It`s time for CCM radicals to mature

As we were catching up with some local gossip on the telephone, the only sensible way to communicategiven Dar es Salaam’s horrendous traffic congestion, a female friend of mine informed me of her absolute sadness over the death of her friend’s father.

Taken aback by her reaction, I stated, “I did not think that you were that close to the deceased”. Her calm and wistful response was “Not really, but you know the last time I met him, he said such wonderful things about my father.” It goes without saying that my friend adores her father and knowing her father I can attest that the feeling is mutual. She is no different from all the girls who have loving and doting fathers. We love to hear good things about our fathers.

Until his retirement, my friend’s father was a businessman and I very much doubt that she has ever experienced picking up a paper and reading an article penned by someone like me with a negative opinion about her father, which he wishes to air publicly; or listening to the speech of a member of the opposition aimed at annihilating any political credibility that her father may have; or worse still listening to the speech of a member of her father’s party throwing verbal missiles at her father in order to gain political mileage.

But, as the daughter of a prominent politician in Tanzania,I have experienced all of this and more. I am not writing because I want any body’s sympathy, for I understand fully that public criticism is part and parcel of a politician’s life, and actually I think it should be encouraged, hence the reason I took up the pen. What I take umbrage to are lies but even these I have lived through. There is an essential prerequisite to being the daughter of a politician and that is a thick skin. Without a thick skin, I am afraid to say, politician’s daughters would all be quivering psychological messes. Over the years, mine has metamorphosed and become as thick as the hide of an old elephant.

A week or so ago, CCM concluded its 8thCongress with much fanfare. Khadija Kopa, a taarab guru, serenaded the 2400 or so delegates, their wives and supporters all dressed in the green and yellow CCM colours and packed in a conference hall in Dodoma. There was a lot of CCM flag waving, dancing and general merry making interspersed with the serious business of choosing the new CCM office bearers from the Chairman of the party to 20 members of the National Executive Committee. The 8thCCM Congress also marked the end of AmaniAbeidKarume’s 10 years tenure as the Vice Chairman of CCM for Zanzibar. For those who are not aware, other than being the past president of Zanzibar, I like to think tongue in cheek that AmaniAbeidKarume is more famous for being my father.

On the evening of 14 November 2012, I switched on the television with the specific intent of watching AmaniAbeid Karume bid CCM his farewell as the outgoing Vice Chairman for Zanzibar. If truthis to be known I wanted to hear him thank my mother who has stood by him solidly for 44 years.

So I listened to Abraham Kinana’s pronouncement of the CCM resolutions; watched the delegates including my mother dancing to Khadija Kopa; listened to Pius Msekwa’s goodbye speech and finally Amani Karume stepped onto the podium and commenced his speech.

Karume’s farewell speech has been the most discussed and analysed speech of the 8th CCM Congress. So it is not my intention here to analyse or discuss the speech, as I am in the privileged position of knowing exactly what he meant, neither is it my intention here to defend his speech, for there have been hundreds of lines written and thousands of words spoken in support of his speech.

I seek here to analyse what I consider to be the root of the negative reaction that his speech caused in some members of CCM Zanzibar.

As I sat listening to his speech and knowing him as well as I do, I knew he was unable to conceal the happiness he felt at what he considers to be the successful conclusion of more than 10 years of service to CCM, but it was also his moment of public reflection and presentation of his parting wish list. There was nothing controversial in what he stated, for he discussed the history of CCM, the Government of National Unity in Zanzibar, the Constitutional Review Process; the responsibility of governance and good governance; and his pleasure at seeing young faces emerging in the CCM hierarchy.

In a nutshell, on the history of CCM, Karume reminded the nation that CCM is an amalgamation of two parties—the Afro Shirazi Party from Zanzibar and TANU from Tanganyika that decided to merge and consequently the ideals of its predecessors should not be forgotten, in particular ASP’s foundation policy aimed at observing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; eradicating all forms of racial discrimination etc…

In relation to the Government of National Unity, Karume observed that this was a choice that was made by the people of Zanzibar by a 64% majority vote in a referendum, which led to an amendment of the Constitution of Zanzibar and therefore CCM must respect this choice.

With regard to the on-going Constitutional Review Process, he asked members of his party to allow people to express their views freely in particular on the question of the nature of the Union between Zanzibar and Tanganyika, and this freedom can only be exercised where authorities showed restraint.And finally, he counselled CCM that it needs to win the hearts and minds of the people, if it is to remain relevant, and this requires governance by law and humility and not through intimidation.

Frankly, I am not going to apologise for stating publicly thatAmani Karume is a man after my own heart especially given the fact that after all this he remembered to thank my mother. Having alerted you about my relationship with Amani Karume and the particular soft spot that he holds in my heart, I have discharged my duty and as we say, “caveat emptor”.

However, I was astounded with the venom with, which some members of his own party reacted to his speech. For those who follow the news will know that some CCM members were so angered by this speech that they decided to tear downKarume’s poster in Michenzani, Zanzibar.

Why should some groups within CCM in Zanzibar be so incensed by words which did nothing more than explain that the party’s mandate to govern comes from the people, and it is these people who must be respected as well as be allowed to express their views openly? I fear that this is an unfortunate consequence of the misunderstood history of CCM and our country.

