OPINION: Of political ambitions and graft

Sunday October 6 2019



Arusha Regional Commissioner Mrisho Gambo

Arusha Regional Commissioner Mrisho Gambo 

By Erick Mwakibete

A news report in Mwananchi newspaper on Tuesday, October 1, 2019 quoted Arusha Regional Commissioner Mrisho Gambo dismissing rumours that he harbours political ambitions to run for a parliamentary seat for Arusha Urban come 2020. He was speaking at a function for CCM’s Women League, and went on to say that the position he holds now was “enough”, and that even members of parliament go to him for help.

He is not the first one to dismiss rumours about 2020 political plans and he will not be the last.

President John Magufuli has warned CCM members, and especially those serving in different capacities in government against flouting party rules and declaring their political ambitions before time. He said anyone who will waste taxpayers’ resources to go and start campaigning for a certain constituency, they should be ready for the axe.

CCM, like many political parties in this country, have entrenched patronage system where it is difficult for an individual to rise without the support of powerful forces and powerful individuals. This means money, and other resources change hands. By the time such individual is elected to any public office, their loyalties are never divided. They remember who made it possible for them to be where they are.

In this regard, President Magufuli has managed to keep the country and his party quiet for the time being. In the past, the situation would have been very different at this time. All sorts of high profile civil servants would be crisscrossing this vast country, at taxpayers’ expense, in search of fulfilling their own political goals. Public service was not even second to their priorities.

As the fight against corruption goes, President Magufuli has managed, to a large extent to stem the flow of huge amounts of money with questionable origins. Under normal circumstances, an individual declaring their political ambitions should not be a problem, but because our politics are anything but normal, the issue is never about such declarations.

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Parliamentarians constantly look over their shoulders about possible challengers from within their parties. There is little time to deal with issues dear to their voters. A five-year political term is seen as “too short” from their perspective, while to a voter, that same time is “too long” because once elected, there is no way of holding to account these individuals; they are essentially out of reach of their voters and can only be brought down by other powerful forces, especially their political parties.

President Magufuli’s warning to those he has appointed to various public offices against early campaigning, coupled with other warnings from CCM’s secretary-general, Dr Bashiru Ally, who has said CCM wants to end the practice where an individual holding a public office has constant desires to hold another office, is a huge relief for many members of parliament from his party because very few individuals outside such circles have the resources to wage political battles against incumbents. The threat is always powerful from within.

All this does not mean to say that money will never change hands in politics, that’s impossible. It also does not mean that individuals harbouring political ambitions will keep them buried for long, after all 2020 is fast approaching. The key test to all these measures will be how CCM responds to the accusations which will be levelled against political competitors once the floodgates are open.

There will be individuals who will put to test these measures and those who might skirt the rules and try their luck. Others might want to “compensate” for the time lost.

The real miracle though, will be that, if these measures will help usher in a new political culture where even if it is about endless cycles of elections, at least those harbouring such political ambitions will still have time to serve the people they claim to do everything in their name.

All the noise from political shouting matches, conflicting stories, competing visions can be deafening and exhausting to the ordinary voter. It is one reason why voters wish elections would pass quickly so they can go on with their daily lives of dealing with serious questions of bread and butter.

Either way, for now, President Magufuli has reduced the time for huge amounts of money circulating into politics. He knows of the danger lurking in the shadows because his party and its members are unmatched when it comes to financial resources.