Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tanzania's Election and Prospect for Change

Tanzania's General Election and Prospect for Change

Chambi Chachage

“Tanzanians Need Change” – Mwalimu Julius Nyerere

Change has become the buzzword in Tanzania. Defining it, however, remains elusive. Bringing it about even more challenging. Yet everyone seems to want change. Now.

As the General Election slated for October 25 approaches, both activists and politicians are selling their versions of the buzzword: ‘Change Tanzania’, ‘Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT)’, ‘Movement for Change (M4C)’ and, lately, ‘Magufuli for Change.’ One wonders what ‘Theory of Change (ToC)’ informs them.

Put simply, ToCs are well-thought explanations of the ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ in regard to a certain change, practically. They are not ‘shopping lists’ of ‘electorate promises’ that masquerades as ‘election manifestos.’ Let us illustrate this.

Grand corruption is one of the ‘what’ that needs changing. Many corrupt activities of the ‘who’ seems to be what one whistleblower refers to as an “open secret throughout Tanzania.” The same applies to the when, why and how many such dealings occurred.

Hence voters ought to know who/what will change the dire situation, when and how will he/she/it do so and why can it be done now? Tellingly, the ruling party’s lengthy election manifesto appears to address some of these questions while evading others.

First, its manifesto acknowledges that corruption is a public enemy. CCM’s manifesto goes on to admit that its top organ criticized public servants who use their position to amass wealth. Hence it promises to continue to take action against its leaders who do so. It also asserts that it will direct its government to fast track the enactment of a law to ensure that during that public servants are not businesspersons during their tenure.

Yet a number of businesspersons are running as CCM’s candidates to be Members of Parliament. A number of those under scrutiny for alleged involvement in corruption as also vying for public office. This begs the question: How will it now be possible to pass a bill to separate business and politics i.e. years after the President promised so?

Do opposition parties fair well on this? The main opposition party, CHADEMA, and its coalition known as UKAWA are already under fire for embracing tarnished leaders who have defected from CCM. In this regard even their statement of intent is wanting.

The third force/way, ACT-Wazalendo, are celebrated as being more focused in regard to changing the state of corruption in the country not least because the inspiration behind their election manifesto is the then CCM’s Arusha Declaration that, on paper, was clear about ensuring that business is not mixed with politics. Yet what remained to be seen is how it is translated, first, at its own party level in terms of its source of finances and those of its leaders who are also required to publicly declare their wealth.

So far only CCM has had the chance to be tested in terms of bringing about change as a ruling party. And, in the case of corruption, they seems to have failed miserably as the scandals such as Richmond, Escrow and EPA, to only name a few, attest hence the call for change from virtually all quarters. But are voters ready to change guards?

Understandably, the cautious are afraid of merely changing a ruling party. They are scared partly because the then apparent face of corruption in CCM is now running as a presidential candidate of CHADEMA/UKAWA. What they want is ‘clean change.’

For them the ‘transition’ from one seemingly corrupt party to another is not ‘real change’. It is not ‘regime change’ because, as they see it, the order of the day will continue. Hence, paradoxically, they are cornered to opt for ‘better the devil you know’ given that the third way seems to be way too ‘small’ to stop a ‘two-horse race.’ 

It seems Aikande Kwayu has thus aptly captured their state of apprehension in this deadlock: “Is desiring ‘change’ enough? Change from what? CCM is saying ‘change’ from things as usual while UKAWA/CHADEMA ‘change from CCM.’” But Azaveli Lwaitama sees it differently. So do many who have decided to cast their lots with the ‘other devil’. For them UKAWA/CHADEMA is but a stepping-stone towards change.

Desperately, they will step on this stone no matter how rough it is and ‘cross the bridge when they get there’. To them it can’t get any worse. They are too tired of being overly cautious like their fellows who are scared of ‘rough change’ and hence ready to wait and wait for ‘smooth change’ even if it means preserving the status quo.

Hence their ‘Theory of Change’ is ‘rudimentary’ but it makes a lot of sense: ‘Change the ruling party and everything else will follow (later)’. They will rather fight to hold accountable a new, inexperienced ruling party than the one that has been at the helm for decades. One can but sympathize with them given the arrogance of leaders who could go as far as saying the ‘questionable money’ they got were ‘peanuts/petty cash.’

But the fact that even CCM cannot avoid embracing the language of ‘change’ as evidenced in its invoking of January Makamba’s ‘New Tanzania’ chant in its recent public statement is a sign that it cannot afford to continue with ‘business as usual’ even if it wins the elections. Gone are the days of apathy. Change is indeed constant.

Just before he passed away the founding leader of CCM wrote these words: “Decades ago, as President of my country, I told Tanzanians that the choice before them was to change or be changed. I was wrong. There was no choice. They had to change, and would still BE changed.” It seems the coming election is ‘forcing’ all of us to change.

Whatever happens one thing is clear. Tanzania(ns) will not be the same again. Never.