It has been one hell of a week. There is simply no other way to describe it. Last Friday night (over a week ago) the CCM government pointed its guns at journalists in a TV station; last week Saturday evening the CCM government pointed its guns at members of the TLS outside the AICC in Arusha and last Thursday afternoon the CCM government pointed a pistol at Nape Nauye, a prominent CCM cadre.
Only God and the angels know what this CCM government is going to do next, whilst President John Magufuli busies himself at the port of Dar es Salaam miraculously visiting the Port on the very day that port authorities discovered Range Rovers hidden in containers and Nape Nauye was fired for daring to investigate Makonda night raid of Clouds.
How did it all go so wrong? The symptoms have been there for a long time. The root of the problem is the foundation of CCM. I say this openly and without fear. Frankly speaking, jails are made for human beings and as I am human I fear them not. CCM is not a political party, it is a political system.
It is a system of privilege, patronage, fear and power without checks and balances. That is why members of CCM dare to state in open and public fora that CCM can never be removed from power by the ballot.
This is their way of telling us that we can never check them. At the very heart of CCM, there is a rotten core that believes CCM is bigger than Tanzania and I have always said that there will be a Tanzania well after CCM disappears, however, there is no CCM without Tanzania and this is something that CCM needs to comprehend, as they keep pointing the gun at us.
In the past few months the general public has called for intervention from CCM elders. Unfortunately, their calls have been met with deaf ears. CCM elders are all those members of CCM who served as presidents of the United Republic and of Zanzibar and ex-prime ministers.
In order to ensure there were checks and balances within the party, the CCM constitution has always guaranteed these eminent elders a permanent seat in the Central Committee of the Party. They could not be removed and their views had to be heard and respected.
During Ali Hassan Mwinyi’s presidency, he had to live with Nyerere’s sometimes caustic criticism of his government in the Central Committee and in public; Benjamin Mkapa had to bite the bullet and live with Nyerere’s, Mwinyi’s and Salmin Amour’s criticism.
Then along came Jakaya Kikwete, a smooth political operator who introduced sweeping reforms to the Constitution of CCM, as argued by Kingunge Kombale Mwiru, without following the requisite process for amending the CCM constitution.
Kikwete ejected all their occupants and then skilfully ripped the permanent seats from their very foundations and threw them out of the Central Committee window, whilst the National Executive Committee delegates cheered and clapped mindlessly, not understanding the damage he had done to CCM.
For his efforts Kingunge Kombale Mwiru received a resounding booing from the CCM members of the National Executive Committee. And so marked the end of checks and balances within CCM.
Tellingly, and not surprisingly, as chairman of CCM, Magufuli has reversed some Constitutional changes introduced by Kikwete but has safeguarded his autonomy within the Central Committee by refusing to reverse Kikwete’s unashamed seizure of absolute control.
So now you know why there are no elders within CCM to check and balance the chairman of the Party. It is a party left at the mercy of the chairman. I am ashamed to admit that there is a part of me that receives an abundant amount of pleasure from seeing Kikwete sitting in the very chair he anarchically ripped out of the Central Committee, powerlessly peering in, whilst the chairman does as he pleases. This is poetic justice at its best.
So it is left to our institutions and us to check and balance the Executive because trust me on this, CCM will not do it. The party does not have the requisite mechanisms nor the necessary personalities for the job at hand.
So here I am, as a citizen of this country, condemning in the strongest way possible the use of the gun in the political arena. I am condemning in the strongest way possible the abuse of our criminal justice system to imprison members of the opposition because they dare oppose.
I am condemning in the strongest way possible the interference with the independence of the judiciary and in particular, the unashamed breaches of our Constitution, Tanzania is a democratic country and part of that process is the right for the opposition to conduct political activities and our right to freedom of association, freedom of information and free speech.
Finally, I am condemning in the strongest way possible the interference with the independence of the Tanganyika Law Society.
It is a members’ society, funded by members’ subscriptions, government has never contributed a penny to our activities, and run on democratic principles. One man, one vote. Mr Mwakyembe’s threat to dissolve us if we dared vote for Tundu Lissu has been met with a resounding answer. Tundu Lissu is president of the Tanganyika Law Society and other than dissolution there is nothing Mr Mwakyembe or anybody else can do about it.
So you are most welcome to dissolve the TLS, an institution that is older than the United Republic of Tanzania and let Tundu Lissu go down in history as the last President of the TLS because he really does deserve that accolade after the hell his family and he have been put through, simply for daring to speak.
We are certainly ready to live with the dissolution of the TLS but we are not prepared to live in a country where our rights are abrogated by threats and decrees issued by the Executive.
The Judiciary and the National Assembly must rise to the challenge and protect our Constitution against this relentless and temperamental Executive onslaught. Enough is enough. I am certainly fed up with these relentless shenanigans. They have become very tiresome indeed.
Fatma A. Karume is a Partner (Litigation) at IMMMA Advocates.