Will the real Opposition emerge under Magufuli’s repressive CCM?
Will the real Opposition emerge under Magufuli’s repressive CCM?
When President Magufuli was addressing a political rally in Manyoni Township, Singida region on the 29th July 2016, he referred to the opposition in Tanzania as a dying snake. He said “after you cut off a snake’s head, it keeps thrashing its tail. You may think it hasn’t died, but it has”. It appears that he believes the recent announced move of protests by the leading opposition party in Tanzania, CHADEMA, are signs of a dying party. He said “where are those parties? They are dead.” In the same rally he dared CHADEMA to go to the streets and demonstrate. The President threatened in ‘street’ Swahili “watakiona cha mtema kuni. Wasinijaribu. Sijaribiki.” Meaning he isn’t testable and he will crash them heavily.
CHADEMA announced a new operation called UKUTA, meaning an alliance against dictatorship in Tanzania. The Swahili word ‘ Umoja’, which I translated here as an alliance, is actually misused since it was the decision of one party. Even parties under UKAWA, a consortium of opposition parties that supports the people’s constitution, are not part of UKUTA. How CHADEMA ended up using the word Umoja is either a result of arrogance, ignorance or simply a lack of a proper word to have in an announce-able term UKUTA, which literarily means the WALL. President Magufuli may have interpreted the lack of an actual alliance as an indication of the fall of UKAWA, thus the snake parable.
The President is prone to issuing threats. He appears to enjoy it. In his coronation as the chairperson of CCM, he raised eyebrows when he said that had he been a CCM leader during its presidential primaries, he would have liquidated all CCM congress national executive members who were pro-Edward Lowassa. When the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces makes a remark like that, it is really threatening. If he cannot tolerate dissent within his own party what will he do to the opposition? The dead snake parable leaves a lot to be desired.
For years opposition activists and some political analysts have been predicting the end of the CCM regime. In the course of three elections, CCM’s popularity has been dwindling from 80% in the year 2005 to 61% in 2010 and 58% in 2015 (if we can take official Presidential elections results as an indication of overall party popularity). The last election was a clear test of CCM’s ability to maintain power as several of its influential members left for the opposition including two Former Prime Ministers who are now in CHADEMA. However, since the election of Magufuli as President and eventually the head of CCM, the party seems to be charting ways to survive. Will CCM survive? Will the opposition thrive? These are the questions I attempt to put to the readers of this article and our political analysts who are seemingly muted.
CCM is an authoritarian party in all sense and purpose. It is a dominant single party with some ability to adapt. President Kikwete’s methods of adaptation were through opening up; for example, allowing the Parliament to hold the Executive to account. He lost a prime minister following a parliamentary work and reshuffled his cabinet thrice, strengthened the National Audit Office and allowed free debate of the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) report of government accounts and did not hinder opposition parties to operate freely and organize. He faced criticism within CCM for being too liberal and later the opposition called him weak. Kikwete’s guided nomination of Magufuli as CCM presidential candidate is arguably one of his Machiavellian tactics of survival. President Magufuli in particular and CCM in general takes the opposite route to Kikwete. The true colours of an authoritarian, dominant CCM are starting to show.
Authoritarian parties like CCM have two main goals. First, to hold onto power by eliminating real and perceived threats. Second, to generate popular support in order to achieve development goals. In his book, The Dictator’s Dilemma, Bruce Dickson (2016) observes that the above goals are achieved through the survival strategy of legitimation, co-optation and repression.
President Magufuli’s legitimation process is through war on corruption, ambitious development agenda and straight talk to the population. After he came to power in November 2015, he launched a crackdown against corruption and has continued the crackdown ever since. He has as well announced anti corruption crackdown within CCM. His anti corruption platform has been a platform of the opposition for a decade. The author and his colleagues, like the former CHADEMA Secretary General, Wilbrod Slaa, used the parliament to legitimise opposition politics by raising corruption scandals and holding the government to account. The opposition in general and CHADEMA in particular lost the platform during the 2015 elections and literally handed it to the CCM candidate. Other parties like ACT Wazalendo had a more clear agenda on anti-corruption but its voice wasn’t heard in the campaign dominated by two candidates, one from CCM and the other a former CCM ex-Prime Minister running under the opposition alliance ticket of UKAWA. The CCM candidate was announced winner and he wasted no time in starting an anti-corruption agenda. He now owns it.
