Dar es Salaam. Ousted Civic United Front (CUF) secretary general Seif Shariff Hamad has reached a crucial crossroads in his rollercoaster political career following his disputed sacking yesterday.
An ominous warning on Friday by controversial CUF chairman Prof Ibrahim Lipumba that Mr Hamad’s days in the party were numbered served as a prelude to the announcement.
This served as the culmination of several months of bitter, yet comic and dramatic bickering within the troubled opposition outfit that has, for over a year now, been attracting headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Yesterday, he was unsurprisingly kicked out at the end of the Lipumba faction’s three-day meeting. CUF announced Khalifa Suleiman Khalifa as the new secretary general. That was the latest twist in a political career that has seen soaring highs and deep lows. Granted, the writing has always been on the wall for the opposition leader since the shock ‘Lipumba Comeback’ of June 13, 2016.
But it was yesterday’s decision to finally boot Mr Hamad out of the party that has raised the question of what options he has remaining.
His faction said on Friday they would announce their next course of action after a High Court ruling in a case they are challenging the holding of meetings under the CUF umbrella by the Lipumba faction.
We look at some of the possible ways out for the seasoned politician:
Keep on fighting:
Already, senior members of his faction have maintained that they are not letting go – at least for now until the High Court rules. On Friday, Mr Ismail Jussa, a close ally of Mr Hamad, told The Citizen that the meeting the Lipumba faction convened was of no consequence.
“There is a pending case (Number 23 of 2016) filed at the High Court, and which must be respected,” he said in a telephone interview.
He said they are also waiting for a ruling in a case they are challenging the Registrar of Political Parties’ decision to recognise Prof Lipumba as their party chairman.
With the authorities’ backing of Prof Lipumba, it might prove to be a difficult fight for Mr Hamad’s camp.
Should he decide to stick to his guns, however, he enjoys the political capital of a strong support base, especially in Pemba.
Quit CUF, form new party
This sounds easier said than done. This course of action borders on a plunge into the dark considering the political goings-on, and also the fact that the electioneering mode is already on, apparently.
It’s a big gamble too considering the possibility of hurdles he may face trying to register a new party under the new Political Parties Act.
But again, should he go this direction and somehow gets his party registered, Mr Hamad as a person appears to have the numbers he will need in an election. He has already proven his mantle and popularity.
In 1995 and 2010, he garnered 49 per cent of the votes. CUF denounced all official results in the Isles.
University of Dar es Salaam Richard Mbunda is of the opinion that this may be the most viable option for the embattled CUF leader.
“Prof Lipumba is being used to weaken CUF in Zanzibar ahead of the 2020 General Election. The only option for Mr Hamad’s faction is to form their own political party to carry his vision and maintain the reputation he has in the Isles,” he says.
Prof Ibrahim Mugambi of the Kampala International University concurs. “He should be strategising on a new political party that will run during the 2025 elections,” he says.
Retire from active politics
It’s a move that will obviously please his detractors, but the million-dollar question is: Is it even an option for him at the moment?
Despite his age, Mr Hamad remains a strong pillar in CUF – and disappointing his huge base of supporters sounds like the wrong move. More so, it may not be the best moment to go. His allies wouldn’t want such a sad exit from politics.
On the downside, he has obviously been significantly weakened by the well-executed shenanigans to oust him since nearly three years ago. He, therefore, risks suffering a more embarrassing exit should he continue to stay.
Pursue Ukawa agenda; join Chadema
Chadema will be the biggest beneficiaries if Mr Hamad decides to pursue opposition politics from its camp – which has been serious hit by high-profile defections over the past two years.
He played a big role in the formation of the Coalition of Defenders of the People’s Constitution (Ukawa), and that put him on a collision course with Prof Lipumba – once a close ally.
The upside here is that he is not forming anything new as it were, but pursuing an agenda that is the genesis of his current plight.
However, ideologies differences with his opposition sympathisers are still glaring, and this may cost him support. Prof David Ndyamukama, of the University of Dodoma, thinks this is the most viable option.
“The best option for Mr Hamad is to join another political party or start their own. In politics we are taught to identify, plan and get rid of our rivals,” he says.