How Arusha declaration influenced 1970 elections

Monday March 23 2020
Arusha Pic

President Julius Nyerere marches in support of the Arusha Declaration in 1967. The declaration marked the 1970 polls.

Dar es Salaam. The General Election held in October 31, 1970 was a defining one in the electoral history of Tanzania.

The polls, which combined parliamentary, presidential and local government elections was the second since the union between the Republic of Tanganyika and the People’s Republic of Zanzibar. It was also the second General Election since the adoption of single party system.

Historical significance of the 1970 elections come from various factors;

The elections were held as the free, post-independent Tanzania was ushering in the new decade. The decade of the 1970s. The country was leaving the decade of 1960s that was defined by nationalist movements and freedom struggles throughout the Continent.

Despite the fact that several countries were still under the yoke of colonialism, independent ones were trying to assert their independence and make a mark in the comity of nations. The last years of the 1960s decade had seen a series of coup d’etat. From Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan to Central Africa Republic.

Arusha Declaration


The 1970 elections were the first to be held after Tanzania promulgated the Arusha Declaration on Socialism and Self-Reliance. The main aim of the declaration, pronounced on February 5, 1967, was to build an egalitarian, socialist nation that depended on its own resources for its development. The major means of production were nationalized following the declaration.

The Arusha Declaration also came up with the Public Leadership Code of Ethics to prevent politicians from using public office to enrich themselves.

The declaration evoked strong feelings of revolutionary patriotism among the people, especially the youth, who marched for hundreds of kilometres to support it.

Code of ethics

Aspirants who vied for elections in 1970 were supposed to adhere to the leadership code of ethics, which was not a requirement in previous elections. In addition to the code, the Tanu announced that henceforth the party belonged to workers and peasants, not rich merchants.

Many businessmen who had vied and won elections since 1958 found they were unable to run due to restrictions brought about by the Arusha Declaration. The code of ethics stipulated that a public leader was not allowed to be a manager, director or a shareholder in a company. A public leader was not allowed to own a house for rent or have two salaries.

Nelson Kasfir, author of a book entitled The Shrinking Political Arena: Participation and Ethnicity in African Politics with a Case Study of Uganda writes that only half of the Members of Parliament of the 1965 Parliament (about 60 MPs) vied to defend their seats in the 1970. About 21 out of 60 failed to defend the seats.

“As a result over two thirds of the members of the 1970 Parliament were new,” Kasfir writes in the book. President Julius Nyerere, however, got more than 90 per cent of the YES vote, which shows that his popularity was unabated.

The 1970 parliament had a total of 237 MPs. 129 MPs were elected from the constituencies in Tanzania Mainland.

Elections had been outlawed in Zanzibar after the January 1964 revolutions. 15 MPs were ‘elected’ by the Parliament, seating as a constituent college, from among officials of various party and government organisations including trade unions, Tanu wings (UWT, Youth League and Parents Wing).

Regional commissioners from 20 regions entered the Parliament as ex-officios. The President appointed 10 MPs while 32 MPs came from the Zanzibar Revolution Council. And 20 MPs were appointed from Zanzibar by the Zanzibar President.

First Elections Act

The 1970 General Election was held under the new electoral law enacted in July 1970. The Elections Act was the first ever comprehensive piece of electoral legislation in the country. Its enactment repealed the National Assembly (Elections) Act, 1964 and the Local Government (Elections) Act, 1966 that were used to management parliamentary and local government elections.

Presidential elections were being managed by special stipulations and by the interim constitution of 1965.

One of the main features of the Elections Act, 1970 were to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. Historians say this increased tremendously voter registrations from 3.1 million who registered to vote for the 1965 elections to 4.8 in the 1970 polls.

While the leadership code of ethics were used by Tanu in the nomination process, the same were enshrined in the Elections Act and used as disqualifications for candidates in the local government elections.

Chapter four of the Elections Act deals with management and procedures for parliamentary and local government elections. Part one deals with qualifications and disqualifications of candidates. Section 46 of the Act simply says that no person shall be qualified to be elected as a constituency member unless he is qualified to be so elected by and in accordance to with the provisions of the Constitution.

But section 47 of the Elections Act, 1970 says a person shall be disqualified for election as a member of local authority (e) if he is a party to or a partner in a firm or manager or director of a company or co-operative society…

The same section continues to say that a person shall be disqualified for election as a member of local authority if he or his spouse is the beneficial owner of any house or other building or of any interest in a house or other building which or any portion of which is in exclusive occupation of some other person in consideration of payment of rent, feee…

First elections without Kambona

There was an elephant in the room in the elections of 1970. The absence in the polls of Oscar Kambona, who had fled three years previously and gone to a self-imposed exile in Britain.

Kambona was a very popular politician who had contested and won parliamentary elections since the first polls, held in 1958.

He was the first Foreign Affairs minister in the post-independent government. His fallout with President Nyerere was, reportedly, due to his criticism of the Arusha Declaration that was promulgated five months before his exile.