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The reverse defections of Edward Lowassa: An exercise in domestic political tourism

AS the sudden news of Hon Edward Lowassa’s defection from CHADEMA on Friday evening, 1st March, 2019 reverberated around the country, and beyond, a journalist from one of the daily newspapers called to ask for my views regarding that matter, and in particular, the extent of that event’s impact on CCM.

My considered reply was that Lowassa’s reverse defection to CCM will have very minimal impact, if any, on Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM); simply because his coming back to CCM has brought no greater benefit than one single additional member into our great party.

Thus, considering the fact that CCM already has more than seven million registered members; the arrival of one additional member, even if that member is a heavy weight politician like Hon Edward Lowassa, former Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania; the effect is still the same, namely that it is only a ‘drop in the ocean’!

Although the writing of this article has been motivated by this Lowassa event, but its principal purpose is to make some general reflections on the seemingly on-going defections by Opposition politicians, including MPs, to the ruling party CCM.

The meaning and the effect of the MPs defections

Opposition MPs’ defections to the ruling party can, indeed, cause some harmful effects on the Opposition camp in Parliament. In August last year, I was invited to participate as guest speaker, in a seminar organised for the members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives.

In the course of the Question and Answer session, I was asked a direct question regarding whether such defections by Opposition MPs “are not a strategy by the ruling party to “kill” the Opposition” in Parliament.

In my reply, I explained that defections by MPs from one political party to another, is an accepted, normal practice in all of the Commonwealth Parliamentary jurisdictions.

This is due to the legal provisions in our State Constitutions, which provide that “joining a political party, or continuing to remain a member of such party, are entirely voluntary choices of the individual persons concerned; and no one can be lawfully prevented from making such a choice.

However, regarding the specific matter of the ‘Official Opposition’ in Parliament; if the trend of defections to the ruling party continues, it could, indeed, lead to the elimination of what is designated as the Official Opposition inside Parliament.

This is because of the House Rules, which actually require a minimum number of MPs which an opposition party must have, in order to qualify for the right to form the ‘Official Opposition’ in Parliament.

This minimum number is specified therein, as being “not less than twelve and a half per cent of the total number of MPs”. In the present Parliament, CHADEMA is currently the Opposition party which satisfies the requirements of that Rule.

Thus, in the most unlikely event of CHADEMA MPs falling below the specified percentage, that party will have lost the status of being the ‘Official Opposition’ party in Parliament.

But still, the remaining CHADEMA MPs, and any other Opposition MPs, will continue operating as Opposition backbench MPs; which means that the Opposition within Parliament will NOT have been “killed”.

Defections by politicians and their reasons

Whenever politicians decide to defect from one political party to another, they normally give reasons for their said action; but they always carefully avoid mentioning their true motives for doing so.

It is my humble submission here, that the true (but hidden) motives which propel politicians into undertaking defections to other parties, are based solely on two factors. They are (i) the PUSH factor, and (ii) the PULL factor. And these in turn, are governed by two other factors, which are: (i) political AMBITION; and (ii) political FRUSTRATION.

The word ‘ambition’ is defined as “a strong desire to achieve something”. In relation to political ambition, it is a strong (sometimes insatiable) desire to acquire political power. While the word “frustration’ is defined as “the state of feeling annoyed and impatient because you cannot do or achieve what you want”. Both of these are primarily a PUSH factors.

But they can at the same time become PULL factors. For example, on several occasions in the past, the ambition to get elected to Parliament is what has “pushed’” a number of politicians out of CCM. These are those who had initially applied for a CCM ticket to contest the relevant general elections, but had failed to get the desired nomination.

They thus suffered FRUSTRATION, and were accordingly ‘pulled’ to CHADEMA, in search of a means to satisfy their AMBITION, which is the quest for a seat in Parliament. ‘Ambition’ and ‘Frustration’ normally go hand in hand.

In fact, defections by Tanzanian politicians have a very long history, which shows that during distinctly different periods, prominent politicians have been driven by ‘ambition’, or ‘frustration’, or both; to defect from the ruling party. The following examples will serve to illustrate this point.

The ‘push’ factors

(i) As long ago as 1958, a prominent politician, one Zuberi Mtemvu, angrily walked out of TANU, and formed his own party which he named the ‘African National Congress’, of which he became the top leader. He had the extremist ambition of making Tanganyika a purely African State.

Thus, when TANU’s 1958 Annual Conference agreed to participate in elections on the basis of the colonial “tripartite” vote system, which made it compulsory for electors to vote for three candidates, i.e. an African, an Asian and a European; the said Zuberi Mtemvu was utterly frustrated, and this led him to abandon TANU, But his ultimate ambition was to replace Nyerere and become the leader of the country himself.

(ii) Many years later, another politician, Oscar Kambona, who was TANU’s Secretary-General, and a senior Minister in President Nyerere’s Government; also defected from TANU. His was also a case of being ‘pushed’ out by frustration.

