Dar es Salaam. Authorities in Zanzibar are investigating a case involving the alleged abduction and torture of a veteran Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) cadre Baraka Mohamed Shamte who was attacked on June 12, 2022, a few days after criticising President Hussein Mwinyi’s policy of leasing a number of islets to investors.
Director of presidential communications in Zanzibar Charles Hillary said in a statement on Monday that the government is committing itself to investigate the alleged attack on the veteran politician “and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Mjini Magharibi regional police commander Abdallah Hussein Mussa told a press conference on Monday that on June 12, 2022, police received information from the Mnazi Mmoja Hospital regarding the physical attack on Mr Shamte by unknown assailants in the victim’s hometown of Unguja Ukuu, Kusini Unguja.
According to police reports, Mr Shamte, 83, received treatment at the Mnazi Mmoja Hospital and was released on June 13, 2022, after his health appeared to have improved.
Before he was attacked by what eyewitnesses described as “masked people” – popularly referred to as “zombies” or “janjaweed” – Mr Shamte was out on bail after police charged him with sedition after making a statement that police thought was demeaning to the government officials.
Leasing of islets
During an interview with a local media outlet, Mr Shamte, who had served as CCM ideology and publicity secretary at the district level, concluded that he does not think that President Mwinyi deserves a second term, saying he does not display the qualities of a good leader.
Mr Shamte, who served as a member of CCM’s National Executive Committee at a regional level, took issue with President Mwinyi’s decision to lease a number of islets in both Unguja and Pemba to prospective investors.
In February 2022, Zanzibar announced that it was putting nine more islets located in the archipelago up for grabs by investors who seek to invest in the much-touted blue economy.
The islands are located in South Unguja, North Unguja, South Pemba and North Pemba, and include Sume, Popo, Miwi, Jombe, Kwata, Kashani, Fundo (200 hectares), Njao (200 hectares) and Matumbini (200 hectares).
This was on top of the previous 10 other islets that had already been leased to both local and domestic investors. Authorities said then that a total of $261.5 million would be earned from such investments, further improving and promoting the country’s blue economy.
“These islets are not for investments,” Mr Shamte said during the interview. “Does [the government] want to invite the Arabs to come here and take the islands and colonize us through a backdoor? [The leasing of the islets] is a deceptive way of selling the country off via a backdoor.”
The Zanzibar Revolution of January 12, 1964, was led by African revolutionaries against the Arab minority rule, leading to the transformation of Zanzibar from a monarchy to a republic.
“As a people, we don’t want to have our islets leased to investors,” Mr Shamte added in the interview. “We have been with them for so many years. And people are not going to leave those islets. People have their cemeteries there. They’re not going to leave.”
President Mwinyi, however, thinks that Mr Shamte’s concerns explain the failure on the part of the government to elaborate its plans and policies to the people and the reasons why the government is pursuing them.
During a function on June 13, 2022, Dr Mwinyi said: “This government is not the first one to lease islets. A couple of islets were leased under previous administrations. It is also not true that leasing these islets will mean the eviction of people living there. Let’s educate each other so that people can know these things.”
Mwinyi’s clarification nevertheless did not save Mr Shamte from being kicked out of CCM. On June 13, 2022, the party announced that it has stripped Mr Shamte of his party membership, citing “slandering in public” of Dr Mwinyi as the reason behind its decision.
Far from getting rid of opposition
But while CCM might have gotten rid of Mr Shamte, the second longest-ruling party in Africa is far from getting rid of opposition, especially when it comes to the leasing of the islets. This is because Mr Shamte was not the only person who was opposed to the idea.
Ali Karume challenged Mwinyi’s candidacy in the CCM presidential primaries in 2020. In a statement that has been circulating on social media lately, the diplomat is seen sympathesing with Mr Shamte, even congratulating him for advising President Mwinyi publicly.
“An uneducated leader will tell you: ‘I’ll build this country’s economy by inviting tourists and investors and by selling all of its islets.’ Does that leader help you progress economically or he is selling you out?,” Karume, the son of Zanzibar’s first president, Abeid Amani Karume, said. “A country is a sovereignty and [soverignty] can neither be sold nor leased.”
Haji Omar Kheir is a Tumbatu House of Representative (CCM) who also has been very vocal in opposing the government’s plan to lease the islets to investors. Tumbatu is itself an island, which is the third-largest island making up the Zanzibar archipelago.
On May 6, 2022, Mr Kheir told the House of Representatives, Zanzibar’s lawmaking body, that if the exercise of leasing the islets will be done “recklessly” there is a risk of the government being forced to pay compensation to the investors when its plans to drill oil and natural gas materialize.
A full tensor gradiometric exploration that concluded in 2020 revealed that oil and natural gas reserves are located in three areas of Makoongwe island, South of Pemba; Tumbatu island, North West of Unguja; and in the Indian ocean, East of Unguja.
“Let’s not be too excited here about leasing of these islets,” Mr Kheir told the House of Representatives. “If the government is not careful, it will lease things that are not supposed to be leased. When I heard that the Mwana wa Mwana island has been visited by an investor, I said these people are going to lease what is not supposed to be leased.”