Dar es Salaam. The Increasing defections of opposition councillors to the ruling paryt CCM has divided political stakeholders, some believing it is a sign of political maturity, while others consider the move as unhealthy for prosperity of the multiparty democracy in the country.
More than 40 councillors have defected to CCM after resigning membership in the opposition parties; mainly Chadema claiming to support President John Magufuli’s leadership.
Councillors who defected to CCM and respective wards in bracket are; Daniel Olkery (Ngorongoro), Lazaro Saitoti (Ngoile), Sokoine Moir (Alaitote), Emmanuel Mollel (Mikamba), Zakaria Lukumay (Gararagua), Lwite Ndossi (Donyomurwak), Justin Masuja (Hayderer) and Pascha Manota (Kimara). Others are; Edward Sapunyo (Moita), Solomon Laizer (Ngobobo), Credo Kifukwe (Muriet), Anderson Sikawa (legaruki), Gerson Isangya (Mororoni), Simon Sapunyu (Moita) and Zakayo Wangwe (Turwa), Boniphace Kanjel (Soitisambu) and Joseph Seuri (Pinyinyi), to name but a few.
While CCM has been describing the trend to success towards the performance of the fifth government in addressing various challenges facing the country, Chadema has been accusing CCM of bribing its councillors.
According to the main opposition party, CCM has targeted to tear down the opposition because defectors can not support the government’s achievement while serving the opposition, noting that defections were unnecessarily consuming billions in shillings of taxpayers’ money during by-elections.
The National Electoral Commission (NEC), told Political Platform early this year that an average of Sh24 million to Sh100 million was required for a ward by-election depending on the size of the ward, population and number of polling stations.
Meanwhile, the opposition believes the amount could be used used for implementing development projects such as developing infrastructure, provision of clean and safe water, improving the country’s education and agricultural productions, just to mention a few.
Making bribe claims stronger, the opposition has been suggesting that the CCM’s decision to nominate defectors to contest for same positions during by-elections proved claims of a ‘dirty political game’ that was behind the councillors’ defections. However, those who believe the move is a sign of democracy maturity describe major functions of political parties was to register new members, noting that a political party that doesn’t recruit new members was committing a political suicide.
They claim that political parties were free to use different strategies including publicizing performance of the government in addressing life challenges of the people, preaching contents of its policies and ideologies. According to CCM cadres, an outstanding leadership displayed by the fifth phase leadership in in various sectors have prompted for defection of the councillors, noting that those thinking against demonstrated their political immaturity and ignorance dynamisms in the today’s politics.
The Chadema’s director of Protocol, Communications and Foreign Affairs, Mr John Mrema, said defections would have demonstrated political maturity if the organized by-elections were free and fair. “There is no equal playground among political players during by-elections with recent ones being marred with irregularities in various parts of the country,” he said during a telephone interview. But, Colonel (rtd) Ngemela Lubinga, the CCM’s Secretary of Political Affairs and International Relations rubbished claims that defectors were bribed, noting that those were “dirty” propaganda publicized by CCM bad wishers.
“Defectors have been outlining several reasons including their satisfaction with the CCM implementation of Election Manifesto, government efforts to protect natural resources, emphasizing accountability, provision of free education and developing infrastructure,” he said, adding.
“Also, the defection demonstrates their protest of former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa’s move to the opposition claiming that past records of the veteran politician didn’t provide good leadership precedence.”
According to him, the ruling party’s decision to nominate same people to contest for similar positions was a demonstration of political maturity within CCM and that voters were given opportunities to express their feelings through ballot papers.
For his part, a political science lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Mr Richard Mbunda said it was unfortunate that those entrusted to carry the watchdog role in the council’s level were now defecting to the ruling party.
“After re-election under the CCM flagship, these people will certainly turn to be total supporters of the ruling party unable to control embezzlement of public funds allocated to implement various development projects,” he said.
Is the Opposition doing anything to prevent future defections?
“No, we can’t do that because it is against the country constitution and the political parties act,” responded, Mr Mrema during an interview with this paper, suggesting that citizen’s freedom to join and resign from membership of political parties should be respected because it is a constitutional right.
“We are monitoring what is happening. But, we are concerned with unnecessary costs the country is subjected to. On top of the by-election costs, councils are forced to carry a burden of loans incurred by councillors from various financial institutions,” he said.
According to him, the councils continue to guarantee the councillors after re-election, therefore increasing the loans burden due to their defection decisions.
Mr Mrema was concurred by Mr Mbunda who suggested that those defecting to CCM might have been in the wrong place, noting that the wave of defections should be left to pass.
“After this wave of defections which can hardly be contained, the true opposition will emerge in the country. True opposition whose chance of recognition was overtaken by defectors will take the multiparty democracy movement forward,” he said.