Dar es Salaam. Yesterday’s sacking of Union Affairs and Environment minister January Makamba was not surprising, according to analysts.
Interviewed by The Citizen on separate occasions, they said that in the wake of recent tumultuous developments in the ruling CCM, it was just a matter of time before Mr Makamba was shown the door.
Mr Makamba, they added, was a casualty of one of the most serious crises to have rocked the party since its inception 42 years ago.
Mr Makamba, who is said to have played a key role in CCM’s victory in the 2015 General Election, was sacked yesterday and replaced with Mr George Simbachawene.
A State House statement also said that President John Magufuli had appointed Nzega Urban MP Hussein Bashe as Agriculture deputy minister, filling the position that fell vacant after Mr Innocent Bashungwa was elevated to the Industry and Trade docket last month.
A source close to Mr Makamba, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said he did not expect the youthful politician to last in the Cabinet as long as he did.
“It didn’t come as a surprise to me. I knew all along that he was living on borrowed time. Even Makamba himself saw it coming...his reaction says it all,” the source added.
Mr Makamba said in a Twitter post that he had received the latest Cabinet reshuffle with “an absolutely open heart”, and promised to speak out in the coming days.
His sacking came exactly a week after former CCM secretaries-general Yusuf Makamba – his father – and Abdulrahman Kinana released a explosive letter they wrote to the party. The Makamba Senior and Mr Kinana complained about what they said were incessant attacks directed at them by publisher and self-styled activist Cyprian Musiba.
They said Mr Musiba’s attacks were part of an orchestrated campaign to undermine and discredit them, and accused unnamed forces of protecting him.
A number of analysts said the letter laid bare deep cracks within the party and tensions that have been simmering for a number of years, with some linking the document to the younger Makamba’s sacking.
“He is seen in some quarters as directly linked to elements that are allegedly rocking the boat from within, and his exit from the government is not entirely surprising,” said Dar es Salaam-based political analyst Dunstan Kweka.
January’s sacking also came hot on the heels of leaked telephone conversation recordings purported to be between himself and his father; former ministers Nape Nnauye and William Ngeleja, and Mr Kinana and Mr Nnauye. The five have neither admitted nor denied that they are indeed the ones heard discussing matters of a political nature in the recordings.
University of Dar es Salaam lecturer James Jesse said January’s sacking was a natural reaction by President John Magufuli because it was no longer possible or prudent for the Head of State to retain in the Cabinet a person perceived to be pulling in the opposite direction.
“The President is vested with powers to hire and fire, and today’s Cabinet changes should not surprise anybody in view of what is happening in the party,” he said.
But Mr Kweka said the decision to throw January out of the Cabinet was ill-advised and ill-timed, taking into consideration the Makambas’ influence both within and outside the party.
“It is a strong-arm tactic that could have a domino effect within the party...it is likely to do more harm than good. Anything can happen when confrontation is prioritised over compromise.”
Mr Bashe is seen as a beneficiary of recent developments. However, his appointment is hardly surprising as it came a few days after he launched a scathing attack on Makamba Senior and Mr Kinana, accusing them of violating CCM’s constitution and systematically undermining President Magufuli ahead of next year’s General Election.
Mr Bashe is a first-term CCM MP who gained prominence by fearlessly hammering the government in Parliament.
Mr Simbachawene’s appointment, while not closely associated with the CCM crisis, is significant in that he is the first person to be reappointed minister by Dr Magufuli.
Mr Simbachawene resigned as the Minister of State in the President’s Office (Regional Administration and Local Government) in 2017 after he was adversely mentioned in reports compiled by a committee appointed by National Assembly Speaker Job Ndugai to investigate the trade in diamonds and tanzanite.