Lindi/Dar es Salaam/Nzega. Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister Bernard Membe yesterday officially entered the race to succeed President Jakaya Kikwete.
Addressing a well-attended rally in Lindi, Mr Membe announced he would seek nomination as CCM’s presidential candidate in the October 25 general Election.
He seeks to follow in the footsteps of Mr Kikwete and Mr Benjamin Mkapa and become the third person to be elected president after serving as foreign affairs minister.
Mr Membe, who has been Foreign Affairs minister for eight years under President Kikwete, said the country still needed a leader with a wide and extensive international network and knowledge.
“Tanzania cannot live in isolation. It needs a leadership that can cultivate cordial relations with foreign countries,” he said at the CCM regional headquarters.
Deputy minister for Communication, Science and Technology January Makamba and Nzega MP Hamis Kigwangalla were the other high profile politicians who also announced their presidential bids in televised meetings yesterday in Dar es Salaam and Nzega, respectively, taking the number of CCM aspirants to 24.
While Mr Membe’s trump card for the job was his long experience in security intelligence and foreign service, Mr Makamba and Kigwangalla touted fresh youthful leadership in a race they viewed as transformational for the country.
The foreign affairs minister said he was suitable with a track record and experience in security intelligence and Foreign Service to fit in the shoes of President Kikwete.
Mr Membe, 62, who was flanked by his wife Dorcas and long-time diplomat and politician George Kahama, said he paid a visit to the birthplace of the founding father of the nation Julius Nyerere in March to seek his blessings.
“While in Butiama I prayed before Mwalimu Nyerere’s tomb and asked for his blessings to wear his shoes. Mwalimu Nyerere answered me in the affirmative when I started getting appeals from across the country to declare my intention to run for the presidency,” said Mr Membe, who holds a Masters Arts Degree in Political Science from the University of Dar es Salaam and a Masters of Arts Degree from The John Hopkins University. “The shoes are still new and will fit me,” he said to a thunderous applause from his audience that came from Lindi, Zanzibar, Mtwara and Ruvuma regions. The minister painted himself as the candidate with most appeal within the ruling party to defeat the opposition in the elections, noting that he was crystal clean when it came to corruption.
“I am clean and I have not been involved in any scandal during my lifetime,” he added of both his service in the party and government. He also said the State House was priceless and could therefore not campaign on the basis of being rich.
He said should he ascend to power, his administration would work closely with the media to uproot corruption.
“This country is stinking of corruption engineered by a few individuals who are big cheats. These I will deal with squarely,” he said. He claimed some aspirants for the presidency were forcing members of the business community to contribute towards their campaigns.
The three-term MP said he would sustain and develop the gains achieved by his predecessors, including in infrastructure and education.
Access to health by all Tanzanians would be his first priority. He would ensure Vision 2025 was implemented to make Tanzania a middle income country.
With discoveries of oil and gas in southern Tanzania, Mr Membe said it was now the right time to make Tanzania an economic powerhouse. He said the industrialisation of Tanzania will go in tandem with the development of agro-processing industries to add value to the country’s agricultural products.
Since he was an old hand on security, Mr Membe said attention will be placed on ending the killings of people with albinism, drug trafficking and terrorism.
Strengthening the police force, guarding and protecting the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar, cherishing the Zanzibar revolution and improving the informal sector will also top his agenda. He also prioritised woman empowerment.
The deputy minister said it was now the time for a new crop of young leaders to steer the country in the next 50 years.
He said he wanted to become Tanzania’s transformational president by injecting fresh ideas to revolutionise social service delivery and make public leaders accountable to the people.
“I am not in the race to fight with anyone but to tackle the myriad of problems facing our people…it is a new era for a new crop of leaders as some have been there long enough to implement what they are now promising,” said Mr Makamba at a packed Mlimani City auditorium in Dar es Salaam. His address was beamed to audiences back in Tanga Region where his constituency is.
He said CCM could not afford to falter in the choice of the candidate to succeed President Kikwete. “Let’s elect a leader not on fear of the party crumbling but on confidence in one to deliver on its manifesto,” he said in his address. The Bumbuli MP said his government would be inclusive and put the nation and its people, and not the government, ahead. “In Makamba, you will not only be banking on hope but in a new awakening that will transform the way the government will relate with the larger public.” He said his main pillars will be income generation, social services, good governance, economy management and peace and security.
Mr Makamba said special attention will be given to youth-unemployment, education, corruption, land planning, water and health delivery. He enumerated how he would empower Tanzanians to become drivers of their own economy.
The plans include setting aside 30 per cent of all public procurement to youth and women, establish a national economic council to work closely with the private sector to deepen investments and manage economic growth that will bring millions of jobs every year.
“We will build the economy which will change Tanzanians’ lives; we will collaborate with the private sector to create opportunities for Tanzanians who are jobless,” said Mr Makamba.
He said he will create special vehicles to deal with student loans, village water funding, 50 million business loans for each village to aid the poor and commodity exchange to secure produce markets.
An education endowment fund will also be created as would be a stronger corruption investigation bureau and special court to fight the vice. He said his government will make sure that every Tanzanian joins health insurance schemes.
The deputy minister said all his plans would be self-funded by internal resources without pegging any hope in the huge gas discoveries that he said will only materialise in 20 years.
He said public funds embezzlers mentioned in the Controller and Auditor General’s reports would be dealt with promptly.
In education Mr Makamba said he will make sure that curricula are reviewed to reflect the need in the market. His government in collaboration with the private sector will build vocational training institutes in each district across the country.
Mr Makamba said he will drastically cut down government expenditures and remove all the bureaucracy that hinder service delivery. Mr Makamba said he will improve the tourism sector by opening up the southern tourism corridor a move which will increase the tourism sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP from Sh3 trillion to Sh30 trillion annually.
According to him his administration will reduce tax exemption to at least one per cent of the country’s GDP a move which will save Sh780 billion every year.
He warned of a growing tendency of land grabbing, noting that his administration would strive to manage the resource for the benefit of the entire country while ensuring land was put into production that could impact on a majority.
Dr Kigwangalla, 40, spoke before a cheering crowd at Nzega Parking grounds and vowed to transform the country’s economy.
He assured his supporters that being a first time MP was not a deterrent. “Only four people in this country have experience with State House,’’ said Dr Kigwangalla whose slogan was “The New Tanzania We Want”.
The medical doctor said he had led an ordinary life to understand what it meant to live in poverty. He promised to extricate people in the informal sector from poverty and revamp the country’s manufacturing sector as a means to steer the economy.
“The time has come when we need to reduce dependency on donors to finance our national budget,’’ said the medic, who also holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden.
Reported by LucasLiganga, Frank Kimboy and Syriacus Buguzi