Going by the news account, it would appear a power struggle has erupted within the major opposition party in the islands. As I am penning this perspective, the news was that a high level decision-making body of the party has stripped some kingpins of their membership in the heat of this squabble.
But whatever the outcome of the meeting, the last thing Tanzanians in general are praying for it not to happen is riveting to the old politics of strife and disunity in Zanzibar. For, there is a substantive and qualitative difference between the Zanzibar of today and that of yesterday before the initialing of the accord heralding the birth of Government of National Unity (GNU) that is in place in the islands today.
Before the accord, thanks to the initiative and courage of the leaders of the major political parties in Zanzibar, that is Maalim Seif Shariff Hammad of the CUF and Amani Abeid Karume of CCM, what was hitherto most remarkable about the islands were fratricidal clashes between groups of the two political parties on the one hand and state coercive organs against members of the opposition group on the other hand.
These clashes had unfortunately even resulted into deaths especially on Pemba Island. As everyone living in this country may recall, we were all at a loss - not sure when this predicament would end. So when the two leaders, Mr Karume then president of Zanzibar and the opposition leader, Maalim Seif as he is fondly called there took the initiative, inspired by their own visions to hammer out an accord ushering in a government of national unity, all animosity came to an end.
There was even a greater feat. In the last General Elections, when one would normally expect accusations and counter accusations of “vote rigging” as is the case with most parts of Africa, both sides accepted the outcome with dignity, shaking hands and smiling like brothers, which, they are, indeed.
Actually, I am reliably informed, Mr Karume, the preceding President of Zanzibar is now an honoured person internationally, being invited from time to time in international forums for his part in making the Zanzibar accord possible. Those visiting Zanzibar in the intervening period may agree that the Zanzibar they see today is poles part from Zanzibar of the yester years, which is now history.
Although the heading of this perspective appears to give credit to the opposition CUF, I should hasten to clarify that this is for the purpose of writing a headline only! The ruling CCM in Zanzibar, more specifically the leader of the revolutionary government of Zanzibar then, Mr Karume deserves to stand tall in pride for moulding the stability we see in Zanzibar today along with his opposition colleague, Maalim Seif.
Now what is happening? Going by newspapers account, there is one leader within the CUF who is allegedly eyeing for the job of Secretary- General of his party. Fair enough! It is quite normal for one to be ambitious, isn’t it? Is there anything in the constitution of CUF to the effect that the position of Secretary-General is perpetual to the beholder who must never be challenged?
Has the incumbent, Maalim Seif ever declared himself Secretary-General of CUF for ‘life?’ The answer to both questions is affirmatively NO. So what is the problem? His job can be contested in a normal Congress of the Party, isn’t it? Why all the fuss then? Maalim Seif has never equated himself to a Mandela of South Africa or Mwalimu Nyerere, has he?
Is it not true that Mandela, once leader of his party, the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC) has long left both party and state positions? Has there been shortage of leaders to take over the ANC from him? South Africa is there and marches on, isn’t it? So the same will be the case with Zanzibar’s CUF.
Maalim Seif, I believe, will be only too happy one day leave his position to another successor so elected in the normal constitutional way of his party. As I have pointed out in this perspective elsewhere, the last thing Tanzanians would want is the acrimonious fratricidal politics of the past in Zanzibar.
Actually, Zanzibaris have made us all proud - creating a good precedence - underlining in word and deed that to oppose or to have alternative views is not enmity. To govern together in a government of national unity is not betrayal. If anything, it is an opportunity to implement some of the programmes an opposition party had in mind in a give and take dialogue in the coalition government.
It is an opportunity of pursuing the truth with colleagues on the same table in the opposed side in a give and take manner in the realm of civility. This is what the Zanzibar we see today has demonstrated, in a landmark feat rare in Africa, which we are all proud of. But the major responsibility to make peace and stability stick is for all leaders in Zanzibar including those who have dominated headlines of the tabloids in the last fortnight.
But no leader should deceive himself or herself. The people are not stupid. They know exactly what is happening and which leader represents what. They have tested the fruits of peace, solidarity and stability - the fruits of pulling in one direction instead of several directions. At the end of the day, the people of Zanzibar will prevail.