Tag Archives: Tanzania

Tanzania – Is parliament waking up?

It is now old news that, since taking office in November 2015, President Magufuli has sought to reign in political dissent in Tanzania, be it from his own ruling party, opposition parties, the legislature, the media or private citizens. While many have denounced this authoritarian turn, there has been little by way of effective pushback.

That is starting to change.

It began with a dramatic show of strength from one of Magufuli’s close lieutenants, the Regional Commissioner for Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda. Speaking at a televised press conference, Makonda brandished a list of 65 individuals who he claimed were in some way implicated in the drug trade. The list included everyone from prominent businessmen to religious leaders to pop music celebrities to the Chairman of Tanzania’s largest opposition party. All the individuals named were ordered to report for questioning at the Dar es Salaam Central Police Station.

The order, and the highhanded way it was enforced, prompted an immediate outcry from those whose names appeared on the list. The denunciation did not stop there, however. For the first time since Magufuli took office, parliamentarians from both CCM and the opposition parties united, unanimously resolving to summon Makonda to appear before Parliament.

It seems Makonda had crossed a red line. First, he overreached by targeting—en masse—a group of well-connected individuals from both sides of the political spectrum. While the opposition has had to contend with systematic repression, and individual politicians have also come under fire, Makonda’s smear affected a large and diverse group of prominent individuals, which made a coordinated backlash that much easier.

Second, Makonda’s actions fed into growing tensions between parliamentarians and Regional and District Commissioners. While there have always been disputes over the respective powers of MPs versus Commissioners, these have grown more acute under Magufuli. This is because the President has relied on his administrative appointees to implement the government’s local development agenda, which has led to the political marginalization of parliamentarians. Given the opportunity to shift the balance, MPs were quick to pounce.

It is unclear what comes next. On the one hand, Makonda is in a bad way. Amidst a sustained outcry, rumours of forged academic qualifications, and allegations of ill-begot wealth, the Commissioner has lost some of his nerve. After breaking down sobbing during a church service, he is now rumoured to have left on a two-month vacation to South Africa.

But whereas Makonda could fade into the background, the real concern here is Magufuli. Many were—implicitly or not—critical of the President for his role in nurturing a political environment where an official of Makonda’s rank could issue such a seemingly outrageous order. At the same time, Makonda’s intervention stoked divisions within government and CCM, divisions which Magufuli appears at increasing pains to contain. Take, for instance, his recent appointment of the former First Lady, Salma Kikwete, to a parliamentary seat. This unprecedented move has fuelled a wave of speculation as commentators mull whether the no-nonsense President is making concessions to appease potential detractors within his own party.

Whatever the realty of this situation, things continue to move fast on the ground. This coming weekend, an extraordinary meeting of the CCM National Congress is set to approve sweeping reforms to the party constitution. These will see the elimination of more than half of National Executive Committee positions as well as new rules barring CCM and government leaders from holding more than one official post. The response to these reforms, and Magufuli’s ability to manage a situation where party patronage has been vastly reduced, remains to be seen.

Tanzania – The long arm of the law in Magufuli’s Tanzania

Last March, after appointing a fresh cohort of 26 Regional Commissioners, President Magufuli offered some sobering advice to his new appointees: “You have the authority to jail people for up to 48 hours. Lock them up so that they learn how to respect you.” He then added, “Don’t be afraid to make decisions. It’s better you take decisions. Even if they are bad, they can be adjusted later.”

Six months on, the President’s instructions have not gone unheeded. Reports of apparent abuses perpetrated by both Regional and District Commissions keep multiplying. While not necessarily breaking the law, Commissions are making the most of the 48-hour rule, which Magufuli referenced. Enshrined in clause 15(2) of the 1997 Regional Administration Act, it stipulates that a Commissioner can order that any individual be put in custody without a charge for as long as two days if deemed likely to “disturb the public tranquillity.”

