When January Makamba, one of the presidential hopefuls in Tanzania, launched an apparent campaign book, a leading professor asked: “Doesn’t this amount to the breach of the ban from his party?” He was referring to CCM’s campaign ban on six prominent politicians who are seemingly eyeing the presidency in the coming election in October. I hastily answered him: I think it’s a case of “if all are breaching, then no one is breaching”.
That was way back in January. By the end of February, when the ban was coming to an end, many thought this might be the time that the ruling party would severely punish those who breached the ban. But The Citizen reported on 1 March 2015, that the party said “it had started to investigate if the six had fully implemented all the conditions they were given during the ban for 12 months”. It then extended the ban without specifying a time limit.
One would have expected the ruling party’s Central Committee (CC), chaired by President Jakaya Kikwete, to add more names to the list. After all, a number of other politicians, such as the Deputy Minister of Finance, Mwigulu Nchemba, who is also the deputy secretary of the ruling party, seemed to follow suit. Even The Daily News, a government newspaper, thus reported on 22 January 2015: “A letter circulating in the social media addressed to Mr Mwigulu and signed by CCM Secretary General [Abdulrahman Kinana] dated January 18, 2015, warns the presidential hopeful that the tours to the regions and districts have an element of campaigning.” But he was not listed.
Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda is also conspicuous by his absence. This may be because of his prominent role in the high echelons of power. It is a plausible explanation as the ruling party can hardly afford to ban the head of the government’s functions in the parliament and “˜primary assistant’ to the President in executive functions.
CCM cannot do so without compromising severely the legitimacy of its government given the fact that it already has three members of the Cabinet in its list of the banned six: The Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs, Bernard Membe; the Minister responsible for Agriculture, Stephen Wassira; and the Deputy Minister responsible for Communication, January Makamba. It is also a crisis of control. If the ruling party is not in control then who is?
Is it one of the remaining three? If he is not the one, why is the ruling party (seemingly) “˜beating around the bush’? In (apparently) doing so is it trying to buy time for an “˜ambush’?
Such questions become pertinent when we recall what the chair of the ruling party said during its 38th anniversary. On 2 February 2015 The Citizen thus quoted President Kikwete: “There are many CCM members out there who don’t believe they qualify for the top seat, but I can tell you we’ll convince them so that we get the best and most acceptable candidate who will endear our party to the electorate.” He is also cited as issuing the following warning to “those who will be found to have violated” the party’s Code of Conduct: “In case you don’t find your name on the list, don’t blame anyone…”
Nape Nnauye, CCM’s Ideology and Publicity Secretary, who does not see eye to eye with one of the trio, reiterated the stance. “In 1995″, he recalled as quoted in The Citizen on 10 February 2015, “Mwalimu Nyerere then cautioned the party against picking a presidential candidate who would be required to clean up his image before asking for votes.” This statement begs the question: Who was Tanzania’s first president then cautioning about?
Yet what we have been observing recently is the contention over what the late Nyerere said. On 18 February 2015 Raia Mwema reported that one of the “˜contenders’, a former secretary of the late Mwalimu Nyerere, has even claimed that he received threats. While this battle over Nyerere’s endorsement continues, another rages on – one on performance.
How, then, does Premier Pinda fit into all of this? First, he seems to be a compromise candidate in such a scandalized context. Despite numerous attempts – e.g. through the Tegeta Escrow and Sugar scandals – to bring him (and the government down) like his immediate predecessor, Edward Lowassa, he has survived. Second, he has access to authority – partly as it may be – by the virtue of being in (and close to) power.
As the “˜host’ of the ministry responsible for Regional Administration and Local Government, Pinda is in a better position to extend his network far and wide in the country. The recent reshuffle of district commissioners could provide a glimpse into how much clout he has in influencing such presidential appointments. He is also responsible for the Government Press and National Electoral Commission, among other sub-sectors.
For someone who has closely followed the Tanzanian presidential elections since the return of multiparty democracy in 1992, it is tempting to dismiss Pinda by arguing that no Prime Minister has ever won the primaries. Not yet. Nonetheless, it is important to revisit the reasons that made each of them fail to do so despite their closeness to power.
Briefly, John Malecela was out of office a year before the 1995 elections thanks to Nyerere’s critiques in his book on Our Leadership and the Destiny of Tanzania. Thus Cleopa Msuya only had a year to consolidate his position. He narrowly missed the final round of their presidential primaries that pitted Benjamin Mkapa against Jakaya Kikwete.
Despite being the Prime Minister for ten years, in the 2005 elections Frederick Sumaye could not match the campaign machinery that Kikwete and his network had marshaled over those years. The situation is slightly different in 2015. Pinda is no longer facing the same stronghold. Because of its fragmentation, he may pull up an unprecedented surprise.
Until then Pinda has to ensure that he retains his position as the Prime Minister. Doing so would entail shying away from financial deals that often bedevil election years. It is a tall order given that it is now so costly to campaign and win elections without (dirty) money.
Money is not everything. Pinda can simply bank on his image as “˜mtoto wa mkulima’ (peasant’s child). It could prove to be more valuable to the electorate than election gifts. If the Premier wins, may his new office also be in Dodoma, closer to all Tanzanians.
Chambi Chachage is a researcher in African Studies at Harvard University.