary; everybody knows that. It’s like a giant club like Young Africans bribing referees and their opponents’ players to win an FA trophy against a club from the third division. They have the majority in Parliament, they are not supposed to fear the opposition. The ratio in Parliament between CCM, Chadema and CUF is 7:2:1. That already assures them victory in votes. And we are aware that we cannot win where the issue at stake must be addressed through voting. But after all our efforts, we evaluate CCM’s strength.
What is your opinion on the ruling party’s strength at the moment?
It is not as strong as it used to be. After multiparty democracy was reinstated in 1992, three years later in 1995 we garnered 49 per cent of the votes against 50.2 per cent by CCM in the Zanzibar election. Before that, CCM has been garnering 99 per cent (in the single party system).
In the Union election, fourth phase President Jakaya Kikwete won by 63 per cent for his first term, then by 60 per cent for his re-election. President Magufuli has won by 58 per cent. All this shows that CCM is becoming weak with time.
And the party now has 71 lawmakers. Where do you think these seats come from? They were previously owned by CCM.
What is your opinion on politics in institutions of higher learning?
CCM, Chadema and CUF have branches at the University of Dar es Salaam. But in my opinion, parties should now abandon politics at universities because unlike our days when nationality was the driving force, nowadays the youth are taught to prioritise individual parties.
Since the youth are prepared to develop the country, political parties should stay away from university politics. The youth should be taught to prioritise national interests ahead of party affiliations. Only through this we will be able to protect and uphold the legacy of the Father of the Nation.
What challenges do you face as an MP?
Firstly, I ask myself if I am in the right place and time. We progress well at the National Assembly level, where we make decisions through voting and the majority win, which is fine. Unfortunately, decisions are made without considering national interest.
Even the opposition; most of the time we oppose because it’s our position in Parliament. In some instances we don’t decide as a nation, we decide along our political affiliations.
Many people had great faith on me, that I would speak out on various Union issues on their behalf, but excessive censorship and scrutiny has prohibited the fulfilment of this role. My job lacks mobility and leverage. I would have done better as an MP in the presence of the two. I performed well, though, as the opposition whip.
What do you think are CUF’s options, if this dispute is not resolved?
I agree with you that CUF must have Plan B in case Plan A fails to work. We can’t start a new political party because the registrar won’t allow it on grounds that CUF would be behind the registration.
Options aren’t open, options come with time. They come while you are there, you can’t cross a bridge when you are not there.
But the government should remember that CUF stability determines the stability of Zanzibar. Whatever the case, the government should recognise its own huge role in the stability of CUF.
How do you assess the country’s political situation?
It is passing through hard rocks as the leadership strives to stamp its identity – and it’s difficult to build a country without linkages with the past. Tanzania didn’t start today, it’s impossible to start everything afresh; the past should be accommodated in building a new Tanzania.
Though I believe in President Magufuli’s speed, the head of state shouldn’t discourage freedom of speech. People should freely advise the government because every Tanzanian has a stake in the running of this country, and that their comments are for the prosperity of the country. Countries where people are free to talk register fast progress. Whenever artists, religious clerics, the opposition and the media are free to talk, the country relaxes.