Tuesday, 9 September 2014

#UraisTanzania2015: A New Brand in Tanzanian Politics

When the results of the Nyalali Commission were released before the return to mulipartism in Tanzania in 1992, a whooping 80% of Tanzanians were against multiparty democracy. Despite these findings, the Commission recommended the introduction of multiparty democracy. The Commission, in its own admission observed that the 80% had known no other system than the single party dictatorship of CCM and that was what informed their response. Tanzania went on to adopt the Political Parties Act and Tanzania became a 'multiparty democracy'. Despite the registration of a number of parties, the ruling party CCM maintained and continues to somehow maintain its hegemonic status. This change was at the time alien to many Tanzanians and indeed many African states. The democratization brigade came alongside the fall of Berlin wall and according to Francis Fukuyama's postulation "the end of history" and the triumph of liberal democracy. The change heralded a new beginning to politics in Tanzania.

As Tanzania approaches its fifth multiparty election next year, we are witnessing a new brand of politics. The ruling party continues to enjoy virtual voter monopoly, largely due to its propaganda machinery and state-controlled resources. There still is no real inner-party democracy in Tanzania despite the party election facade often witnessed. Senior party positions are controlled and influenced by external influences mostly borne out of economic interests. During the first CCM presidential nominations, it is believed Mwalimu Nyerere's choice of candidate influenced the process. It is not known who his heir apparent was  before he died in 1999. President Jakaya Kikwete succeeded Benjamin Mkapa, who was regarded as a Nyerere's protege. With the elections next year, many names are already cropping up with the grand-old party CCM. The race seems to pit the young versus the old. The discourse has degenerated into youthfulness versus octogenarians. When youthful assistant minister January Makamba publicly stated his desire for the country's top job in July this year, a host of other names in the green-party have cropped up. Names such as the the ex-Prime Ministers Edward Lowassa and Fredrick Sumaye and current PM Mizengo Pinda. Other names are William Ngeleja, Mark Mwandosya, Bernard Membe, Asha-Rose Migiro, Prof Anna Tibaijuka, Mwigulu Nchemba, Samuel Sitta and most recently Hamisi Kigangwalla. The green party, unaccustomed with this new brand of politics, went on to call a disciplinary committee to look into the declarations made by its members to run for the top job. However, those who have so far put forward their interest have done so in a modern way. For instance Dr. Kigangwalla launched his bid with a speech flanked by his wife and children and his parents where he outlined his vision for the country. He also launched a social media campaign with harsh-tags.   

Experienced democracies world over teach us the values of internal party democracy. Values where each individual has the right to declare his vision to run for office. But that being said, it is imperative for those who seek office to do a self-examination and see if they fit the bill. In as much as democracy allows free-will, we should understand that leadership is service and not a job. The presidency is an institution that calls for individuals of high moral character, integrity and servitude.

This new brand of politics is needed for political maturity both at the party level and nationally. Tanzanians should embrace this as a sign of increased democratic space but in the same light do a thorough scrutiny to those who have declared their interest for the top job.