CCM the ‘weakest link’ in Nyerere Leadership School

Wednesday March 02 2022
Nyerere pic

The late Founding Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere speaks during a past event. PHOTO | FILE


Last Wednesday saw the inauguration of the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School in Kibaha by President Samia. This institution brings together most of the political parties of liberation in SADC.

I must confess the inauguration left me with a bitter aftertaste at the fad that has taken root in Africa whereby Chinese assistance is sought in areas that should be our own source of pride. How is it that our countries lack the wherewithal to develop an institution geared towards honouring our very own luminary?

You find even the CCM sub-office in Dar es Salaam had extensive Chinese involvement in its expansion works. Over in Ethiopia, the AU headquarters was built by the Chinese. This is not surely the way to go.

To the actual event now. First of all, I found it curious that missing in action was the United National Independence Party from Zambia.

UNIP as we speak has not a single parliamentarian. Does that then disqualify it from participation? By extension, what would happen if any of the other six parties including CCM were to be shown the door at the polls? There are questions around this that need clarification.

Second, as is normative with CCM, the party pulled out all the stops on that day.


The numbers in green didn’t disappoint. And at that, during the proceedings and in full glare of the cameras, one of them was captured taking a deep slumber. Evidently she was totally out of place and probably couldn’t care less that this was a presidential function where the cameras were pervasive.

It got me earnestly thinking on the value of the rank and file in our political parties. By good fortune that very day I stumbled upon a commentary on South African politics by one Stephen Goodes that provided some vital food for thought.

He put forth: “while the number of members that a political party has can have some difference, it is important not to confuse membership numbers growth with perfecting actual political power. In our recent history there has been no direct correlation between the two. Quite this opposite: there is evidence that broadening a party’s membership may in fact present a greater challenge for its internal democracy.

“Last week, while in the Free State on a trip to restore unity in the ANC, ex-president Thabo Mbeki, suggested that the party should conduct a full audit of its members as a way of understanding who were true members and who were not with the intention also of weeding out people with criminal records.

“This has been a consistent Mbeki critique of the ANC. While it has often claimed that being a mass movement is part of its character, as long ago as 2007, and possibly before then, he was saying the party should have ‘fewer, but better’ members.

In this he is following a dictum of Vladimir Lenin, who at least by 1923 said the Communist Party in Russia should follow a policy of ‘better fewer, but better’.”

Instructively, even Julius Nyerere had spoken similarly about membership numbers in TANU in the 1970s. I can’t recall since then anyone else in CCM speaking on those lines. It is indeed a matter that requires someone high-minded and ready to act beyond the daily cut and thrust of politics. Mbeki was one of those leaders who would even pen a weekly letter to his compatriots.

It reminds me of a conversation I once had with a prominent media figure in Kenya who often chairs Uongozi Institute regional meetings. She would liken Mbeki to the late Benjamin Mkapa in terms of their intellectualism.

And to this end, Ambassador Juma Mwapachu in his 2005 book, Confronting New Realities, goes on to say that “those who knew Nyerere well would recall that his leadership qualities were enhanced by his habitual, almost serial, learning habits. To him, reading was pleasure. In contrast, many of our leaders today take reading to be some form of torture. President Mkapa has been a notable exception.”

With this singular distinction in mind, the fair assumption is that CCM would have undergone a metamorphosis of sorts with Big Ben in the driver’s seat. Tanzanians would have been boasting having separated the wheat from the chaff.

It was all quite the contrary. In one forum the language of the man was that of an ardent democrat such as in his state of the nation address in the National Assembly in 2004: “Mr Speaker, there are two issues that cause me some measure of distress. The first relates to the weakness of the opposition political parties. If we do not have serious political competition between comparable teams, we will slowly degenerate into political frivolity. As president of the country, I realise that a strong opposition is necessary to keep CCM on its toes, which in turn is good for our people and good for our country.”

In another forum, Mkapa would adopt a very different tone, basically hurling all manner of negative epithets towards an innocuous opposition.

Come the end of it all, in his memoirs, he lamented the fact that CCM operates as if we are in a single-party climate.

This astonishing admission lies at the root of why I believe CCM to be the weakest link in the Nyerere Leadership School. And as the idiom goes, “a chain is as strong as its weakest link.”

For CCM, tragically the overriding priority since the reintroduction of multi-party politics has been to appear like a mass party at whatever cost. So you end up with defections as the flavour of the month. It is frankly risible to hear CCM functionaries draw comparisons between themselves and the ANC, the oldest liberation movement in Africa.

As someone who has spent my formative years across the wider SADC region I can attest to the fact that you don’t find the ignominious practice of people defecting from the ruling party and then being received back heartily by the top brass. It just does not happen. And to illustrate the gravity of our plight, it reached a point under John Magufuli where opposition MPs and councillors would defect to CCM and immediately be given direct nomination tickets. What an affront to democracy!

Neither do you find in the SADC region presidential candidates dishing out sums of money to attain political positions. If one is a suitable leader it will stand you in good stead to be elected to the top job. Night meetings until the wee hours of the morning to start processing names are unheard of.

Indeed, the political frivolity that Mkapa warned about has taken root in his own party where in 2015 we witnessed some forty presidential contenders. Just recently for the speakership we we presented with seventy names.

The refrain is always one of democracy.

In the final analysis, it is worth considering the net effect of the move in 1987 by MPs impelled to change their titles from Ndugu to Mheshimiwa in spite of Nyerere’s protestations. It was actually bemusing seeing a plaque at Kibaha with the titles Ndugu/Comrade/Camarada Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Tanzania has well moved on from such references.

When all is said and done, I do wish the CCM contingent of students the very best and my advice to them is to intensely reflect throughout on Mwalimu’s core messages such as on umoja bandia or fake unity in CCM back in 1992.

Viva Mwalimu Nyerere!