Commissioners are using these powers to “discipline” public servants and politicians, primarily local councillors. In one district, the Commissioner jailed two high ranking district officials for 12 hours, accusing them of failing to find funds to pay city street cleaners, as per the Commissioner’s orders. In another district, the Commissioner ordered the arrest of four local councillors from Tanzania’s leading opposition party, CHADEMA. The district council chairman—among those arrested—spent the night in jail. The Commissioner’s explanation: “Those [councillors] were messing up my visits to see the wananchi [people] and undermining government development efforts.”

These heavy-handed interventions—and the reasons invoked to justify them—raise questions about the precise responsibilities of a Regional or District Commissioner, beyond presumably preserving “public tranquillity.” According to the above-mentioned Regional Administration Act, District Commissioners are the “principal representatives of the government” within their area and, as such, “all the executive functions of Government […] shall be exercised by or through” them. They are responsible for maintaining “law and order,” for overseeing the implementation of government policies and, crucially, for “assisting” local government authorities, including by “ensuring compliance by all persons and authorities with appropriate Government decisions […].”

Whatever the circumstances, Commissioners clearly enjoy wide-ranging authority. Under President Magufuli, however, they are increasingly using the full breadth of their (loosely defined) legal powers. They are emerging as the local exponents of the President’s “Hapa kazi tu” agenda, justifying apparent excesses by invoking the developmental value of their work. Hence their actions against allegedly non-performing public servants and, most especially, their efforts to clip the wings of local councils and their elected members.

Councillors from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party have not been spared, also facing sanctions and arrests. But the bulk of the Commissioners’ interventions target opposition politicians and opposition-controlled councils. The most flagrant case is in Tanzania’s third largest city, Arusha, where the city council is under CHADEMA control. The District Commissioner, later promoted to Regional Commissioner, has been embroiled in an ongoing dispute with councillors for months after first announcing a drastic cut in their allowances and subsequently interfering with decisions made by the council. Tensions have also escalated between the Commissioner, Mrisho Gambo, and the Arusha city MP, Godbless Lema, also from CHADEMA. Lema has repeatedly accused Gambo of taking credit for development projects.

Top opposition leaders predictably condemn the Commissioners’ actions, and the apparent encouragement coming from the President. What is less clear is how leaders within Magufuli’s own party view Commissioners’ actions, and their growing prominence. On the one hand, many of Magufuli’s Commissioners are CCM politicians who lost out in the most recent elections. As such, they are themselves close to—or else part and parcel of—the ruling party. On the other hand, though, the Commissioners’ actions seem to pre-empt or substitute a development campaign led by the party itself, through its various structures. Under Magufuli’s predecessor—Jakaya Kikwete—, the CCM Secretary General undertook an energetic national tour aimed at restoring people’s faith in the party and its poverty-fighting agenda. That focus and vitality is currently absent from CCM, which if anything, appears temporarily paralyzed.

Magufuli, now party chairman, continues to warn fellow CCM leaders of a coming anti-corruption drive whilst promising a “new CCM” at public events. In the meantime, the President appears much more comfortable working with his appointees. As Commissioner Gambo faced increasingly sharp criticism in Arusha, it was Magufuli who called him personally on the phone to express his continued support.

Tanzania – Stalemate between President Magufuli and the opposition coalition deepens

After he first took office last November, President John Magufuli’s relations with Tanzania’s opposition coalition quickly deteriorated. In the past month, they have reached new lows, with many in the Tanzanian commentariat recalling the one-party era by way of comparison.

From bad to worse

The first, and most flagrant, breach of trust between President Magufuli and the opposition, particularly the Civic United Front (CUF) party, came after the chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission annulled the elections for the Zanzibari President and House of Representatives. While this initial decision had nothing to do with Magufuli, his subsequent unwillingness to intervene was heavily criticized by opposition actors. The elections were re-run in March of this year amidst an opposition boycott, thus leading to an overwhelming victory for the long-time ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). The Secretary General of CUF most recently called for Magufuli to be tried in an international court for crimes against humanity, referring to alleged police brutality following the 2015 elections.

