Tanzania's main opposition party, Chadema, boycotts local government polls

Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe (second left) leads other members of the party’s Central Committee in singing a solidarity song during a news conference in Dodoma yesterday. Others from left are Prof Abdallah Safari (vice chairman), Dr Vincent Mashinji (secretary-general), Mr John Mnyika (deputy secretary-general, Mainland) and Mr Salum Mwalimu (deputy secretary-general, Zanzibar). PHOTO | ANTHONY SIAME

Dar es Salaam/ Dodoma. Opposition party, Chadema, announced its withdrawal from the forthcoming local government elections, citing massive disqualification of the party’s candidates as the main reason. The elections are scheduled for November 24, this year.

National chairman Freeman Mbowe announced the boycott yesterday at a press conference in Dodoma following a day-long meeting of the party’s Central Committee and its parliamentary caucus.

Reacting to Chadema’s move last evening, local government minister Selemani Jafo said he was surprised by the news, saying the opposition party would deny the people their right to elect leaders of their choice.

“Although it is also their right to withdraw, I have been shocked by the decision because regulations gives the aggrieved candidates chance to appeal,” Jafo said. He said as a political party, Chadema had err to deny its supporters the chance to elect their leaders.

Chadema’s move introduces a new twist to the election provess that has been heavily criticised, mainly by opposition parties whose candidates have been locked out in the early stages.

ACT-Wazalendo party leader, Mr Zitto Kabwe, last evening confirmed that the party’s National Leadership Council will meet for an emergency meeting later today in Dar es Salaam to take a position over the same elections. “We will inform the public of our move after the meeting,” said Mr Kabwe. NCCR-Mageuzi has on its part threatened to go to court to stop the elections while CUF has appealed to President John Magufuli to intervene over hurdles being placed against the opposition.

But CCM has played down the outcry, accusing the opposition parties of not preparing well their candidates for the nomination process. CCM’s publicity secretary Humphrey Polepole told a press conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the party would go ahead to “win.” He said CCM did not sabotage anyone.

Election officials have locked out thousands of opposition candidates over reasons their parties says are flimsy and orchestrated. They include not writing full names, misspellings, blank spaces, improper forms, being drunkard, proper dates among others. Many more could not get forms as officials were a no show.

But Mr Polepole said up to 99.99 CCM candidates were cleared after being trained how to fill the nomination forms. “We had 1,250 lawyers sent out to assist our candidates in the nominations,” he said.

The acrimony over the nominations yesterday reared its ugly head in Parliament again when Tarime Rural MP John Heche (Chadema) and Vunjo MP James Mbatia (NCCR-Mageuzi) engaged parliamentary affairs minister Jennister Mhagama in a heated debate on the floor.

The MPs accused the State of alleged interference in the elections, a move that forced Ms Mhagama to seek the Speakers intervention for the MPs to prove their claims. Mr Mbatia said he had handed evidence to the PM Kassim Majaliwa. Other parties that have been named to join forces with Chadema are NLD, ADC, CCK, Sauti ya Umma and DP.

At the Chadema address, Mr Mbowe said all its candidates have been asked to stay away from the remaining stages of the elections. “It’s a sham exercise and the level of brazen irregularities cannot be tolerated.

He said it was now the time for a free and independent electoral commission to be established to steer the democratic process away from partisan interests that jeorpodise the wellbeing of nationhood.

ACT-Wazalendo’s secretary general Dorothy Semu earlier at another media address in Dar es Salaam said: “It is time for the opposition parties to join forces to fight against this oppression.”

Reported by Sharon Sauwa in Dodoma, Aurea Simtowe and Bakari Kiango in Dar es Salaam.