Prof Kitila Mkumbo, former government critic and opposition politician is now the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water. In this interview with Political Platform Reporter Louis Kolumbia shares his views, among other things, on the current political landscape
Question: How do you now regard the opposition after joining CCM?
Answer: I see the opposition existing, though I don’t see it growing.
You bitterly criticized the government in the past, but you have completely changed after becoming a public servant.
What is your comments amid claims that you sabotaged the opposition?
It should be remembered that in the past I was in the opposition and it was my duty to take the governemnt to task on various issues. But, things changed after I became a public servant. I am now supposed to provide solutions to people’s complaints and concerns. It is very easy to complain, but it is really difficult to work on the complaints. After joining the government I can’t keep complaining, I’m supposed to provide answers.
There is a saying that goes ‘Africans do not speak when they are eating.’ Does it apply to your case?
People have the right to think about whatever they want. But, for a person who worked with the university at the level of a professor I had an opportunity to eat there than in the government. I had enough money and yet I was outspoken. I could have remained at the University of Dar es Salaam and cash in from the many consultancies there.
For me serving the government is a privilege.
How did you react to news of your appointment to public service?
It was quite a big suprise but I was also thankful for the opportunity and the honour to serve my country in a new capacity that President John Magufuli accorded me. As a professor at the University of Dar es Salaam I was already a public servant, because the institution is a public university.
I provided information to party leader, Mr Zitto Kabwe that I had been appointed and had accepted the appointment.
You joined CCM at a time when defection of opposition lawmakers and councillors to CCM had intensified. Is it fair to say your appointment was a reward?
I was still at the opposition when I was appointed, therefore, there is no relationship between my appointment and decision to join the ruling party.
I shifted to CCM later after the party had shown a commitment to go back to its socialism ideology. My decision was also contributed to personal reasons that working with the CCM government required me to be part of the system.
Critics say opposition lawmakers who defect to CCM do so after having been bribed by the ruling party. What is your take on this?
Proofs are required in such issues. But the allegations themselves denigrage opposition politicians , equating them with commodities. You don’t have a party if your leaders can be bought, and generally, it is a humiliation and very dangerous. But, again, I personally don’t have evidence on the use of money in defections.
People are persuaded to join other parties because of three key issues including policies, ideologies and the charism of leaders in power. Those who joined CCM could be attracted by one or all the three issues.
My view is that they have been inspired by the current CCM leadership and they have wanted to be part of the team. However, simplistic allegations that defectors have been bribed aren’t good.
Do they mean to tel me that even Mr Lowassa (Edward) was bought to re-join CCM? And how much did Chadema pay him to join the party in 2015?
It is absurd to involve the senior politicians and respected people including MPs in such issues.
The incumbent US president Donald Trump defected four times to and frmo his party. In fact the founder of defections was Mr Winston Churchill who shifted from Conservative to Labour before returning to Conservatives Party and becoming UK Prime Minister. Kenya’s doyen of the opposition Raila Odinga has been a member of six political parties in his political carreer.
In marriage couples divorced whenever they are unhappy, why not leaving political parties?
Opposition parties claim they are restricted to carry political activities as compared to their CCM counterpart. What is your comment?
Since the first multiparty election s in 1995, no opposition political party ever said the political playing field was level.
However, incumbency advantage all over the world benefit ruling parties. For instance, Republicans in the US and Conservatives in the UK are now privileged because they are ruling parties.
However, political parties at the other side struggle for their existence.
The problem is that Tanzania political parties believe that they can win in silver-platters which hasn’t happened anywhere. There is nowhere a political party has won out of sympathy. They are supposed to have good leaders who will sell their policies for them to be elected.
The National Electoral Commission is said to lack independency because its commissioners are appointed by the president. What is your take?
What is the name of a country whose electoral commission is not appointed by the president? In the UK, election is supervised by the government through one of its ministries, instead of the commission.
The US which is considered the world’s highly matured democracy, election is spearheaded by the government in respective territories including those under the opposition. At the end, someone will have to supervise elections.
What matters isn’t who supervises elections, rather whether you have legal systems, ethical people, and ethical code of conducts and clear following of principles.
We need to have objective electoral commissions instead of neutral bodies, though it is difficult to be neutral.