- While the opposition is crying foul saying that money has been changing hands as the ruling party continues to “bribe” their senior officials to jump ship, political pundits say that mass defections are a symptom of ideological infractions.
Dar es Salaam. Political analysts have poked holes in the opposition camp, accusing parties of ideological bankruptcy after the recent wave of mass defections from their senior ranks to the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
While the opposition is crying foul saying that money has been changing hands as the ruling party continues to “bribe” their senior officials to jump ship, political pundits say that mass defections are a symptom of ideological infractions.
Interestingly, it is not the first time that the Tanzanian opposition has been accused of lacking deep ideological roots. The analysts’ observations echo a 2009 Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung State of Politics in Tanzania report that noted that the lack of party philosophy or ideology is one of the several factors frustrating the transition to multiparty democracy in the country.
According to the report, other frustrating factors include the lack of participatory internal democracy as a result of communication deficit between party leaders, followers and the population, lack of resources and the dominance of a personality cult.
In various interviews with Political Platform last week, analysts generally expressed frustration at the opposition after the defection of five councillors from the main opposition party Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) in Arusha.
Those who jumped ship said they made the decision because they were impressed by the ruling party national chairman President John Magufuli’s efforts to transform the country. However, Chadema has dismissed the excuses saying it has evidence that its leaders were bribed.
Speaking to reporters recently, Arumeru East Member of Parliament Joshua Nassari (Chadema), who was in the company of his Arusha Urban counterpart, Mr Godbless Lema, showed journalists video clips he claimed proved the councillors were compromised.
In the video clips, some district and municipals leaders, purportedly from CCM, are seen convincing the councillors to defect from Chadema with promises of allowances for their remaining meetings until 2020.
They were also promised that the projects they had initiated as councillors in their wards would be completed. There is also promises of money and employment.
But the councillors who quit the opposition have adamantly refuted claims that they were bribed. They maintain that their decision to ditch the opposition was influenced by the performance of President Magufuli.
Chadema lawmakers said they had already handed over a flash disc containing the video clips, as evidence of the alleged bribery, to the Prevention and Combatting of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) director general Valentino Mlowola for nvestigation. Yet for political analysts, the defections are a telltale sign of ideological weaknesses in the opposition, the question of bribes, notwithstanding.
According to Prof Bakari Mohammed of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), for a person who truly stand on what he believes in, it’s impossible to be so ready to defect from his party and betray those who voted for him.
“There’s a great deal of political leaders in both the opposition and the ruling parties who are there merely for selfish interests,” says Prof Mohammed. But he quickly points out that the problem is the fact that people join parties yet they do not understand what the organisations really stand for.
Party cross-overs, he explains, isn’t a bad thing when it happens once a person sees that the basic foundations of the party that he joined are violated. But it isn’t the case with the most defections and cross-overs in Tanzania.
He notes: “There’s a huge ideological deficit within all the political parties in the country, and most of their members and leaders don’t actually know what the parties’ stand for.”
Prof Mohammed adds that what is happening should not come as a big surprise considering that politicial parties have stopped embarking on large-scale grassroots mobilisation with the aim of teaching doctrine.
Ideology is a ‘minor’ issue
However, some the party officals responsible for ideology and publicity downplayed the question of ideology saying it is not the main factor to explain the mass defections.
Chadema spokesman Tumaini Makene said the defections had nothing to do with ideology, but corruption that is being perpetrated by the government in its plot to silence the opposition.
“Our main concern is why the people who have been implicated in this bribery scandal are still walking free; no action has been taken against them,” said Mr Makene.
He told Political Platform that party ideology was a “minor issue”, and that the public’s concern is corruption not ideological weakness of Chadema. Asked how possible it was for a senior member, a councillor with deep roots in party doctrine, to be easily swayed into defecting over a Sh2 million bribe, Mr Makene said:
“No matter what the amount was, the issue here is bribery, I cannot totally use ideological bankruptcy as a pretext for defection.”
CUF acting deputy director for information, publicity and public relations, Mr Mbarala Maharagande, corroborates his Chadema colleague’s stance. According to him, ideology doesn’t prevent party members from treachery because people who are deeply-rooted in party doctrine can still find reason to defect.
With regards to the Chadema case, Mr Maharagande said what is at play is the pursuit of individual interests and excessive ambition. Still, he said what happened should serve as a “wake-up” call for the opposition.
“This doesn’t mean that we should ignore the issue of ideology,” he said. “I think it’s a wakeup call for all of us to be extra cautious in our appointments of candidates to make sure that we present to electorates those who are well-fed with ideology, and committed cadres.”
Mr Maharagande thinks the opposition faces a challenge to do more and stop the defections from recurring. He explains that many Tanzanians joined the opposition out of frustration with the CCM government’s poor performance, not necessarily because they agreed with party ideologies.
Mr Elijah Kondi, a political scientist at the University of Dar es salaam elaborates that it is actually “weak ideologies” that have left the opposition exposed in the sense that it is reactionary.
He explains: “The profound effect of a weak ideology is that the (opposition) party becomes more responsive to the weakness of the government of the day as its only agenda, instead of having a clear and more elaborate plan to solve the existing challenges facing the surrounding community and nation at large.”
Mr Kindo is quick to point out that the ideological deficit affecting even the ruling CCM has disastrous effects on the country’s democratic welfare. “You’ll have political parties whose growth is stagnant and dubious; more so, a strong opposition will be a pipedream.”
Turning to CCM, he said there are tell-tale signs that the ruling party is not spared the curse of ideological bankruptcy.
“Why, for example, do we have the government’s foreign policy responding to what is happening outside instead of being shaped by the internal environment and circumstance? “Mr Kindo asks.
“This is shows that the party in government doesn’t have philosophical orientation and forces them to be event-oriented; there are no long-term plans.”
‘No one like us’
However, CCM secretary of ideology and publicity Humphrey Polepole refutes claims that his party is ideologically bankrupt. He says the party’s success is a result of their ideology.
“CCM believes that socialism and self-reliance are what can guarantee justice and the freedom of our people,” said Mr Polepole, who strongly dismissed accusations that the party has lost the ideology laid down by the founding father and the first chairman of the party Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. He argues that the current leadership is guided by the same socialism principles that Mwalimu advocated.
“In this country, there isn’t a single political party whose ideology is as clearly written and properly comprehended as that of CCM,” he said. “That is what keeps us apart from the rest.”
Across East Africa, opposition parties have for long been crying foul over manipulation of processes, a tilted playing field, incumbents access and abuse of resources and outright rigging. However, their own lack of organisation, inability to guard their votes and inadequate resources have played a role in their losses.