It’s been two months now since the debate of the port agreement between Tanzania and Dubai emerged in Tanzania. Two camps have been formed, on one end the government and the ruling party describe the agreement as “the best deal ever,” on the other end activists and opposition parties describe it as “the worst” equating it to selling Tanzania ports.
The debate has been so intense that on July 09, 2023, CCM’s top leadership discussed and endorsed the deal and resolved to intensify awareness about the importance of the agreement, emphasizing that the deal is as per the CCM’s manifesto. Following the meeting, all party machinery in the country went on full blaze defending the controversial deal.
It Is Not A Samia’s Deal, It’s Our Deal
At the national level, the party operation to defend the agreement is led by the party secretary general Daniel Chongolo together with the Minister of Planning and Investment, Professor Kitila Mkumbo as well as the Chairperson of the Parliament Public Investments Committee, Jerry Slaa, and senior party cadre Stephen Wasira.
The party secretary general has so far conducted national rallies in Mbeya, Mtwara, and Tanga and on July 22, 2023, he will be in Arusha. In all the rallies, the party secretary has emphasized that the Dubai-Tanzania port deal is the CCM’s initiative rooted in its 2020 election manifesto and not a sole initiative of the President.
“People are discussing this issue as if it is President Samia’s sole initiative,” said party secretary Chongolo in his address in Tanga on July 19, “all these plans for port improvement are part of the CCM manifesto written in 2020. Was Samia the party chairperson by then? was she the president?” asked Chongolo in front of thousands of CCM supporters.
The party secretary has also raised a call for all CCM members and leaders to make an effort in defending the deal, something that has continued across the country. “This is a CCM initiative, if you see any CCM member anywhere not defending this deal, be sure to doubt his commitment to the party,” said Chongolo in a rally in Mbeya.
The party’s latest direction to own up to the deal and put a wall to the President is in ensuring that the ongoing debate doesn’t continue to weaken Samia’s position both from inside the party or outside the party. On the other hand, opposition and activists have continued to brand the deal as a Samia initiative, a tactical position to put pressure on the government, as the reaction from the public has remained negative to the deal.
It’s all about the 2025 Election
Party stalwarts have analyzed why the debate has been so intense this time around, and one of the reasons they highlighted is that critics are looking at the 2025 election.
“Investment is not a new thing, but why are there so many lies in this deal,” asked Stephen Wasira in a rally in Mtwara. “They want the Presidency in 2025, some of them are in CCM and others are in the opposition,” argued the 78-year-old Mr. Wasira, a seasoned party cadre experienced in policy making.
To this end, the party leadership said that they have decided to get ahead of the ‘dirty politics’ which aim at building an agenda toward 2025.
The opposition, specifically CHADEMA has taken the port deal as one of its key issues, on July 14, 2023, the party chairperson announced a new campaign #SaveOurPorts (#OkoaBandariZetu) which will go hand in hand with their current campaign ‘255’ focusing on the new constitution.
The party leadership has vowed that this will remain a big issue unless the contract is terminated, “This is a big political agenda for the next twenty years, not just for the 2025 [election],” said CHADEMA Vice Chairperson, Tundu Lissu in his press. “It will remain on top of the political agenda. I don’t know how CCM is going to avoid this issue.”
Beyond Party Politicking
The development on the issue has managed to put loose mobilization beyond political parties.
One of the groups is Sauti Za Watanzania, which stemmed from a Club House session. Still, it has managed to organize several physical press conferences led by the former Tanzania Ambassador to Sweden, Dr. Wilbroad Slaa, and several activist lawyers including Peter Madeleka, Boniface Mwabukusi, and activists such as Rosemary Mwakitangwe.
Some youth from Sauti za Watanzania had managed to organize a demonstration on June 19, 2023, where several people were arrested. The group has joined hands with CHADEMA for a national rally around port issues which is expected to be held on July 23 in Dar es Salaam.
On the other hand, at the high court of Mbeya, four citizens, Emmanuel K. Changula, Alphonse Lusako, Raphael J. Ngonde na Frank J. Nyalusi have opened a case on the agreement, saying they are not opposed to investment but the exploitative clauses of the agreement which put Tanzania national interest in jeopardy.
CCM and the government have committed to pressing forward with the deal, “As CCM we have decided that we are not changing the course or stopping” said party secretary Chongolo in the Mbeya rally, “and I direct the government to hasten the implementation of the agreement.”