Closing of President Nyerere’s third leadership term (1970–1975

1975 was the final year of President Nyerere’s ‘ leadership term’ which commenced in 1970. But that was to be in October, when the general elections were to be held.

We will therefore discuss that event at the appropriate time later on. In the meantime, we will pick up from where we left-off last week, when we ran out of editorial space, namely, at the point where we had just listed the major decisions which had been taken in 1974, by TANU’s National Executive Committee relating to the education sector.

The Musoma NEC meeting had also placed new emphasis on the provision of Adult Education in our country.

Thus, for the purpose of implementing that directive, a new Institute of Adult Education was established in 1975, which did an excellent job in its delivery; For, as a result of its magnificent performance, only two years later in 1977, Tanzania was granted “The Commonwealth Literacy Award” for having eliminated illiteracy in the country by 96 percent.

Other developments during that year Another major decision that was made by the Musoma meeting of the National Executive Committee, was the decision to make TANU, the constitutionally supreme organ of governance in this country.

After that directive had been issued in 1974, the government started preparing the necessary amendments to the Constitution, which were eventually adopted by the National Assembly in May, 1975.

Soon thereafter, President Nyerere himself issued further clarification regarding this issue, as follows: “Under our One-party Constitution, TANU is supreme.

It has the mandate to give directions to the Government about the general policy which must be adopted for national development; or to give specific instructions about the priorities to be adopted, in any aspect of our national life”.

This was intended to put a close to what had come to be known as “the great supremacy debate” in the National Assembly; Which had started in 1968, regarding the question ‘which of the two Institutions, the National Assembly and the TANU National Executive Committee is supreme over the other in terms of making policy’?

This matter had generated some fierce debate in the National Assembly for nearly two years until 1969, when it was finally settled by the National Executive Committee in its favour; When, at its meeting in Tanga, NEC resolved to expel from party membership all those troublesome members who had been questioning the fact of TANU’s supremacy in policy making matters.

Consequently, they also lost their membership of the National Assembly, simply by operation of the country’s Constitution.

“Madaraka Vijijini” legislation enacted The 1974 decision to grant greater decision-making powers to the Villages (by creating Village governments and Village Assemblies), was also finally implemented in 1975; When the Local Government laws were amended to make provision for these new Village governance organs to be established.

The major events of 1975 As already stated above, the year 1975 was general election year in Tanzania, but that fact alone did not give it any additional significance.

What gave that year special significance, were two historical pronouncements by President Nyerere; Which he made at the time of his nomination by his party, to stand as the party’s presidential candidate in the said general elections.

One was his surprise announcement, that he was accepting such nomination for the last time; as he would like thereafter to retire from Government leadership positions which he has held for a long time since independence, in order to give a chance to another person also to lead our country.

We will discuss this matter at a later stage. The other, equally unexpected, was his advise (read directive), to the two ruling parties in Tanzania, namely TANU on Mainland Tanzania, and the Afro-Shirazi Party in Zanzibar; To consider merging into “one strong, unified party, for the purpose of carrying the revolution forward”.

He said thus : “Our country is governed by a one-Party Constitution. But, in fact, we are operating two separate political parties; TANU on one side of the Union; and ASP on the other side; Which is clearly contrary to the requirements of the country’s Constitution”.

Work began immediately on this merger directive The party nomination conferences were actually joint conferences, which brought together both the TANU conference delegates, and those from the Afro-Shirazi Party.

This was because the candidate to be nominated, if elected, would serve as President of the entire United Republic. For that reason Aboud Jumbe, President of Zanzibar and of the Afro- Shirazi Party, was present at the conference, leading the Afro-Shirazi delegation.

Thus, at the appropriate moment, as was standard practice, he rose to address the joint conference. And among his other remarks, he also made reference to President Nyerere’s proposal to merge the two parties; which, he said, he and his ASP delegation welcomed whole heartedly; and undertook to have the matter discussed by the relevant decision-making organs of the Afro-Shirazi Party, with a view to having the proposal endorsed.

Work started immediately thereafter, to have the proposal discussed by all the TANU Branches in Mainland Tanzania, as well as in all the ASP Branches in Zanzibar.

Both party records show, that of the existing 6,639 TANU Branches, 6,427 did discuss this proposal, of which 6,424 (99, 95 percent) approved it, and only 3 Branches rejected the proposal.

While on the Afro-Shirazi side, which had a total of 257 Branches, all of them discussed the proposal, and gave their approval to it.

What followed thereafter The whole of the following year was devoted mostly to activities related to the achievement of that grand objective; Which now took absolutely first priority.

The Presidents of TANU and the ASP had agreed that each individual member of both parties, should be given the opportunity to express his or her views on this proposal, a kind of referendum among all the members.

