Dar es Salaam. During a party meeting in the capital Dodoma last week, former Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda confirmed – implicitly at least – what was going on in the minds of many analysts of Tanzania’s political scene: that the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) is manifesting a new unfamiliar characteristic and a very disturbing one. It is a known fact that for a long time now, the Africa’s longest-serving ruling party has been boasting a strong party machine which has enabled it to deal with its internal issues amicably. It is this tradition that gave CCM cadres the confidence to ridicule their opposition counterparts, branding their parties as ‘holding companies’ with no institutions to steer them. But the latest fracas within the party has made analysts alike to start questioning whether its cherished internal mechanisms have stopped functioning properly and what that situation portends for the future of the party whose national chairperson has declared that it will rule ‘forever.’ Analysts are of the opinions that CCM is slowly but noticeably losing its capacity of overcoming turbulent internal situations and still remaining unshakable. Against this backdrop, it was not strange then to hear Mr Pinda, the party’s Central Committee (CC) member, christening what is going on within the party as “the strangest thing” he has ever experienced in his whole life as a CCM member. Although Mr Pinda didn’t clarify what he meant by “what’s happening in the CCM,” it was clear to everyone in his audience what he was referring to.
Analysts have described what is happening within the CCM as a failure to deal with the discontents and concerns among its members internally and resolve them justly and fairly. By the time of writing, the dust is yet to settle as factions within the party attack each other publicly, with eavesdropped telephone conversations purported to be of some senior party officials leaked and circulated in social media.
“It seems like the issue of settling conflicts within the party is no longer a priority among its leaders,” a political analyst from the University of Dodoma Dr Paul Luisulie said in an interview for an article published by The Citizen on Sunday. “That some senior leaders would choose to come out in public to express their grievances say a lot of the changing of times within the [CCM] party.”
A feathers-ruffling letter
Dr Luisulie is referring to a letter by Mr Yusuf Makamba and Mr Abdulrahman Kinana which has taken a centre stage in political talks in the country lately. Mr Makamba and Mr Kinana, who served as CCM’s secretary generals between 2009 to 2011 and 2012-2018, respectively, broke the long silence on July 14th over accusations that they “are sabotaging the President.” The accusations have, repeatedly, been made by a self-styled “media activist” who seek to “defend the President against a plot to sabotage him.”
In the letter, which was directed to the CCM’s elders advisory council, the retired senior officials warned of the dangers that the “unfounded allegations” pose to the party’s “unity, solidarity and tranquillity. The two leaders have called on the party’s elders to intervene, saying that there must be a force behind Mr Musiba’s accusations which they think is determined to drive the county “into a precipitous drop.”
Far from achieving its goal, however, the letter was welcomed with disdain, scorn, and disgust by CCM top brass. The plot thickened after the leaking of voice recordings of telephone conversations purportedly between outspoken Mtama MP (CCM) Nape Nnauye and Mr Kinana; and, between Mr Nnauye and Sengerema MP (CCM) Mr William Ngeleja. All, however, have neither confirmed nor denied the voices were theirs.
In the conversations, the speakers are heard discussing the country’s political, security as well as economic situation, expressing their disappointment with the ways things are being run without calling out names. But this has not stopped some CCM lawmakers from ranting against not just Mr Kinana and Mr Makamba but also those they think are behind the leaked voices.
Mtera MP, Mr Livingstone Lusinde said Kinana and Makamba have gone astray and wondered how come they are agitated by the acts whose culture they helped create in the first place.
Nzega Urban MP (CCM) – and newly-appointed agriculture deputy minister – Hussein Bashe described the letter as a “plot to deny President Magufuli a chance to contest a second term in 2020” which, they said, was against the party’s constitution. Geita Rura MP (CCM) Mr Joseph Msukuma described the letter as “thuggery” and part of “big plot” organised by the elders who drafted it.
A confrontation over compromise?
It was soon after the fiasco that President Magufuli fired Environment and Union Affairs Minister Mr January Makamba, whose father, Mr Makamba, interestingly was the co-author of the controversial letter. Though President Magufuli, however, didn’t mention the letter as one of the reasons of firing Makamba. He cited the underperformance of the National Environment Council and the failure to implement the plastic ban on time as the major reasons for the firing.
“[January Makamba] is seen in some quarters as directly linked to elements that are allegedly rocking the boat from within, and his exit from the government is not entirely surprising,” said Dar es Salaam-based political analyst Dunstan Kweka. “It is a strong-arm tactic that could have a domino effect within the party...it is likely to do more harm than good. Anything can happen when confrontation is prioritised over compromise.”
A political scientist from the University of Dar es Salaam Dr Richard Mbunda described what is happening with the CCM as a wakeup call to both the ruling party and government officials.
According to him, the letter and the subsequent events reveal what was already clear to many that the party-building project initiated by its chairman since he came to office in 2016 will deal a blow to many. “It is very possible that the person who is steering these reforms think that getting rid of these bad elements are for the party’s interests but let’s wait and see what all this will achieve,” warned Dr Mbunda.
Dr Luisulie agrees by saying that a situation in which internal party conflict resolutions are not working properly, “has very serious repercussions” to the unity of the party ahead of elections.
Breaking the long silence amid the growing tension within his party, CCM secretary general Bashiru Ally warned unnamed members against a plot to destabilise the party that they would “face the music.” Far from helping CCM, Bashiru said, the wrangling serves the interests of the opposition.
“That’s why they are joyous of what’s happening. This [fracas] is a childish game and it’s not surprising that the opposition loves it. They love childish games,” noted Bashiru, adding that the party will not hesitate taking measures against anyone who’s found to be engaging in a bitter war of words to score political points.
The opposition politicians, however, think that Bashiru needs to put his house in order, suggesting to him that he needs to works towards strengthening CCM’s institutions so that it can be able to resolve its internal conflicts peacefully. “The ongoing wrangling within the CCM is interesting because it reveals its cadres hypocrisy that the party is institutionalised and that all issues are dealt with internally,” offers Chadema’s director of Protocol, Communications and Foreign Affairs John Mrema.
“As for benefiting, Mr Mrema confesses to taking advantage of the ongoing wrangling within the ruling party. They do this in to major ways. He explains: “First, we will continue to take new members from CCM who have lost faith in its institutions and second, most importantly, we learn on the importance of building strong party machines to deal with our internal issues. We wouldn’t like to see both our members and leaders appeal to the public for justice but to the party instruments.”