Tensions, meanwhile, have also set in between Magufuli and CHADEMA, Tanzania’s largest opposition party and the dominant player on the mainland. Many in the opposition accused CCM of stealing the presidential election, asserting that CHADEMA candidate Edward Lowassa won against CCM’s Magufuli.  The opposition—united in a coalition known by the acronym UKAWA—went on to boycott Magufuli’s swearing in. Magufuli in turn ruffled feathers with a succession of interventions, which many interpreted as aimed at preventing the opposition in parliament—and parliament as an institution—from effectively challenging the executive. These included imposing his preferred candidate—a lawyer who had never served in parliament—as Deputy Speaker, halting highly popular live broadcasts of parliamentary debates, and intervening in the selection of parliamentary committee members. The opposition responded to this last move by refusing to elect chairs for the opposition-headed oversight committees, including the Public Accounts Committee. Opposition MPs also staged a series of noisy protests during House debates, which led to their forcible removal by the parliamentary guards as well as voluntary walkouts.

After the first parliamentary sitting finished in early February, a series of smaller scale confrontations occurred. Temperatures again rose sharply, however, with the beginning of the parliamentary sitting in late May. Opposition MPs quickly resolved to boycott sessions chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Tulia Ackson, whom they accuse of serving as Magafuli’s puppet, quashing parliamentary debate and contravening the House rules of procedure. With the Speaker away for medical treatment, Ackson has chaired the majority of recent debates. Opposition MPs have thus abandoned the House for much of the past month, during which time parliament debated the government’s annual budget. In addition to the MPs’ protest, CHADEMA also announced a countrywide tour to protest Magufuli’s leadership style. The party leaders accused the president of dictatorial tendency, citing the firing of civil servants without following due procedure and the abrupt expulsion of over 7,000 students from one of Tanzania’s public universities. The police responded to this plan by imposing an indefinite ban on political rallies for “security reasons.” On June 22, Magufuli issued a statement of his own, declaring a ban on all political activity (rallies, public meetings, etc.) until 2020, when the next elections are scheduled to take place. He justified this move in the name of “development,” declaring, “We can’t allow people to politicize each and everything, every day. When will the people work and build the nation?”

Magufuli has since reaffirmed his stand, adding that he was elected to fulfill certain electoral promises, and he cannot tolerate any political obstacles to achieving this aim. In addition to targeting opposition activities generally, individuals have also been singled out for “insulting” Magufuli. One Arusha resident was found guilty of insulting the President on his facebook page and sentenced to three years in jail. A second man has since been charged with insulting Magufuli via Whatsapp. Meanwhile, an opposition MP spent a night in jail after he was arrested, seeming because he referred to Magufuli as a “petty dictator.”

Why the democratic backsliding?

President Magufuli’s “style of leadership” certainly differs from his predecessor’s. While in office, Jakaya Kikwete positioned himself as a democrat. Often his commitment seemed largely rhetorical, but even so, parliament became more assertive under his watch while opposition parties were left to conduct their activities in relative freedom. This raises the question, why the abrupt authoritarian reversion under Magufuli?

One possible reason is the unprecedented level of inter-party competition during the last general elections. Following the 1992 reintroduction of multiparty politics, CCM has won presidential and parliamentary elections by very comfortable margins. In 2015, however, the leading opposition presidential candidate managed to win 40% of the vote. While this official result was still a long way from Magufuli’s 58%, it came after a particularly bruising campaign. It was also a distinct improvement over the opposition’s previous peak performance at 27% in 1995 and 2010 and a far cry from the opposition lows in 2000 and 2005 when the leading presidential candidates garnering only 16% and 11% respectively.

While observers have associated rising inter-party competition with increased political tensions in other dominant party states, this factor alone does not explain the current situation in Tanzania. A second reason could be the opposition’s growing predilection for showmanship and stonewalling. Its boycott of much of this year’s budget session in parliament has certainly left some observers unimpressed. Reports that opposition MPs are now refusing to speak to or socialize with CCM MPs also suggest a particularly pernicious partisan polarization. Yet it is hard to blame the opposition when many of their actions are in fact reactions to executive interference.

