'It's all about the Presidency', Membe says after expulsion from CCM

Dar es Salaam. Former cabinet minister Bernard Membe has linked his expulsion from CCM to his intent on challenging President John Magufuli for the ruling party’s ticket for the presidential race later in October this year when the country holds its General Election.

The long serving foreign affairs minister, however, said “dreams do not die” when asked if his expulsion has in any way dimmed his dream to run for the top political office on the land.

Speaking to Mwananchi from South Africa shortly after the announcement of his expulsion from the party in which he has served for decades, Mr Membe said he was not surprised at the decision and said he knew about it over a month ago.

“The problem is the presidency. They should not bother twisting (the truth)…that ooh its ethics or what I have not done. The real issue is the presidency,” said Membe in a telephone interview.

According to him, he was planning to faceoff President Magufuli in the race for the CCM nod as the party’s flag bearer in the General Election and reiterated that it was the main reason for the punishment meted on him.

“I wished to be there today to promptly respond to the verdict but it is bad luck that I am away. I anticipated to be back today (Yesterday) but it was impossible. I will be back early next week and I will speak out on everything,” said the former minister. He said he was nursing his ailing child in South Africa.

CCM’s central committee yesterday meted different sentences against Mr Membe and the party’s former secretaries general Yusuf Makamba and Abdulrahman Kinana. The trio had been probed by the party’s ethics committee over “disciplinary” issues.

Mr Makamba was pardoned while Kinana was given a dire warning by the committee, according to CCM publicity secretary Humphrey Polepole who announced the verdict on television from Dodoma yesterday. He said Mr Kinana had been placed under watch for a period of eight months.

Polepole said Mr Membe had been found wanting since 2014 for reportedly engaging in activities the party’s top honchos view as unbecoming. Current CCM secretary general, Dr Bashiru Ally, is on record summoning him in the past over accusations of undermining the government of President Magufuli by allegedly running an underground campaign against the President.

For Mr Kinana and Mr Makamba, they had landed in trouble for a public letter they wrote to the party protesting at authorities’ silence amid a smear campaign by self-declared ‘independent activist’ Cyprian Musiba targeting them. Mr Musiba has been labelled a political hireling and publishes lurid tabloids castigating individuals he says are anti-establishment. He has been sued for libel by Mr Membe over one of his publications.

President Magufuli is expected to seek re-election for a second five-year term on the CCM ticket as is tradition within the ruling party which, however, does not bar any other interested members from challenging the incumbent for the same ticket. Mr Membe has not publicly declared his candidature for the presidency. In 2015, he lost the race for nomination for the CCM ticket in the election that Dr Magufuli was declared the winner.

Yesterday, Mr Membe said information he had gathered showed that he and Mr Kinana were lined up for expulsion while Mr Makamba would end with the dire warning. “I was not surprised with the outcome because I knew for sure that I will be expelled. This I knew even at the time when I appeared before the ethics committee, and I told them to proceed with their plan,” said the former Mtama MP who served in the foreign docket for more than eight years under Magufuli’s predecessor Jakaya Kikwete.

Asked about who was behind the plot to send him packing, he said; “The chairman and his secretary.” He did not say them by names. President Magufuli is currently CCM chairman and Dr Bashiru the secretary general.

The ex-minister said in Dodoma, on February 6, this year, among the questions he was asked is whether he intended to run for the presidency. “I answered in the affirmative and for your information I was not joking,” he told Mwananchi in the interview.

Asked if that resolve to challenge for the presidency ticket still stood, he said; “A dream never dies.” He gave the analogy of former South African president Nelson Mandela who when headed to prison and faced a similar question said; ‘time will tell and the people will speak.’

The former minister who also served in the top ranks of the security intelligence service explained that those who plotted to expel him from CCM feared his candidature would divide the party. “But I asked them what their fear was yet they had the power to block my name. I asked them to let me challenge for the ticket and they would have their time to remove my name in future…don’t they have the powers?”

“This plot was predetermined and the process was to merely vindicate the verdict,” said Mr Membe, adding that his informers in the party, within government and the intelligence community tipped him of the outcome. He said CCM did not have any other options against him other than expelling him. He explained that because of his case in court against Mr Musiba, it was going to complicate the matters should they have arrived at a decision to stop him from political activity for a while.

“I have a case in court against Musiba and it is apolitical case meaning a decision such as locking me out of politics was going to be contempt of court,” he said, adding that he felt pity for Mr Kinana whom he argued committed no sin. “My mistake is to want to run for the presidency but what has Kinana done? His mistake is to write to protest against the mudslinging, I am truly saddened.”

Mr Membe becomes the first CCM member to be expelled from the party due to his interest to challenge the incumbent president. Some other people faced political problems when they attempted to challenge for the ticket but were never expelled.

Among them were party cadres Munasa Sabi Munasa from Mara region who threw the gauntlet against Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and also against former president Benjamin Mkapa. Mr Maghale John Shibuda of Shinyanga in 2010 announced he would challenge Kikwete but did not go all the way out.

Mr Membe’s next steps would be keenly watched in the local political scene as the country trudges to October 2020 elections.