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ACT-Wazalendo And Ten Years of Everything

In its ten-year history, the party has moved from left to centre and is now on its ‘right’ side.

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Are you aware of the phrase, we must run as others walk? Well if not, let me do the needful and quickly walk you through the 1960s. Our dear, at least still dear to some of us, comrade Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s first president fondly referred to as Mwalimu, made the clarion call to the people of Tanzania – to run in the push for development.

Since we lagged due to Europe’s underdevelopment scheme (see Walter Rodney for further understanding), we thus had to pace and play catch-up. Run! This was the slogan. Since most of you are so sceptical of Nyerere and the Nyerere years, I would like not to dwell much on his name or ideology. 

But just before I turn a blind eye to Nyerere, the same ghost of Nyerere and his “misplaced and worn out” ideas and principles of Ujamaa paved the way and contributed to the birth of ACT-Wazalendo, or at least this is what was communicated back then by its former leader, Zitto Kabwe, just before the tide took a massive turn right.

Recently, on the first week of May, patches of purple were very much visible in different parts of the country. It wasn’t a Mbeya City fan fair nor a gender concert, hoping that you know they say ‘Feminism is Purple.’ It was all subsequent to ACT-Wazalendo’s doing.

ACT-Wazalendo, arguably the country’s third-largest party, made all that happen as it commemorated its decade-long existence since it was registered and launched in 2014.

Indeed, huge roars were heard in the Kigoma region, where massive turnouts gathered in jubilation. Strong echoes were also heard in Zanzibar as youths and the elderly gathered. The social media avenue was also not left unattended.

Retweets, testimonial posts, and pictures were everywhere. Nonpartisans also offered gratulatory remarks. As we may all know, social media is highly hostile, and in the same saddening spirit of hostility, jibes, jeers, and spans were thrown to and from ACT’s “right” corner of the ring.

READ MORE: A Decade of ACT-Wazalendo: A Journey Through Triumphs And Tribulations

Ten years is a definite milestone worthy of celebration. It is also a significant period within the political landscape worthy of examination. Not a single piece of writing, such as an interview or speech, can do absolute justice and accurately reflect the opposition party’s journey. 

However, in the spirit of discussions and engagement, this article seeks to contribute to the same debate, discussions, and reflections.

The Ujamaa legacy

Zitto Kabwe acknowledges that ACT-Wazalendo, which he co-founded, traces its roots to the main opposition party, CHADEMA. He accounts that his party was formed in 2014 after an ideological struggle within the party.

As much as the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie cautions us of the danger of a single story, this one-sided version can be corroborated by the fact that ACT-Wazalendo arguably associated itself with left political leanings upon its inauguration.

Whereas the students of Mwalimu have abandoned the principles and ideals of the Arusha Declaration, the declaration as a document, on the other hand, has been merely left unattended—catching feelings, dust, and spider webs on the shelves of Lumumba, headquarters of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

Just as it was a thorn against the disguises of capital, the Arusha Declaration has refused to be buried in the same stubborn and “radical” character and nature. As its legacy still lingers in the minds of the masses, its ideas resurfaced amongst new admirers. In their purple uniforms, ACT-Wazalendo retraced the days of Arusha as the party decided to apply the declaration in the present context.

Upon contextualisation in 2015, ACT-Wazalendo decided to go west—not yet to the imperialists, but west of Tanzania—and launched their version of the Arusha Declaration, the Tabora Declaration.

READ MORE: ACT-Wazalendo: A Decade of Democratic Resilience in Tanzania My Generation Witnessed

As the Tabora Declaration revisited the Arusha Declaration, the contemporary declaration, amongst other things, propounded that it is about time we return to the basics. Yet this same new declaration was still very troubled in its analysis and approach.

At one moment and time, the Tabora Declaration condemns the neo-liberal policies, and at another moment, it stresses the need to correct the mistakes committed during the 25 years under Ujamaa and take the achievements of the 23 years under neoliberalism.

Well, this confusion is not surprising when it comes to contextualisation. It is also in the same confused contextualisation that ACT-Wazalendo expressed that, unlike the Arusha Declaration, it intends to build a social democratic nation, as if socialism is neither social nor democratic!

Moreover, ACT-Wazalendo, in its confused sense of contextualisation, preached that, unlike their colleague CHADEMA, a centre-right party, they intend to build a party on a centre-left ideology.

