Dar es Salaam. Former Labour and Youth Development minister Augustine Mrema was against the government in Parliament - and, on February 25, 1995, he was dropped from the Cabinet of ministers.
The outspoken politician declared to no longer be a member of the ruling CCM party on Friday, March 3 that year. He just as soon crossed over to the opposition NCCR-Mageuzi party, from where his tough journey towards the October 1995 election began.
On March 14, Mrema turned on the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, and the Prime Minister-cum-First Vice President, Cleopa Msuya, claiming that they stood in his way as he was executing his duty as Home Affairs minister. “(President) Mwinyi should fear God for telling lies,” the maverick politician said.
In early April, the President’s Office (Public Service) ordered Mrema to vacate the house he occupied before April 3. The reason given by the government was that Mrema was required to relocate because the house belonged to the National Provident Fund (NPF) and not the government.
On July 4, Mrema told members of his NCCR-Mageuzi party that the obstacles being placed in his way by the government would never deter him and his party from entering State House as President.
On July 24, Mrema’s procession from the Kilimanjaro International Airport (Kia) and heading to a local government election campaign rally in Moshi Rural District was teargassed by police in the Maili Sita area in Moshi Municipality.
The chaos that ensued affected even Mrema after riot police from the Field Force Unit (FFU) fired teargas at his car after failing to disperse a mammoth crowd that lined up along the road to welcome him.
The riot police barricaded the area, causing a heavy traffic jam. Some members of the NCCR-Mageuzi party, after getting tired of the police action, lied down in the middle of the road, daring the police to kill them on the spot if that’s what they (police) wanted.
However, the police allowed motorists to pass through the road following the pressure exerted upon them by the protesting members of the party.
Two days later - on July 26 - it was reported that Mrema’s eyes were affected by the teargas. However, the opposition politician was reassured by doctors at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) that his eyes would heal after three days.
On July 30, NCCR-Mageuzi was declared to have won in four wards in the local government elections in Moshi District, Kilimanjaro Region - and in which the CCM and Chadema parties had also participated.
After his party’s victory, Mrema was overheard as saying: “I think Mwalimu Nyerere has now been slapped in the face - and he should keep quiet henceforth!”
On August 17, the chairman of the Union for Multi-Party Democracy, Chief Abdallah Fundikira, had to back out of the presidential race on his party’s ticket and support Mrema, who was vying for the Presidency.
In a letter on his decision, Chief Fundikira wrote, “I call upon my fellow Tanzanians who had vowed to vote for me, Chief Fundikira, to now cast their votes for Mrema, whose victory will be for all new political parties in the country.”
Mrema picked Prof Abdulrahman Babu to become his presidential running mate.
However, when only three days remained for political parties to return forms for contesting the presidency and parliamentary seats, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) rejected Prof Babu on claims that he did not merit it.
A letter by the NEC Chairman, Judge Lewis Makame, to the party said NEC felt that - as per Section 67 (2) (c) of the 1977 Union Constitution, Prof Babu was barred from being a parliamentary seat aspirant.
The letter [reference no. EC/ p.30/6/144] cited Section 47(4) as stipulating that a contestant for the Vice Presidency of the Union must have merits that would enable him/her to become a Member of Parliament or a member of the Zanzibar House of Representatives.
The letter also said another reason that caused Prof Babu to be constitutionally prevented from contesting the position was the death sentence that was meted out to him in the early 1970s after he was convicted of the assassination of the first president of Zanzibar, Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume.
However, Prof Babu did not agree with the reasons that were given when he was asked about the accusations.
“Two weeks after the assassination of Karume, we were arrested without knowing what crime we had committed.
“After questioning our arrest, we were told that it was President Nyerere’s order for the sake of our safety ... These were the government’s shenanigans to finish off NCCR-Mageuzi’s presidential contestant, Mr Augustine Mrema - and, for no apparent reason they linked my name with him,” said Prof Babu.
On August 27, a coalition of opposition parties that targeted to win presidential and parliamentary polls flopped after Mrema told reporters that political opposition leaders should leave members of the parties to choose who should be the presidential contestant from the opposition.
Mrema also told the reporters that it was not necessary for constituencies to be left for each opposition party to contest - and, instead, each political party should be allowed to decide on the way to contest the polls.
Mrema explained that it was hard for people to agree that every electoral constituency should be left for each opposition party to contest - giving the reason that some parties could have strengthened themselves in some constituencies.
“Our main opponent is CCM. So, there is no reason of getting divided among ourselves,” he pontificated.
Two days later - on August 29, 1995 - the Dar es Salaam Zone High Court gave a stop order to the nomination of NCCR-Mageuzi’s presidential contestant until the issue of Prof Babu had been sorted out.
Although on that day Mrema had handed in his forms to the NEC chairman, Judge Makame, the latter did not sign them as being approved because of the High Court order. However, this did not apply to other opposition political parties.
On October 22, Zanzibar’s presidential election was held, and when the results were announced later, Mrema congratulated Zanzibaris, saying that “…they have shown courage in defeating Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).”
Without knowing the official results of the Zanzibar presidential election, Mrema said he was congratulating Seif Shariff Hamad for his ‘victory.’
Addressing a presidential campaign rally at the Vingunguti Primary School grounds in Dar es Salaam when believing that CUF’s Seif Shariff Hamad had emerged the winner, Mrema said: “CCM, this year, will drink water from a metal basin (watakunywa maji kwa karai).Nyerere has stayed at State House for 25 years. So, what has he left there for Mr Mkapa?” Mrema queried.
Addressing the rally, he said, “Many problems have been caused by Nyerere’s Socialist policies that even forced people to wear polyethylene fertiliser bags for lack of clothes ... Today, if you see a police officer drinking beer, then you can bet that the officer has made a shakedown.”
On October 27 - two days before the polls - the CUF presidential candidate, Prof Ibrahim Lipumba, suddenly withdrew from the Union presidential race, stating that he saw no logic in participating in the elections which he claimed had been rigged to ensure that CCM wins.
However, after the polls were held on October 29, NEC had to cancel all the results of the polls held in Dar es Salaam Region after the electoral body was slammed for irregularities by the two main parties, NCCR-Mageuzi and CCM.
Furthermore, ten political parties which had fielded presidential contestants filed a petition at the High Court seeking to have NEC ordered to stop announcing the results of presidential and parliamentary elections countrywide. In the event, the High Court agreed to hear the petition.