Mkapa calls on CCM to embrace political pluralism

Ex-CCM secretary general Abdulrahman Kinana (second right) and politician John Shibuda follow proceedings during the launch of the memoir. PHOTO | ERICKY BONIPHACE

Dar es Salaam. In a memoir launched here yesterday, former President Benjamin William Mkapa criticised the ruling CCM for its tendency to behave as if Tanzania was still under the single-party political system, something he said prevented it from seriously engaging in debates on key national issues.

In his autobiography—titled: My Life, My Purpose: A Tanzanian President Remembers, which is a first by Tanzania’s former Head of State—the third phase leader argues that this tendency prevents CCM from arguing its case, putting its records of achievements right so as to inspire others with its hopes for Tanzania.

“Now, there is a serious opposition which CCM needs to acknowledge, I think my party is only now waking up to the fact that we are a multiparty system,” writes Mr Mkapa in his memoir, in a way that resonates to the complaints previously raised by opposition leaders as well as the country’s political pundits.

Mr Mkapa, whose memoir’s launch coincided with his 81st birthday, writes in the much anticipated book on the lack of serious political debate in the country, a shortfall he acknowledges is not a peculiar problem to Tanzania, insisting the need for a political interaction between the political parties.

This, he adds, will help the parties educate each other on what each knows about how other countries are going about development.

“I don’t see enough of that,” writes Mr Mkapa in his 320-page memoir. “Rather a lot of political posturings, such as, ‘We will liberate you.’ What do you mean by liberation more than fifty years after independence?”

Mr Mkapa argues that sometimes when he ponders on the country’s political situation wonders whether as a country Tanzania has embraced Western democracy too much. Rather than making political parties a mechanism for tolerance and inclusion, he says that Tanzania has followed the Western way of intolerance and exclusion.

“The concept of winner takes all has no African roots – our way is to be communal and inclusive,” he scribes.

Mr Mkapa also expresses his disappointment with what he sees as too many political parties in the country, saying that far from strengthening democracy, they weaken competition.

Expressing his dislike of the culture of opportunism in the country’s politics, he writes: “I am disillusioned at the culture of wanting to become a politician because of the prospect of financial betterment, rather than the honourable ethos of providing a service to fellow citizens and your nation.”

Mr Mkapa also warns against the rise of populist politics in the country that he thinks is a major distracting factor for today’s leaders.

“I do not like the current weight given to populism, I believe it retains action which is not good, particularly if you are a least developed country.”