REFLECTIONS ON CCM’s HISTORY OF RE-BRANDING ITSELF:The story of ‘CCM kujivua gamba’ re-branding in 2011

Pius Msekwa

We have just entered the month of February, 2017. Traditionally in each year, we have always celebrated the birth of Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) at the beginning of the month of February.

And, true to that tradition, we will be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the birth of Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), (the current ruling Party in both the Union Government and the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government) on the due date, 5th February, 2017.

In view of this tradition, I have chosen to contribute to this year’s celebrations by writing this article, which is my own special way of entertaining (and perhaps enlightening) our readers, with these reflections on one interesting aspect of CCM’s history, namely, its history of re-branding, with particular reference to the 2011 re-branding exercise famously known as “kujivua gamba”.

The use of the words ‘rebranding’

I should perhaps first explain that the word ‘brand’ is normally used only in commercial transactions, to refer to products which are produced by different commercial companies. In other words, it is the trade mark of a given company’s products.

For example, a company may claim in its advertisements that “our product is the brand leader in the market”, meaning that its product sells better than all the others of the same category.

Thus, a company may choose to ‘re-brand’ its trade mark. What that company actually does is to change the appearance of its products, for the purpose of enabling it to sell better on the competitive market. Similarly, during the year 2011, CCM decided to ‘re-brand’ itself, precisely for the same purpose of enabling it to ‘sell better’ on the competitive political market, in preparation for the following 2015 general elections. The relevant story is told below.

The 2011 CCM’s re-branding exercise At the end of its ordinary meeting held in April 2011, the National Executive Committee of Chama cha Mapinduzi, announced the major decisions which had been made at that meeting.

Among them was one crucial decision to re-brand the Party. The actual words used in Kiswahili were “kujivua gamba”, which, for the purpose of this article, I have rendered in English as “re-branding”.

Hence, “ CCM’s rebranding” are the words which I have selected for use in this article. The concept of ‘Kujivua gamba’ The Kiswahili words “kujivua gamba”, refer to the regular habit of certain snakes, of discarding their outer skins in order to acquire brand new ones.

These are the words which were borrowed in order to describe the decisions taken at that meeting of CCM’s National Executive Committee, and they were, indeed, quite appropriate. This is because when a snake discards its outer skin, it thereby acquires a completely new, fresh appearance.

And that was precisely the intention of that decision, namely to give CCM a fresh appearance, or image. In other words, that action was intended to create a new image for CCM, in order to enable it to ‘sell better’ on the competitive political market. Making use of the rather familiar concept of ‘kujivua gamba’ is what was deemed appropriate, in order to express the true intention of that decision, which actually was to give CCM a new image in preparation for the 2015 general elections.

The reasons for re-branding

The main reason for the 2011 re-banding exercise was to create a new image for the Party, in order to enhance its acceptability and popularity in the eyes of the general public.

This is because the 2010 general election results had given very clear signs that the popularity rating of Chama cha Mapinduzi had steeply dropped, when the results of the Presidential election dropped sharply from 80.2% in 2005, to a 61.7%.

These election results became a kind of ‘wake up call’, for CCM; because they led to the undertaking of a serious evaluation exercise for the purpose of ascertaining the causes for this sharp decline in its popularity.

The research assignment for that evaluation was awarded to a small, but dedicated, think-tank group of CCM cadres which was selected by the Party Chairman, President Jakaya Kikwete. After an intensive examination of all the relevant factors; this group produced a high quality report which gave minute details regarding the strengths and weaknesses of Chama cha Mapinduzi; which also recommended viable solutions to the perceived weaknesses.

That report was subsequently presented to the National Executive Committee at its April 2011 meeting in Dodoma for deliberation, and for appropriate decisions to be made on its recommendations.

The major weaknesses identified The overriding weakness was described in words which clearly indicated that the Party leadership had completely distanced itself from the people, and that CCM should quickly take the necessary remedial actions to regain its lost reputation of being a Party of workers and peasants; which had truly cared for their interests, and had provided for their needs.

The best remedy, the report suggested, was for “Chama kuwa karibu na wananchi,” which means that the Party leadership must establish closer links with the people. The detailed analysis in the Report even identified some of the prominent factors which had contributed to this undesirable situation, as being the following:-

(a) The legacy of the one-Party political system; which had effectively turned the Party leaders into bosses of the people, giving orders and directives to them; rather than being their servants, listening to their problems and assisting in solving them.

(b) The non-observance, and in some cases, the flagrant violation, of the Leadership code of ethics by some of the Party leaders at all levels of the Party leadership hierarchy. This was described in Kiswahili as Ufisadi.

The Kiswahili- English Dictionary gives the definition of the word fisadi as:“1. seducer, reprobate, lecher. 2. Intrigue, including quarrelling, dissolute, evil, lewd, profligate.

(c) The apparent widely held perception that CCM and its government are not addressing the multitude of problems facing the people, especially in relation to the high cost of living, which makes life very difficult for the majority of the people. The resulting decision to re-brand the Party. (kujivua gamba) Because in its analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Party, the Report had focused on all aspects of the Party’s well-being; the National Executive Committee decided to address all the identified weaknesses in separate stages; and decided to start immediately with two crucial issues: (i) The Party’s organisational structure, (in order to bring the National leadership closer to the people) (ii) Dealing firmly with those leaders who were being accused of being ‘mafisadi’, in order to distance itself from the perception that CCM was the home of such undesirables.

Addressing the Organisational structure The following two measures were readily agreed to : (a) That the best option for bringing the largest number of members of the National Executive Committee closer to the people, was to have them elected at the District level; instead of at the Regional level as had been the case hitherto.

(b) That there was an urgent need to recruit younger people into the Central Committee, and into the Secretariat at Party Headquarters; and further that the best option for achieving these objectives was to dissolve both these organs and to ask the National Executive Committee, which has the constitutional mandate to do so, to re-constitute these two organs appropriately.

Addressing the ‘mafisadi’ problem It was also resolved that all those Party leaders, at all levels, who were being perceived, or accused by the public, of being ‘mafisadi’, should first be granted the opportunity to self examine themselves, in order to enable them to take the initiative of vacating their respective leadership positions themselves. But should they fail to do so, then the Party itself will take the necessary action against them.

Unfortunately, no time frame was given for this self examination exercise, nor for the Party to take the promised ‘necessary action’. In respect of the Party structure, implementation was enthusiastically started immediately.

But with regard to the resolution of ‘dealing firmly’ with the perceived mafisadi, no visible action was taken, which was one major reason for the Party’s further reduced Presidential election victory in the 2015 general elections.

The Party’s past history of re-branding Editorial space does not permit us to give a full account of the previous rebranding events, but, as we pointed out earlier, CCM has, in the past, been regularly re-branding itself; that is to say, giving itself a new image, in order to attract new, extra-rejuvenated support.

Indeed, much like the proverbial snake which regularly changes its image by discarding its outer skin; CCM (and its predecessor TANU), have similarly been changing their images quite regularly, in order to meet the requirements of the prevailing situation at the material time.

Two prominent such examples, are: (a) TANU’s rebranding in 1967, following the adoption of the Arusha Declaration on 5th February, 1967, when TANU re-branded itself as a “Socialist Party,” whose main objective was to turn Tanzania into a socialist society; and (b) CCM’s ‘ideological rebranding’ at the beginning of the 1990s, with the adoption of a new policy document titled “Mwelekeo wa sera za uchumi za CCM katika miaka ya Tisini,” which translates into “CCM’s economic policy vision for the 1990s”.

This new policy vision effectively changed the CCM’s ideology of socialism, and set the Party very firmly in the direction of a market economy.

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