ACT-Wazalendo in a run

ACT-Wazalendo continued to promote its centre-left ideology for a few years, and some of us wondered what this centre-left and centre-right ideology actually meant. Soon enough, the centre could no longer hold; nothing of the left was left. Once again, ACT-Wazlendo proved that it is either one is left or right; there is nothing in between.

The singing left, dancing centre, and now dining right did not happen by chance. ACT-Wazalendo was dragged, and so did they drag themselves into the neoliberal political rat race. As soon as they subscribed to the politics of competition, they had to abide by the rules of the competition.

As they came late into the scene of celebrated modern democracy, exhibited in multiple flag colours but single-party ideology hegemony, ACT-Wazalendo had to run. They had to play catch up. I hope now you follow up on why I started with the – we must run while others walk – analogy.

READ MORE: ACT-Wazalendo’s New Leadership Singles Out Election As Top Priority

Do you also recall the phrase “survival of the fittest”? In other terms, the same can be said as actually, in my own terms and coin, “survive or you shall be feasted!” Hence, wasn’t it “rational,” “realistic,” and “pragmatic” that ACT-Wazalendo, too, had to survive? Survive, they must!

As often is the case, playing catch up and survival is associated with thoughts and actions of desperation. In the same sense of desperation, ACT-Wazalendo witnessed a shortcut to glory and power. 

Yes, POWER! It is State Power – the power so palatable that when served, no finger is left un-licked, no cheek is left un-turned, and no principle is left un-bothered.

So compelling were their arguments, ACT-Wazalendo, justifiably so, made a “calculated decision.” They took the route right. They had to. It was either they went big, or they went dig. The times were now different. About five years after its formation, the so-called centre-left ideology was not paying off.

How could it pay off? At the helm, there was a jiwe, or a rock. The rock was a thorn in their dreams. The rock looked left through its “patriotic” actions and populist stunts. The rock “stole” ACT-Wazalendo’s agenda and robbed it of its narrative. The rock arguably made the party lose its credibility.

The rock was not satisfied. It exceeded the limits. The rock dealt with their financial and resourceful straws, and so did the rock restrict their political parties’ branding licenses—political rallies.

The ‘Right’ decision

Desperate times call for desperate measures. ACT-Wazalendo was arguably in ruins – financially, politically and even ideologically. It was drowning. Just as it clueless patted water, a buoy was thrown towards its side by the isle’s finest.

READ MORE: Fourth ACT-Wazalendo Annual Convention Kicks Off in Dar

It thus welcomed the teacher of opposition politics. An Odinga of our own, only that ACT-Wazalendo did not call him Baba, but rather Maalim. Maalim did not come alone but with his students and disciples.

The two crews became jubilant. One found a home, and another reclaimed its breath after extended political suffocation. As they both reclaimed their purpose to live—the political life—they shook hands and hugged, and the two made a pack. Centre-left is long a name and ideology; centre they became.

They actually agreed. The people and their members will not realise their ideological deflection and u-turn. The people are so ignorant and careless. It is politics, after all: friends become foes, foes become one, and ideologies are ignored, yet still, they shall vote. Wow, it rhymes!

ACT-Wazalendo has never looked back after clanging its glasses and drinking the wine. It has taken and walked the right route with pride. They insist that they are gaining ground, both in numbers and influence.

Ten years later, the party has enjoyed almost a 50/50 split of experience in partially left- and definitely right-associated politics. The party is ideologically arguably everywhere. On this note, ACT-Wazalendo has had ten years of everything.

Ujamaa relived?

I have serious reservations and criticism with these neo-liberal party politics; I still wish that ACT-Wazalendo reconnects with its “mediocre” centre-left politics. As much as such may most likely change nothing, at least it would have the mainstream political channels and battleground not entirely uncontested.

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

‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.’ Poor beggar me, how would I ride such a purple horse if it is in a rightist and “petty” nationalist stable? I doubt if the horse is willing to be ridden left as I not only recall the last time it returned or even had the urge to retrace its old Tabora days, let alone the Arusha heydays.

Well, a man and a woman cease to live once they cease to dream and hope. No matter the times and circumstances, crazy as I may sound and look, just like Mwalimu Nyerere, I remain hopeful that we shall return—not to the diluted and distorted version of the Tabora Declaration—but to the actual and concentrated Ujamaa days. 

We shall return. Return we must!

Jasper “Kido” Sabuni is a poet, writer and social justice activist based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He can be reached at or on X as @JasperKido. 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

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