- The opposition party is ducking blows left, right and centre. There is pressure to remain relevant in national politics, and the recent spate of arrests of its senior members on the orders of regional and district commissioners have not made it any easier.
Dar es Salaam. Against the backdrop of a shrinking space for its political activities and unending legal battles facing its senior members, the questions to ask Chadema strategists is: As things continue falling apart for the country’s main opposition, what game plan is on the cards? Will the centre hold long enough?
The opposition party is ducking blows left, right and centre. There is pressure to remain relevant in national politics, and the recent spate of arrests of its senior members on the orders of regional and district commissioners have not made it any easier.
To talk about these and other wide-ranging issues affecting Chadema, Political Platform interviewed a member of the party’s Central Committee and Member of Parliament for Iringa Urban, Nyasa Zone chairman Reverend Peter Msigwa during his recent visit to Mwananchi Communications Ltd headquarters:
QN: Chadema recently announced its decision to sue RCs and DCs for arresting and detaining (for 48 hours) opposition leaders, do you believe that this will solve the problem?
ANS: Hopefully, we have made a good decision. We will use legal measures to ensure peace and tranquility prevail in the country, and that the courts dispense justice against government leaders abusing powers entrusted them. However, we will continue educating people on the rights provided by the constitution.
You once said some Chadema councillors are colluding with CCM, can you prove that?
Chadema’s secretary for the Northern Zone, Mr Aman Golugwa, made it clear on the day he addressed the media immediately after the councillors defected. This ‘recruitment’ and money changing hands has been reported in the councillors’ saga.
It appears that councillors from Arusha and Mwanza are the main target, why is it so?
CCM believes Arusha is our stronghold. Therefore, once Chadema is weakened in Arusha that is likely to have spiral effect across the country. This tells you that there is a plot, a specific mission.
CCM seems to be reorganising itself to reclaim the Iringa Urban Constituency you are representing, how prepared are you?
They didn’t want me become MP in 2010 and 2015. I defeated Ms Monica Mbega by 2,000 votes in 2010, before increasing that margin to 10,000 in 2015 when Mr Fredrick Mwakalebela contested. In 2020, I will repeat what I did in previous years, whether they like it or not.
What impact on the opposition do you think the ban on live Bunge broadcasts has had?
It’s not just the opposition that has been affected, but the whole nation. No new political talent is being discovered; newly-elected MPs have been confined to local politics – only in their constituencies. Moreover, the ordinary citizen has been denied the right to access adequate and well-researched information. When MPs knew they are being watched live by their people, they used to prepare themselves comprehensively before debating; that has since disappeared from Parliament.
In Parliament recently, the opposition outstandingly gave former President Jakaya Kikwete a standing ovation when he escorted his wife Mama Salma for debut in the House. That was highly unexpected, if not strange, considering that the same opposition launched fierce attacks on Mr Kikwete during his presidency?
Politics is a game of dynamics. It’s not statistic. Nobody will erase the achievements he made when he served the country, and the opposition will continue recognising and praising him for that success. In the same spirit, we will also remind him about his failures a head of state. What we actually want President Magufuli to do is to leave behind the shortcomings of the fourth phase government, and take on board its successes, such as the improvement in investment climate, infrastructure development and the strengthening of democracy in the country. The fifth phase government is lagging behind on these key issues, if we are to compare the two administrations.
So, what exactly do you miss about Mr Kikwete’s leadership?
He didn’t abuse the powers entrusted to him; he didn’t use state organs to hurt people because he knew his authority was but for a short time. The President is a very powerful person in the country, if he is not careful many people could be hurt because he has the powers to do anything. Mr Kikwete provided for the freedom of speech and criticism, a sign that he was a good leader.
Let’s talk about the opposition’s relations with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Job Ndugai. When you had a bitter confrontation with his deputy Dr Tulia Ackson, he was generally considered a warmer person. It seems that is no longer the case considering the latest incidents between you and the Speaker, what has changed?
The opposition blamed Dr Ackson for violating the Parliamentary Standing Orders. Being a member of the Commonwealth, Tanzania must have a parliament in which those who constitute the minority should be heard, although it is the majority whose decisions see the light of day. On the contrary, under her leadership, the majority enjoyed both the right to be heard and the right to decide at the expense of the minority, who were denied both.
Unfortunately, after the Speaker worked hard to resolve our dispute with his deputy, he has let the opposition down by allowing Parliament to lose its powers through taking orders from the Executive. There are no checks and balances – and Parliament is no longer properly playing its oversight role with regards to its functional relations with government. The only thing happening now is the expulsion and suspension of opposition MPs.
One of the most interesting recent developments in the opposition is Mr Edward Lowassa’s declaration that he would be the coalition (Ukawa)’s flagbearer for the presidential race in 2020. What is your comment on this?
Nothing is wrong with that. Every politician has his own private ambitions, including myself. Any member of the party is allowed to express his/her ambitions.
They should, therefore, confidently express their feelings without fearing Mr Lowassa because fearing him would turn the party into another CCM. All in all, it is healthy for Chadema to have many members seeking nomination because out of them the party will pick the right leader to compete with candidates from other parties.