No politician in this country has ever squandered whatever political clout they might have had like Bernard Membe. It has been a humbling and humiliating experience for a man who presents himself as a cerebral politician, one with the deep knowledge and understanding of the ruling party, CCM, and the workings of the governments it has led.
In yet another press conference he held to address the “uncertainty” surrounding his presidential run, he was a lonely figure, abandoned by those who invited him in his new political party sticking to a line that he is still a duly Union presidential candidate for ACT Wazalendo.
Using football analogy, he rambled on about winning the presidency in the 89th minute or in extra time. His allies have declared their support for another presidential candidate from a different political party.
Apparently, he is the only one who sees victory where not even his own political party can see any chance of him upsetting the current political reality. He declared that he is not leaving ACT-Wazalendo, but such declarations should be understood through the prism of the moment where even if he chose to join another political party, it will be meaningless.
Maalim Seif told another press conference after Membe had spoken that he was “saddened” by the turn of events because Membe had been involved in the process which has led to ACT-Wazalendo opting to support another presidential candidate. In another words, Membe is yet another “independent” candidate, as Maalim Seif dared him to campaign and see where that leads to.
The damage is already done.
To some observers, especially those who spend a good deal of their time going through the tedious constitutions of our political parties they have been claiming that ACT-Wazalendo’s leader, Zitto Kabwe and the party chairman, Maalim Seif, in declaring their support for a candidate from another party while their own party has a candidate running for the same post, they may have lost their ACT-Wazalendo’s memberships.
If these observers are to be believed, then it would mean that ACT-Wazalendo has been caught up in the same constitutional trap another opposition party-Civic United Front (CUF)-was caught in after the 2015 general election which led to that party unravelling towards political irrelevancy. However, in political games, the details are never found in the black or white matters, it is the grey area that has the devil in the details. There are other observers who have wondered about the whole process that was fast tracked to deliver the chance for Membe to run for president even before he knew his new party and its workings. If these observers are to be believed, then it is another question of whether one can talk of ACT-Wazalendo’s political heavyweights losing their membership from a matter that seems problematic from the outset.
Of course, given the flip-flops in politics, poorly read, ambiguous and even less understood constitutional provisions cannot stand in the way of political expediency.
The continued conflicting stand points between Membe and his leaders in ACT-Wazalendo, once again bring to the fore the question of his political future. He has said he is staying put in ACT-Wazalendo but the prospects of this being long term have taken a dent. When the dust from the general election settles and the culprits of opposition’s defeat are lined up, it is not a stretch to say that of those culprits, there are some who will point to Membe’s “stubbornness” to give way to a candidate preferred by his own party as being among the reasons.
For now though, perhaps there is some hope for continued cohabitation, after all neither of the sides involved in the continuing terrible political dance have completely shut the doors to one another even though they are speaking very different things. It could all be part of the bargaining process post-general election. ACT-Wazalendo will not want to deter future arrivals even if Membe heads for the exit.
As far as Membe is concerned and his current political predicament, the Baganda people aptly say, when it rains on a poor man, it simply pours and does not stop.
Mr Mwakibete is a socio-political commentator and analyst based in Dar es Salaam