President Samia’s reconciliation efforts: The dawn of a new era

Wednesday, March 8th, 2023 was the day when President Samia Suluhu Hassan truly ‘made history’, by becoming the first ever President (and CCM National Chairpeson) to grace an Opposition (CHADEMA) party’s event.   As CHADEMA National Chairman Freeman Mbowe himself put it, “many took it as a joke when I announced that President Samia would grace this event”.

But she elegantly did; to the genuine delight of many people. It was, indeed, the beginning of a new era in the politics of Tanzania.

Hence, this matter will be the main topic of today’s presentation; primarily in order to draw attention to the important role of the individual person who happens to be the  ‘political system operator’ at the material time.  It is my contention that, just as the safety of the passengers on a Bus, largely depends on its driver’s commitment to adhere to the traffic rules, so does the political system’s well-being, which similarly depends on the commitment of its principal ‘system operator’ in adhering to the relevant rules.

‘Political reconciliation’ actually becomes necessary only where serious, fundamental differences arise between the ruling party and the parties in opposition.  And such differences generally arise only in circumstances  where the ruling party uses ‘state power’ to suppress the parties that are in opposition.  This assertion can best be illustrated by looking at our own political history.

The multi-party political system was inherited at the time of independence in 1961; when there were several political parties competing in the pre-independence elections. Tanzania Mainland had four such parties: The Tanganyika African National Union (TANU); The United Tanganyika Party (UTP); The African National Congress (ANC) and The All-Muslim Party National Union of Tanganyika (AMNUT).

Three more parties were registered soon after independence. They were:  The All Peoples’ Convention Party (PCP); The African Independence Movement (AIM) and The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).

Similarly, in Zanzibar, at the time of their independence in December 1963 there were four registered political parties: The Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP); The Zanzibar Nationalist Party (ZNP); The Zanzibar and Pemba Peoples’ Party (ZPPP) and the UMMA Party.

Competitive elections were first introduced in Zanzibar in 1957 and in Tanganyika in 1958/59.

On the Tanganyika side, these elections were generally conducted ‘freely and fairly’ by the colonial Authorities, where the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU)’s obtained massive victories in all the pre-independence elections, and thus made that party so politically dominant, to the extent that the other political parties were reduced to oblivion; thus making the country a de facto ‘One-party State’.

But the situation was very different in Zanzibar; where the colonial Administration’s unfair gerrymandering of constituency boundaries in favour of the Arab parties, rendered all their pre-independence elections null and voi.  But this fact was arrogantly ignored, a factor which accounts for the Afro-Shirazi’s ‘glorious revolution’ of 12th January, 1964; which brought President Abeid Amani Karume to power; and who, because of the electoral frustration of the past, promptly outlawed all the other political parties, thus making the Afro-Shirazi party the sole, and ruling party.

The return to multiparty politics

The re-introduction of multi-party politics in Tanzania in 1992, was brought about by the strong “wind of change” that blew across Africa and much of the rest of the world at that material time; as a result of which, the powerful communist “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)” collapsed, followed by the fall of the “Berlin War” in Germany.  These events effectively terminated  the “cold war” between the Western “Capitalist countries”,  and the Eastern “Communist block”; thus the Western ‘Capitalist block’ remained as the only effective ‘world power’ which  could, and in fact did, use its influence to  exert undue pressure on the  ‘one-party’ States to change to multi-party politics;  And many of the  African countries that had adopted the “one-party” political system, including Tanzania, were suddenly faced with  strong demands for the return to multi-party politics; fueled by the severe economic crises which occurred at the material time, that was blamed on the failure of the ‘one party’ system governments to manage their economies properly.

Unfortunately, however, when Africa inherited the multi-party system’s form, in many cases it failed to inherit that system’s culture of political competition without animosity, or “kupingana bila kupigana” as well.   And this is precisely where the ‘system operators’ come in; for the proper management and maintenance of the multi-party system’s culture, very much depends on the disposition of the principal ‘system operator’; on whom the system’s good or bad fortunes will very largely depend.

The important role of the system operators

Usually, between political parties there will always be differences of opinion, mainly related to their different policies and the competition for power. Thus, all is well when this competition, and the management of the political affairs of the country are carried out in a “just and fair” manner.

  The dawn of a new era.

President Samia was a new ’system operator’ who had entered the stage. Her action of attending the CHADEMA women’s rally in Moshi, visibly ushered in a completely new era in Tanzania politics, for it had never happened before; and, in fact, could not possibly have happened, for the simple reason that multi-politics is a competitive system, and in any such system, psychological ‘prudence’ forbids the taking of any action which gives advantage to the opponent.  That is presumably why the CHADEMA Chairman, Freeman Mbowe, referred to the said that “many people had taken it as a joke when he announced that President Samia would grace that event”.   It was, indeed, something “out of the ordinary”.