He is presumed to have harboured a secret ambition to replace President Nyerere as leader of the country; but the adoption of the Arusha Declaration in February 1967, had effectively derailed his ambition; for the Arusha Declaration had vastly increased Nyerere’s popularity, both within and outside the country, which made him realise that his secret ambition could not be realised any time soon.

This is what ‘pushed’ him out of TANU. He suddenly resigned from all his leadership positions, and strangely decided to run away from the country, and went to live in exile in London; from where he continued to wage his unsuccessful battles against President Nyerere.

The ‘pull’ factors.

Many more years later in 1995, another prominent politician, Augustine Lyatonga Mrema, also a senior Minister in President Ali Hassan Mwinyi’s Government, similarly defected to the Opposition party, the NCCR-MAGEUZI.

He was obviously ‘pulled’ there by what he saw as a ‘guaranteed opportunity’ for him to achieve his ambition of becoming President of the United Republic.

In his case, there was really no ‘push’ factor which is generated by ‘frustration’, since he had not tried and failed to secure nomination from CCM for Presidential candidacy.

He however appears to have realised, from the list of qualifications laid down by CCM, that he was unqualified for CCM nomination. That realisation is what ‘pushed’ him out of CCM, and ‘pulled’ him to his chosen Opposition party; where he immediately secured the top leadership position of National Chairman. And that is what guaranteed him nomination as a candidate for the 1995 Presidential elections.

Hon Edward Lowassa’s reverse defection

For the seasoned political insiders, including myself, Hon Lowassa’s action of defecting back to CCM, was largely expected. His initial defection to CHADEMA was a very clear case of being ‘pushed’ out of CCM by heavy ‘frustration’, which was the result of a cruel shock, that had suddenly and unexpectedly been imposed on him, as a result of the ‘unbelievable’ refusal by CCM to nominate him as candidate for the 2015 Presidential election.

This shocked him, plus many others even within CCM; because he had invested so heavily in that election project, that he naturally expected the returns on his investment to be hugely profitable.

Additionally, he had also been successful in recruiting a large number of supporters; another favorable factor which had assured him of success.

For transparency purposes, it may be necessary to disclose the reasons for CCM’s refusal to nominate him. CCM denied Lowassa that nomination, simply because of his breach of the ‘sacrosanct’ leadership code of ethics principles.

For there was sufficient, and credible, incriminating evidence relating to that serious charge. Ironically, his most vocal external accusers were CHADEMA who had earlier displayed him as being among a short list of ethical offenders, whom they castigated as being “mafisadi papa”. In such circumstances, Edward Lowassa was seemingly unelectable, and thus CCM refused to take the high risk of nominating him, for the obvious fear of losing that election.

Those then, were the precise events which created the shocking frustration that drove Edward Lowassa out of CCM; but was surprisingly warmly received and welcomed by CHADEMA, his erstwhile ‘enemies’. This was a wholly ‘unprincipled’ move which led to the angry resignation of their ‘principled’ Secretary-General, Dr Wilbrod Slaa, plus a variety of other disadvantages.

Initially, of course, Lowassa got complete satisfaction when CHADEMA agreed to nominate him as their Presidential election candidate. His ‘insatiable’ ambition to run for the Presidency had thus been fulfilled. And, because of his huge investment in that project, he was pretty confident that he would easily land in State House, as President of the United Republic of Tanzania. Edward Lowassa was unable to win that election. And this was yet another cruel ‘frustration’ for him, which must have persuaded him to start thinking of ‘coming back home” to CCM; his chosen original party, as evidenced by his own words which he joyfully expressed on that Friday evening, namely that he had “come back home”; a home which he had temporarily left in order to go out in search of an opportunity to fulfill his political AMBITION.

It may even be called “Domestic political tourism”. Thus, this was a move which the ‘insiders’ were pretty confident Lowassa would eventually take at some appropriate moment in the course of time. And that appropriate moment turned out to be last Friday, 1st March, 2019.

Some grass roots CHADEMA members’ reactions

In this particular connection, the residents of Nansio Township Authority in my own home District of Ukerewe have, in recent times, witnessed two consecutive defections from CHADEMA to the ruling party CCM.

The first to defect was the MP for Ukerewe; and then came the Lowassa defection. On each of these occasions, the Nansio public got some free ‘entertainment’ from a CHADEMA group, which decided to offer a unique display of a flag-lowering comedy.

When the Ukerewe MP defected to CCM last year, this group ceremoniously lowered their CHADEMA flag to half-mast, presumably as a sign of mourning. But when Edward Lowassa defected back to CCM last Friday, they lowered their flag right down to the ground, probably intended to symbolise the total departure of that party from their area!

DELEGATES from the East African ...

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Author: PIUS MSEKWA

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