Dar es Salaam. The opposition political parties and political commentators have faulted appointment of 184 public officers from various councils across the country to oversee this year’s civic polls slated for November 24, this year. The opposition parties and political commentators said the appointment provided room for District Executive Directors (DEDs) to have election supervision roles, something the high court ruled against.
They told Political Platform that the 184 appointees executed their duties under the DEDs and under the directives of minister of State in the President’s Office [Regional Administration and Local Government] (PO-RALG) Selemani Jafo and President John Magufuli who are CCM leaders. They suggested that it would be better for the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to be given responsibilities to organize the elections because the PO-RALG was completely made up of CCM cadres. However, the CCM Secretary of Political Affairs and International Relations, Colonel (rtd) Ngemela Lubinga refuted the claims, saying opposition political parties had nothing to worry because the government had a long record of dispensing justice in the country.
The opposition political parties’ leaders and political commentators made their comments following announcement made by Mr Jafo last week that 184 public officials would oversee local government elections slated to take place in 12,319 villages, 64,384 hamlets and 4,263 streets countrywide.
He said the appointment was made in accordance with Sections 201A of the Local Government Elections Act (district authorities) and Section 87A (town authorities) when read together with Regulation 3 and 6(1) issued through government notice number 371, 372, 373 and 374 of 2019. “The appointees will take an oath on Thursday, September 12, 2019 at their respective regions under the coordination of the regional administrators,” reads the public notice signed by Mr Jafo who doubles as the Kisarawe Constituency MP on the CCM ticket.
Speaking to Political Platform, the Civic United Front (CUF) secretary general, Mr Khalifa Suleiman Khalifa said the appointment provides room for DEDs to influence results. “The appointed public officials work under DEDs in the councils, who can issue directives to elections supervisors that can have negative impacts on the required freedom and fairness of the election,” he said, adding.
“Election supervisors had to be picked among neutral individuals after the job has been advertised for eligible Tanzanians to apply. But, this is intentionally done to favor the ruling party in its campaign to turn the country green.”
Chadema deputy secretary general (Tanzania Mainland) John Mnyika said the appointment was the persistent use of public officials in election supervision, most of whm are CCM cadres.
The PO-RALG regulations bars Regional and District Commissioners (RCs and DCs) to supervise civic polls, but Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa when adjourning the Parliament in Dodoma was quoted directing them to properly coordinate elections. “It is obvious that, when DCs and RCs coordinate these elections, election supervisors announced recently will be interfered by RCs and DCs who have been directed to coordinate despite the fact that they have been sidelined by laws and regulations,” he said. The government has avoided using DEDs directly, but they are doing so indirectly by picking department and sectorial heads who are reporting to the DEDs.
“Now the law and regulations don’t recognize DEDs as election supervisors, but yet the guidance recognize them despite of the fact that election supervisors who are not DEDs but working under them have been unveiled, we would like the responsible minister to issue clarifications as soon as possible,” he said. The Political Science Lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Prof Bakari Mohamed said the appointment indicated that still there were problems and lack of independence in the country’s electoral system.
“The problem isn’t public servants supervising elections, but the affinity of some of the public officials to CCM,” he said in a telephone interview. He added, “In the Tanzania context, worries are on the rise as the country approaches elections without having independent electoral bodies and the appointees were public officers picked basing on their political backgrounds.” Prof Mohamed said DEDs stands in position to influence decisions made by appointed supervisors because the administrative structures obliges the two sides to work closely together.
“The two sides will continue to work together, under close consultations and cooperation, sometimes the DEDs will force election supervisors to execute their directives,” he said. The United Peoples Democratic Party (UPDP) chairman, Mr Fahmi Dovutwa wondered why these positions were not advertised for eligible and qualified Tanzanians to apply. “Why is the government insisting on picking people included in the CCM-led government payroll? We would like to see independent election supervisors are recruited to enhance justice and fairness during elections,” he said. The ACT Wazalendo secretary of ideology, publicity and public communications, Mr Ado Shaibu said the PO-RALG charged to supervise local government elections was under the CCM chairman who is also the head of state something that can affect fairness in the election.
According to him, opposition political parties opposed the use of DEDs in general elections over similar reasons, noting that the appointment gave a picture that this year’s civic polls will have huge challenges of fairness and independency.
He said the country’s Constitution provides that NEC could be assigned with other duties on top of organizing and supervising general elections. “NEC could be given mandate to supervise local government elections this year because despite the weaknesses it has it is somehow better than the PO-RALG,” he said.
The CCM senior official, Mr Lubinga said the ruling party respects decisions made by legal and constitutional organs. “The appointees are professionals and will take an oath to work fairly without favoritism.
There is no cause for the opposition political parties to worry because the government is used at discharging justice, hence no justice will be denied,” he said.
According to him, the country had judicial systems that allow unsatisfied individuals to file cases to ensure their rights are observed.
Mr Khalifa called upon President Magufuli to ensure this year’s local government elections is free and fair because it was the one providing roadmap to the 2020 General Election. “He should use the civic polls to address numerous challenges recorded during the by-elections. He should let the citizens elect leaders of their choice in order to increase credibility of his leadership and the good job he has done so far,” he said. He said CUF will participate in this year’s elections, noting that senior government leaders were expected to meet in the near future to resolve party’s participation in the elections, “We will visit almost all districts in the country and address political rallies.” Mr Mnyika said Chadema will participate in the civic polls under the present circumstances, noting they expected to win basing on people’s power.
“We would like to warn supervisors to distance themselves from interference by CCM leaders and leaders and discharge justice to all,” he said. Prof Bakari advised political parties to participate in the elections, saying the decision was appropriate since there were no pending strategic plan and limited time available. “The present circumstances provide opportunities to opposition political parties to win in some areas of the country basing on the past experience,” he said. But, Mr Dovutwa said there was a need for opposition political parties to convene a meeting and come up with a collective decision on their participation in the civic polls.