Zanzibar. The family of a veteran Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) member Juma Juma Makame who has been missing for a period of more than two years is demanding answers from law enforcement organs in Zanzibar, saying the silence has been “long and worrying.”
Makame went missing on August 19, 2020, almost two months before the general election, when he went out for his usual exercise, which involved jogging and swimming, in Mazizini, a suburb of Unguja town, leaving his family, friends and loved ones grieving.
Makame, who on February 2, 2023, would have celebrated his 66th birthday, mysteriously disappeared after coming second in the CCM internal race to seek the party’s candidate for the House of Representative’s post for Chaani constituency, a town in the northern part of Unguja island.
Makame’s disappearance happened against the background of reports of foul play in the intra-party election which involved a total of nine candidates that forced Makame to express an interest to appeal the results that gave Nadir Abdullatif Yussuf Alwardy, the now Chaani member of the House of Representatives, the victory.
Makame’s family told The Chanzo that they have decided to speak up about the fate of their loved one because they think they have been receiving less cooperation from relevant authorities with regard to his whereabouts.
“Everything is possible if the government decides so,” Fatma Juma Makame, Makame’s sister, told The Chanzo during an interview. “We believe the reason why we know nothing about my brother’s fate is that the government has not prioritized the issue.”
That this can happen to a man who has been in the government working as a civil servant for so many years does not make any sense to Fatma, a situation she considers to be “extremely unfair.”
“My brother was a good and hardworking civil servant for almost all his adult life,” Fatma went on. “How come the government he dutifully served does not prioritize his disappearance? I don’t think this is fair at all.”
Asked if the police were aware of the case, Zanzibar Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Tadei Mchomvu told The Chanzo that the police is aware of the case, noting that it is still under investigation.
“We are still searching for the said person in different areas,” Mchomvu noted during an interview. “However, our efforts so far have not borne any fruit. But we proceed with our investigation and we will update the public once new information is obtained.”
An accomplished civil servant
Married to two wives Samira Salum and Mwajuma Mkuya Suleiman, Juma Juma Makame retired from the Zanzibar civil service in 2019 while serving as a Deputy Commissioner of the Zanzibar Insurance Corporation (ZIC), ending his 43-year service to the government.
Makame, who graduated from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow with a Master’s in Finance in 1993, started his career as a civil servant in 1976, starting off as a school teacher before serving other big and important positions within the government of Zanzibar.
While working as a government official, Makame was also serving as a member of CCM’s regional and district committees as well as a member of CCM’s Elderly Wing for the Chaani constituency.
Samira Salum, Makame’s youngest wife, describes the man as loving and as a person who cared about his family.
“He was not just a husband but also a provider and a guardian,” says the sixty-year-old and mother of seven Samira. “Now, we don’t know where my husband is and whether he’s dead or alive.”
Simai Abdallah Juma has been a friend of Makame for over thirty years and also his personal driver who describes his former boss as “a man of the people” whose disappearance has dealt a huge blow to him.
“He was not just a boss but also an all-weather friend and a caring brother,” Juma told The Chanzo during an interview. “These past two years without him have been the hardest in my life. I miss him and I wish he was here with us right now.”
‘We only saw his car’
August 19, 2020, would have passed Samira Salum just like other days did before it if it were not for the tragic news that she received about her husband.
At dusk, Samira started feeling worried by the fact that her husband was not at home, something extraordinary as he always used to pray the maghrib prayer at home. It was now almost 7:30 PM and Makame wasn’t at home.
“With a sense of foreboding, I informed the children that their father was not at home,” Samira narrates. “We went to Mazizini where he does his exercises but we ended up seeing his car parked with the key and he was nowhere to be seen.”
They asked people around and the only answer they received was that while they saw Makame coming out of the water they were not sure of the direction he took. The family’s efforts to get authorities to show them CCTV footage bore no fruit.
Mwajuma Mkuya Suleiman, Makame’s eldest wife, told The Chanzo that as soon as she heard the reports of disappearance she recalled what her husband told her recently which she thinks is related to his disappearance.
“My husband received a message informing him that the intraparty election was marred with corruption and that he had to fight for his right,” said the sixty-year-old and mother of five Mwajuma.
Based on the interviews it conducted with some of Makame’s fellow contestants in the CCM intraparty election, The Chanzo understands that the politician disappeared while he was about to appeal the decision by the party to declare Nadir as CCM’s candidate for a House of Representative’s post for Chaani.
