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Tanzania: After joining Zanzibar’s government, can the opposition be trusted again?

By Abdul Halim, in Dar es Salaam
Posted on Thursday, 10 December 2020 19:48

zanzibar
Former ACT-Wazalendo Presidential Candidate, Seif Sharif Hamad is now the First Vice President of the Government of National Unity for Zanzibar.(Twitter/ @TanzaniaUpdates)

Zanzibar's President Hussein Mwinyi has appointed Maalim Seif Sharrif Hamad, a veteran politician in Tanzania, as First Vice-President of the semi-autonomous region. The move is being seen by many as a new twist for the opposition.

Hamad, formerly ACT Wazalendo national chairman, was sworn in on Tuesday as Zanzibar’s First Vice President following the decision by the opposition party to join Zanzibar’s government of national Unity, (GNU).

His nomination on Sunday 6 December, came just hours after the ACT-Wazalendo central committee meeting agreed to take part in the formation of the GNU, in an effort to end weeks of uncertainty following the disputed elections results on 28 October.

President Mwinyi of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi party (CCM), also appointed two senior ACT Wazalendo figures, Nassor Ahmed Mazrui and Omar Said Shabaab, as members of house of representative.

READ MORE Tanzania: ‘Dark days ahead’ says opposition as Magufuli sworn in for second term

ACT Wazalando, a leading opposition party in Zanzibar, and Chadema, the leading opposition part in main land Tanzania, both boycotted the presidential election results citing irregularities and violence against opposition candidates.

Following the polls, ACT rejected results that gave Hamad 19% of the vote and only four seats in the Zanzibar House of representatives. It pointed to rigging in favour of the ruling CCM.

In the Tanzania parliament, the opposition only won two seats.

Joining the GNU

Appointing opposition figures to Zanzibar’s government is in keeping with its constitution, namely Article 9(3) that stresses national unity as the structure of the revolutionary government of Zanzibar. The functions of the government must be carried out in a manner that ensures the development of unity and democracy in the country.

To date, the GNU still has to appoint two more ministers from the opposition.

READ MORE Tanzania: Magufuli denounces UN human rights report, Tundu Lissu flees the country

Speaking after the central party meeting, the secretary general of ACT Wazalendo, Ado Shaibu said his party wanted to respect the constitution and would join the government.

“The central committee agreed to join government of national unity for national interest, on other hand we will continue our fight for democracy and respect of human rights,” said Shaibu, who unsuccessfully ran for a parliamentary seat in Tunduru, a southern district of Tanzania.

Title, but no power

This is not the first time Hamad has been appointed as vice president of Zanzibar.

The veteran politician served as the vice president from 2010 to 2015 during the first term of President Ali Mohammed Shein.

But it’s unlikely that Hamad will bring something tangible to Zanzibar’s government given his role is more ceremonial, albeit with a financial advantage. But at the end of the day, he has no no power to command any organ in the government.

Despite his lack of concrete power, the fact that the opposition party joined forces with the GNU is a step in the right direction says Haji Kaburu, a political analyst based in Dar es Salaam.

“The opposition was just using time to play with their members. They said they would open a file at the International Criminal Court (ICC), but it was just a psychological tactic, since nothing concrete happened. But this time I commend their decision to join the government,” says Kaburu.

Opposition losing confidence among Tanzanians

At the time of Hamad’s appointment, his party in collaboration with Chadema and activists were in the process of filing a case at the Hague-based ICC.  But this move is unlikely to go any further.

“The opposition have been participating in elections since the re-introduction of multi-party system in 1992, and not one election has ended without claims that they were not free nor fair. They need to restructure the party,” says Kaburu.

Under the one-party system, Hamad emerged as a powerful politician, thereby earning the trust of many Tanzanians.

READ MORE How Magufuli has steered Tanzania towards an authoritarian one-party state

“He can’t be trusted anymore, we need a new generation of politicians from opposition parties that will help to build structure and again give confidence to Tanzanians,” says Erick Emmanuel, a young opposition supporter in Tanzania.

The recent reprimanding of 19 female MPs from Chadema, for attending a swearing-in ceremony before the party’s consent, has also shaken the people’s trust in the opposition.

The women are due to be expelled from Chadema, but will remain MPs as per National Assembly Speaker Job Ndugai, to the chagrin of the party.

Many Tanzanians are beginning to see the opposition politicians as merely fighting for their own personal interests, especially economic ones at the expense of Tanzanians, who ultimately are the one paying the price come election-related violence as was the case this year.

Others say now is the right time for the youth to joins hands and form another political party that will defend, protect and preserve their interests.

Bottom line

Despite a dangerous political environment for opposition parties in Tanzania, it is high time that opposition political parties reorganise and re-energise themselves at the local level and engage with as many people as possible to regain their trust. If they fail to do so, they risk becoming a rubber stamp to the ruling party.