Twists and turns seem to be the one constant in this year’s electoral drama as allegiances shift faster than thought and alliances are built and torn with surprising speed.
This past week Tanzania has witnessed the formal endorsement of Edward Lowassa by Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema), less than a week after he announced his defection from Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
At the same time a deputy minister in Jakaya Kikwete’s government, Makongoro Mahanga, quit the ruling party and followed Lowassa to Chadema, alleging he had been unfairly beaten in the party’s primaries.
He also noted that he had stayed in the junior ministerial post for too long while less deserving individuals had been promoted past him.
Then the chairman of the Civic United Front (CUF), Professor Ibrahim Lipumba, who had played a principal role facilitating Lowassa’s crossing to the ranks of the Opposition, announced he was quitting as chairman of his party over some misunderstandings within the organisation.
He hinted that he had decided to leave his post because “my conscience troubles me over decisions I have supported,” he said alluding to the error committed by himself and his colleagues by “bringing into our fold CCM people who had opposed the constitutional draft.”
He expressed his doubts over whether such people could oversee the implementation of that draft, which is the central plank of the Opposition alliance under the Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi (Ukawa).
Lipumba, an economist, pledged his continued allegiance to CUF, saying that he would continue as a member and contribute to the economic thinking of the party. He added that he would take part in Ukawa’s campaigns as a rank and file member of CUF.
It would appear that the dramatic manner in which accords were reached between the Ukawa alliance and Lowassa over the latter joining the former were not preceded by thoroughgoing consultations, and that there was more haste in gaining time than careful scrutiny of the finer details of the arrangements.
In his press statement, Lipumba talked of his personal ineffectiveness within his own party when he talked about him “seeming to be a hindrance to progress” in his party, and admitted that although he had participated in the discussions that helped Lowassa to join Chadema, he still carried a “troubled conscience” because that decision had let in people who could not defend what Ukawa stood for.
The statement was taken by some Opposition supporters as the mark of duplicity and lack of seriousness because all the while Lipumba had been seen as a leading figure in the whole process of negotiation with Lowassa.
Others saw this move by the professor as the culmination of long simmering tensions between him and his more powerful secretary-general, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad. An official statement by the CUF hinted at machinations by the ruling party.
The Civic United Front has progressively become a potent political force on mainland Tanzania, but has been the predominant Opposition formation in Zanzibar since it was formed in the 1990s.
In the elections organised since then, it has claimed to have won but denied victory by fraudulent means by the ruling party. There have been violent altercations between supporters of the two parties, but in January 2001 a climax of sorts was reached when some thirty unarmed civilians were killed when police opened fire on a demonstration called by CUF, and for the first time created Tanzanian refugees who fled to Kenya.
Five years ago, CUF entered an entente with the CCM government in Zanzibar in a coalition arrangement in which Seif became first vice-president, and this cooled the tensions somewhat.
It is widely expected that this October, CUF, having proven it’s savvy in government, will win easily if the elections are free, fair and transparent.
This makes Seif a political heavyweight in Zanzibar capable of pulling strings that can move limbs across the channel. So, when it came to naming Lowassa’s running mate, he gave his own Zanzibar vice-chairman, Haji Duni, without consulting with his chairman, Lipumba, and this latter took it as a slight.
(According to the Constitution, the running mate has to come from the same party as the main candidate. In a bizarre move, Duni had to quit his party, CUF, join Chadema and be nominated as running mate for Lowassa, all in one day).
Announcing his resignation, Lipumba said he feared it would shock his party members and supporters, and that is what has happened. Some members have called for his expulsion for “duplicity.” Others have hailed his action as proof that he is a man of integrity.
The departure of Lipumba leaves CUF in a delicate situation because for a long time he was the dominant face and name of the party on the mainland. The party has pre-eminence in Zanzibar, where its main brains, including Seif and his top aides, reside and organise. On the mainland it lacks that quality.
Ukawa, too, will be shaken because the professor was seen as an honest man who played straight and spoke plainly. With the Chadema secretary-general, Dr Willbroad Slaa, in political limbo, having fallen out with his comrades over Lowassa, Lipumba’s departure is hardly what the Opposition needed.
Still, the Ukawa camp is claiming it’s in a position to give the ruling CCM a fight of its life. There are mass defections of CCM ward councillors and some former CCM MPs have been crossing over to Chadema.
A large number of internal primaries within CCM have returned Lowassa faithfuls whose loyalties do not lie with their party, and will act as Trojan horses within CCM.
Loyalties have changed so much and so often over the past month or so, that there is no telling which set of strange fellows will be climbing into which bed before October 25.