Chairman Mbowe further lamented that: “Over the past six years, we, the Opposition, went through very tough times. However, we are ready to forgive and forget the past”.  A conciliatory gesture indeed, a new ‘system operator’ had come on the stage; and it was now “all systems go” for the success of the reconciliation process; which was necessitated by her predecessor’s actions.

This is precisely what distinguishes President Samia’s ‘leadership style’ from that of her immediate predecessor, who had created the conflict that now required reconciliation. This single action by President Samia, generated new public trust and confidence, that she will surely succeed in her determination to achieve genuine political reconciliation.

Although, as we saw in last week’s presentation, CCM was able to achieve successful political reconciliation with the Opposition CUF party in Zanzibar; that was actually facilitated by a different “system operator”, CCM Chairman Benjamin Mkapa.

The new constitution as part of reconciliation

The demand for a “new multi-party constitution” was one of the earlies conflicts between the ruling party and the opposition parties. Repeated demands for a new constitution were routinely rejected by the ruling party, for the stated reason that following the ‘Nyalali commission’ recommendations, the constitution had been extensively amended in 1992  in order to accommodate the new multiparty political dispensation, and that further amendments would be made whenever it became necessary;  thus, there was no valid reason for engaging in the more expensive exercise of enacting a new constitution.

But the opposition demands persisted, thus qualifying this conflict to be included in the reconciliation process.  And, in respect thereof, President Samia disclosed that she will, in the very near future, announce her team which will be tasked to undertake the constitutional review process. “Nobody is opposing that”, said the President, and continued: “even CCM fancies a new constitution”, she said amid thunderous applause from over 3,000 CHADEMA members who had assembled at the place of that meeting.

The still unsettled major constitutional issues

In my own experience of the past constitutional review processes, there have been two major issues which have recurred again and again, but have not been finally determined, that will perhaps need to be considered in the upcoming exercise.  These are (i) the structure of the Union, and (ii) the question of the independent candidate in elections.

Issue (i) is more intractable, because the ‘two-government’ structure of the Union is a matter of CCM policy, which was reconfirmed at after a CCM referendum which was held in 1994.   However, the restriction imposed on the independent candidate’s participation in elections is more difficult to defend, or justify.  Because of editorial space limitations, we can only deal with the first issue in this presentation.

The ‘two-government’ structure of the Union was established by the Union “Interim constitution”, enacted on 1st May, 1964.  What it meant was that the Tanganyika partner of this Union, had no separate government, but was to be administered directly by the Union government; whereas Zanzibar had its own government, that was responsible for “non-Union” matters within Zanzibar.

But since then, there have been several attempts to change this arrangement; starting with the then Zanzibar President, Aboud Jumbe; who, in 1984, embarked on a plan to introduce a three-government structure.   But his attempt failed, and he was forced to quit from all his leadership positions; for the cardinal offence of promoting something which was against CCM’s sacrosanct ‘two-government’ policy.

The next attempt was made by the ‘Nyalali Constitutional Review Commission’, appointed by President Ali Hassan Mwinyi in 1991;  which also recommended a change to the ‘three-government’ Union structure; but this was also rejected, for precisely the same reason of  being against CCM policy.

Then came the BUNGE resolution of 1993; wherein the Parliament of the United Republic, formally called upon the government “to initiate a process which will culminate in the establishment of a Tanganyika government within the Union structure”.   This actually meant the establishment of a ‘three-government’ structure.

This was a particularly serious development; because, firstly, the Members of the House who passed this resolution were all CCM members; and so was the government of the day.  Thus, this resolution was, in fact, an act of rebellion.  Secondly, by established convention, BUNGE resolutions are binding upon the government, and must therefore be implemented.  Hence, perhaps unwittingly, this became  an ‘oversized, ingenious  paradox’;  and, consequently,  it took a lot of time and energy, in terms of numerous meetings of the relevant CCM organs at the national level, to find a viable solution.

But, as the saying goes, “where there is a will, there is a way”.  It was decided to hold a referendum of all CCM members, who were asked to indicate, by secret vote, which structure they preferred among the ‘one government’; ‘two-government’; or ‘three-government’ structures.

The results of the referendum showed that the majority (61.75 per cent of the CCM members) voted in favour of retaining the ‘two-government ‘structure; thus reconfirming the party’s ‘two-government’ policy.   But the rebellion produced its own victims. The Prime Minister, at that time John Malecela, lost his job; and so did Horace Kolimba, the Secretary General of Chama cha Mapinduzi.

But, surprisingly, even subsequent to that, recommendations for the adoption of the ‘three-government continued being made by the Constitutional Review Commissions which were appointed later.  The first to do so was the “Kisanga Commission”, which was appointed by President Benjamin Mkapa in 1998; and more recently, by the Warioba Commission, appointed by President Jakaya Kikwete in 2012.  Needless to say, their recommendations were routinely rejected.

This shows that this matter remains unsettled; as it is, apparently, still on the drawing board. It thus qualifies for inclusion in the reconciliation process.

piomsekwa@gmail.com  / 0754767576.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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