Tanzanians hated CCM because of, among other things, its inherently corrupt nature. The people of Tanzania have started to fall in love with the new no nonsense leader. He got them instantly and the opposition lost an agenda despite trying to discredit him on his lack of following due process. The opposition used elitist arguments. The common man and woman just wants action, not legal technicalities and that’s what the President is giving them.
President Magufuli sugarcoated the anti-corruption agenda with an ambitious development agenda. Every time he speaks he reiterates the industrialisation agenda. He uses a simple language that wananchi understand. Pockets of the urban-based, middle to upper class segments of the country see his agenda as unclear and largely ambiguous. But many more Tanzanians have swallowed the message as it is wholeheartedly. There is limited evidence of the President’s successful implementation of his development agenda. All projects he has opened to date are projects that were started under Kikwete. But citizens don’t care. Because he has won them on anti-corruption. The President currently talks about new aircrafts for dying Air Tanzania and people cheer while less than 5% of them fly. He got it. He won the narrative. The opposition lost it.
The President has embraced CCM cadres who lost the CCM primaries during the 2015 parliamentary elections. With this action, he has kept most members of the 11th parliament on their toes. Losers of the primaries are being ‘fed’ to be able to go back and contest against sitting members in the next election. Sitting members will now work to please the President so that, as the chairman of their party, he doesn’t cut them off during the nomination in 2020. In short, President Magufuli has created a shadow parliament of his own. The political genius many people underestimate. He now has a carrot and stick for Members of Parliament (MPs). He has a cat to threaten most of them. As a result, we will likely witness a parliament that becomes more toothless and subservient. Haven’t we already started seeing that?
Some sectors of society, sectors important to a vibrant and open democracy, face quiet co-option. Academia and media come to mind. Open repression is reserved for political parties. The President himself announced a ban on public rallies by political parties. The ban is completely unconstitutional and against political parties’ enabling legislation. In his address at Manyoni on the 29th July he clarified by allowing Members of Parliament to conduct rallies in their own constituencies and since he is the President he is the only one who can do rallies all over the country. This move is an effort to channel only one point of view to the public – that’s of the President and his party and in the process frustrate other parties into oblivion.
Under those circumstances many people have started to write obituaries for the opposition.
However, I would still argue that these circumstances are at times a necessary condition for the rise of real opposition politics. One-agenda politics must pave way for issues-based politics. Repression is conducive for likeminded members of the opposition parties to work together without worries. The liberal approach of President Kikwete created an environment of envy amongst comrades and a sense of ‘it is our time to eat’. It has had detrimental consequences for politics and development in the country, and for the welfare of the opposition.
The real opposition will have to engage in providing a critical analysis of the regime and offer an alternative policy. Issues like budget management will be critical as signs are out there that the fifth phase government will have more adverse audit opinion than any other before. Out of budget expenditures are rampant and more threatening is the drawdown of foreign reserve. It has never happened in the previous 20 years for the Tanzanian foreign reserve to decline and it was happening even before Magufuli started to implement his budget. US$500m has been withdrawn from our foreign reserve between November 2015 and June 2016. The amount remaining is enough to serve the country only for 3.6 months. The best practice for developing countries is to have a reserve enough to cover at least 6 months.
Tax revenues are still at the levels of the previous administration. High profile announcements of monthly revenues collection are no longer there because the taxman was collecting arrears and the government attacks ‘the chicken laying golden eggs’ i.e. the business community, without adequately investing in alternative sources of revenue for the country.
These are the issues the opposition must bring up. Well-articulated issues backed by expert evidence. Critical analysis of data and of government actions and reactions. The era of scandal-raising politics is over; the regime has co-opted it. Only politics of solutions can support the opposition now. The steady slide towards repression must be fought vehemently. But if the opposition does not articulate issues affecting the day to day lives of people, the repression will be supported by people. A coalition of likeminded people who have credentials to fight against corruption and articulate developmental politics must emerge and take up the ideological bankruptcy existing in the country now. Lack of issues and business as usual weaken the opposition and discredit most of our moves, including the recent UKUTA operation.
Once our modus operandi changes and we start tackling issues and articulate them, the real opposition will emerge, stronger and ready to govern.