Can CCM reclaim Iringa Urban constituency?

Tuesday October 13 2020

Iringa. There is no doubt that Peter Msigwa is a household name in the Iringa Urban parliamentary constituency.
Mr Msigwa, who is seeking re-election, has been the Iringa Urban Member of the Parliament (MP) through Chadema for two terms since 2010. Mr  Msigwa is the  only elected opposition MP in a region that had been a stronghold of CCM for aeons. This tells a lot about his political skills - and his popularity.
In the 2010 and 2015 elections, Chadema carried not only the Iringa Urban constituency but also the municipal council. But Chadema, eventually, lost the municipal council after several of its councillors decamped to CCM - and the Chadema mayor was controversially removed from office.

Msigwa’s advantage
Mr Msigwa is a smart politician. His eloquence and ability to deliver on 2015 election promises are his best assets.
In his 2015 campaign, he promised to facilitate the construction of a new bus stand, a new abattoir, loans to ‘bodaboda’ (motorcycle operators) and Bajaj (tricycle operators) and construction of primary and secondary schools.
He also promised construction of street roads to bitumen standard, 10 TV sets for the municipal market traders, development of sports and elevation of Iringa town to city status.
Mr Msigwa also promised street lighting and water for Iringa urban residents. All promises have been fulfilled save for the elevation of Iringa municipality to city status and sports sector development. In the last five years, Mr Msigwa has also managed to avail business designated areas to hawkers known as ‘Machingas’ on ‘Soko La Mashine 3’ Road.
Mr Msigwa has been drumbeating these achievements in his campaigns.

CCM determined to ‘redeem’ Iringa
Mr Msigwa is facing-off a more determined CCM. The ruling party candidate in this election is Jesca Msambatavangu. Ms Msambatavangu, who once served as CCM regional chairperson, is a skilled politician who has withstood Iringa’s tough intra-party parliamentary primary contest.
The infighting within CCM in the Iringa Urban constituency, especially during the nomination process, was such that it directly contributed to the victory of Chadema in 2010 and 2015, according to observers of Iringa politics.
In fact, the internal wrangles were such that Msambatavangu and some other cadres were temporarily suspended from the party after the 2015 General Election. She was later recalled and was on July nominated to carry the CCM flag in the parliamentary election.
In this election, CCM cadres in the Iringa Urban constituency say they have closed ranks and vowed to “redeem” the Iringa Urban constituency.

 Msambatavangu’s bet
Besides being a businesswoman, Ms Msambatavangu has also been the CCM councillor for Miyomboni/Kitanzini Ward.
In her campaigns, she prioritises health, education and economic empowerment.
“I will improve infrastructure and the learning environment for our children. I will facilitate the construction of classrooms, teachers’ houses and school toilets,” says Ms Msambatavangu in her campaigns.
She says that she will also ensure Iringa has proper sewerage and drainage as well as efficient garbage collection systems.
According to her, she will co-operate with other institutions to economically empower the people of Iringa urban constituency.
“I will insist on entrepreneurial training and access to  capital for businesspeople,” promises Ms Msambatavangu.

Party strength
Both contestants have been trying to ride on their party’s strength and popularity of their presidential candidates. Jesca relies on the popularity of presidential candidate John Magufuli and his development agenda in the last five years. Msigwa has also been counting on the popularity of Chadema presidential candidate, Tundu Lissu. Both presidential candidates attracted huge crowds in their campaign events in Iringa town recently.

Sympathy votes
“We are certain to do better than we did in 2010 and 2015 because Mr Msigwa has fulfilled all his promises. Of course it was the CCM-led government that implemented the promises Mr Msigwa made, probably, with the false notion that they were weakening him. Instead, they built him politically,” says Mr Jamhuri Paul, a resident of Mwembe Togwa in Iringa town.
Mr Paul adds that the controversial manner in which the former mayor was removed could give Mr Msigwa sympathy votes.
“Some will vote for Chadema on the grounds that the party has always been the victim of sabotage by the ruling party. CCM has to rethink new political strategies. Without doing that, Chadema will lead Iringa for a long time to come,” says Jamhuri.
CCM cadre Sarah Mwakangale says that Chadema’s strength in the constituency has been diminishing since 2015.
“In 2015, Chadema rode on the wave of Edward Lowassa who has since returned to CCM,” Ms Mwakangale says.
She also said conflicts that were rampart within CCM, which saw a section of leaders leaving the party, have already been sorted out.
In 2010, Peter Msigwa won Iringa Urban seat against former assistant minister Monica Mbega.