Dar es Salaam. The General Assembly of the opposition CHADEMA party on Thursday rejected the appeals filed by the party’s former cadres who were sacked in November 2020 after they were accused of indiscipline and going against the party’s directives.
The nineteen senior female leaders, who were the bulwark of the CHADEMA’s Women Wing (BAWACHA), fell from grace when they accepted the National Electoral Commission’s (NEC) appointment as Special Seat MPs at a time when the party had decided to boycott the positions as part of its protests against the results of the 2020 general election.
CHADEMA said then that it did not forward the list to NEC and when the 19 women leaders were summoned to the party’s Central Committee to clarify the matter they never showed up. Instead, they went to be sworn in as MPs by the then Speaker Job Ndugai.
Following their firing from the party, the nineteen women leaders appealed the Central Committee’s decision to the party’s General Assembly that took place from May 10 to May 11 in Dar es Salaam. But a total of 413 members, an equivalent of 97.6 per cent, of the 423-member assembly voted in approval of the central committee’s decision to sack the women.
“Five members abstained while five other members voted against the central committee’s decision,” CHADEMA’s director of communications and protocol Mr John Mrema announced earlier today. “So the resolution is that the General Assembly has approved of the decision by the Central Committee to strip these people of CHADEMA’s membership.”
The nineteen women leaders include Halima Mdee, Hawa Mwaifunga, Grace Tendega, Jesca Kishoa, Naghenjwa Kaboyoka and Tunza Malapo.
Others are Cecilia Pareso, Sophia Mwakagenda, Anatropia Theonest, Salome Makamba, Stella Fiao, Agnesta Kaiza, Hawa Mwaifunga, Felista Njau, Kunti Majala, Asia Mohamed, Conchesta Rwamulaza, Ester Bulaya, Esther Matiko Nusrat Hanje.
Reacting to Thursday’s decision by the party assembly to throw away their appeals, Ms Mdee, who served as the party’s women wing chairperson before being dismissed, described what happened as “thuggery,” and that even CHADEMA national chairperson Freeman Mbowe knows it.
“What happened there was actually not voting, that voters were free [to vote],” Ms Mdee told journalists outside the hall where the voting exercise took place. “But what happened there I can say it is thuggery. I never knew that within CHADEMA that this kind of thuggery could take place.”
Confronted by journalists regarding Ms Mdee’s accusations, Mr Mbowe said: “The voting exercise took place before their very own eyes. They should stop this nonsense.”
Thursday’s decision now means that the ball is in Speaker of Parliament Tulia Ackson’s court and all attention will be directed to the capital Dodoma to see if the leader of the lawmaking body will take the necessary legal step of stripping Mdee and co of their parliamentary position.
CHADEMA has already indicated that they are going to write to the parliament to inform it about the decision of its General Assembly where the house will have to sack the MPs from the chamber.
For one to be an MP in Tanzania he or she should be sponsored by a political party. If it happens that that political party fires the representative or the representative leaves the party for whatever reason it means that automatically he or she loses his or her parliamentary seat.
Former Speaker Job Ndugai decided not to chase the MPs from the house after CHADEMA’s central committee stripped Mdee and co of their membership. Ndugai claimed then that he never received an official letter from CHADEMA informing him of their decision, a statement CHADEMA denied, accusing Mr Ndugai of violating the country’s laws and regulations.
CHADEMA takes the issue of 19 women leaders very seriously and the option that Speaker Ackson will take – of firing them or keeping them – will inform CHADEMA’s engagement with not only the parliament but also with the Samia Suluhu Hassan Administration.
In scholarly and activist circles, however, the debate around the treatment by CHADEMA of the 19 women leaders will continue to reverberate. The saga has not only raised debates surrounding the merits of the Special Seats arrangement in Tanzania.
It has also shone a spotlight on the patriarchal structures that characterize many political parties in the country, blamed for the minimal contribution of Tanzania’s women in the leadership of their country.
Among key lessons that the dispute between CHADEMA and the nineteen women leaders is that captured by gender and governance expert Dr Victoria Lihiru whose study on the fracas concluded that the dispute has been caused by the failure of the NEC to “provide political parties with a uniform and transparent modality for the selection of women to special seats against the requirement of Article 81 of the 1977 Constitution.”
“The NEC’s failure has led to modalities of implementing women’s special seats that are incompatible with the international standards governing ‘Temporary Special Measures’ (TSM),” Dr Lihiru writes in her 2021 article.
According to her, this situation has led to conflict, the marginalisation and discrimination of women in special seats, ridicule of the special seats system, and a slow transition of women from special to constituency seats. She called on the importance of reviewing the arrangement of the special seats and repositioning it to achieve its intended objectives.