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Conversation With Zitto Kabwe On Bipartisan Politics in Tanzania

The leader of the opposition ACT-Wazalendo party reminisces upon an era when Tanzania’s politicians from both the ruling and opposition parties collaborated, even assuming significant roles within parliament.

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On February 25, 2024, we were afforded the privilege of engaging in a candid discourse with ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe via a Twitter Space meticulously organised by myself, ICTs expert Asha D. Abdinallah, and journalist Ezekiel Kamwaga. Crafting this article has been a deliberate process. I desired to revisit the recording multiple times, allowing ample opportunity for introspection before articulating my insights.

Given Kabwe’s longstanding presence in the public eye spanning nearly the entirety of his adult life, it was imperative that our engagement with him provided an enriching experience for both us as hosts and our audience. As our discussion revolved around the political involvement of young people, it was only appropriate to invite a guest who has been actively immersed in politics since the tender age of sixteen.

While our discussion traversed various topics, I am inclined to focus specifically on a recurring theme—the notion of bipartisanship. It is no secret that our political landscape has become increasingly polarised in recent years, with individuals harbouring strong sentiments towards those on the opposing end of the spectrum. 

Fortunately, Mr Kabwe aptly reminisced upon an era when politicians from the ruling and opposition parties collaborated, even assuming significant roles within parliament. I firmly advocate for a return to a time when politics was devoid of animosity, a sentiment that holds profound significance for politicians and citizens alike.


“The main difference between the political environment of 2005 and now is that politics were issue-based and much simpler,” Mr Kabwe said during the discussion. “We were in the process of fostering a political maturity culture where you could be an opposition member of parliament, yet your friends were members of the ruling party, CCM.”

He said that approach was the same with all other parties represented in parliament. Mr Kabwe’s initial illustration of bipartisanship relates to his inaugural campaign for a parliamentary seat in 2005.

READ MORE: Zitto Kabwe: Tanzania’s Main Problem Is Political Immaturity

He underscored a noteworthy instance wherein the foremost support stemmed from an unexpected source: Salim Ahmed Salim, a prominent figure within the CCM ranks, a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC), and a contender for the presidency at the time. 

Salim generously extended a sum of US$2,000 towards Mr Kabwe’s campaign, thus exemplifying a cross-party collaboration that defied conventional political boundaries.

“The person who gave me the most campaign money in 2005 when I was running for parliament was Dr Salim Ahmed Salim,” Kabwe remembered. 

“I approached him to inform him that I was running for parliament, not through his party but the opposition party. Campaigns are expensive, and I asked him for his support.”

This occurrence signifies the prevailing political atmosphere of that era. While it may have surprised some that Salim Ahmed Salim lent his support to an opposition candidate’s campaign, such an action did not carry the weight of condemnation as it might in contemporary times. 

Consider the seismic impact it would have in today’s context if former President Jakaya Kikwete were to contribute to the campaign of a young opposition politician— the reverberations would be profound indeed.

PAC chairmanship

Another example of bipartisanship unveiled during the conversation with Mr Kabwe was his pursuit of the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament in 2008. During this time, the incumbent Speaker of Parliament from CCM, Samuel Sitta, personally reached out to him, urging him to contest for the chairmanship of the committee. 

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

“One day, while I was in Bagamoyo, I received a phone call at night from the Speaker of Parliament, Sitta. He asked me, ‘Zitto, where are you?’ I replied, ‘I’m in Bagamoyo,’” Mr Kabwe recalled. 

“[Sitta] then inquired, ‘What are you doing there?’ He then continued, ‘I have announced the parliamentary committees today. I have formed the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises Accounts, and I want you to contest for the chairmanship of the committee because I need to strengthen the leadership of the parliamentary committees.’”

I am attempting to envisage the period spanning from 2015 to 2020 and from 2020 to the present, wherein the Speaker of Parliament, chosen by CCM members of parliament, extends an invitation to an opposition MP to contend for the chairmanship of a parliamentary committee, particularly one of sensitive nature. 

With assurance, I can declare that such a scenario would never have unfolded under Speaker Job Ndugai, and it is highly improbable that it would have occurred under the current Speaker, Tulia Ackson.

The narrative did not conclude with Kabwe’s nomination for the chairmanship; he faced securing the necessary votes. Upon assessing the potential votes, he discovered he was one vote shy. 

The individual he approached to secure that crucial vote was CCM MP Mohamed Dewji, who, despite being unwell, made a concerted effort to attend and cast his vote in support of Mr Kabwe. Can you imagine such a scenario unfolding in today’s political landscape, characterised by hostility and pervasive distrust towards those on the opposing side?

READ MORE: Wednesday’s Rallies And Freeman Mbowe’s Future As Leader of CHADEMA

The culminating instance of bipartisanship highlighted during the discourse occurred in 2010 when Zitto Kabwe persuaded the newly elected Member of Parliament, January Makamba, to pursue the chairmanship of the influential Mining Committee. Before his parliamentary tenure, Makamba had served as a trusted confidant of President Kikwete.

“Similarly, in 2010, I joined a group of young MPs from all political parties,” Mr Kabwe reminded us during the discussion. “Among the young MPs who joined was January Makamba. As soon as he entered, I hurriedly approached him. 

“I told him, ‘January, you know committees are critical here in parliament. The Parliamentary Leadership Committee is the one that decides everything in parliament. I ask you to chair the committee.’

“January asked me, ‘So Zitto, which committee am I joining? I don’t know.’ I told him, ‘Apply to join the Energy Committee.’ At that time, the Energy Committee was really powerful.” Kabwe campaigned for and got Makamba elected as committee chair.

It is crucial to highlight such instances because we require political dialogue characterised by reasoned debate, sincerity, and mutual regard. 

Political toxicity 

Despite not being an active participant in politics, I have repeatedly observed the toxicity that has seeped into our political discourse via social media. Instead of engaging in discussions to foster understanding and seek common ground, we have devised a competition of who can shout the loudest.

READ MORE: Who Is Emmanuel Nchimbi, CCM’s New Secretary-General, And What Does His Nomination Signify?

This holds significance as the nation approaches local government elections this year, followed by general elections next year. If we aspire to elect leaders who can effectively steer us toward our collective goals, we must commence meaningful political dialogues without delay. 

Our focus must transcend party affiliations or individual endorsements and centre instead on identifying the shared objectives we aim to realise for our nation.

I have consistently voiced my endorsement for political figures such as President Samia Suluhu Hassan, CHADEMA national chairperson Freeman Mbowe, and Kabwe, who have demonstrated a commitment to the principles of clean politics reminiscent of our traditional standards, even if their approach isn’t universally embraced within their respective parties. 

I have observed the behaviour of party loyalists on social media platforms like X, formerly Twitter, where discussions frequently devolve into anger and lack of productivity. Furthermore, I implore the leaders mentioned above to confront and challenge members and supporters of their parties who partake in such divisive political discourse.

Thomas Joel Kibwana is an international relations and business development expert. He can be reached at 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 get in touch with our editors at  

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