Eala elections: All political parties ought to be ashamed

The East Africa Legislative Assembly during a session in Arusha, Tanzania. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Now, on to the actual business. Most shockingly, CCM this time round put up an astronomical fee for any interested member of Sh1 million. I was in disbelief at how such a decision could have been arrived at. Isn’t this the party that Nyerere used to state was for ordinary workers and farmers?

I am crestfallen. My hopes of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) elections delivering a better outcome than previous years have been shattered.

Before anything else, I must state my consternation at how the office of the Speaker of Parliament failed to follow the due process of advertising in newspapers about the Eala elections. It is unacceptable for such a matter of public interest to be left to the government gazette. The lawyers of Tanzania should have acted here hastily.

Now, on to the actual business. Most shockingly, CCM this time round put up an astronomical fee for any interested member of Sh1 million. I was in disbelief at how such a decision could have been arrived at. Isn’t this the party that Nyerere used to state was for ordinary workers and farmers?

I should add that I don’t see why the collecting of a basic form can’t be actually free as the party is merely calling upon its membership to take up vacant positions.

Despite the punitive fee though, at the back of my mind I thought that the intention may have been to signal to frivolous members entertaining any thoughts of standing to consider carefully. That this time round Samia, as party chairperson, wanted only men and women who can share in her regional outlook.

With the process fully in motion, we would learn of an interview exercise for the staggering 150+ candidates for only eight positions.

What a hellish task to carry out in two days! It was patently evident that the fee didn’t serve as a deterrent.

One can affirm by such a crazy figure that unemployment in the country is a ticking time bomb in the true sense of the word. As things got to a crescendo, what took place was something for the history books.

As it were, the names presented by the CCM CC to be voted upon by the National Assembly were exactly the allotted number for CCM in the Eala. So it was a mere vote to confirm them. In other words, it was a fait accompli.

It is very unfortunate that hardly anyone in the country seems to have taken notice of the gravity of this matter. You only ask yourself why can’t CCM just declare that they don’t believe in any meritocracy and adopt their ways that the public can try and make sense of. It is sorely distressing to see that a few names that had all the qualities to push forward the agenda of the EAC were cast aside.

I’m referring here to Mr Godfrey Simbeye, who was once the head of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation. The business community we all know have a central role to play and someone of Simbeye’s standing was a badly needed voice.

I can also mention Lathifa Sykes, who has been a prominent tourism stakeholder, and undoubtedly would have been a vital cog in Samia’s tourism ambitions.

Last but not least there was even Ambassador James Msekela, who also happens to be the chairman of the retired ambassadors’ association.

He not only has experience as a diplomat but also a regional commissioner and parliamentarian. Virtually, all those ‘selected’ I can say without any hesitation were nonentities. To worsen the situation, pretty much all of them have such a poor command of the English language. It is really embarrassing that someone claiming to have higher education struggles to be intelligible. The end result is that some people ask why can’t Kiswahili just be the language of communication so as to fill the obvious gaps.

For the sake of the reading public, it is worth sharing an interesting anecdote from 1977 by a former minister in the Nyerere and Mwinyi governments, Al Noor Kassum.

Kassum writes in his memoirs of the time Nyerere told him, ‘You’ve done so much for the East African Community, I don’t want you to be for the funeral,’ he said. ‘Come back home. I want you to be a minister in the national government’.

‘But Mwalimu,’ I told him, ‘I don’t know enough Kiswahili, how am I going to manage?’

He replied, ‘I am not appointing you a minister or a Member of Parliament because of your knowledge of Kiswahili. All the Members of Parliament are supposed to know English, therefore you can communicate in English.’

This was in 1977. You fast forward to the present times ... We’ve also had on record the Chief Justice Professor Juma, admitting that many Tanzanian advocates face an English problem. One can only draw a conclusion that the effects of disregarding education in the country is horribly playing out before our very own eyes.

And, you only need to ask yourself how is it that in this day and age, the basic qualification needed to be an MP is to know how to read and write in Kiswahili or English.

Are these surely the legislators who can have a sense of what the Fourth Industrial Revolution entails for Tanzania?

And this issue applies across the political divide. Not once have the opposition parties expressed any concerns on the educational qualification.

Tellingly, even the Eala candidates from the opposition side were of no qualitative difference to CCM when ordinarily they would have desired to completely outclass them.

The only conclusion I can draw on this race-to-the-bottom state of affairs is that it is by design.

That is where there is a meeting of minds with CCM. It suits all our political parties just fine to have individuals who are incapable of holding their very own and thereby having to kowtow to a party supremo.

That is the gospel truth. If the cost for the parties means harbouring political scoundrels then so be it.

It also explains why all the parties are so uninterested in the provision of independent candidates as they know the ultimate impact on their persona outfits.

There is an urgent need now to think outside the box and set our sights high. A prominent columnist for the Sunday Nation of Kenya who also frequently appears in the The Citizen, Makau Mutua, said the following most recently: “We must remember that no society in history has ever developed without a great elite and a dominant intelligentsia. Those who don’t or can’t think are doomed.”

I propose that we start imagining certain political responsibilities beyond parties. Their leaders are far too self-absorbed.

I don’t see why for example, we can’t have Eala members who are also chosen from a pool of say the business community, farmers, workers and civil society. In that sense men and women who stand out in their various walks of life can have an opportunity to serve their nation at a higher level.

Finally, I propose that before anyone is given a chance to serve in the EALA, they must undergo a course at the National Defence College. There are a whole host of challenges afflicting our region that can seriously do with some form of study. If one is unwilling to undergo an examination of sorts then forget about representing us regionally.

Andrew Bomani is a political scientist and acting publicity secretary of UDP. He can be reached via Email: [email protected]