Tanzania opposition parties cooperation controversy prompts debate

Deputy  registrar of political parties Sisty Nyahoza. PHOTO | FILE

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The deputy registrar of political parties says procedures must be followed in order for collaboration to be approved

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania's opposition parties appear to press on with their cooperation arrangements even as the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPPs) issued stern warning on Tuesday against any form of collaboration at this juncture, saying it would violate Section 11A of the Political Parties Act (PPA).

ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe said in Tabora Region on Tuesday that his party had reached a loose cooperation agreement with Chadema, whose details would be made public on October 3 at a rally at the Mwembe Yanga grounds in Dar es Salaam.

On the same Tuesday, the Registrar’s Office issued a letter dated September 18, 2020 addressed to party secretary generals signed by the deputy registrar, Sisty Nyahoza, warning political parties that any form of collaboration during this period contravenes Section 11A of the PPA.

Yesterday, Mr Nyahoza told The Citizen that procedures had to be followed for any form of collaboration to be approved.

“We have served letters to Chadema and ACT-Wazalendo seeking their explanation for incidents in Zanzibar and the Mainland where they uttered statements signalling cooperation between them,” he said.

According to him, his office had written to the Tanzania Labour Party (TLP) warning it after it declared that it would support CCM’s presidential candidate John Magufuli in the October 28, 2020 elections and had pledged to rectify the matter.

TLP secretary general Richard Lyimo confirmed receipt of the Registrar’s letter demanding explanation after the party’s parliamentarians banners carried pictures of the CCM presidential candidate, Dr Magufuli.

“We replied to the letter after receiving it about two weeks ago. Regarding the picture we told him that it was the decision of the party’s general congress held on May 9 this year,” he said.

However, he said the decision was reached without any consent and deliberations with the ruling party, noting that their interest wasn’t CCM, but Dr Magufuli’s outstanding performance.

“We will remove the party’s parliamentary banners carrying pictures of Dr Magufuli if the Registrar’s Office instructs us to do so,” he said.

Mr Nyahoza said procedures require members of political parties to endorse coalition plans during the general congress of the respective party and submit signed agreement to the Registrar’s Office three months before nomination of candidates by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

“The coalition described under Section 11A should be differentiated with a merger between the Tanganyika African National Union (Tanu) and African Shiraz Party (ASP) to form CCM,” he said, adding:

“Any form of coalition is considered as a merger. Since political parties didn’t submit agreements to the ORPPs by August 25 this year, they are out of time until 2025 elections,” he said.

The deputy Registrar said political parties should continue selling candidates nominated by the electoral body and their respective manifesto without confusing voters.

Chadema secretary general John Mnyika promised to communicate to the public after completing working on important issues, but his ACT-Wazalendo counterpart, Shaibu, didn’t respond to questions by The Citizen even after sending him text messages as he had requested.

However, lawyers and political stakeholders differed with the Registrar’s Office, arguing that the law focuses on formal cooperation and not informal support arrangements as was currently happening on the ground.

“Since TLP and the United Democratic Party (UDP) were the first to support CCM ahead of the October polls, what does the law say when opposition political parties want to support each other?” asked a lecturer of Law at the University of Dar es Salaam, Dr James Jesse.

Former Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) president John Seka said that, basically, there was no section of the law that barred informal cooperation among political parties.

A political science lecturer at the UDSM, Prof Bakari Mohamed, said political parties were aware of the legal procedures for formal and informal cooperation - adding, however, that the decision of the Registrar appear to be aimed at placating the veteran ruling political party CCM.

But, Sauti ya Umma (Sau) presidential candidate Leopold Mahona said there was no way that government institutions could distance themselves from CCM - hence making the country’s political field neither level, nor quite fair and just.