Dar es Salaam. Chadema national chairman Freeman Mbowe yesterday made a passionate plea to voters to go out and register in large numbers in readiness for the local government elections on November 24 this year.
The leader of the official opposition in Parliament appealed to citizens to take the exercise seriously as part of their contribution to improving how they are governed.
“Now is not the time to give up hope, I urge to all those eligible to use the remaining two days to register,” said Mr Mbowe at a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Dar es Salaam.
It was the first direct public appeal by Chadema leadership following growing concern that many would be voters have not shown interest to register, forcing the government to extend Monday’s deadline to tomorrow.
Local government minister Selemani Jafo yesterday said an additional four million people had registered since Sunday when he issued the order to extend the registration deadline. The minister told a press conference that as at yesterday, a total of 15.2 million people had been registered out of a targeted 22.9 million people.
At his press conference, Mr Mbowe was accompanied by party secretary general Vincent Mashinji, deputy chairman for Zanzibar Salum Mwalimu and MPs Peter Msigwa, Halima Mdee, John Heche, John Mnyika and Ester Bulaya. They were all due for court hearing of an incitement case facing them at the Kisutu court shortly thereafter.
Mbowe said it would be a defeatist strategy in defence of democracy for their followers and those of other political parties to boycott the exercise. He said history would remember those who helped defend the democratic tenets of the nation.
“Although there are possibilities that the elections might be marred by irregularities just like the previous ones, boycotting them isn’t the best option,” said Mr Mbowe of those who argue that registering was pointless as some leaders and officials in government have declared who the winners will be.
He pleaded with Chadema leaders across the country to keep on sensitising people to register. “You cannot be a coward and expect to change this country. Go and register to make your voice heard.”
Mbowe blamed voter apathy on the government’s decision to ban political parties and other actors from mobilising their bases. He said the use of district commissioners and regional commissioners as an alternative was not working. “We made a lot of noise that people’s basic freedoms are being stifled on a daily basis but we were ignored. How then can anyone think that a person who has been denied his/her freedom of expression or assembly for four years have any interest in registering for a vote?”
ACT-Wazalendo yesterday separately raised issue with the number of registered voters as read out by Mr Jafo, demanding that the ministry issue clear data sets to verify the numbers.
Mr Ismail Jussa, ACT-Wazalendo’s chairman of strategy and compliance committee said: “When were these statistics of up until yesterday collated to the extent that the government was able to release them earlier today (yesterday)?”
The party’s cairman for campaigning and elections Joran Bashange told reporters here yesterday that the party’s countrywide investigation has uncovered numerous irregularities in the centres designated for voters registration.