CCM, spin doctors and public opinion

The CCM secretary of Ideology and Publicity,  Ms  Sofia Edward Mjema. PHOTO | COURTESY

Summary

  • Per CCM’s constitution, the publicity and ideological secretary is expected to, among other things, handle fundamental ideological issues and CCM policies, publicize and explain the ideology and policies of CCM, plan and supervise trainings for CCM cadres, supervise CCM’s media, lead and supervise preparations for policies, programmes and the party manifesto, as well as supervise research, a library, and CCM’s documents.

The ruling party, CCM, made changes to its secretariat, which some media reported as ‘sweeping changes’. Changes were expected after party chairperson Samia Suluhu Hassan told her party’s national congress of these impending changes. Needless to say, the most chatter has focused on the post of the party’s publicity and ideology secretary. Questions are being asked about the credibility of the new person in the post and whether they are up to the task ahead of them.

The skeptics have especially pointed out that the incoming party’s publicity and ideology secretary takes on the role at a time when opposition parties are returning to political podiums across the country. They do not think that she will manage the opposition’s political missiles and that she has no credible record in party politics, with the longest time of her service being in government as a district commissioner and a regional commissioner.

There are those who think all that is irrelevant to the task at hand, focusing their attention on the political zeitgeist, where they point to the more conciliatory (some would say reserved) political tone dominating the political space.

However, all this could change because the opposition will have thorns to pick and grievances to air in the coming days.

These varied opinions about individuals who are appointed to the post are a testament to another reality: that CCM, as a party, has not been in touch with its ideological side for decades now, instead marching with the political winds of the time, to the point where it is difficult to tell apart CCM’s publicity and ideological secretary from any other government spokesperson. In the past, during the one-party state, it was not difficult to find individuals vested in the party ideology; that is not the case today.

The outsized focus on the individual who ends up in this role is reflective of the political environment of recent times. No other post within CCM, apart from the chairperson, vice chairpersons, and secretary general, attracts the same attention or scrutiny as this one. Few will even remember the previous secretariat line-up, but almost everyone remembers some names of those who have served in that capacity in the past.

The post attracts attention because the individual who ends up in it becomes a daily face of the many political battles.

Per CCM’s constitution, the publicity and ideological secretary is expected to, among other things, handle fundamental ideological issues and CCM policies, publicize and explain the ideology and policies of CCM, plan and supervise trainings for CCM cadres, supervise CCM’s media, lead and supervise preparations for policies, programmes and the party manifesto, as well as supervise research, a library, and CCM’s documents.

In other, simpler terms, this is the party’s spin doctor.

Consider some of those who have held this role in recent years. One toured the country with corruption as a selling point, saying that the party was waging a war against the vice from within. Despite obvious failures and setbacks, victory was nonetheless claimed, and the picture was painted of a party that was renewing itself. It was like a snake shedding its old skin for a new one.

Another one was combative, waging ideological battles and shouting political matches at times with his party’s critics, opponents, and detractors through the media.

Watching the numerous press conferences of the time, I frequently switched between party and press conference. It was dizzying.

Understandably, few are bothered to investigate all aspects of the roles because previous occupants did not go that far. It is difficult, for instance, to assess the role some of them played in attracting new members to the party. For all its longevity in power and significant resources, CCM is still a party that is inaccessible to many in this day and age of information technology. There is little online footprint about its past from its own media; it is a party that presents a picture of living in the present.

In this regard, how does one assess whether one individual is up to the task or not? Whether or not their predecessors were a success story. How do you measure the degree of success or failure when the criteria for picking these individuals or replacing them are more opaque than ministerial appointments or sackings?

Either way, there is publicity for the individuals and the party. In politics, that is a far better place than the alternative.


The ruling party, CCM made changes to its secretariat, which some media reported as ‘sweeping changes’. Changes were expected after party chairperson, Samia Suluhu Hassan told her party’s national congress of these impending changes. Needless to say, the most chatter has focused on the post of the party’s publicity and ideology secretary. Questions are being asked about the credibility of the new person in the post and whether they are up to the task ahead of them.

The skeptics have especially pointed out the incoming party’s publicity and ideology secretary takes on the role at the time when opposition parties are returning to political podiums across the country. These do not think that she will manage the opposition’s political missiles, and that she has no credible record in party politics with the longest time of her service being in government as a district commissioner and a regional commissioner.

There are those who think all that is irrelevant to the task at hand, focusing their attention on the political zeitgeist where they point to the more conciliatory (some would say reserved) political tone dominating the political space.

However, all this could change because the opposition will have bones to pick and grievances to air in the coming days.

These varied opinions about individuals who are appointed to the post are testament to another reality; that CCM, as a party, has not been in touch with its ideological side for decades now, instead marching with the political winds of the time to the point where it is difficult to tell apart CCM’s publicity and ideological secretary and any other government spokesperson. In the past, during the one party state it was not difficult to find individuals vested in the party ideology, that is not the case today.

The outsized focus on the individual who ends up in this role is reflective of the political environment of recent times. No other post within CCM apart from the chairperson, vice chairpersons and the secretary general, attracts the same attention or scrutiny than this one. Few will even remember the previous secretariat line up but almost everyone remembers some names of those who have served in that capacity in the past.

The post attracts attention because the individual who ends up in the post becomes a daily face of the many political battles.

Per CCM’s constitution, the publicity and ideological secretary is expected to, among other things, handle fundamental ideological issues and CCM policies, publicize and explain the ideology and policies its policies, plan and supervise trainings for CCM cadres, supervise CCM’s media, lead and lead and supervise preparations for policies, programmes and party manifesto as well as supervising research, library and CCM’s documents.

In other, simpler terms, this is the party’s spin doctor.

Consider some of those who have held this role in recent years. One toured the country with corruption as a selling point; that the party was waging a war against the vice from within. Despite obvious failures and setbacks, victory was claimed nonetheless and the picture was painted of a party that was renewing itself. That it was like a snake sloughing its old skin for a new one.

Another one was combative, waging ideological battles and shouting political matches at times with his party’s critics, opponents and detractors through the media.

Oftentimes, watching the many press conferences of the time went back and forth between party and press conference. It was dizzying.

Understandably, few are bothered to look into all the details of the roles because even previous occupants of the post did not go that far. It is difficult, for instance, to assess the role some of them played in attracting new members to the party. CCM, for all its longevity in power and significant resources, it is still a party that is inaccessible to many in this day and age of information technology. There is little online footprint about its past from its own media; it is a party that presents a picture of living in the present.

In this regard, how does one assess whether one individual is up to the task or not? Whether their predecessor were a success story or not? How do you measure the degree of success or failure when the criteria for picking these individuals or replacing them are more opaque than ministerial appointments or sackings?

Either way, there is publicity to the individuals and the party. In politics that is a far better place than the alternative.