Tanzania’s young political troublemaker
Zitto Kabwe is used to making enemies in his drive for better governance.
there has to be a strong mechanism to punish leaders when they abuse their positions
The member of parliament (MP) for Kigoma North was kicked out of his party in march after leading an investigation that cost the jobs of two senior cabinet ministers and being accused of seeking to take over the party leadership.
Polls as recent as last December put him as the second most popular opposition figure in the country, but at 39 he is still one year shy of being able to run for the presidency in october 2015.
Asked about his future and whether he will join a new opposition party like the alliance for Change and transparency, he says with a smile: “time will tell.”
He adds that he will make a decision about his political future this coming may.
Since he joined parliament in 2005, Kabwe has been responsible for exposing at least six scandals. He says that set standards for parliament to put aside partisan politics and support issues of national interest.
“Tanzania faces a lot of challenges, yet it is full of opportunities. we have plenty of resources on one side and grinding poverty on the other. what we need to be able to move forward is responsible politics.
Brains and political brawn
24 September 1976 – Born in Mwandiga
2003 Bachelor’s degree – Economics: University of Dar es Salaam
2004 Campaigns and elections director for CHADEMA
2007 Became CHADEMA’s deputy secretary general
2010 Master’s degree – business & law – Bucerius Law School, Germany
“Leaders should be responsible to their people, and there has to be a strong mechanism to punish leaders when they abuse their positions,” Kabwe stresses.
The latest scandal involved the tanzania electric supply Company and independent Power tanzania.
As chair of parliament’s Public accounts Committee (PAC), Kabwe presented a report to MPs in late 2014 showing how $122m was improperly withdrawn from the central bank escrow account to be paid to senior officials and politically connected businessmen.
In vibrant, red Maasai attire – the clothing of a warrior – Kabwe sat in a small meeting room with three members of the influential PaC on 14 december 2014 to discuss his next move.
“Powerful politicians involved in the scandal were scared they would lose their positions. They were prepared to steal the report or harm us,” Kabwe recounts.
In Tanzania, Kabwe is known as a vocal politician on good governance, human rights and natural resources.
In 2010, he led activists to demand that the government find ways for the country to benefit from its vast mineral and other natural resources.
The result was a law increasing royalties from 3% to 4% and forcing mining and gemstone companies to cede 50% of their shares to the public.
Kabwe says the escrow account scandal capped a difficult 2014, which included squabbles within the Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) opposition party and the death of his mother, Shida, who was his mentor and an MP.
Kabwe lost his position as CHADEMA’s deputy secretary general after opponents claimed he wanted to plot against the party leadership.
A court issued an injunction barring the party from revoking his membership early this year, but officials announced his expulsion in mid-March.
Kabwe joined the party when he was barely 19 and became its youngest MP in 2005 at 29 years old. “It is one of the political challenges I have accepted. I am ready to explore other opportunities,” he says. ●