When the ruling party, CCM, rejected the reintroduction of multipartism following recommendations of the Nyalali Commission in 1991, we understood. At 14, the party of revolution had the insecurities of a teenager.
It was thanks to Julius Nyerere and pressure from Bretton Woods institutions, that CCM acquiesced to multiparty politics. Its knee-jerk rejection of multiparty politics, however, led to a long-lasting mistrust of the opposition, which made life difficult for many opposition figures.
But at 45, CCM is no longer that restless teenager trying to figure out life. The political institution must start showing signs of maturity and wisdom befitting the age.
The party must start to fully appreciate the weight of leading the country placed over its shoulders and do everything possible to ensure that the destiny of this country is not compromised.
Now, CCM’s focus should shift to two important things. The first is Tanzania’s posterity as a viable, prosperous country. More importantly, the ruling party should start questioning myths about its own invincibility. Humanly speaking, 45 is the start of the decline of the life curve towards old age and the final adieu.
A political party has a shelf life that somehow resembles that of human life. Its end could come slowly or it could be abrupt and shocking. Once CCM leaders apprehend this reality they would appreciate more the importance and the role of the opposition.
And the party can eventually come up with its own plan B that entrenches Tanzania’s democratic process.
CCM’s plan B
Things in this country, like it has happened in any other democratic nation, might change anytime at the speed that leaves CCM astounded. Without due preparation, CCM won’t know what hit it and it might be the beginning of the end of its relevance in the country.
Plan B is, thus, important to extend CCM’s relevance as a political party and spare it the fate of Zambia’s UNIP and Kenya’s KANU, to mention just a few.
But plan B will also be crucial for Tanzania’s long term stability. How the ruling party prepares its plan B is not an issue. It could be through the New Constitution or through patching up the current one.
CCM would need to ensure that Tanzania has an Electoral Commission that is not only free and fair but is seen to be free and fair. This entails facilitating the buildup of NEC as an independent institution with its own parliamentary vote, its own countrywide offices and its own staff, including Returning Officers.
The cry for a free and fair electoral commission will continue to sound like an overplayed wailing song repeated often by the “unsatisfied opposition,” until the ruling party finds itself in the opposition. Then the cry will start to carry a whole new meaning.
CCM, when it still can, should ensure the judiciary is as independent as it can get and functions without any political interference. This is highly important in a competitive political arena where fairness should be the rule of the game.
Parameters for an independent judiciary are known; judges appointed by a special hiring committee and confirmed by the Parliament.
CCM would also want to allow independent candidates; allow challenging presidential elections in court; start treating opposition politicians with respect and accord them the courtesy they deserve… The list of what has to be done is long.
What CCM, at 45, should understand in implementing the requisite political and electoral reforms is that it is essentially preparing its own plan B, when and if it joins the opposition.
A new ruling party that assumes power with reforms already in place will find it almost impossible to revert to the old draconian situation. This will be to CCM’s own advantage.
It should give the party a fighting chance. But a new ruling party that finds the draconian situation in place can easily find excuses to do nothing about the situation. This will spell CCM’s doom.
Instituting democratic reforms will have a social-psychological effect on Tanzanians; it will finalize the seemingly endless transition from one party to a multiparty system.
The transition that some of the Tanzanian neighbours, especially Zambia, Malawi, Kenya and even DR Congo seem to have finalized.
I have written in the past that CCM should not make the mistake of thinking that its refusal to make the needed reforms will enable it to cling to power forever or prolong its hold on power.
That is the kind of thinking that is not only wishful but comes straight out of the Ostrich playbook.
History, even recent history, is full of experiences that show that when people decide enough is enough, no one can stand in the way and no one can steal their votes.
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.