This brings us to Magufuli. Since taking office, he has pursued an aggressive anti-corruption campaign, firing high ranking bureaucrats suspected of corrupt activities, slashing excess government expenditure and pushing for improved revenue collection. The flip side of this singular focus has been an apparent unwillingness to tolerate political opposition or, indeed, institutional checks-and-balances. Parliament as a whole, not just opposition MPs, has suffered the consequences. Indeed, CCM legislators also echo opposition concerns, accusing the Deputy Speaker in particular of bending House rules and limiting time for debate so as to render it meaningless. Under the circumstances, some argue that their time is better spent watching football in the parliamentary canteen rather than attending sessions.

Finally, we may ask, where is CCM—the ruling party—in all of this? To date, measures taken against the opposition have originated with the executive, coming directly from the President, his ministers, or the security forces. Magufuli, meanwhile, has yet to take over from Jakaya Kikwete as party chairman. His relations with many party stalwarts, moreover, remain ill defined. There was much speculation that CCM insiders were trying to manoeuvre to postpone the transfer. A recent extraordinary Central Committee meeting convened to put an end to this uncertainty, setting a date for the transfer to take place later this month. Magufuli did not attend the meeting, however, something which surprised many.

Development over democracy?

Ultimately, Tanzania’s new President is showing the power of his office by rewriting the rules of the game, seemingly single-handedly. His vision is one of development first, which in this case seems to imply sacrificing democracy. Incidentally, Magufuli and Kagame have repeatedly expressed their admiration for each other. But Tanzania under Magufuli is no Rwanda. Despite some notably early successes, not least his cost cutting efforts, Magufuli has also overseen some costly blunders. For instance, the snap decision to ban all sugar imports while simultaneously attempting to impose a price ceiling on sugar produced domestically had the bizarre effect of undercutting Tanzanian traders, producers and consumers alike. Although a parliamentary committee warned of a looming sugar scarcity, it went unheard.

Magufuli has ambitions to oversee a transformative industrialization process in Tanzania. But rather than there being some trade-off between these developmental aspirations and the country’s democratic growth, the evidence so far suggests the executive would benefit from a more consultative approach that allowed for opposition critique and parliamentary oversight. Yes, this tolerance comes with certain costs, but so does authoritarian intransigence.

 

Tanzania – President Magufuli’s first months in office

This is a post by Michaela Collord

Hapa kazi tu! Straight to work! Such was the slogan used by Tanzania’s newly elected President, John Pombe Magufuli, on the campaign trail. After nearly five months in office, Magufuli certainly has made an impression.

His anti-corruption campaign and no-nonsense governing style have sent his popularity soaring. At home, he is being compared to Tanzania’s founding father, Julius Nyerere, a figure of almost mythic proportion. Abroad, Magufuli has also won over a following, not least Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame. Long seen as an ascetic hard worker in his own right (albeit one with strong authoritarian tendencies), Kagame is now openly emulating his fellow East African leader’s cost-cutting zeal.

Other observers are more cautious, wondering whether this one-man ‘bulldozer’ can address Tanzania’s entrenched development challenges, many of which are deeply political in nature. Still more are concerned at the worrying signs that political freedoms in Tanzania are being suppressed.

Magufuli’s actions so far send mixed signals, some inspiring and others decidedly less so.

From sweeping streets to ‘bursting boils’

From Day 1, Magufuli has positioned himself as an energetic populist. He quickly made it clear his government would slash all wasteful expenditure. He surprised many by ordering an end to ‘unnecessary foreign travels’ for government officials, declaring that the $150m saved on air travel costs would be reinvested in road construction. He also cancelled Tanzania’s Independence Day celebrations, instead showing up in front of State House wielding a broom and calling on fellow citizens to participate in a collective environmental cleanup. Money saved from the scaled down inaugural ceremony for MPs’ was later diverted to buy hospital beds. Perhaps most surprising of all for many was that new beds did indeed appear and road construction is underway. At the same time, some are feeling the pinch. Restaurants and bars in Dar es Salaam are noticeably quieter of late, with many speculating that cash strapped civil servants are staying home after Magufuli put a stop to their paid meetings, extra fuel allowances and other perks.

