Dar es Salaam. The ruling party has tightened the lid on President Jakaya Kikwete’s succession race by extending a campaign ban on six prominent party cadres who have shown interest to run for the presidency.
The extension means the fate of the six CCM presidential aspirants remains in limbo, even as respective camps were gearing up for a signal to launch the nomination battle for the coveted ticket.
Instead, the party said yesterday it had started to investigate if the six had fully implemented all the conditions they were given during the ban for 12 months.
The announcement was made following the party’s Central Committee (CC) meeting held at the State House and chaired by President Kikwete who doubles as the party’s national chairman.
At the same time, the CC announcing that it was suspending three former ministers — Prof Anna Tibaijuka, Mr Andrew Chenge and Mr William Ngeleja — from attending National Executive Committee (NEC) and CC meetings after they were implicated in the Tegeta escrow account scandal.
The three who have also been dragged before the Public Leadership Ethics Tribunal could now face a prolonged life in the political cold, should the same apply during CCM’s nomination for parliamentary candidates in the forthcoming General Election.
Prof Tibaijuka who is the MP for Muleba South and Mr Andrew Chenge who represents Bariadi East and well as Mr Ngeleja for Sengerema constituency were accused of receiving suspect payments from Dar es Salaam businessman James Rugemalira who was involved in the Sh306 billion Tegeta escrow scandal. The former two received Sh1.6 billion each and the latter Sh40.4 million.
According to the party’s Publicity and Ideology secretary, Mr Nape Nnauye, the meeting decided that the party’s ethics committee under the chairmanship of CCM, Vice Chairman (Mainland), Mr Phillip Mangula, continues reviewing the conduct of the six presidential aspirants and that after they accomplish their review, their fate would be known. No time limit was given.
Those who were barred from early campaigns include former prime ministers Edward Lowassa and Frederick Sumaye, three ministers Bernard Membe, Stephen Wassira and January Makamba as well as Sengerema MP and former Energy and Minerals minister William Ngeleja.
Yesterday’s meeting is the second. Last month, the CC meeting was convened by the party’s national chairman in Zanzibar and it came up with resolutions to be implemented. The meeting discussed four issues, including the escrow account controversy and the conduct of the party members who were barred from early presidential campaigns.
The CC formed an ethics committee under Mr Mangula that was expected to meet on January 19 to discuss the six and find out if they had broken CCM’s code of conduct.
It also directed the ethics committee to take disciplinary measures against the CCM cadres implicated in the Tegeta escrow scandal as well as discussing the punishment imposed on the cadres for early presidential campaigns. The party promised to review their conduct in February.
Yesterday, Mr Nnauye said the ethics committee summoned Mr Ngeleja, Prof Tibaijuka and Mr Chenge and that each of them was grilled for more than eight hours to substantiate their involvement in the Tegeta escrow scam.
“We have stopped them from attending any NEC or CC meeting indefinitely until the ethics committee finishes its report that will be submitted to the party’s CC for futher deliberations,’’ he said.
Mr Nnauye said the party’s regulation that was used to bar the six was clear that whoever breached the party’s code of conduct ought to be suspended from engaging himself or herself in matters related to the punishment for a period not less than 12 months. He said the party was under no obligation to give their verdict on the punishment meted out to the six cadres because as per the regulation, the time may be extended if it deems fit to do so.
“The ethics committee is now reviewing the conduct of all six party members to see if in a period of one year, the latter did not breach the party’s code of conduct as they were instructed,’’ he added.
This means, they will have to wait longer to begin their preparations to popularise themselves ahead of the party primaries that will pick a presidential candidate who will represent the ruling party in the next General Election scheduled for October.
Asked by The Citizen on Sunday if the party found it important to extend the date for a referendum which is scheduled for April 30 due to delays of voter listing through Biometric Voter Registration (BVR), Mr Nnauye said the party had already issued a directive to NEC to ensure that everything is done in a smooth manner.
But, as things stand, the National Electoral Commission which is currently continuing with the voter registration in Njombe Region, would appear to be caught between a rock and a hard place—either to go to the referendum with incomplete biometric registration or postpone the poll until all eligible voters are registered.
The registration will last March 25—meaning NEC will spend more than a month in one region.
“There are authorities tasked to deal with the referendum, I think we need to wait and see what will happen, if they find any reason for the extention of the referendum, hopefully they will inform the public,” said Mr Nnauye.