Tanzania: President Samia hopes to consolidate power as Magufuli and Kikwete loyalists vie for influence

By Abdul Halim, in Dar es Salaam
Posted on Monday, 25 July 2022 11:24

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan
Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan speaks with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (not pictured) during a meeting inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 15, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

As Tanzania's ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi conducts its nationwide poll, President Samia Suluhu Hassan will be testing her grip, even as those loyal to former presidents John Magufuli and Jakaya Kikwete continue to dispute influence in the party.

The party elections that got underway on 8 June will be followed by a national congress this month where national leaders will be elected. One of the posts is that of vice chair for Zanzibar, which Isles president Hussein Mwinyi is vying for unopposed.

In April 2021, President Samia was elected – unopposed – as ruling party chair succeeding her predecessor Magufuli who died in office on 17 March that year.

Why elections now?

According to the party constitution of 1977,  CCM conducts nationwide elections every five years – from the grassroots level to wards, districts, regional and then national level.

The last election took place in 2017 when Magufuli was elected chairman after loyalists clinched various posts from local to districts and regional levels as well as membership of the National Executive Council (NEC).

The elections are also a way for the ruling party to maintain control of national politics.

CCM’s secretary for publicity Shaka Hamdu Shaka however tells The Africa Report that this election is not a do or die contest.

The current change of political situation spearheaded by President Samia should be a wakeup call for CCM that it will face strong opponents in 2025

“This is a constitutional process within our party. It is [the] right of every member to contest as long as regulations allows to do so, but also we don’t want this process to create chaos because our chairperson [President Samia Suluhu Hassan] has already shown the direction where CCM is trying to go,” says Shaka, a fervent supporter of Samia and Kikwete.

Speaking during an event to mark Tanzania’s 30 anniversary after re-adopting multi party rule, President Samia said her focus is on reconciliation, reforms, resilience and rebuilding. The president also indicated that she is looking forward to fostering a conducive environment that allows the ruling and opposition parties to discharge their duties without fear or favour.

Magufuli rump vies with Kikwete loyalists

The election is important for internal party politics because influential figures seeking to contest for top posts use it to rally support from different factions.

Secondly, the election is seen by many as a test for President Samia on how she can organise the ruling party ahead of the 2025 polls where she is expected to be the CCM flag bearer.

Moreover, it is seen as a battleground between loyalists of former presidents Magufuli and Kikwete and those who support President Samia.

Several individuals who were sidelined by the Magufuli administration in the 2017 elections are now seeking leadership positions. They include the son of former prime minister Samuel Malecela; former Kahama MP James Lembeli; and East Africa MP Adam Kimbisa who is vying to become chairperson in Dodoma region, where the CCM has won every election since the country attained independence.

Speaking to delegates in Dodoma on 16 July, CCM secretary general Daniel Chongolo said: “We have information that some people are using this election to seek support ahead of 2025 country’s elections, it’s inappropriate and we will reject them.”

Peter Elias, a political analyst based in Dar es Salaam, says: “It’s true that CCM is a faction party and its true people are using these elections to gain support ahead of the 2025 elections. The current change of political situation spearheaded by President Samia should be a wakeup call for CCM that it will face strong opponents in 2025.”

Challenges for President Samia?

As ruling party chair, President Samia has no challenger, but she may encounter factions believed to be led by loyalists to the late Magufuli, especially those from his political backyard in Mwanza, Geita, Kagera and Simiyu regions in north western Tanzania.

This part of Tanzania is a voters’ stronghold – during the last elections, the region had more than six million voters.

The loyalists could therefore pose a challenge by electing local, ward, districts, regional and NEC members who don’t believe in the current government, thereby impeding Samia’s efforts to rally support for her presidency bid in 2025.

Makame Abdullah, a political commentator based in Zanzibar, however says he is confident that this election will boost CCM because of weak opposition parties.

“CCM knows how to play their game. […] during election time they come together despite having internal wrangles. I don’t think this election will shake CCM ahead of the 2025 poll,” he says.

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