After serving ACT-Wazalendo for almost a decade and seeing the leftist party grow significantly in membership and popularity, Zitto Kabwe is set to step down as a party leader in the upcoming party elections in March 2024, a decision the firebrand opposition figure announced on November 23, 2023.
Since the announcement, several names have been discussed as the most likely successor of Mr Kabwe, whose leadership will be remembered for, among other things, successfully convincing the late Seif Sharif Hamad and his faction to join ACT-Wazalendo on March 18, 2018, from the Civic United Front (CUF), following internal conflicts.
Such names include Ismael Jussa, a prominent Zanzibari politician currently serving as the party’s central committee member; the party’s current deputy chairperson (Tanzania Mainland) Dorothy Semu; the party’s secretary-general Ado Shaibu; and Othman Masoud Othman, the party’s deputy chairperson (Zanzibar) and the archipelago’s First Vice President.
Mr Jussa contested the same position against Kabwe in March 2020 and assumed the role of acting Party Leader on multiple occasions when Mr Kabwe fulfilled other party responsibilities abroad. Considered widely as Maalim Seif’s right-hand man, Mr Jussa has served as a member of Zanzibar’s House of Representatives and the Constituent Assembly.
I consider Jussa, given his previous candidacy in 2020, coupled with his interim tenure as acting Party Leader, to be the most likely successor of Mr Kabwe. His political acumen and fitting personality make him even more qualified.
Semu stands out as arguably the most seasoned party cadre, evidenced by the significant roles she has assumed. Before her current position, she has served as the party’s secretary-general.
She has also served as the party’s secretary of policy and research. On top of being its Vice Chairperson, Ms Semu also serves as Prime Minister of ACT-Wazalendo’s Shadow Cabinet. Semu’s party credentials are undeniably robust and reflective of her dedication and expertise within the organisation.
She could present a formidable challenge to Mr Jussa and provide stiff competition in the contest for the position. Semu appears to be more strategically positioned for the role of party chairperson.
If Jussa decides to contest for the party leader position, I recommend that Semu consider running for the chairpersonship. This approach would contribute to preserving a harmonious equilibrium between Tanganyika and Zanzibar in the top two leadership positions within the party.
Mr Shaibu ascended to his current position within the party following his election during the General Assembly in March 2020. Aged only 35 when assuming the role, he became the youngest secretary-general in any political party in Tanzania. He has previously served as the party’s secretary of ideology and propagation.
Although Mr Shaibu remains relatively youthful at age 38, ACT-Wazalendo has consistently demonstrated a propensity for entrusting pivotal and influential roles to the younger generation, shown in the composition of their shadow cabinet, which boasts a considerable representation of emerging young politicians.
Given this historical trend within the party, one should not underestimate Shaibu’s prospects of succeeding Mr Kabwe.
Both the party and Mr Shaibu would benefit significantly from his sustained position as secretary-general. Particularly for a youthful party like ACT-Wazalendo, the role demands the dynamism of young leadership.
This arrangement would ensure the party continues to draw from Mr Shaibu’s energy and youthfulness while affording him valuable political experience, paving the way for his potential ascent to the position of party leader.
As for OMO, as people affectionately refer to Mr Othman, he strategically positions himself for a potential presidential candidacy in the forthcoming Zanzibar general elections.
Widely respected for his stance within the Constituent Assembly by distancing himself from the government position, costing him his job as Zanzibar’s Attorney General, many see Othman as a man of principles, who the country first before anything else.
He’s, therefore, the unequivocal candidate from ACT-Wazalendo for the presidential race 2025.
Given the constitutional framework in Zanzibar, OMO stands to benefit in either scenario – securing the presidency would naturally elevate him to the most influential position within the party, with or without a formal role, or a second-place outcome would ensure his retention of the esteemed position of First Vice President of Zanzibar.
This strategic approach would allow Mr Othman to concentrate on the party’s growth and development in Zanzibar.
Mr Kabwe’s future
Where does this leave Mr Kabwe? Indisputably, he has been one of the most distinguished Members of Parliament over the past two decades. The prospect of his return to parliamentary duties in 2025 holds substantial potential for advancing ACT-Wazalendo.
Consequently, Kabwe’s impact within the party transcends the necessity for a formal position. Instead, I envision him directing his efforts towards fortifying the party’s presence in rural areas over the next two years and concurrently channelling his energies into a concerted campaign for a parliamentary seat in the upcoming 2025 elections.
Kabwe has transparently articulated his aspirations to contend for the presidency of Tanzania at some point in the future. While it seems improbable for him to embark on such a campaign in 2025, I envision him positioning himself for a potential run in 2030 when he reaches the age of 54.
Given the substantial groundwork required for any ACT-Wazalendo candidate to emerge as a formidable presidential contender, the task at hand may necessitate Kabwe’s unwavering dedication over the ensuing six years.
Although I perceive a lack of a straightforward trajectory for Mr Kabwe to ascend to the presidency, I envisage him serving as an MP for the ensuing two to three terms. This would allow him to solidify his stature as a prominent figure in opposition politics within the country.
The inherent beauty lies in his pivotal role in constructing ACT-Wazalendo from its nascent stages. Undoubtedly, any milestones the party attains in the forthcoming decades can be ascribed to his foresight and unwavering efforts.
While evaluating ACT-Wazalendo’s current standing is crucial, equal importance must be placed on its future trajectory. Embodied in one of the party’s most recognisable slogans, the future is purple, a nod to its distinctive purple colours, a profound reference to what lies ahead.
The upcoming elections will be a notable barometer of how the party strategically places its youth in more prominent positions.
While well-known figures among the party’s youth, such as Abdul Nondo, chairperson of the party’s youth wing and Mwanaisha Mndeme, social security shadow minister, have garnered considerable attention, it is imperative to acknowledge the presence of other young talents awaiting the opportunity to assume leadership roles within the party.
Thomas Joel Kibwana is an international relations and business development expert. He can be reached at email@example.com or on X (Twitter) as @thomasjkibwana. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please contact our editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.