During the discussions, which went on for almost the entire day, it was a highly held view that some cases of civic education ahead of elections were manipulating the platforms given to them before the electorate.
Some political parties pointed at religious segregation during campaigns while others pointed at gender innuendoes perpetuated by some parties or candidates to sway the electorate.
In fact, some officials, like CCM Publicity Secretary Nape Nnauye, urged that NEC finds a way of coordinating the civic education exercise so that no one uses such platforms to sensitize the electorate on which party to vote.
“The civic education should be about their rights to vote and not to who vote as some institutions may manipulate the platform,” he said. Ordinarily, it is understood that the goal of civic education has generally been to inform and empower citizens to enable them make informed choices on issues that affect them in their everyday lives.
“However, the impact of civic education activities has not been closely explored,” says the Secretary General of the Alliance for Tanzania Farmers Party, Rashid Rai. He says civic education is little understood as a subject or as a tool for facilitating social-political and economic change in elections.
He argues for situations where citizens should question and patronage not given a chance. The delivery of this sort of education, therefore, should largely be through face to face workshops, with facilitators trained and deployed in the areas where they are normally resident.
Rai further says that this ensures local acceptability and sensitivity to local customs and languages of the particular area.
“It will also ensure the availability of a sustainable resource of credible information at the local level. A common curriculum, handbooks and training manuals should be produced to ensure a common and credible content,” he advsed.
At the meeting, different parties gave anecdotal evidence on how they were victimised along religious lines in previous elections.They shot down a clause that calls for involvement of religious leaders in sensitizing the public on elections.
Party after party tore through the role played by some worship houses from different religious backgrounds ,in asking their believers to vote for certain candidates on grounds that they were giving ‘civic education’. The rejection of the clause in a guideline topic presented to the political parties happened when the National Electoral Commission (NEC) was announcing the election time table for the Arumeru East seat to political parties.
Their wrath influenced the NEC Charman Justice (rtd) Damian Lubuva to announce that they would recast the phrase so that it does not create the impression that religious leaders would be involved. “We should recast it,”he said. First in line was Dominata Rwechungura from Tanzania Labour Party (TLP), who urged that some worship houses would take advantage of the ‘role’ if NEC were to ‘commit’ itself that religious leaders should be involved.
Frank Koreti, an administrator at CCK party, cautioned that manipulation of civic education platforms by some religious leaders had the power to bring social disorder. He argued that NEC should stay after elections to educate people on how to reel from divisions usually left behind after campaigns.
Mr James Mapalala expressed confidence in the new Commission, praising it for adding the issue of ‘equal rights’ for all parties was a ‘new phenomena’. “We hope the issue of equal rights in elections shall be managed well,” he said. But he also noted that during civic education, some worshipping houses were taking advantage by telling the electorate who to vote in the election.
Rai also said religious leaders should not get involved in the campaigns,not even implicitly. A leader from the Demokrasia Makini party, Kimwaga Dorothy, said that religious leaders should not be used. “If we say that religious leaders should be involved, it is possible that candidates will start going to mosques or churches to campaign,” she said.
She recalled a situation when she stood in Gairo on her party ticket, that some groups were using religious sentiments to keep her out of the race. A member of Chadema, Victor Sera, asked that they put religious issues distant from politics. “Our country does not belong to any religion,” he said.
CCM Publicity Secretary Nape Nnauye urged that NEC finds a way of coordinating the civic education exercise so that no one uses such platforms to sensitize the electorate on which party to vote. “The civic education should be about their rights to vote and not to who vote as some institutions may manipulate the platform,” he said. The commissioners agreed that based on the political parties’ feelings on the matter, the clause would be scrapped or reviewed.
The Director of Parliamentary Affairs and councils (CHADEMA), John Mrema, said that as a result of NEC only reviewing the permanent voters’ registrar twice in five years, some 13,000 students in three new higher learning institutions in Arumeru East would miss their right to vote for their MP.
But the NEC Chairman noted that it was a legal issue where the students only recently came to the area after the registrar was prepared in 2010. He also announced that they would set up offices with personnel in every municipal council. If media reports are anything to go by, ordinary Tanzanians have been increasingly informed through civic education programmes.
In the current pre- by-election fever, civil society groups have pointed to an improvement in the quality of debate in both rural and urban areas. It also seems that bad habits are dying out: expecting sycophantic respect merely because of political office has gone, and some politicians have had to endure open defiance and even booing by the public.
The by- elections would be in Arumeru East and wards as Kirumba (Mwanza),Mswambweni (Tanga),Chango’mbe (Dodoma),Lizaboni (Songea),Vijibweni (Temeke),Kiwangwa (Bagamoyo),Lagangabili (Bariadi) and Kiwira (Rungwe). Candidates for the Arumeru East seat shall be approved on March 8; with campaigns starting on March 9 to 31.The election date is set for April 1.
Since the 2010 general election, NEC has overseen one Igunga Parliamentary by- election and 22 bye elections in wards.Therefore, the imminent Arumeru East by- election and local government (councillor) elections in 8 wards, will be a true test of how effective civic education has been in the area. The successful conduct of the by by-election in Arumeru East and whether voters will accept the imposition of an incapable leader or not, this could turn out to be the true measure of the success of civic education.