The necessary preparations for this ‘referendum’ were made and completed during the remaining months of 1975; Which enabled the actual referendum process to commence in February, 1976, and was completed by June 1976.

The referendum had produced positive results, with the vast majority of the members having accepted the proposal.

Thereafter, the two parties agreed to hold joint meetings of their National Executive Committees, to handle the decision-making aspects of this matter.

At the first such joint meeting, which was held on 2nd October, 1976; they decided to appoint a joint 20-person Commission, 10 from either side, which was tasked to prepare the Constitution of the proposed new party.

I was fortunate to have been appointed a member of this Commission on the TANU side, and was later appointed its Executive Secretary; While mzee Thabit Kombo, Secretary-General of the ASP, was appointed its Chairman.

The Commission was given one month within which to complete its assignment, which we dutifully did. But in the meantime, we were required to present progress to the Joint meeting of the two National Executive Committees, which, for that purpose, was convened twice during that short period of one month.

And we were every time ready with our progress reports. And we were able to present our final Report to that body, on 5th November, 1976; At which it was decided to call a joint meeting of the congresses of the two parties, in order to adopt the proposed Constitution of the new party.

The joint Congress was duly held on 21st January, 1977; Which decided that the new party should come into existence on 5th February, 1977. The other events of 1977 The other events that occurred not long thereafter, were wholly negative to the country’s economy; for there occurred two serious unforeseen events, which had a very negative impact on Tanzania’s economy.

One was the collapse of the East African Community; And the other was the sudden sharp rise in the world oil prices.

Because of their huge impact on the Government budget, the occurrence of these two events negatively affected the implementation of the entire Government development plan; But in particular, they affected President Nyerere’s plan for shifting the government capital to Dodoma; Which had to be put in abeyance for the time being.

The break-up of the East African Community actually happened on the same day that CCM was born, on 5th of February, 1977; When Kenya’s Attorney General, Charles Njonjo, suddenly announced Kenya’s withdrawal from the East African Airways, and the nationalisation of that Company’s planes which were parked overnight on that day, at Nairobi, the company’s headquarters.

On receiving the strange news, President Nyerere called President Kenyatta by phone, to enquire what was happening, and why.

We were later informed, that President Kenyatta pleaded ignorance of these developments, but promised to find out and let his counterpart know.

But it took much longer than President Nyerere’s reasonable patience waiting for an answer, which in fact never came! President Nyerere thus decided to close Tanzania’s border with Kenya immediately. And that, effectively, was also the closure of the East African Community itself.

The negative impact of the break-up of the East African Community on Tanzania’s budget, became created by the need to establish new Government Ministries, as well as large Public Corporations, such as the Railways and Harbours; Posts and Telecommunications, the Research Organisations, and others; all of which had hitherto been funded by the East African Community.

This now brings us to the events of 1978; One of which was equally disastrous to the country’s economy. That was the sudden, unwarranted, invasion of the West Lake (now Kagera) Region, by the armed forces of President Iddi Amin Dada of Uganda; and the other was an important lesson to be learnt; Which was the punishment meted out by President Nyerere to two Ministers, plus two Regional Commissioners, for offences that they themselves had not personally committed; But which had been committed by the government Security officials who were serving under their direct political responsibility and/or supervision; Which is commonly known as vicarious responsibility.

The military invasion by Iddi Amin’s forces The people of Bukoba area in what was then the ‘West Region’ of Tanzania, woke up one morning to find themselves under fierce attack by Idd Amin’s forces from neighbouring Uganda.

And later that day, Iddi Amin himself declared from Kampala, that he had “annexed that part of Tanzania and returned it to Uganda, where it rightly belongs”.

President Nyerere, who was at that time touring Songea in Ruvuma Region, returned immediately to Dar es Salaam, and called an urgent meeting of the Dar es Salaam elders at the Diamond Jubilee Hall, through whom he addressed the whole nation; To announce his declaration of war against Iddi Amin Dada. He did so in the following immortal words: “Sababu ya kumpiga tunayo; Uwezo wa kumpiga tunao; Na Nia ya kumpiga tunayo.

TUTAMPIGA”. The rest of the story is well-documented elsewhere. The other grave event was the inhuman offences that had been committed by some security personnel operating in Shinyanga and Mwanza Regions; Who were duly punished by President Nyerere; But who went further and, along with them, also punished two Ministers, Ally Hassan Mwinyi of Home Affairs; and Peter Siyovelwa of the Tanzania Security Services (TSS); Plus the two Regional Commissioners of Shinyanga, Marco Mabawa; and Mwanza, Peter Kisumo; for vicarious responsibility.

(Will be continued next week).

  • piomsekwa@gmail.com /0754767576.

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Author: Pius Msekwa

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