FORMER LEADERS’ BENCH WITH DAILY NEWS: Architect behind birth of CCM

  • Msekwa recalls how Nyerere’s 1975 surprise announcement reshaped TZ political history
  • Reveals how CCM Cuncil of Elders saved nation from danger of electing ‘unethical’ presidential candidate

“OUR country is governed by a one-party constitution. But in reality, we are operating on the basis of two separate political parties, TANU on one side of the union and the ASP on the other side. This is clearly, contrary to the requirements of our constitution.”

This was one of the surprise announcements made by President Julius Nyerere at the time when he was accepting nomination as candidate for 1975’s presidential election.

Another surprise announcement was that he accepted the nomination for the country’s top post for the last time, in order to give an opportunity to another person to lead the nation.

Former National Assembly Speaker Pius Msekwa, in an exclusive interview with the ‘Daily News’ at his Ukerewe’s home village, recalls how these two announcements gave 1977 special historical significance to the country.

It is through these key announcements that the country officially started a process towards uniting TANU and ASP— the process which later led to the birth of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

Mzee Msekwa narrates that after Nyerere’s proposal, the work immediately started by forming party nomination conferences which were actually joint undertakings of the conferences of the two separate parties.

“Work started immediately thereafter, it was first decided that each individual member of TANU and the ASP, through their branches, would be given the opportunity to express their views on the proposal—a kind of referendum among all their members,” he explains.

He adds, “the records of both parties show that, of members of the existing 6,639 TANU branches, 6,427 discussed the proposal, of which, 6,424 gave their approval to it, with only three branches rejecting it. While on the ASP side which had 257 branches, all members discussed the proposal, and gave their approval to it.”

Mzee Msekwa explains that the whole of the following year, 1976, was devoted mostly to activities related to the achievements of the grand objective which took absolute first priority; with referendum commencing in February 1976 and was completed in June.

MR Pius Msekwa (right), then Clerk to the Legislative Council joins Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, President
of TANU, at a press conference at Government House in March 1961, following the Constitutional
Conference. Others are Sir Richard Turnbull, Governor of Tanganyika (second left); Iain Macleod, the
British Secretary of State for Colonies (centre) and A.Y.A Karimjee, Speaker of the Legislative Council.

“The results were positive, with the majority of the members having accepted the proposal. Thereafter, the two parties agreed to be holding joint meetings of their National Executive Committees for the making of decisions on the remaining aspects of this important matter,” narrates the former speaker.

He states that the first of such important meetings was held on October 2, 1976 at which a joint 20-person commission was appointed (10 members from each side)—with the Commission being tasked with the responsibility 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 chosen to be its Executive Secretary while Mzee Thabit Kombo, then Secretary General of the ASP, became the Commission’s chairman. The commission was given one month to complete the assignment, which we dutifully did,” says Mr Msekwa.

He states that the Commission was required to present regular progress reports to the joint meetings of the two NECs which for that purpose, were convened three times during that short period of one month.

According to Msekwa, the final report was presented to that body on November 5, 1976, at which it was decided to call a joint meeting of the national congresses of the two parties in order to adopt the Constitution of the proposed new party. The joint congress was held on January 21, 1977, which decided that the new party shall come into existence on February 5, 1977.

Mzee Msekwa’s exemplary and outstanding performance in the birth of the CCM—having served in the capacity of Secretary to the Sheikh Thabit Kombo Commission that was tasked to prepare recommendations for the TANU and ASP merger impressed Mwalimu Nyerere.

“He (Nyerere) therefore decided to give me the responsibility of managing the product which I had so ably produced,” he narrates.

Despite the fact that Mzee Msekwa is currently enjoying his retirement; he still remains one of the key persons ‘behind the scene’ who ensure the party and country run efficiently.

He is a member of the party’s Council of Elders, which comprises all former CCM national chairmen and vice-chairmen, of which he is the secretary. Mzee Msekwa served as the party vice-chairman (Mainland) between 2007 and 2012.

CCM Council of Elders is basically an advisory council which rarely meets, due to the sound principle that the incumbent leaders should be left to carry out their responsibilities without interference from the former leaders.

According to Msekwa, this council only meets if and when there is a serious political issue regarding which their advice would be useful and helpful.

However, they get invited to attend meetings of the party’s national Congress, whenever they are held.

In his book titled “The Story of My Life in the Service of My Nation’, the former speaker reveals how the CCM Council of Elders saved the nation from the grave danger of electing an unethical presidential candidate in 2015.

“One such issue arose during the run-up to the 2015 presidential election; when we obligingly and usefully played our part, and thus saved the nation from the grave danger of electing unethical presidential candidate who had attempted to corruptly buy his way to the presidency,” reads part of the book.

Since its birth in 1977, CCM has remained the dominant ruling party in the country and the longest ruling party in Africa even after the restoration of the multi-party system.

CCM has retained its popularity, winning all the past six general elections in 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2020.

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