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Zitto Kabwe: Tanzania’s Main Problem Is Political Immaturity

The leader of the opposition ACT-Wazalendo questions the institutional setup of a multiparty system in the country, which he thinks makes the opposition position synonymous with animosity.

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Dar es Salaam. Zitto Kabwe, the leader of the opposition party ACT Wazalendo, has been exceptionally busy lately, from engaging with the media and participating in ad hoc discussions with various groups to a tight party schedule, which is preparation for his completion of party leadership in March 2024.

Aside from the usual politicking about his party which he has led since 2014, the 47-year-old politician has recently been tackling wide-ranging issues in Tanzania politicking.

On February 23, 2024, Kabwe was hosted by Uongozi Institute to discuss the book by Sumei Tang, Eliyathamby A. Selvanathan, and Saroja Selvanathan China Economic Miracles: Does FDI Matter? 

An economist by profession, Mr Kabwe highlighted several issues that hinder Tanzania from enacting its economic miracle, such as the lack of institutional consistency in planning, where he cited Tanzania’s shift from its gas-centred electricity master plan, which was on track to building a new dam as one of many examples.

In concluding his talk, Kabwe delved into a discussion around country politics, where he emphasised that Tanzania’s main issue at the moment is “immature politics” among actors involved, from the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) to the country’s opposition parties.

Botched democratic progress

Kabwe repeated the same issue at length in an X space discussion on Sunday, February 25, 2024, hosted by analysts Thomas Kibwana and Asha D. Abinallah, who are both regular contributors to The Chanzo.

READ MORE: Who Will Likely Succeed Zitto Kabwe As ACT-Wazalendo’s Party Leader?

Here, Kabwe went on to diagnose the political immaturity issue, explaining it as a generational problem but also based on circumstances.

“From 2000 to 2015, these were the years which I would say we were heading toward democratic maturity,” argued Zitto when he was responding to a question that asked why it seemed there was more space in their era than now. “People were criticised based on their arguments, not political parties.”

“We would criticise each other on political platforms but still maintain cordial relations,” he added. “At the moment, politics have become destructive. That if we have different opinions, I must destroy you, that you must be humiliated and have your image tarnished.”

In his analysis, Kabwe questioned the institutional setup of a multiparty system in the country, which made the opposition position synonymous with animosity. Kabwe also highlighted weaknesses in the opposition parties, especially their setup, which makes them more popular for criticisms and reactions on issues but not their agenda.

“We have left ourselves be defined by the politics of ‘against,’ that we are against this and that, but rarely on what we stand for,” argued Kabwe. “It’s easy to criticise and to stand against something, but to come up with your platform requires a heavy toll. That’s why we rarely do it.

READ MORE: Zitto Kabwe on Public Enterprises in Tanzania and Their Prospects: ‘Public Sector Must Deliver’

“Politics for issues are politics that inspire, but they are not easy to do, but they are for longevity,” Mr Kabwe said of the politics he says his political party is committed to doing. “Politics ‘against something’ are easy to do and can give quick returns, but they are manipulative.”

A sense of purpose

While Kabwe admitted that social media development has changed the political landscape, he is disappointed with the quality of the discussion, which solidified his argument on political immaturity.

“Social media has been a great tool for mobilisation, and we have pushed serious issues through social media,” he analysed. “But now the quality of the discussion has dropped. There is a lot of ignorance and bullying. Bullies are cheered, and people are afraid to stand up against them.”

Showing the power of social connection, Kabwe shared the genesis of ACT-Wazalendo, which was partly connected to a popular social media movement then.

“I remember by then [when he was dismissed from CHADEMA], I was still not sure if I was ready to start a new party,” Kabwe narrated, adding: “But one day, Maria Sarungi and Kitila Mkumbo came to my home and convinced me that I should start again and not join any existing political party.

READ MORE: Milestones Registered at TCD that Make Zitto Proud

“On political party name by then, social media movement called Change Tanzania was about two years, so Maria Sarungi proposed that the movement should be transformed into a political party, that we call a new party Alliance for Change Tanzania, but we were concerned that the organisation Change Tanzania would be disbanded.

“So, we agreed to leave a word change, and we both settled that we wanted to see transparency in a new party; Kitila Mkumbo proposed the name Alliance for Change and Transparency.”

Zitto attributes his resilience, which enabled him to persist and build a new party, to his sense of purpose, something which he believes that if more youth can develop, then it will be a great leap toward correcting some of the issues in the political space.

Mr Kabwe underscored the need to build a critical mass of people who will push for the politics needed on different platforms, from social media to inside political parties. 

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