On the part of Zanzibar, CCM’s predecessor the Afro-Shirazi Party came into power after a revolution and until the Constitutional Amendment of 1992, CCM’s mandate to govern Tanzania was protected by the Constitution. CCM may not have had a Godly given right to govern, but in a non-secular state, such as the United Republic of Tanzania, a Constitutional right was as close to a God given right as CCM could get. Before the amendment, article 3(1) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania used to read as follows:

“The United Republic is a democratic and socialist state which has one political party”.

No prizes for guessing, which party the “one political party” referred to in the Constitution was.

My view is that amongst some members of CCM Zanzibar, there is an unfortunate disconnect between reality and their personal beliefs and wishes.

This disconnect is emphasised by the now common site in CCM Zanzibar meetings of a group of about 50 or so ladies dressed in CCM colours who are always strategically seated by the organisers in the very front of the audience and who are then prompted like marionettes by someone to start chanting “Commando!!! Commando!!! Commando!!”.

This chant may deceive the uninitiated into believing that these ladies are die-hard supporters of Salmin Amour the CCM President of Zanzibar 1990-2000 who referred to himself as “Commando”, had no patience for the opposition,CUF, and made his impatience categorically clear by imprisoning without trial, some 20 high profile CUF members.

Of course those in the know understand the message, which the puppet masters are sending very clearly indeed. The puppet masters want a CCM Zanzibar with a “Commando” at the helm, who will handle all ‘enemies’ with the iron fist they so deserve. There are those lurking in the dark recesses of the radical wings of the party who still believe that they have an absolute right to govern because they saved Zanzibar from the Sultan and the constitutional amendments seem to have left them bewildered and rather lost in this world of competitive politics where Tanzanians get to choose which party should govern them. Well at the risk of bursting theirodd bubble those who saved Zanzibar from the clutches of the Sultan are either dead or too old and they certainly did not lead a revolution so that some opportunistic upstarts could forever entrench themselves on the Sultan’s empty thrown.

After every five years we require all political parties to put their best candidates forward and parade them before us in a bizarre beauty contest which is the hallmark of democracies the world over, and we get to pick to which beauty we hand the crown.

Lest the winner makes himself too comfortable at Ikulu either in Zanzibar or Dar es Salaam, we require him to parade himself before us five years later, when we can overlook him and proceed to pick someone else to wear the coveted crown and take the prize money.

If he is fortunate to win and wear the crown twice, as a matter of principle we must discard him at the conclusion of his 2nd term in office with a nice pension in hand of course and we move on to the next beauty. Could it be that the radicals in CCM are very aware of their inadequacies and fear that in a political beauty context, no voter will find them attractive?

To make matters more complicated, in the case of Zanzibar, the winner of the crown and the first runner up are obliged to share the prize money. Zanzibaris now expect the winner to cooperate and work hand-in-hand with his competitor. This of course requires the two previous opponents to show each other mutual respect both during the campaign trail and after the elections and to put the interests of Zanzibar first.

A fitting punishment I say, meted out in a referendum approving a Government of National Unity by 64 percent of the voting population who were clearly far too tired of the divisive politics used and abused by both CCM and CUF in Zanzibar and the tiresome and predictable cries of foul play every time we came out of an election.

Unfortunately, there are some Zanzibar CCM members who are suffering from amnesia and have conveniently forgotten the various constitutional amendments leading to the GNU; there are others who are so unused to being restrained in this manner and are restlessly champing at the bit, impatient to see the end of whatever this mass of confusion they blame AmaniAbeidKarume for allowing to take root; and there are those who have accepted the wishes of Zanzibaris and to the radicals the latter are traitors of whatever abhorrent cause they adhere to.

In a recent CCM meeting in Zanzibar, CCM radicals used abusive and racially inflammatory language reminiscent of the language used pre-revolution against none other than moderate CCM members, oblivious of the fact that the revolution was the result of race inequalities and eagerly opening past wounds in an uncouth and clumsy attempt at gaining political mileage.

As a Zanzibari of both African and Arab descent, whose Arab great grandfather was murdered in prison immediately after the revolution for nothing more than his political beliefs and whose African grandfather was assassinated 8 years after the revolution again for nothing more than his political beliefs, I am not impressed. This is a game of high stakes, which can only result in blood loss.

It is time for the radicals within CCM Zanzibar to grow up, and realise that this is not a school playground where the bully gets everyone’s lunch money.

Forty-eight years after the revolution, Zanzibar has changed irreversibly. The majority of Zanzibaris are under 40 years old. They did not live the revolution nor the divisive racial politics that led to the revolution in Zanzibar. Our politics cannot and should not remain in the past but our history should be used to inform us of where we were so that we may know where we need to go and we may learn to avoid malignant politics.

As CCM Zanzibar is being pulled by a radical wing that is becoming more prominent, so CUF is taking up the centre ground in the politics of Zanzibar. If CCM Zanzibar wants to reclaim the beauty crown in 2015, it must reform itself and fight for the centre ground because it is the votes of moderateZanzibaris that will make the next president of Zanzibar.

Ms. Karume was called to the Bar in the Middle Temple and is an advocate of the High Courts of Tanzania and Zanzibar. She is presently Litigation Partner with IMMMA Advocates in Dar es Salaam.