Dar es Salaam. Opposition party CHADEMA said here on Tuesday that the centre-right political party is planning to organise nationwide political rallies despite what it termed as an “illegal and unconstitutional” ban that has been imposed by the government.
CHADEMA deputy secretary-general (Zanzibar) Salum Mwalimu told a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Dar es Salaam that political rallies are the lifeblood of any political party and it is no longer going to wait for the government’s favour for CHADEMA to do what is permitted by the country’s laws.
Mr Mwalimu was presenting the resolutions by CHADEMA’s central committee that sat in Dar es Salaam from September 17 to September 18, 2022, to deliberate on national issues of concern to the party.
“The central committee has resolved that the party, at all levels, across the country, should make preparations for political rallies on a day and time that will be communicated by the party’s national leadership,” Mr Mwalimu told journalists.
“It means that the central committee has given a directive to grassroots party officials regarding the issue,” he added. “Under which arrangement will the rallies take place? Where will the first rally take place? These and other questions will be answered in the coming few days. But it is important that preparations are made now.”
Imposed by President John Magufuli and maintained by his successor President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the ban on political rallies has been one of the issues that have kept opposition parties and the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), and its government, at loggerheads for at least six years now.
Lacking any constitutional, legal or regulatory justification, the ban has been maintained purely on a belief on the part of the government that the economy should come before politics, with both Magufuli and Samia being on record of saying that they should be given some time to build the economy before they allow political activities to resume.
On the International Day of Democracy, President Samia expressed her understanding of how contentious and polarizing the ban on political rallies has been, pleading with stakeholders to bear with her as the country is waiting for a report from a task force she formed to collect stakeholders’ opinions on how to improve multiparty democracy in Tanzania.
“Political parties have been demanding permission to do political activities, particularly political rallies,” the Head of State wrote in her op-ed to commemorate the International Day of Democracy. “[But] I’d like to advise them to wait for the opinions of the task force on legal and regulatory reforms.”
But Mwalimu told journalists on Tuesday that political parties do not have to wait for the task force to submit its report to the Head of State for the current legal and regulatory regime, despite being repressive to opposition parties, does not deny the parties their right to organise political rallies.
“[CHADEMA’s] central committee is calling for the lifting of the illegal ban on political rallies unconditionally,” Mr Mwalimu said during his press conference. “This ban is not against political parties but against opposition parties. CCM has never been affected by this ban. It should be lifted.”
Mr Mwalimu said the ban should be lifted unconditionally because one of the preliminary recommendations by the presidential task force was the need for the government to come up with regulations that would govern the conduct of political rallies in Tanzania.
CHADEMA, which boycotted the process led by the task force and went ahead to lead its own, has categorically rejected such a proposal, saying that the existing legal instruments, including the constitution, are enough for regulating the conducting of rallies.
Lukelo Francis is a correspondent for The Chanzo from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.