If the past affects the present, it follows then that the present has the power to determine the future. Events towards the end of 2021 have given some indications of what could shape Tanzania’s politics in 2022 and beyond.
The issue is that what happens in 2022 sets the tone for the General Election in 2025 and, probably, for the country’s politics in the long run.
In 2022 there is every indication that the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) will continue to dominate politics and set the agenda. We will most likely see political realignments, within CCM, cementing themselves into clear-cut factions jostling for political positions as well as rent-seeking (self-enrichment) opportunities while at the same time setting sights on 2030.
Factions inside CCM started coming to the fore after the demise of President John Magufuli on March 17, 2021. They had gone underground after the 2015 General Election. The largest of them, famously known as ‘the network’ (mtandao) had died down after its doyen, former Premier Edward Lowassa, decamped to opposition CHADEMA in August 2015.
The faction that was allied to former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bernard Membe, also fizzled out after he was ‘excommunicated’ from CCM.
There is a likelihood that these two factions could come back in a different fashion. Lowassa is back in CCM. Membe is not, but he has allies in the party. Speculation points to the existence of two factions; one allied to CCM members who were close to President Magufuli and another composed of CCM members who are close to former President Jakaya Kikwete.
The recent public spat between the two former CCM publicity secretaries, Nape Nnauye and Humphrey Polepole has been taken by some observers as an indication that two factions are already at loggerheads.
In fact, some observers considered the anti-vax campaign of the Kawe MP Josephat Gwajima (CCM) in August and September 2021, to be in the context of factional politics.
There are some occasional mentions in the social media of a faction allied to CCM members who defend the policies of President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
The recent pronouncements by Speaker of Parliament Job Ndugai on the national debt and his reference to the 2025 elections could easily be taken as a dog whistle to a particular group in the party. In his pronouncements, Mr Ndugai said that in 2025 voters will have to choose between politicians who seem to enjoy taking loans from outside and those who seek self-reliance through taxes.
Already the assumption is that Mr Ndugai’s comments fed into sentiments of factions that are divided along the geographical line of the Zanzibar channel. This assumption is difficult to ascertain but it points to the possibility of the rise of groups that seek to galvanize themselves on anti-Zanzibari feelings just like it happened in the early 1990s with the G55 faction in the Union Parliament.
Normally as far as CCM factions are concerned it doesn’t matter much what their common denominator is. The final objective is usually rent-seeking and the presidency, which guarantees rent-seeking. As the year progresses we will know more about the nature of these factions and the prominent figures behind them.
The person to watch in 2022
The person to watch this year is President Samia Suluhu Hassan. As she clocks one year in office in March, political actors and the public will be keen to see how she behaves during crises and how she reacts to constant political barrages from both within and outside her own party.
Detractors who include looters and embezzlers will seriously measure her up as they try to figure out how far they can go to shake things up without serious consequences.
President Samia’s grip on the party will also determine how big the playing room the factionalists will have.
President Samia is caught between a rock and a hard place. She is definitely not in a desirable situation. She has inherited a country that is deeply divided. A country that has seen violations of human rights and undermining of democratic values on an unprecedented scale. Lack of proper investigation and inquiries on those violations has complicated matters.
Because President Magufuli is out of the scene for good, the responsibility to shed some light over the violations now rests on President Samia. Continued silence might be detrimental to her politically, especially in the 2025 elections. It will also set a dangerous precedence.
The economic situation is another issue. The government commissioned many grand infrastructure projects than the economy can sustain. The overriding factor for initiating such projects was political expediency, so to speak, and the need to leave behind a legacy.
The inadequate financial resources and the government’s many priorities put President Samia in a difficult situation. If she shelves some of the projects for lack of funds she will be regarded as ‘incompetent.’ If she seeks loans to fund the projects she will be accused of causing the ballooning of the public debt.
In fact, that is exactly what Speaker Ndugai’s comments have sought to portray. For now, it is clear that President Samia has chosen the latter; to go for the loans. She might soon find out that the way out is not as simple as that.
She would, obviously, need all the political skills she can muster to navigate the country’s political undercurrents towards 2025. She would have to be more self-assertive, cunning and show zero tolerance to public officials who have little respect for public funds.
She would also need to borrow a leaf from former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi to avoid repeating the same mistakes and to try to understand how to deal with diehard CCM politicians, especially from the Mainland.
The big lesson to draw from former President Mwinyi and from his successors is that in Tanzania wearing the ‘Nyerere mantra’ is a sure way for a president to control his or her own party. The Nyerere mantra simply means that the President must be ‘beyond reproach.’
President Mwinyi could not deal with the G55 group that demanded a return of the government of Tanganyika. Nyerere had to come to his aid. President Benjamin Mkapa could not deal with the ‘network’ (mtandao) faction. He let them have the presidency in the 2005 primaries. President Kikwete could not deal with the ‘Lowassa network’, Presidents Mwinyi and Mkapa had to come to his aid.
If conditions within CCM provide for a return of factions, with a vengeance, it could easily seal the ruling party’s fate and spell doom for the country. It would definitely change the nature of intra-party politics and transform CCM from a traditional political party into a mere cad ruling clique.
Needless to say, this will quicken the eroding of the party’s credibility and legitimacy in front of the electorate. In future elections, its mandate could also become more and more diluted regardless of its victory margins.
In countries like Tanzania where electoral democracy is not backed up by independent, credible institutions the mandate remains in people’s hearts not in the ballot boxes, with unpredictable consequences to the stability of the nation. CCM’s lack of ideology means that the factions are not divided along ideological lines.
This poses a danger to the stability and even the survival of the nation. If these groupings’ politiqueing acquires tribal, regional or religious undertones it can easily spill out to the public and divide the country along such dangerous lines.
Whether the factions pose a danger to CCM’s survival as a political party is of little importance. This is because it is just a matter of time before the factions change the nature of the party and transform it into a mere clique.
President Kikwete tried to salvage the party from factions using the ‘kujivua gamba’ (de-skinning) campaign. He failed because his efforts were half-hearted. He lacked moral authority. He left the whole exercise in the hands of the party’s secretariat, which couldn’t do much because power in CCM rested on the National Executive Committee (NEC) that was almost entirely corrupted.
The fact that ‘kujivua gamba’ was not accompanied by any new ideology made the whole campaign sound hollow. In trying to reform CCM President Kikwete also failed to go beyond the party itself.
Opposition divisions are a bane for CCM
Divisions within the opposition will continue in 2022. The new ‘impetus’ is over what should come first; the New Constitution or the independent Electoral Commission. But the divisions within the opposition would not provide any relief to President Samia.
Opposition from within CCM, especially if factions are left to have free reign, will be enough to give her sleepless nights. A strong and united opposition is a boon to CCM.
It provides a ready-made common enemy and obliges the ruling party to close ranks and forge links to fight off the threat to their hold on power. But a weak opposition means CCM are left on their own to jostle for rent-seeking opportunities.
Damas Kanyabwoya is a veteran journalist and a political analyst based in Dar es Salaam. He’s available at firstname.lastname@example.org. These are the writer’s own opinions and it does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at email@example.com for further inquiries.