First and foremost, I would like to declare my interest for the sake of accountability. I have been a fan of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party since I was young. My love for the party began with Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s first president, who is my favourite political figure in the country.
My love for the party grew during the Benjamin Mkapa administration, which I consider to be the best presidency in Tanzania’s history. And, of course, like many young people at the time, I was swept up in the Kikwetemania of 2005!
I am writing this op-ed as a fan of CCM because I believe that it can and must do better to secure its future and the future of the millions of Tanzanians it is responsible for.
Self-reflection might be difficult but necessary for growth and, at times, survival. The first reality that CCM must contend with is that the times have changed; hence, the party must change with the times or be left behind in history.
It is CCM’s founder, Mwalimu Nyerere, who, in the early 90s, realised the need for multipartyism in the country. At the time, two-thirds of Tanzanians still supported a one-party system. But Nyerere realised a one-party system would eventually suffocate the party.
He believed it was better to enter a multiparty system before people started to demand it. Even though many members of CCM were against the move to multipartyism, Nyerere understood that it was necessary for CCM’s survival.
On CCM’s own terms
You might ask how multipartyism favoured CCM. First, it meant that CCM was letting go of the one-party system on its own terms, with the party holding all the leverage.
That meant the party could still retain its dominance in a multiparty system. Had conditions changed and CCM was forced to accept multipartyism, it would have been under terms which would have been unfavourable to the party.
Secondly, multipartyism meant that CCM could share the blame with other parties. In a single-party system, there was nobody else to blame but CCM. But besides sharing the blame, it also meant that CCM would have to share success as well.
Whether we like it or not, we live under the conditions Nyerere tried to save CCM from. We live in a one-party system with CCM controlling all but seven of the 393 parliamentary seats.
Without a meaningful opposition, CCM has left itself to carry all the blame for everything that goes wrong, and it has caused it to live in an ideological bubble. This is why there is a disconnect between what the elites of CCM know and the reality on the ground.
The chawa phenomenon
The current setup has also given rise to sycophants, or chawas, as they’re popularly known in the local lexicon. Even though some of these chawas may claim to be party cadres or die-hard fans of the party, in reality, they are not.
They are opportunists who believe that saying anything in support of the party will gain them money, fame or positions in government. They do not love the party because they are not thinking about its future but merely what the party can do for them in the present.
Most of these chawas would quickly and happily abandon ship if CCM were to be replaced by another party.
Now, if we are to be honest, even the opposition has social media warriors with more passion than intellect. They know little about politics, history, geopolitics and current affairs but are willing to pick up any online battle on behalf of their party.
While this is true, at least the opposition can rest assured that their sycophants are not doing it for highly coveted positions because they have none to give.
Areas of focus
So, what can CCM do starting today to secure its long-term future? I believe there are three main areas CCM should focus on.
First, CCM must return to its roots. It must once again become the party of farmers and workers. The party must go to the grassroots and serve the people humbly to understand their pressing issues truly.
Currently, it seems that the party is only talking about how well things are going, which may sound elitist and out of touch to the average citizen.
READ MORE: A Game Plan For CCM’s Future?
How can CCM achieve this? By listening to the people’s concerns and addressing them promptly, being transparent and accountable to the people, investing in agriculture and rural development and providing affordable social services for the people.
Second, CCM must value intellectualism over political tribalism or partisanship. Many CCM members nationwide have great vision and ideas to propel the country forward, but they are less likely to be heard or seen than the chawa constantly singing praise.
This does not mean that praise singers do not have a place in the party; indeed, they do have a place in all political parties, but they should not be the ones and the forefront of pushing the party’s agenda.
Third, CCM must realise that it is the 21st century, and 20th-century propaganda tactics will not work today. For better or worse, the internet and social media have allowed people to publish and consume information outside of traditional media.
Unlike traditional media, it is virtually impossible to control social media without shutting down the internet, which in itself creates more problems than it solves.
Therefore, propaganda in this day and age requires a bit more subtlety. It should not involve social media influencers who lack the skills or incentive to be subtle or, most importantly, convincing.
‘Influencers’ must be able to influence the right crowd. The perception that a majority of Tanzanians are gullible and will accept any information they see online is the wrong approach.
Here are some specific ways that CCM can use propaganda in the 21st century: use targeted advertising to reach specific groups of people with tailored messages; create content that is shareable and engaging, such as memes, videos, and infographics; use social media influencers who are credible and respected by their followers; and be transparent about its sources and methods, and avoid using misleading or deceptive tactics.
Win support, not votes
CCM must focus on winning the support of the Tanzanian people rather than just winning votes. While winning votes is essential for a party to survive, CCM must also win the hearts and minds of Tanzanians.
More than half of Tanzanians are under the age of 18, and 70 per cent are under the age of 30. This means that CCM must focus on the youth if it wants to remain relevant in the coming decades.
The party should start by promoting young people within its ranks and government and by implementing policies that benefit young people by providing quality education, creating jobs, fighting corruption, and empowering young people by giving them a voice in decision-making.
READ MORE: At 45, CCM Needs Plan B
I admit that I am not a politician or an expert in political strategy. My suggestions are based on what I believe is the best way forward. Sometimes, it takes someone who is not politically ambitious to see and state the obvious.
As Mwalimu Nyerere once said, and I paraphrase, the true opposition to CCM will come from within. If CCM wants to remain at the centre of Tanzanian politics and governance, it must look within itself and change before it is too late.
Thomas Joel Kibwana is an international relations and business development expert. He is available at email@example.com or on X (Twitter) as @tkibwana. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at firstname.lastname@example.org for further inquiries.