Dar es Salaam. The stone was thrown. It hit a beehive. Now, the bees are whizzing and stinging to defend their homestead.
This is what could best describe the aftershocks of the strong-worded letter written this past week by Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM)’s influential former secretaries-general to the ruling party’s advisory council.
From the mainstream to social media, the talk of town has been the July 14th letter which has ruffled some feathers within Africa’s longest-serving ruling party.
CCM heavyweights Abdulrahman Kinana and Yusuf Makamba wrote the letter to deal with some “mudslinging plot” targeting party elders.
It has ended up eliciting furious reactions from within and without the ruling party.
While the CCM’s leadership has continued to keep mum, the four-page letter has, however, drawn a fierce reaction from across the political spectrum.
Some analysts, on one hand described the document as a sign of the party’s failure of its internal mechanisms to deal with conflicts.
Mr Makamba and Kinana, who served as CCM SGs between 2009 to 2011 and 2012-2018, respectively, broke their silence on Sunday over the now-frequent-allegations by the publisher, Mr Cyprian Musiba, who has been using his newspapers, Tanzanite and Fahari Yetu, to accuse the duo of “preventing the President from doing his job.”
The retired senior officials warned of the dangers that the “unfounded allegations” pose to the party’s “unity, solidarity and tranquility.”
The two leaders called on the party’s sages to intervene, saying that there must be a force behind Mr Musiba’s accusations, which they think is determined to drive the country “into a precipitous drop.”
It is this “small group” which is set to benefit from what Mr Musiba is doing, the letter’s authors noted.
“We used to believe that when it happens someone [Mr Musiba] comes out publicly to degrade senior former party officials, and especially when that person is associating himself with the government and the President, who is the CCM’s national chairperson, some measures would be taken like the issuing of a public statement [condemning the attacks],” reads the letter in part.
“Unfortunately, our leaders [within the party and government] never took any action. This has bolstered [Mr Musiba] to continue to disparage senior retired party leaders,” reads the letter.
Musiba: pawn or attention-seeker
Musiba has presented himself as the one to criticise any voice that he thinks shares political, economic as well as security perspectives different from what the government stands for.
Though he describes himself as an activist, some allege that Mr Musiba might be a pawn in the game of chess, a point highlighted also in Mr Kinana’s and Makamba’s letter.
Through his newspapers, social media platforms and occasional press conferences Mr Musiba has brazenly named both high profile and ordinary citizen, to be anti-government. These include opposition lawmakers, government officials, independent activists as well as ruling party’s senior officials both serving and retired, describing them as “dangerous people”.
Just last week, Mr Musiba accused former Foreign Affairs minister Bernard Membe of leading a clique plotting to prevent President Magufuli from the 2020 contest using the party’s general conference.
Mr Musiba claimed that the “plot” is being prepared in support of the former senior party leaders in cooperation with their serving counterparts. He did this despite a pending civil case in the High Court in which Mr Membe is suing him for defamation.
Lawmakers up in arms
The CCM Advisory Council secretary, former National Assembly Speaker Pius Msekwa, to whom the letter was addressed, told The Citizen the party would look into the matter.
But other senior CCM members reacted with disdain, scorn and disgust. The plot thickened after the leak of voice recordings of conversations purportedly between outspoken Mtama MP (CCM) Nape Nnauye and Mr Kinana; and, between Mr Nnauye and Sengerema MP (CCM) Mr William Ngeleja. All, however, have neither confirmed nor denied the voices were theirs.
In the conversations, the speakers are heard discussing the country’s political, security as well as economic situation, expressing their disappointment with the ways things are being run without calling out names.
But this has not stopped some CCM lawmakers from ranting against not just Mr Kinana and Mr Makamba but also those they think are the peoples in the leaked voices.
Mtera MP, Mr Livingstone Lusinde, one of the staunchest supporters of CCM, said the elders have gone astray and wondered how come they are agitated by the acts whose culture they helped create in the first place.
He called for them to be questioned for what he believed was disrespect to President John Magufuli.
“Mr Kinana had called the ministers of his own party’s government ‘burdens’ while Mr Nape rose to fame by insulting other people himself,” said Mr Lusinde. “People ask me if I support Musiba and my answer has always been yes, because he’s not doing anything new but rather a continuation of a tradition whose founders pretend to be angered by today.”
Nzega Urban MP (CCM) Hussein Bashe described the letter as a “plot to deny President Magufuli a chance to contest as second term in 2020” and said it went against the party’s constitution.
“[President] Magufuli is our presidential candidate for 2020 General Election,” Mr Bashe told Mwananchi this week. “Come sun, come rain.” Geita Rura MP (CCM) Mr Joseph Msukuma described the letter as “thuggery” as part of “big plot” organised by the elders who drafted it.
But Mr Nape has maintained a neutral ground on the matter. He told Mwananchi newspaper on Friday that “All those who think there is a possibility to challenge Magufuli in CCM neither do not know CCM properly or have decided to be hypocrite.”
He said under CCM tradition the incumbent is always given opportunity to run for the second and final presidential term.
He was not ready to discuss on the circulating voice notes in which he is accused of taking part. “Let’s leave this to law enforcement organs, they will tell us what was going on. But those who are discussing should reserve their words,” he said.
Mr Musiba himself dismissed the letter as “nonsense” and promised to “keep blasting the elders if they continue with their plot.” He called the elders “corrupt” and that they don’t have any right to complain against the criticism directed to their “plots.”
The letter’s sympathetic reaction
But ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe commended Mr Kinana’s and Mr Makamba’s letter, saying it transcends party’s interests, touching issues of national interests, especially national security. According to Mr Kabwe, the letter has disrupted what he claims to be the plot by the State to accuse senior party officials, both within the ruling party and in opposition, with treason charges.
Next year’s General Election
According to Kabwe, the plan is to give President Magufuli a smooth run in next year’s general election because many of them might have been in remand prison or there should not be any election at all.
“These wise men disrupted this ominous plan and that’s why you find people so angry about it,” said Mr Kabwe in a statement circulated on social media.
“The fear of 2020 [General Election] shouldn’t put our national security in jeopardy. Criticism within and without political parties should not be seen as treason. Let democracy thrive.”
Other independent analysts had different opinions over what make sense of the letter.
A political scientist from the University of Dar es Salaam, Dr Richard Mbunda, told The Citizen the letter was a wakeup call to both the ruling party and government officials.
He said it was revealing what was already clear to many that the party-building project initiated by its chairman since he came to office in 2016 will deal a blow to many.
To Dr Paul Luisulie, a political analyst from the University of Dodoma, the latest development could be revealing the failure of CCM’s internal mechanisms to deal with the grievances of both their serving and former leaders, saying the situation ‘has very serious repercussions’ to the unity of the part ahead of elections.
“You don’t expect a person like Musiba to come forward and attack as many people as he sees fit with no one, either within the party or the government condemning the acts, and think that everything is fine,” says Dr Luisulie.