Khamis Juma Ali was a candidate for the intraparty election who came third after Mr Makame. Ali, 55, confirmed to The Chanzo to have been contacted by Makame who told him that he was not pleased with the results and that he wanted to escalate his complaints to higher authorities within CCM.
“After reports circulated that Makame would replace Nadir as CCM’s candidate in Chaani, the latter was sent to Dodoma before the party’s central committee sat to make the final decision,” Ali told The Chanzo during an interview.
“It was around this time that Makame disappeared and reports alleged that I’ll be supposed to take his position as a candidate [in case the party annuls Nadir’s victory],” he added. “This made me sleepless for days for I didn’t want to leave my children without a father and I was glad that didn’t happen.”
This information is corroborated by that provided by Othman Khamis, a retired captain of MV Mapinduzi and a close friend of Makame who told The Chanzo that it is true that his friend was planning to appeal the results.
“He called me to inform me that there are signs that his appeal will succeed and that the hope of leading Chaani was still there,” Khamis, 55, said in an interview. “Before that happened, he disappeared. We have been without for so long that I’m almost losing hope to see him again.”
But Mula Othman Mula who served as CCM regional chairperson for Unguja Kaskazini and the returning officer during the intraparty election refutes these assertions, saying that Makame never complained about the election results and he had no plans of appealing.
“You cannot appeal without informing me,” Mr Mula said. “Makame never wrote to me to complain about the election. He did not even call to ask me anything about the election. There has never been such a thing.”
Mula said that while he believes politics might be responsible for Makame’s disappearance, the last time he checked he found out that the man was involved in a number of conflicts with people he had offered money to establish some businesses.
In an interview with The Chanzo, Nadir, who now serves as the Zanzibar deputy minister for infrastructure, communications and transport, denied reports of corruption in the intraparty election to get CCM’s candidate for a House of Representative post for Chaani.
He also denied that he was summoned by CCM to Dodoma a few days before the disappearance of Mr Makame, saying he has never been summoned by his party and he never travelled to Dodoma during that time.
He, however, admitted that many people are blaming Makame’s disappearance on him, accusing him of being responsible for the politician’s mysterious disappearance, a charge he also vehemently denies.
“I’ve been interrogated by the police about my alleged involvement in the incident and my responses have always been I’ve absolutely nothing to do about it,” Nadir told The Chanzo. “I had nothing against him and there’s no way I can be responsible for his disappearance.”
Nadir called on security organs in Zanzibar to fast-track the investigation into the matter so that the public can be aware of what actually happened, saying whoever was responsible for the incident – “even if it’s me” – should face justice.
An interesting plot in the story of the disappearance of Makame, however, took place on September 9, 2020, when then-deputy CCM secretary general (Zanzibar) Dr Abdallah Juma Mabodi says he is praying for Makame to be “patient where he is”, telling fellow CCM members that “he’ll be with us soon.”
Dr Mabodi was speaking during a function to congratulate people whose candidacies to vie for different leadership positions have been approved by CCM.
Most people, including Makame’s family and those who were with him during the intraparty election, use Mr Mabodi’s statement as evidence of their claims that the party must be aware of what befell him.
The Chanzo asked Dr Mabodi, then still serving as CCM’s deputy secretary general (Zanzibar), what did he mean when he said that Makame “will join with us soon” but was unable to give us a clear answer.
Instead, Dr Mabodi noted that no one would like to have their loved one going missing for years, praying that Makame comes back soon to join his family.
“If it were not for [Dr Mabodi’s] statement, we would have been satisfied with the conclusion that my father drowned and died,” Leyla Juma, Makame’s daughter, told The Chanzo. “It is a statement that has left us with many questions.”
Samira Salum, Makame’s wife, does not want to think that her husband might have died, hoping he will one day come back to join his family.
“He is not dead,” Samira said during an interview. “My heart refuses to believe that my husband is dead. I know he is somewhere alive. It is my hope that he will come back to us.”
Samira and her co-wife Mwajuma have defied an edict by the Grand Mufti’s Office of Zanzibar that they should observe iddah, saying that is something they won’t do.
Iddah is a period a Muslim woman observes after the death of her husband or after a divorce, during which she may not marry another man.
“I’m not going to observe iddah until I know what actually happened to my husband,” Mwajuma, Makame’s eldest wife, said during an interview with The Chanzo.
“I know my husband is not dead,” she added. “I know he will come back to help me raise our children.”
Najjat Omar is The Chanzo’s journalist based in Zanzibar. She is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.