- Apparently, all of the country’s major opposition parties with representation in Parliament -- ACT-Wazalendo, Civic United Front (CUF) and Chadema -- have been caught napping in the middle of a storm that has been sweeping national politics over the past few months.
Dar es Salaam. The surprise appointment of key opposition leaders to senior government positions, the ban on rallies, the ban of live coverage of parliamentary proceedings -- these, coupled with the perennial petty squabbling within their rank and file, have left opposition parties in the political intensive care unit, analysts have said.
Apparently, all of the country’s major opposition parties with representation in Parliament -- ACT-Wazalendo, Civic United Front (CUF) and Chadema -- have been caught napping in the middle of a storm that has been sweeping national politics over the past few months.
Observers say recent events have served as proof of a now widely accepted view that the opposition has become weaker, while CCM continues to stamp its foot in national matters.
The goings-on within the Zitto Kabwe-led ACT-Wazalendo are the clearest indication yet that things have fallen apart, and the centre no longer holds for the opposition.
The party has been left facing a major crosscroads after last weekend shock appointment of a second senior cadre to a key government position. President John Magufuli appointed its chairperson, Ms Anna Mghwira, to be the new Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner.
Interestingly, this came just about two months after President Magufuli appointed Prof Kitila Mkumbo, a key adviser to the party’s firebrand leader Zitto Kabwe, to the position of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water and Irrigation.
Ms Anna Mghwira was a 2015 presidential candidate who garnered 98,763, equivalent to 0.65 per cent of the 15,596,110 votes cast.
Prof Kitila Mkumbo was, till his appointment, a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM).
But ACT woes do not only come from the appointments of its key leaders to government positions. Recently, the party, which was founded in 2014, suffered another blow after Prof Mkumbo’s successor, advocate Albert Msando had to resign for unethical conduct.
Mr Msando was caught on camera behaving in a sexually explicit manner with a controversial video queen, Gift Stanford, alias Gigy Money.
The country’s second largest opposition party, CUF, is still suffering a political quagmire since the 2015 General Election, prompted by Prof Ibrahim Lipumba’s decision toreclaim his chairmanship, after his resignation a few months before the elections. The party is split into two factions, one led by Prof Lipumba and the other by its secretary general, Mr Maalim Seif Shariff Hamad.
CUF in crisis
Analysts have been talking about the unseen hand of State apparatus, citing the manner in which some public institutions have been technically bankrolling on of the CUF factions, the Prof Lipumba side.
In addition to controversially repossessing the party’s Buguruni offices, Prof Lipumba has been getting permissions to hold rallies despite the countrywide restrictions affecting the other opposition parties.
Besides, the Registrar of Political Parties fuelled the rumours of government supporting Prof Lipumba when he paid the party’s subventions amounting to Sh369 million to the opposition leader, despite the fact that there was a serious intra-party dispute over the legality of his role as the chairman of the party.
The party has so far failed to conduct any progressive programmes since the 2015 General Election. Instead the factions have been engaging in verbal war of words and altercations whenever their followers meet. The members of the two factions exchanged blows during the party’s national congress in August last year. Members of the two factions have also engaged in fistfights in two occasions at the High Court premises where the cases involving the disputes on the chairmanship position and party subventions are ongoing.
Chadema is on target
Chadema, the largest opposition party, is also another target the forces that are bent to kill opposition politics in the country. President Magufuli’s ban on political rallies and demonstrations until 2020 with the exception of elected leaders in Ward and Constituencies has strongly affected the Chadema’s ability to mobilise supporters and recruit new ones.
The ban on demonstrations has also dealt a blow to the party’s activism politics image that resonated well with the youth.
The indoor party meetings which could have been an easy alternative to the banned public rallies were also banned last year. Opposition parties had therefore to resort to the social media to mobilise their supporters but the draconian Cybercrime Act has proven has made this process difficult.
A number of Chadema and other opposition supporters and leaders have been charged in court for either insulting President Magufuli or sedition using social media. A Chadema cadre, Yeriko Nyerere, is now in court for similar charges.
Ban on Bunge live coverage
The ban on live broadcasts of parliamentary sessions has also denied the opposition a platform that they could use to garner publicity especially when their most outspoken members take the government to task through constructive arguments. In addition to banning parliamentary proceedings the Speaker of the House Job Ndugai has also turned out to be authoritarian, using the the police to forcefully evict MPs, especially from the opposition from the debating chamber.
ACT Wazalendo Communications officer, Mr Abdallah Khamis and CUF deputy secretary general (Mainland), Ms Magdalena Sakaya agree with Political Platform that the opposition parties are at a crossroads. While Mr Khamis says ACT is implementing the 2017/20 strategic plan that calls for use of alternative measures to practice doing politics in the country, Ms Sakaya says only wisdom will rescue CUF.
“Party programmes and activities including providing subsidy to region and district offices have stalled due to the ongoing dispute, stalling party’s progress. CUF leaders should be wise enough toseek mediation to resolve the impasse for the benefits of Tanzanians,” she says.
Prof George Shumbusho of Mzumbe University says politics is a game that involves competition by political parties, and so if President Magufuli’s actions are weakening the opposition then he is playing his cards well.
In developed countries, opposition parties monitor, challenge the government in power and provide citizens with an alternative ideological viewpoint, Prof Shumbusho says, adding that the Tanzanian opposition should learn and understand what their roles are in serving the people.
“Opposition parties need to formulate and implement alternative strategies to practice politics in the country. While, the government’s ban on rallies and demonstrations stands, they should conduct political activities in the Wards and Constituencies as allowed by the law,” he says.
The University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) Political Science and Public Administration Senior Lecturer, Dr Alexander Makulilo also says opposition political parties must continue looking for alternative ways of conducting their activities.
“They shouldn’t suspend their political activities. Every available opportunity should be used including holding rallies, press conferences, issuing press releases and run debates and workshops. They should also strive for clarity in their ideologies and stand firm during implementation,” he said.
However, Dr Makulilo is of the opinion that political parties are not at a crossroads because according to him, the President’s appointments of ACT senior officials, for example, is an opportunity for opposition to prove they can peform better.