Dar es Salaam. A political storm brews as the clock ticks to the April 8 deadline that the Registrar of Political Parties gave ACT-Wazalendo to respond to accusations of misconduct or face deregistration.
In a dramatic twist of fate, what is supposed to be party time for the young opposition outfit has, in the twinkle of an eye, degenerated into a firefighting moment.
A March 25 letter from the Registrar of Political Parties threatened ACT-Wazalendo with de-registration over alleged violation of the Political Parties Act, and gave the Zitto Kabwe party two weeks to respond to the accusations.
One of the offences listed in the letter is the burning of Civic United Front (CUF) flags and use of religious sentiments in the recent defections of CUF members in Pemba Island, allegedly by supporters of Seif Shariff Hamad.
Mr Hamad defected from CUF on March 8 after the High Court dismissed his petition challenging the legitimacy of CUF chairman Prof Ibrahim Lipumba’s leadership of the party.
But no sooner had the stalwart of Zanzibar politics joined ACT-Wazalendo than major problems emerged between the Zitto-led party and the Registrar, raising eyebrows over the timing.
“The action of burning political party flags is in violation of section 11C of the Political Parties Act,” the letter signed by deputy registrar Sisty Nyahoza said.
At the weekend, a defiant Kabwe told The Citizen that while his party would respond to the Registrar before the deadline, their position on the matter was not going to change.
Earlier last week, he had addressed a press conference during which he dismissed the Registrar’s claims.
Evidence of festering animosity between the party and the authoritie also emerged when the police broke up an internal meeting of the party’s top hierarchy. The meeting was convened to discuss how to set up their defence.
“We are not trying to convince the Registrar to change his mind,” said Mr Kabwe. “We are only responding to all his queries with documentary evidence and how he will decide will be his choices.”
The Registrar, Mr Francis Mutungi, also accused ACT-Wazalendo of failing to submit an audited report of its 2013/14 financial records.
Mr Kabwe dismissed the claims saying his party had not broken any law. He said the allegations were “baseless”, and a “personal vendetta”.
According to him, the party’s 2013/2014 financial records were submitted to the office of the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) as the law requires.
He disowned those accused of burning CUF flags, saying they were not ACT-Wazalendo members. On the issue of using religious sentiments, Mr Kabwe said that ACT-Wazalendo is a party of people with different reli-gions, and those who don’t have any.
“Our party will not be deregistered because of us breaking laws, but rather because of the State wanting to,” he said.
On Sunday, deputy Registrar Nyahoza refuted claims that his office was targeting ACT-Wazalendo following the high-profile defection of the former CUF secretary general.
“We are not mistreating anybody and the matter has no relation to Mr Hamad,” he said.
He said ACT Wazalendo was supposed to comply with the directive, adding that this was not the first time such measures had been taken against a political party.
“In November, 2016, 11 political parties were served with letters expressing intention to deregister them after violating several sections of the law, including failure to submit audited financial reports,” he said.
Mr Kabwe said that he had already submitted letters to Southern African Development Community chair President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation chair President Edgar Lungu of Zambia and the East African Community (Eac) chair President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.
“We have engaged our brothers in the region to try make sense to Tan-zania leadership about the danger of cancelling our registration,” said Mr Kabwe. “Whether they do anything or ignore our plea we have no control.”
But as the regional blocs remained mum over the latest political developments, Britain’s Labour Party on Monday issued a brief statement on its website appealing for opposition parties to be given a voice.
“Opposition politicians should have the freedom to challenge the government and not fear imprisonment for expressing their views – particu-larly as there are local elections this year and a general election next year,” said the party’s shadow Foreign minister Liz McInnes.