Monday, October 10, 2011


Mboneko Munyaga

The dust in the Igunga byelection has finally settled down. CCM managed to retain the seat, which was left vacant by the July resignation of the then incumbent, party stalwart and businessman, Rostam Aziz.

Dr Dalali Peter Kafumu is the new MP-elect, in what was arguably a hotly contested campaign. The results have since attested to how bitter the fight was. The ruling CCM scratched through with a lean victory of 50.4 per cent with closest challenger, Chadema garnering 44.6 per cent of the 53,672 votes cast.

He went on to win with about 100,000 votes while the CUF candidate got only about 9,000 votes. Last October, Chadema had ignored the constituency or rather felt it was futile to field a candidate owing to Mr Aziz's perceived popularity then.

When he resigned, giving personal, family and business reasons for doing so, the constituency suddenly turned into the hottest political cake in the country attracting eight political parties although five were no more than escorts. The by-election was held amid the lowest voter turn out rate. About 171,019 people had been registered to vote but only 53,672 turned out.

It was no surprise though. Many people had said they were not going to "waste" their time as no meaningful change would come out of the exercise. The turnout was less than a third of the eligible voters, making whoever won, in reality to be a minority MP. Could be Mr Aziz left too big a shoe to properly fit any one's feet.

There has been a lot of discussion as to the force and show of strength used by all the major parties in the Igunga by-election. The stakes were definitely high whichever way one looks at it.

CCM were more than determined to prove that not only were they popular in Igunga but were still the party of choice anywhere in the country as jibes have already started to be thrown in the air that the next contest will be in Arusha.

They wanted to prove that point since last year's election victory made Chadema the official opposition party in parliament, although of course they only have 48 MPs in a House of over 290 members. CUF, on the other hand, they were the natural "heirs" to the seat after their candidate came out second in the last general election.

They repeatedly made that point but apparently it did not strike any chord with the voters. This was no 2010 but 2011 where the political parameters had changed drastically and dramatically. They also made the point that Chadema were an "immature" party without a "national showing."

What we saw in Igunga was massive use of money for a rural setting campaign. The trend, if not unchecked, then it clearly relegates to the past the average man from any future parliamentary contest. It has been said CCM splashed a cool 3bn/-, Chadema 400m/- and CUF 150m/-.

To the best of my knowledge those claims have not been refuted and one would be safe, therefore, to assume those were the respective sums spent in Igunga by-election the three major parties. With such money around, it is little wonder that the "smaller" parties were smoldered even before the contest started.

A common criticism of the polls was that all the parties never explained their political agenda but campaigned only on a platform of promises to deliver services, which should have been in the first place. It is perhaps impossible for money not to change hands in elections but what was noticeable also was the clear absence of the country's anti corruption gurus.

There was kinetic zeal in the last general election to nab corrupt candidates or their agents but a puzzling fizzle merely a year after. Multiparty politics is a new fact and way of life in the world.

It is just beginning to gain roots in Tanzania after years of single party democracy. For the system to thrive and give the people the intended benefits, the society has to accept that the political field has changed considerably in the last 20 years or so.

Chadema was hardly a force to reckon with when Mwalimu Julius Nyerere lamented that proliferation of political parties was not the best measure for democratic rule. There were over 17 political parties then. A couple more have since come onboard but performance is a different game altogether.

In fact, Mwalimu trashed most of those political parties but gave Chadema slight credit and recognition. There were a few nasty incidents, which is not the intention of this writer to delve into.

However, there is need for Tanzanians not to allow their political rivalry and difference drive a wedge in their unity and oneness. Statements were heard from all the parties and even the civil society, which if not checked, then the voters in Igunga who boycotted the ballot booths, might sound all the wiser.

Officiating at a sporting event once, South Africa's Mzee Nelson Mandela said: "Let the better team win." His own country was also taking part." Perhaps we need to apply in our politicking, football's rules of fair play and genuinely let the party with the best appeal win. It is probably not the best political culture for parties to almost boycott almost all election results.

If we allow that to take root in society, democracy will be the biggest casualty and the people the victims of their own system for the right to govern themselves and the mandate to be governed.


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