2018 likely to be rocky for opposition

Sunday January 21 2018

By Erick Mwakibete

        Tundu Lissu, in attempting to explain a seismic political U-turn of 2015, Chadema (and its allies in Ukawa), correctly described Edward Lowassa as “perhaps the most controversial and divisive political figure in the country right now”.

Lowassa stunned Chadema when he met President John Magufuli and expressed support for the things the government has been doing especially its efforts in construction of infrastructures and education. On his part President Magufuli praised Lowassa as a good politician who never insulted him once during the ugly campaigns of 2015.

While some analysts saw the meeting as a good sign of easing the political tensions and mistrusts among leading political leaders; to a nervous opposition, that meeting coming at the time of continued defections from the opposition to CCM, sent off alarm bells in Chadema. What Lowassa said was political anathema. What followed crystallised some things to the rest of us.

Chadema’s leaders and their members were quick to condemn or express disappointment at Lowassa’s statement and were at pains to explain that what Lowassa said in the presence of President Magufuli in no way represented his party’s sentiments. Chadema’s Youth wing went as far as mentioning defection, that their party will never be affected even if Lowassa defected too.

Even after two years, the allies have trust issues.

The political marriage of convenience between Chadema/Ukawa and Lowassa was based on cold political calculations where one side wanted more political reach which they argued was only possible with Lowassa as their candidate despite his political flaws and the other part wanted a real shot at the presidency before a political sunset. Of these political goals one was decidedly lost and the other achieved but with debatable political consequences to individual parties within the alliance.

It appears Lissu was better informed when it comes to Chadema’s dealings because while expressing his displeasure at what Lowassa said, he pointed out that it was unwise for a party leader to say the things he said without communicating with other leaders first.

Lowassa’s entry into Chadema/Ukawa led to the departure of some leaders and as far as Prof Ibrahim Lipumba and his allies in the CUF are concerned is part of what led their party to where it is today. The details of how exactly Lowassa joined Chadema are bitterly disputed, and some versions of the story paint a picture of a process that started outside Chadema’s decision making bodies. The whole matter led to bitter parting shots from Dr Wilbrod Slaa, Chadema’s former secretary general.

There have been occasions where statements/actions by Chadema’s regional leaders contrasted those of national leaders with the latest example provided by Singida regional leaders who had fielded a parliamentary candidate in the hope that national leaders might change their minds about a no show.

Eventually they towed their party’s line but the damage was already done.

While Lowassa’s resignation as prime minister in 2007 stunned many in the august House in Dodoma and around the country; it was his refusal to go into details of the scandal that led to his resignation that frustrated his political allies as his political foes drew their own conclusions. He stayed quiet, leaving his allies to defend him. As what he said caused a huge political storm in his party and online, the man at the center of it all was quiet.

On the few occasions he offers an explanation, details are sketchy or instead of answering questions lead to more questions. His latest explanation of what transpired between him and President Magufuli was another stunner. His statement not only was it in line with the political views of his political allies but very much mirrored, almost verbatim, what they had lamented after he heaped praise on President Magufuli. It added that President Magufuli tried to convince the most famous CCM’s prodigal son to return home.

The statement did not refute Lowassa’s praise of President Magufuli or the explanation that it was Lowassa who had asked to meet the president and was very much a PR attempt at calming nerves within the opposition, trying to repair the political damage done and projecting a united front. One cannot help but wonder whether these apparently contradictory positions of Lowassa consider the dynamics of 2020 politics. It seems 2018 will be another rocky year for the opposition.