Title: Tanzania's opposition ‘heavyweights’ are bouncing back to the ruling party
Author: Samuel Kabulo
Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2019 00:28:56 -0400
Podcast Download URL: https://globalvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/lowassayes-400x300.png
Is defection ‘bad for democracy'?
Edward Lowassa was a long-time ruling party CCM member until he was banned from
running for president and joined opposition party CHADEMA. Recently, he bounced
back to CCM. Screenshot via KTN News Kenya on YouTube. October 18, 2015.
In Tanzania, high-profile opposition party members have defected to the ruling
party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, or the Party of the Revolution, casting a shadow
on multi-party politics in the East African nation.
Most defectors come from the leading opposition party, Chama cha Demokrasia na
Maendeleo, or CHADEMA, the Democracy and Development party. Four CHADEMA
members of parliament, 75 councilors and several village chairmen have joined
CCM in the last few years.
The Tanzania Constitution Forum has called for a constitutional amendment to
bar defections.“The aim is to avoid unnecessary costs the government incurs in
organizing frequent by-elections,” said TCF chairman Hebron Mwakagenda,
according to the East African.
The National Electoral Commission has conducted several by-electionsat a
high cost that yielded below 50 percent voter turnouts. Campaigns have created
fear and lack of trust among citizens.
The case of Edward Lowassa
On March 1, 2019, retired prime minister Edward Lowassa, member of the central
committee of CHADEMA, bounced back to CCM, his longtime party, after defecting
from it four years ago.
At a brief public ceremony, CCM chairman and Tanzanian President John Pombe
Magufuli warmly welcomed Lowassa:
Mr. Lowassa has shown himself to be a true gentleman. We are taught to
forgive… and our aim is to build a new, united Tanzania with no political
Lowassa confirmed that he is back home and there is no reason now for him to
be in opposition.
Lowassa is one of few groomed by one of the earliest parties, the Tanganyika
African National Union party, or TANU, formed before Tanzania's independence
from Britain in 1961, and later, CCM’s youth wing during the days of a
Read more: Even the Best Dancer Leaves the Dance Floor: African Strongmen and
Under the auspices of CCM, Lowassa served as MP for the Monduli district for 25
years and held ministerial responsibilities in parliament over four decades. In
2008, while serving as prime minister under then-President Jakaya Kikwete,
Lowassa was forced to resign after being implicated in a fraud scandal.
Lowassa moved to CHADEMA on August 4, 2015, just before the general election,
after the CCM banned him from running as a presidential candidate. He condemned
CCM and its leaders as “dictators, undemocratic and greedy power mongers.” 
CHADEMA then nominated Lowassa as a presidential candidate under UKAWA, a
coalition of opposition parties. In the 2015 general election, Lowassa obtained
6 million votes, around 40 percent, against CCM’s Magufuli, who got 8.8
million votes or nearly 60 percent.
With Lowassa’s political influence, opposition parties, CHADEMA earned 70 seats
in parliament compared to 48 in 2010, while the Civic United Front (CUF),
also a member of UKAWA, earned 45 seats compared to 36.
Welcomed or lured back?
Lowassa’s return to the ruling party sparked both praise and ridicule from
politicians and prominent political analysts. CCM spokesman Humphrey Polepole
congratulated Lowassa for his bold move to return to his longtime party:
To come back to apologize is a great wisdom and humility.
Others have argued that high defection rates are not good for national
politics. Magdalena Sakaya, CUF deputy secretary general for mainland
Tanzania, said the move is “bad for democracy,” and signals a conspiracy to
kill the opposition, she added.
Dr. Adolf Mihanjo, head of the faculty of philosophy and religious studies at
the University of Dar es Salaam, termed defectors as people who lack ideology
and only seek leadership positions:
People have started feeling that defectors are being bribed — this is
Likewise, CUF deputy secretary general for the islands of Zanzibar, Nassoro
Mazrui, expressed pessimism with Tanzania’s political future, saying corruption
has engulfed multi-party politics. CHADEMA chairperson Freeman Mbowe believes
that defectors are being lured by CCM as a way of muzzling the opposition.
However, Maulid Mtulia and Godwin Mollel, two defectors who joined CCM last
year, said they made the switch out of satisfaction with Magufuli’s
performance. Opposition party leader Zitto Kabwe, of the ACT-Wazalendo party
and MP for Kigoma Urban, rejected their claims, calling them “empty reasons
without grounds and backings.”
Dr. Richard Mbunda, a political science professor at the University of Dar es
Salaam, cautioned that it is hard to regain legitimacy once it's gone.
Defections create “self-disenfranchisement” which can be disastrous: The
government could slip as a democracy which could then lead to civil
disobedience and illegitimate governance, he observed.
Squeezed civic space for opposition political parties
Tanzania legalized multi-party democracy in 1992 under Article 3 (1) of the
constitution. In a multi-party democracy, political parties play a fundamental
role in providing stability and peace needed for peaceful political
transitions. However, the current government has imposed a series of
restrictions that limit the power of opposition parties, such as limitations on
political rallies and live-broadcasting parliamentary sessions.
In February, new amendments to the Political Parties Act were passed that
further limit opposition politics. Since Magufuli assumed power in 2015,
there's been a continuous squeeze on civic, political and social spaces through
various bills and legislation to limit freedom of expression online and in the
Read more: An owl refuses to leave Tanzanian parliament. What does it all mean?
Politicians — including national party leaders — are only allowed to hold
rallies within their constituencies. Violators face arrest and prosecution.
ACT’s Kabwe was ordered to report to the regional police commander of the
southern region of Lindi for conducting a political rally out of his
constituency. Kawe district MP Halima Mdee was arrested after speaking to her
voters for the reason of “conducting a meeting without permission.”
Given the current state of Tanzania multi-party politics with defections of
heavyweight opposition party members like Lowassa, multi-party politics
struggle to thrive. Since its beginning, though, the hope was for the scope of
democracy to expand.
Written by Samuel Kabulo · comments (0) 
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