Colonel (rtd) Ngemela Lubinga is Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM)’s Secretary of Political Affairs and International Relations. He was appointed to that position in December 13, 2016.
In this interview with Political Platform Reporter, Louis Kolumbia, he talks about various developments in the country and in the party and their impact on both the foreign and policies. As far as the new constitution is concerned he, specifically, says the development agenda is Tanzania’s number one priority.
Question: What are you proud of in CCM?
Answer: I’m proud of a strong CCM. A political party that is built on a strong foundation; a party that has come of age.
What hasn’t CCM not yet achieved?
Building CCM as a political party based on the youth. The founding members of Tanganyika Affrican National Union (TANU) and CCM are retiring politics. We need new blood. Of course we have started grooming the youth. The challenge we facing is that we can’t get the youth to attend our trainings according to our schedules because most of them are students.
What is CCM doing to ensure the plan succeeds?
We are planning to construct a political training college at Kibaha kwa Mfipa in Coast Region in collaboration with political parties in some Sadc countries are planning to construct a political training college at Kibaha kwa Mfipa in Coast Region.
We will put the foundation stone on October 12, 2017. The ceremony will be attended by secretary generals from various political parties across the region and representatives of the Communist Party of China (CPC). This project will go concurrently with the revival of another college located in Ihemi, Iringa Region.
You were a career solider. How challenging is it working in a political party?
There is a strong tradition of politics in the army. Many CCM leaders were former soldiers. Former President, Jakaya Kikwete, George Mkuchika, Ditopile Mzuzuri, Issa Kaisi, Moses Nnauye, Yusuph Makamba and Abdulrahman Kinana, to name just a few, were among cadres who served in the army before becoming full time politicians. My appointment is like moving from one camp to another, the difference is insignificant and it is mainly aimed at improving efficiency in the party.
What is your comment about President Magufuli’s habit of appointing army men to serve in government positions?
Again this goes back to CCM’s traditions. In the past membership in the Tanu Youth League (TYL), CCM and African Shiraz Party (ASP) was considered an important criteria for joining the army.
It is difficult to avoid appointing army officers in government because they are serving the same employer. What is done in the new appointment is changing positions, it is like shifting from one battalion to another.
When did you retire from the army and join become a card-carrying member of CCM?
I left the army several years ago to become the founding District Commissioner of Mlele District in Katavi Region. Then I went back to the army and was appointed the Tanzania People Defense Force spokesperson.
So when I went back to the army my card was taken away by my employer till when I retired shortly before I was appointed by President John Magufuli, who is the chairman of CCM, to shit position in December 2016.
How neutral can a solider be when he or she is a member of a political party?
II understand your question but you have to remember we are coming from a tradition where army was politicized. Yes it is difficult to guarantee total neutrality in that case. It will take time, until, perhaps when our generation has moved on.
Why do you think did CCM chairman President Magufuli appointed you in the position?
You should ask President Magufuli himself that question.
Do you think measures taken by the government to revise natural resource laws and restrict export of copper and gold concentrate have affected country’s relationship with its foreign partners?
Relationship with foreign countries has remained intact. I know people will not immediately understand the impact of reviewing bogus contracts for national development. But in future they will, surely understand and appreciate what we have done as far as securing natural resources ownership is concerned.
As a country we should be ready to pay a high cost of terminating such contracts. We shouldn’t be afraid to correct past mistakes simply because people were already used to a certain way of life. Change is inevitable though it might be uncomfortable.
Has CCM completed paying the Communist Party of China (CPC) loan used to construct the Dodoma Convention Centre and other party projects?
CCM does not owe CPC anything. We signed contracts allowing resource sharing.
What are your comments as regards the Zanzibar political impasse?
The Zanzibar political dispute is being blown out of proportion. There is no political crisis in Zanzibar. What we have is just ordinary political struggles that can happen anywhere in the world. No democracy is perfect. I mean even Western democracies have their own shortcomings. The problem with Zanzibar is that it is less populated, making it easy for political differences to be amplified. However, as compared to other countries including the west, the situation in Zanzibar is better.
But claims that the Tanzanian government is suppressing democracy are really, aren’t they?
It is a fact that CCM won the 2015 General Election. It is also a fact that CCM won because voters were satisfied by the party’s Manifesto.
And the Manifesto clearly says that CCM’s agenda is to bring development in the country. So CCM has to be given space to bring the development to the people. Political rallies and demonstrations can very well be used to distract people from the government’s agenda. That is why rallies and demonstrations had to be suspended till 2020 except in constituencies and wards. And it is not true that CCM politicians hold rallies. They are holding closed door meetings just like politicians from other political parties. It is, therefore, not true that the government is suppressing democracy in the country.
There is evidence that the Police have been storming closed door meetings held by opposition parties?
