One thing that is clear is that Tanzania’s politics are becoming incredibly confusing. For those who are pro-reform, the lingering rhetoric in their ears is that positive reforms are coming. Still, even this group isn’t spared the confusion based on the actions of the government and the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
For those who oppose any meaningful change in the country, the past few months have taken them to cloud nine as things have changed by returning to their default positions.
The pace of reforms has continually been decreasing, ignoring the mainly symbolic gestures that President Samia Suluhu Hassan throws here and there. The process gets even more complicated when we observe the return to the government and CCM of people with questionable records because of their actions during the previous administration.
It includes the appointment of Mr Paul Makonda, a controversial man with an unquestionable history of human rights violations, as CCM’s Secretary of Ideology and Publicity. His appointment ignited a huge debate among followers of Tanzania’s politics, who grapple with its implications.
Some consider Makonda’s appointment strategic as Samia is determined to gain a following from the Lake Zone region, where the former Dar es Salaam regional commissioner hails from. A former president John Magufuli’s stronghold, there has been concern that the region’s support for Samia has been minute. Makonda’s appointment has been described as one of the tactics to change that.
But others have criticised the appointment, pointing out that it contradicts the reformist and reconciliatory ideals that Samia has been trying to sell to Tanzanians since she assumed the presidency on March 19, 2021. Tundu Lissu, CHADEMA’s deputy national chairperson (Tanzania Mainland), has described Makonda’s appointment as a sign of the “coming dark and painful days of politicking.”
And to make matters even more confusing, we now have CCM Secretary-General Daniel Chongolo resigning following what I consider an organised campaign by one of the warring factions within the party determined to have one of their own in the position.
As it has been reported, Chongolo’s resignation was preceded by reports circulating on social media, including the leaking of a private WhatsApp conversation Mr Chongolo allegedly had with an unidentified woman, boosted by supposedly paid social media influencers, to portray Chongolo as a man with no integrity and unqualified to serve as a CCM’s leader.
These two incidents and other developments in Tanzania now serve as a precursor of what the nation should expect as it nears civic and general elections in 2024 and 2025, respectively. While it may sound reductionist, elections can help explain much of what is happening, especially if we heed an adage that there is no coincidence in politics.
But what, or who, exactly might be behind these developments, which I anticipate we’ll experience more as we near elections? My analysis points to a confluence of factors that, while not necessarily working in coordination, seek to achieve a similar goal, influencing the coming elections within and outside CCM.
Security apparatus’ psychology
That Tanzania’s security apparatus is heavily involved in the country’s politics is an open secret. On several occasions, opposition parties and other democratic actors have complained about security organs’ meddling with politics and the country’s democratic processes, including elections.
Security organs’ influence on how the government conducts itself is so huge that even former President Benjamin Mkapa admitted in his memoir My Life, My Purpose that he had to do everything he could to purchase the radar that security organs demanded despite heavy criticism from development partners that the purchase was wasteful.
READ MORE: Times Have Changed, And So Must CCM
This is an interesting admission, given how constitutionally powerful the president is in Tanzania. It just tells you how powerful and influential Tanzania’s security sector is when it forces elected leaders to concede to their demands.
This influence was conspicuous during the Magufuli administration as the nation was used to seeing heads of several security organs accompanying the late leader in various engagements, whether in a swearing-in ceremony at the State House or a public rally in the countryside. Magufuli’s critics associated this practice with his “paranoia.”
Magufuli also lacked confidence in the security apparatus, building around him what others have termed a “circle of accountability” where A was watching B, B was watching C, and C was watching A and B, not to mention the recording of people’s private phone conversations that Magufuli publicly boasted.
That practice ceased when Samia assumed the presidency in 2021, with the heads of security organs only appearing in public when necessary, which many consider normal. Good working relations between the government and security organs now seem to exist, built on trust and confidence.
This means that the security apparatus will jealously protect this recovered confidence and will go the extra mile in ‘dealing’ with anyone who threatens it in one way or another. One way of achieving it, I fear, is to ensure that politicians heavily depend on them, as the alternative is vulnerability, as they encountered in the past.
This psychology affects many things, including key positions and how information is shared with the public, including recent leaks and anticipated more strategic leaks in the future.
Post-June 2023 politics
If anyone is not satisfied with the pace of reforms President Samia promised Tanzanians and is still trying to figure out where to find some answers, I welcome them to look at the debate that accompanied the controversial intergovernmental agreement between Tanzania and Dubai.
During the debate, influenced by the leakage of the agreement to the public, Samia’s government came under intense scrutiny, which was not observed for a long time. The criticism got even harsher when religious leaders sided with critics, with the Catholic Church issuing a circular criticising the deal, demanding the government listen to the people’s opinions.
The church read its dissenting circular to over ten million members in Tanzania. This exercise lasted several weeks, to the chagrin of the government and supporters of the deal. You can describe this moment as a turning point for Samia and how she viewed things.
For example, opposition party CHADEMA has reported that since June 2023, they have not met with CCM as part of reconciliation talks that Samia launched immediately after CHADEMA’s national chairperson, Freeman Mbowe, came out of prison.
The centre-right opposition party has also received a letter from CCM whereby the ruling party explains its refusal to all proposals CHADEMA had submitted during their reconciliation talks on key political reforms in the country.
It indicates that President Samia is catching an election fever, with her choice of Makonda as the party’s secretary of ideology and publicity being interpreted as her willingness to “get her hands dirty” by resorting to the politics of her predecessor, Magufuli.
Factions inside CCM
It would be foolhardy to assume that things are cool within CCM because, as I pointed out in this article, the party experiences factional infighting motivated purely by the approaching general election in 2025. Based on this infighting, I believe we can explain the leaking of Mr Chongolo’s private WhatsApp conversation and his subsequent resignation.
And as it usually is for any type of fighting, the one capable of accessing enough financial resources and intelligence will be the ultimate winner. The same is true in the ongoing factional battles within CCM. Those capable of bankrolling their fight against their opponents will emerge victorious.
So far, Chongolo has been targeted and set ablaze by one of the factions; this is with the anticipation that a more strategic person will be placed there with the post open.
The main question of this series of events is: Is the dog wagging the tail or the tail wagging the dog? It’s essential, however, to reflect on the words of former President Jakaya Kikwete during the 10th CCM’s national congress on December 08, 2022.
“Madam President,” Kikwete told Samia amidst rumours that he has his candidate for the 2025 CCM presidential primaries, “don’t listen to people’s rumours that there is this young man who will run, or this old man will run. It’s pure nonsense.”
“I’m not saying I’m stopping them, but I don’t see any member of CCM who will take the form to oppose you in 2025,” Kikwete, who served as the fifth president of Tanzania, assured Samia. ”Maybe if things become too much worse between now and then. But I don’t believe that [will happen], and it’s not our tradition.”
Tony Alfred K is a political analyst based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @tonyalfredk. These are the writer’s own opinions, and they do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.