Dr Wilson Charles Mahera, the Director of Election at the National Electoral Commission (NEC), is trending on social media once again. The netizens have flooded the online platforms with videos, showing the then Arusha District Executive Director’s affiliations with the ruling party Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
The online community, especially on the social media platform Twitter, wonders whether Dr Wilson can oversee and supervise the smooth undertaking of a free and fair election, with his previous uttered anti-opposition rhetoric.
Discussions questioning the legitimacy of the former lecturer at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Dar es salaam as an impartial Director of the election came hardly one day after he summoned CHADEMA’s presidential candidate, Tundu Lissu for what he referred to misconduct deeds during his campaign.
On his press conference, on September 27, 2020, Dr Charles accused Mr Lissu of a plethora of charges, including violation of election laws by claiming victory before the election. The electoral body also accused the former Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) president of giving fake information that NEC plans to “sabotage” his victory.
The said ‘fake’ information which brought Lissu into trouble with NEC is the statement he made while in Musoma Urban constituency, Mara Region that: “President [John] Magufuli since [Sept 25, 2020] and [Sept 26, 2020] is meeting with district executive directors [DEDs] from all over the country in Dodoma. It’s an emergency meeting. DEDs also work as election returning officers, what tactics has [President Magufuli] called the DEDs to discuss with them? What tactics are they planning for this election?”
In his statement, Dr Charles said there has never been such a meeting. He called Mr Lissu’s remarks “false, fabricated, and misleading.” He added: “NEC won’t allow being intimidated [by] someone who thinks has won the election while the Election Day has not even arrived. Instead of promoting your manifesto, you declare yourself a winner and intimidate the Commission.”
During the press conference, Dr Charles also made some remarks that opposition politicians interpreted as campaigning for the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) presidential candidate Dr John Magufuli, saying: “Tanzanians need an improved healthcare service. Tanzanians want good roads. Tanzanians want power projects. Tanzanians want quality education. Tanzanians do not want blah blahs. Tanzanians want leaders who can defend their minerals. [They don’t want] those who will come to seize and take them to foreigners.”
The statement, however, generated an intense backlash online, with others dismissing the independence of NEC altogether.
Lissu himself took to Twitter to declare that NEC was not an independent electoral body, writing: “This NEC’s director of election is a CCM cadre by his admission. And he’s a President Magufuli’s appointee, [Magufuli] who is a presidential candidate in the general election. Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and all commissioners of NEC and all returning officers are [President] Magufuli’s appointees. Where is the [NEC] independence?”
In one of his campaign rally on September 28, 2020, Mr Lissu told his supporters that he was not going to obey Dr Charles’ order to him that he should appear before NEC’s Ethics Committee in the capital Dodoma to show cause why he should not be punished for his remarks that NEC found to violate election laws.
Others shared past videos that show Dr Charles, then District Executive Director (DED) of Arusha, making remarks that exposed his political affiliations to prove their claims that people cannot expect political indipendence from him.
Among the statement is the one he made during one of the meetings where he was a guest of honour where he said: “MPs are coming back to CCM. I think the aeroplanes have been bought at a breakneck speed. We see [inaudible] mega projects in water, roads, revenue collection has increased. I think anyone can see that.”
Another statement was made during a party conference where Dr Charles said: “If you nominate someone because of his/her money, just because you love him/her, he/she’s your friend, if he/she is defeated, I’ll declare the opposition candidate a winner.”
But Dr Charles himself has always been insisting that he does not have any affiliation to any political party.
In October 2019, for example, he told Mtanzania Jumapili newspaper that: “I would not like to talk about those issues at the moment. But briefly, any [election] director is not a member of any political party. Just as I was not a member of any political party when I served as DED of Arusha, so I now remain.”