NewsEast & Horn AfricaWhat does change mean?


Posted on Monday, 26 October 2015 13:41

What does change mean?

Photos© All rights reservedChange has become its own destination, running on the energy of deep-seated and widespread frustration.
The object of that frustration is the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).


It has been in power since independence in 1961 – although it adopted its present name in 1977 – and everybody says the CCM needs to be reformed, including its presidential candidate, John Magufuli.

No party in Africa has been in power longer and has so carefully stage-managed its transitions. From single-party to multiparty rule, from espousing socialism to embracing the invisible hand of the market, changing party presidents and national executive committees, the CCM's changes – predictable and orderly on the outside, noisy and rancorous within – have lent Tanzania a sense of stability.

The CCM has not just been a constant feature in the political landscape; it is the political landscape. During the CCM's campaign launch rally at the Jangwani grounds on 23 August, several speakers rose to proclaim the virtues of permanent change – that only under the CCM, with its mission of constant revolution, could change be delivered.

At their rally, also at the Jangwani grounds a week later, the Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi (UKAWA) opposition coalition turned the talk of CCM's mission of change on its head.
They replayed on a tape loop a clip from a speech in 1995 by Julius Nyerere, the founding father of the CCM.

In it, he predicts that the only way the CCM will lose power will be for one of its own to leave the party for the opposition.

And of course, UKAWA's presidential candidate Edward Lowassa, a former prime minister in a CCM government, has done just that and taken some CCM militants with him.

Lowassa's popularity, despite the corruption claims against him, dates back to 1995 when he first bid for the CCM presidential ticket. He lost out, partly because Nyerere had excoriated him for his sudden personal wealth, suggesting that it was improperly gained.

Lowassa's defection to the opposition threatens the CCM's grassroots support. His support within the ruling party runs deep. Members of the influential CCM Youth League for instance, tell The Africa Report that while they notionally remained in the CCM they were working for Lowassa. The Youth League has a membership of more than 4 million people.

In some ways, the real winner of this game of musical chairs is the CCM presidential candidate, John Magufuli. A cabinet minister since 1995, Magufuli is known as a hard worker and a dedicated party man who has never been tarred with corruption allegations.

Magufuli was quick to distance himself from the party's recent dirty history. One of his main pledges was to establish special anti-corruption courts, a promise that seemed to elicit genuine enthusiasm. The works minister is, however, hamstrung by his lack of political visibility.

More than 24 million Tanzanians have registered to vote in the 25 October elections, and 75% of them are expected to join the queues on election day. About 10 million of the registered electorate are first-time voters. And as the wazee (elders in Kiswahili) of the CCM, the generation who were brought into politics under Nyerere, leave the stage, there is the sense of the slate being wiped clean.

That is the real meaning of change: both the two main candidates and many of the voters will be facing each other for the first time. But the script has changed again. It is not the classic incumbent party against a fresh-faced opposition.

Instead, the old ruling party is offering a new and relatively unknown face who wants to change radically the way the government works. Magufuli holds out the possibility of a renewal of the political culture.

And the opposition is offering a dissident from the ranks of the ruling party, essentially a change of the guard. It calculates that Lowassa's name recognition, for good or ill, will finally deliver victory. Either way, change will come. Except that by the time it arrives, it may be devoid of any real meaning.

Parselelo Kantai

Parselelo Kantai

Parselelo Kantai is the East and Horn of Africa editor of The Africa Report. He also writes for Africa Confidential and the Financial Times. He has been a Reuters Fellow and his fiction has twice been shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing.

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