The Police are better placed to speak on this. But usually they do intervene whenever there is reason to intervene. What I know is that the government has clearly explained why councillors and MPs are the only politicians allowed to hold rallies in their respective wards and constituencies.
Is it appropriate for Regional Commissioners (RCs) and District Commissioners (DCs) to lockup government executives?
RCs and DCs are allowed by low to lock anybody up, including civil servants, if there is a reason to do that, for 48 hours. You must understand that even the Vatican has cells where in spite of being resided by the pope, bishops, priests and nuns.
People’s properties are stolen in Mecca during Hajj in spite of the pilgrim’s intention to get out of sin. It means people that if there is reason to lock people up then people can be locked up.
Do you support the ongoing trend of politics in the universities?
A good political party invests in building patriotism among the youth. Some opposition parties use tribal divisions and religious differences to divide Tanzanians, but we in CCM will continue building a united nation.
CCM is blamed for fueling, behind the scenes, a leadership crisis within the Civic United Front (CUF). What is your comment?
The CCM-led government does not benefit in any way when the opposition is weakened. In fact the government has been working hard to provide conducive environment for democracy to prosper. The main problem the opposition CUF is facing it lack of political maturity and inadequate internal democracy.
The main figures in the crisis, Prof Ibrahim Lipumba and Seif Sharif Hamad, are well educated and were once in leadership positions in CCM and in government.
But they have somehow failed to rescue the party from the current slide-down. When Prof Lipumba resigned as CUF chairman, just close to elections in 2015, the party did nothing to formalize his resignation. This means the possibility for his return was left open.
And so the CUF has itself to blame for its problems. They should stop pointing fingers outside the party.
But don’t you believe that a well-functioning CUF is key to the peace and security of Zanzibar?
As I said strong opposition political parties are key to Tanzania’s democracy. Also CCM need conflict-free opposition that can provide constructive criticism.
How is CCM taking on board the government’s concept of “bursting the boils” whereby unaccountable leaders have been sacked from public service?
‘Bursting the boils’ is not a new concept. It was famously used by CCM for years since Mwalimu Nyerere’s era. It is the party that has ordered the government to ensure inept government officers are made accountable.
Being the government’s chief executive, President Magufuli has adopted “bursting the boils” philosophy to promote accountability of public servants.
Now talking of bursting the boils why it appears the main culprits of the Tegeta Escrow account scandal have not been prosecuted
All corrupt officials and politicians will be prosecuted, but other circumstances demands that some criminals be subjected to party observation. Who expected Rugemalira (James) would be prosecuted?
Prof Tibaijuka (Anna) was sacked from his cabinet position because under CCM procedures she didn’t report gifts and materials she received from Rugemalira.
How far has CCM reached in recovering party properties?
Party properties will be recovered step by step in collaboration with government institutions. The process has already started. Lawyers are also needed to provide legal counsel. However, the time is yet to come.
What is your comments on claims that the Executive is interfering with other pillars of the government; the Judiciary and the Parliament?
You must understand that it is one government. All the three pillars are branches of eh same government. And the CCM-led government is committed to restore accountability in all sectors. The MPs are disciplined in accordance with Parliamentary Standing Orders without influence of the Executive.
The courts were not properly fulfilling their responsibilities in spite of former President Jakaya Kikwete’s efforts to provide the Judiciary with a good number of new judges. Cases were taking too long to be concluded, sometimes for no apparent reason, prompting government’s intervention.
Trying to increase efficiency in other institutions is not the same as influencing their decisions and functions.
What is CCM’s stand on the new Katiba writing process?
CCM has instructed the government to provide rights to citizens according to CCM’s 2015 election manifesto. My opinion is that the new constitution isn’t the country’s first priority. We need to develop our economy first before we start dealing with things like the new constitution.
Has the country lent something from the 2017 presidential elections in Kenya?
CCM has learnt a lot, but the lessons need to be implemented according to the country’s situation. We have leant a lot in other elections held in the US, UK and China but our adoption will depend on the country’s demands at respective time.
Can you unreal your life history?
I was born on October 10, 1956 at Bombo Hospital in Tanga where my father worked as a police officer. However, my family is originally from Misenyi District, Kagera Region. I’m married, a father of three, two boys and one girl. I also adopted one child. On top of that I have two grandchildren.
Academically, I completed my primary education in 1971 from Karumo Primary School in Sengerema, Mwanza Region. I completed my ordinary level education in 1975 at Ihungo Secondary School. Then, I joined Nachingwea Teachers Training College (TTC) in 1977.
After attending the National Services Training, I attended a certificate course studies on Ideological Studies at Kivukoni College in 1981 before joining the Tanzania School of Journalism (TSJ) in 1984, then travelled to Czechoslovakia for a diploma in strategic studies.