Opposition Chadema’s moment of reckoning on the horizon

Sunday August 21 2016
pic opposition

Chadema National Chairman, Freeman Mbowe.

Chadema is a party with a long and at a certain point in time a glorious history. In attempts to reclaim a glorious past in changed times, its national leadership has called for a nationwide political campaign to fight against what they call a “dictatorship” in this country at the beginning of September.

There are calls from religious leaders for the government and Chadema to seat down and find a peaceful way out of what could possibly be a political storm gathering pace. For now, none of the sides involved has appetite for negotiations, as President John Magufuli warned Chadema not to ahead with their planned demonstrations while Chadema leaders in different parts of the country have been quoted by the media confirming that they are at varying stages of preparations for the planned demonstrations.

It is strange how our politics work and the notoriety with which our politicians distance themselves from any responsibility for their actions even as they call for their political opponents to be held responsible for their actions or associations considered being improper.

In the past, Chadema conducted, among others, political operations like “Operesheni Sangara, and Operesheni M4C”, the successes of which were used by Chadema’s national chairman Freeman Mbowe and his supporters to prevent Zitto Kabwe from challenging him for the party’s top job, as the argument was, there was no need of challenging a party leader who was doing a fine job at building the party and instead more efforts should be directed at strengthening the party not fighting for its leadership as that would benefit CCM.

The latest plans for holding demonstrations countrywide by Chadema, should the efforts to call them off fail, point to troubling outcomes, which bring in the question of what happens next for its political leadership? How do they plan to take responsibility for their words and deeds?

Like their CCM counterparts, Chadema leaders have taken for granted the support they received from the people in their efforts to unseat the long ruling party. Much of what they did was rarely scrutinized by their supporters because they were not the target. Whatever wrong they did paled by far in comparison to the mess their counterparts in CCM were accused of doing.

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In any democracy, like the one Chadema are claiming to fight for, when a leader of a political party makes a monumental decision, she is gambling her political future as well. It means should the targeted outcome fail to materialise, she has to take responsibility for her decisions. The dubious gamble of accepting Edward Lowassa within the ranks of Chadema, betraying all that had propelled the party to its political heights, with the aims of winning the presidential election ended in failure, if anything it helped CCM find its political balance.

No one was held accountable for that decision and party leaders deflected by pointing to the successes of parliamentary seats they won, attributing that success to Lowassa even though some studies conducted long before the heady political events of 2015 suggested that the opposition was headed for an increased number of seats in the august house in Dodoma.

However the latest plans to hold demonstrations could prove to be a moment of reckoning for Chadema leaders, something they have successfully avoided so far. It is highly unlikely that the latest round of planned demonstrations will replicate the success of the previous Chadema political campaigns, and could turn into a deadly encounter between the demonstrators and the police.

Despite Mbowe calling for support from other political parties, it is likely that it will be a solo affair, with a lukewarm support from their allies in the faltering political alliance of Ukawa, and urban elites who might not even turn up for the planned demonstrations. The language coming out of Chadema leaders show a trend that has become dominant for some years now within the biggest opposition party, where hardliners have swallowed the moderate voices on the national stage.

Chadema are on the deep end of the pool, the least they can do is act like they can swim. Without a change in the mindset of their political leadership at this rate come 2020 they will lose much of the political ground they won in 2015.

Before the whole party drowns in the pool of political irrelevance, Chadema leaders should be accountable for their words and actions (or inactions).

Mr Mwakibete is a socio-political commentor and analyst based in Dar es Salaam.