Bukoba. Lake Zone is one of very important areas in the country as far as General Election is concerned. Its importance stems from the fact that it is one of populous regions in the country. That is why many politicians have been using Lake Zone regions as a ladder to national leadership.
At one time, the area was nicknamed ‘victory train’ because its votes were behind a victory of many contenders. And lake Zone population does not count only in General Election, but also in intra party elections, especially within the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
During the earlier process of getting CCM flag bearer for the October 25 polls, many cadres concentrated on Lake Zone, where they know that they were likely to get the numbers which they needed for support during the nomination polls within the party.
While others were open in their missions, there are others who used the cover of their responsibilities in the government. During the day they made tours and visits to projects under their ministries but in the night they conducted indoor meetings, courting support from supporters.
Lake Zone also draw its pride because the founding father of the nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, was also from the area. That is why many politicians have been making trips to Butiama, Mwalimu Nyerere’s home village and where he has been buried.
Given the number of votes which lake Zone boasts, presidential candidates and their parties have no option but to find concrete strategies which would enable them to get as many votes from the zone.
And because many people are now aware that they votes count, they have started to demand for accountability from the leaders they elect, especially on the implementation of their promises to them. That is why though politicians have been inciting masses in the zone to elect them, they also know that there is a price to pay.
One group which has started to raise their demands to politicians who want their votes comprises farmers and pastoralists. These two groups don’t only make majority of Lake Zone residents but they have also started to realise their potential in making candidates win elections.
Though country literature shows that farming is the backbone of the country economy, but for many years, farmers and pastoralists have continued to remain poor.
Changes in policies have not helped them improve their livelihood. They now know that a better president is the one who will assist the country realise green revolution.
They want a leader who will help them do away with substance farming and start earning their hard work’s worth. They know that it is through improved agriculture only they will start to see the advantages of hat they have been doing for ages. And they know that people who aspire tpo be their leaders now are the one to assure them that they will get the changes which they want.
Another thing which bothers many poor farmers is numerous fees which they are forced to pay from their meagre income. Because they have not helped to increase the value of their produce through agro processing, farmers have continued to earn nominal income from their crops.
Even if they work hard and harvest more, there is no reliable markets for their products. As a result, they have no option but to accept whater the buyers offers them. But they know that the buyers benefits from their sweat.
Therefore, they want a leader who will assure them that under his watch the government will not continue to charge them exorbitant fees from little income. They want a leader who will assure them of reliable markets fro their produce and a leader who will ensure that middlemen, who have been cashing in their efforts, are not allowed to thrive.
Many farmers have already lost hope. Their efforts in cotton and coffee farming have not paid off. A candidate who wants many votes from the lake Zone, should use this as a capital to win support.
There are also numerous conflicts between locals and investors. Many people have been forced from areas where they have been living for years which have been given to investors.
This was done on promise that they investors will invest in the areas and create employment. But, to the amazement of the villagers, the investors have not done and meaningful investment which would have created a lot of employment.
What has been witnessed so far is blame games. Villagers are blaming the government for kicking them from their traditional areas and embracing investors who have not done anything ion the land. The villagers also are blaming investors for taking their land and fail to do what they promised.
On the other hand, the government and the investors have been blaming the villagers for frustrating the investors who have failed to develop their land because of numerous conflicts.
Only two months remain before President Jakaya Kikwete hands over the reigns of national leadership to a new leader and Lake Zone residents do not expect any miracles which would enable the outgoing leader to fulfil his promise to give them a reliable ship to traverse Lake Victoria waters.
Since the sinking of Mv Bukoba in 1996, transport within the lake has been problematic. The only remaining big ship, Mv Victoria, is also in bad shape and in need of major overhaul. For major part of this year, Mv Victoria has been grounded, undergoing major repairs.
This has left residents of about four regions bordering Lake Victoria, helpeless as far as transport is concerned. People travelling between Mwanza na Bukoba now have no reliable means of transport. Many of them have gone back to depending on road transport.
But a presidential candidate who wants to win votes from people in this are should also come with a solution to transport woe facing thousands of people living in islands and islets within the large lake.
And wining the hearts of these people should not be banked on promises only, especially after President Kikwete failed to fulfil his pledge to them. There should be assurance that what is being promised will be delivered.
A contender who will manage to make such a concrete promise will win also votes from workers and porters in Bukoba, Mwanza and Kemondo which houses major ports between Mwanza and Bukoba route. These people, together with their families and dependants, will be relieved very much because currently they don’t have reliable means of income.
This is a challenge to CCM presidential candidate, Dr John Magufuli especially when campaigning for three parliamentary candidates who hails from the zone but also embroiled in the scandal.
It is obvious that in his campaigns Dr Magufuli will outline his plans to form a special court to deal with grand corruption. That is where he will also have to labour to convince people to elect the likes of Wulliam Ngeleja (Sengerema), John Chenge (Bariadi West) and Prof Anna Tibaijuka (Muleba North) who were forced to relinquish their posts because of their involvement in Escrow scandal.
Though none of them was convicted judiciary, but they carry with them political liability given how they were involved in the saga.
Many people will have no qualms with Dr Magufuli himself because he is also from the Lake Zone. But, he will have hard time to campaign for these three candidates because many people now believe that grand corruption is one of their major enemies of development. Many people tend to loathe leaders who are said to be corrupt.