For the umpteenth time since the country secured political independence from alien rule in December 1961, Tanzania is again holding civic and general elections this and next year. On the face of things, the quinquennial elections have generally conformed to the principles of bona fide democracy.
And now that we are drawing near to the election season once again, we are encouraged by the assurance that the government and law enforcement organs have given that peace and sanity will prevail. President John Magufuli has already directed the security agencies to ensure they are well prepared.
More so, at various forums in the recent past, the law enforcement organs have sought to dispel fears normally associated with the coming of an election period. The Police Force says it’s ready to ensure that Tanzanians exercise their constitutional right without any fear and disruptions.
However, we must also be quick to point out at some worrying trend in the recent past. Of particular note is the latest verbal exchanges involving the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the country’s main opposition political parties.
The recent heated exchanges were no doubt triggered by the announcement of the ruling party’s secretary general, Dr Bashiru Ally, that he was on a political tour of some parliamentary electoral constituencies in Dar es Salaam, ostensibly to install devices in them (“kufungamitambo:” MWANANCHI: August 28, 2019).
Three of the constituencies –Kawe, Ubungo and Kibamba–are represented in Parliament by members of the opposition political Party for Democracy and Development ‘Chadema.’
There have been similar moves in the recent past by principal CCM cadres, thereby triggering verbal protests from the political opposition, crying foul at what they see as electioneering-in-disguise – something they’re restrained from doing by the Police Force.
Granted, concerns raised by the opposition call for serious consideration by the authorities. It does not augur well for fairness to block opposition party meetings in the same area the Police Force is allowing CCM cadres to go about their political errants uninterrupted. There is need to look into this matter, which is potentially divisive.
For example, the Police have in the recent past struggled to justify or explain why they decided to block two internal meetings organised by the opposition ACT-Wazalendo in Dar es Salaam. Opposition officials argued that they had followed procedure in notifying the authorities of their intention to hold meetings -- only to be told at the very last minute that their gatherings were illegal.
Where there are genuine security concerns -- perhaps worries that a meeting might degenerate into chaos -- it is only fair that the Police move in to dispel the crowd. But breaking up meetings of opposition parties only while allowing the ruling party to go ahead is not the way to go for the Police -- especially now that we are close to an election.
Having said that, it is important for the law enforcement organs to bring all the political players together to try and reach common ground on these meetings. Communicating to all the political players in a more professional manner, and ensuring that everyone is on the same page will go a long way in guaranteeing and safeguarding our peace and stability.