- Chadema is entitled to 19 Special Seats MPs who are picked basing on the total number of votes garnered by the party's Presidential candidate during the October 28, 2020 General Election.
Dar es Salaam/Dodoma. Opposition party, Chadema, was thrown into a political storm yesterday following the decision of its women luminaries to accept nomination into Parliament on Special Seats.
The party’s top rank was left jaded, sending mixed signals about the move which reverberated across the country’s political landscape as both opposition supporters and non-supporters tried to make sense of it.
Some 19 women leaders from Chadema led by the party’s women wing’s national chairman Halima Mdee took the oath of Member of Parliament before the Speaker, Mr Job Ndugai, in Dodoma yesterday.
The swearing-in was a significant political shift yet for the opposition party after weeks of reported push and pull over whether to swallow their pride and accept the 19 Special Seats reserved by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) or stay out in protest of the elections outcome.
The women seats were the ration for the equivalent of some five per cent of the total parliamentary votes cast or the leading opposition party during the October 28 elections. The election results saw the routing of the opposition, with only two MPs, one from Chadema and the other CUF winning seats in the parliament of 264 MPs.
The incumbent President John Magufuli of CCM was declared the winner with 84.4 per cent while Chadema’s Tundu Lissu came second with about 14 per cent of the presidential vote.
But Chadema termed the election results announced by NEC ‘a travesty’ and said it would not recognise its outcome, alleging massive irregularities including ballot stuffing. The party declared it would boycott parliament and not accept the special seats.
The party had maintained a studious silence since then despite swirling romours that its leadership was under pressure or torn down the middle about accepting the 19 seats.
Yesterday’s swearing-in therefore culminated tense days that have left the party exposed and its fan base likely disenfranchised, if the furious reactions online was anything to go by. The conflicting statements yesterday by some the women nominees and Chadema Secretary General John Mnyika only added to the confusion around the matter.
As Mdee, the outgoing MP for Kawe constituency in Dar es Salaam and her former Tarime Urban compatriot Esther Matiko said they had the party’s blessings, Mr Mnyika tweeted the opposite; He suggested there was no such agreement.
Mr Mnyika repeated the same in a telephone interview last evening, saying he had not been aware of the swearing-in of its members.
“Chadema has not presented to NEC such a list (Of Special Seats MPs). Ask them. Ask NEC and ask the Parliament on who presented the list to them,” he said, adding a rider that the party will sit down and decide on the course of action to take.
“As for now, just understand that Chadema did not present the list to them….The party’s Central Committee has never met to pick the names of the party’s Special Seats MPs.” He said the party will take action if betrayal is proven.
In Dodoma, Mdee who was the first to swear in, thanked her party for the move and assured it of her unequivocal service. “I am going to work and as diligent as before. I assure Chadema supporters that I will remain steadfast as before,” she said.
On her part, Ms Matiko also applauded their party for having nominated them to hold the positions in Parliament. “All shall be talked of when the right time comes but for now we are happy to join the race as the official opposition party,” she told The Citizen at the national assembly grounds shortly after the short swearing in ceremony.
Mdee, Matiko as well as former Bunda Urban MP Ester Bulaya, Grace Tendega and Nusrat Hanje who also took oath are all members of Chadema Central Committee which Mnyika suggested had not made a decision on the special seats.
Others in the list were, Cecilia Pareso, Agnesta Lambart, Jesca Kishoa, Hawa Mwaifunga, Tunza Malapo, Asia Mohammed, Felister Njau, Nagenjwa Kaboyoka, Sophia Mwakagenda, Kunti Majala, Stella Fiao, Anatropia Theonest, Salome Makamba, and Conchesta Rwamlaza.
They took the oath before Mr Ndugai who had to explain that it was legal to hold the ceremony in the manner in which it was conducted. The MPs were sworn outside Parliament chambers and during a time when the Parliament was in recess. “The law and regulations that govern us are clear that the Speaker decides where and when to swear-in MPs and it was prudent not to delay them anymore,” said Ndugai, adding that he would give support and protect the minority MPs.
Parliament which went to recess after swearing in the new MPs and overseeing the choice of Prime Minister as well as the State address by the President, will resume later in January 2021.
Opinion was sharply divided as the news of the swearing in spread, with some Chadema supporters feeling their trust had been betrayed while some sympathized with the position that their leaders found themselves in.
Most of the women Chadema MPs were losing candidates in the October polls and have played a critical role in the establishment of the party’s grassroots network. They held key positions in the party’s hierarchy and formed 60 per cent of its legislators in the last Parliament.
Sources privy to the matter told The Citizen that Chadema may undergo an identity crisis in the short term as its mends a likely fallout from the decision to join Parliament following its dispute of the election results.
“We will have to wait and see whether there will actually be a fallout or if indeed this is not a strategy to live and fight the next time. There are many issues at play even as the opposition looks to survive years of CCM dominance and a thin purse to run its affairs,” said a senior politician who wished not to be named at the moment.
Other commentators felt the MPs had the right to decide how to politic now that the public or their supporters did not join the calls to hold sustained civil protests against the election outcome. “We are likely to see ACT-Wazalendo also join the Government of National Unity in Zanzibar if today’s event is to speak volume of the future of Tanzania’s politics.”
On social media, party members, leaders, and other concerned citizens expressed unease with the reason that made the MPs accept the special seats.
Chadema’s Youth Council (Bavicha) Temeke chairperson Hilda Newton tweeted; “People I trusted and never imagined if there was a day they would be able to betray the public have today proved me wrong.”
Maria Sarungi, activist and founder of Change Tanzania challenged Mnyika to strip the MPs of Chadema membership if they were to be taken seriously.
“Let them go so that they can join CCM, and stop using the party’s back to put themselves in the parliament as ‘controlled opposition,” Maria wrote.
“Give them CCM membership cards altogether! They are not with us” wrote Vitus Nkuna, Bavicha secretary in Iringa.
Former Tanganyika Law Society President Fatma Karume referred to the acceptance of the special seats as a moral turpitude -an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community.
“In Swahili both Ethics and Morality are uttered in the same word ‘Maadili’ but in English they translate differently, Morality is shared social norms and ethics is individual understanding of right and wrong. And without Morality we will continue to hurt each other,” she wrote on her twitter @fatmakarume.
Prof Gaudence Mpangala, a political scientist from the Ruaha Catholic University (RUCU) said the decision to accept the special seats was not a good sign for the party. “Large part of the public that supports the party will not be pleased with the decision,” he said.