Weeding out corruption, or ‘bursting boils’ to use Magufuli’s phrase, has been an equally important part of the overall campaign against government waste. Weeks into his presidency, Magufuli made a surprise visit to Muhimbili National Hospital, firing the Director and dissolving its Board. He also promised a crackdown on ‘big businessmen’, directing Tanzania Revenue Authority Commissioner General, Rishad Bade, to target tax avoiders. His Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, later showed up at the TRA offices unexpected and suspended Bade while investigation are ongoing into the disappearance of 349 shipping containers from TRA’s records. Senior officials at the Tanzania Port Authority, responsible for handling the containers, were also suspended.

Magufuli and his ministers, many of whom are seen as technocrats, have kept up the pressure with a series of high profile firings and reappointments. They have also expanded beyond government. For instance, PM Majaliwa has revoked ownership of large tracts of unused farmland, some of which is owned by highly placed political figures as well as businessmen. He has promised the land will be redistributed to local peasants.

On another front, the government is trying to push through a series of ambitious policy measures. In his inaugural address to parliament, Magufuli promised free primary and secondary education. The government is also pushing local councils to improve infrastructure to ensure enough classrooms for students. Magufuli has sought to further ease pressure on the average Tanzanians’ pocketbook by directing the state-owned energy-generating company to cut connection fees and tariffs, measures which should also incentivize more Tanzanians to connect to the grid.

Despite a succession of what look like encouraging moves, Magufuli’s style, which seems to capitalize on surprise, has left many wondering what the overall plan may be. So far, directives seem to come straight from the President or his ministers. In several instances, this approach has resulted in rapid decisions while consultations only follow after affected parties voice their dismay. Individual ministers and other government officials have been criticized for their seemingly imperious unilateral decisions. Opposition parties as well as the Commission for Human Rights have decried, in particular, the firing of civil servants without the due process to which government employees have a right. More recently, Prime Minister Majaliwa was singled out by doctors, who complain that they are being stigmatized as a result of his call to fire medical workers caught taking bribes.

There are also concerns about the economic implications of some of the government’s measures. On the one hand, revenue collection is up, the shilling is strengthening again after a precipitous slide and there is genuine optimism that corruption and underperformance amongst government officials is in decline. On the other hand, some argue that Magufuli’s policies could make for an uncertain investment climate, or else could lead to excess government spending.

Perhaps more serious than this, there is the very real concern that if Magufuli is to consolidate his bold gestures into a long-term, coherent agenda, he will need to ensure broad support beyond his inner cabinet circle. This involves taming the rent-seeking, factional tendencies within his own party.

Is his party with him?

Analysts argue that widespread corruption and economic stagnation In Tanzania have much to do with the internal politics of the long-time ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). In recent decades, competing factions have increasingly divided the party, hindering its ability both to control corruption and to implement a coherent economic policy agenda. As Brian Cooksey argues, ‘within the ruling party, the use of rent-seeing of all types to advance the interests of groups of rentiers intent on taking control of the party has heightened pressures to loot the public purse and natural resources.’ Hazel Gray meanwhile underscores how, despite CCM’s strong formal institutional and appearance of centralized authority, ‘neither the president nor any one particular faction could enforce its particular agenda within the ruling party.’

There is a possibility that Magufuli is well positioned to impose discipline within the party in a way his predecessors could not. For one, Magufuli’s path to the presidency has left him relatively unencumbered by the kind of political baggage that has hampered his predecessors. He built his reputation as a competent, largely scandal-free minister, who most people discounted out of hand during CCM’s hotly contested presidential nomination struggle. One major reason for this was Magufuli’s lack of a strong mtandao, the Swahili word used to refer to the opaque political networks behind successful candidacies within CCM. And yet he emerged the surprise winner after two rival factions, one headed by then President Jakaya Kikwete and another by his former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, dealt each other a mutual, knockout blow.

A second factor that could play in Magufuli’s favour is the exit, or at least temporary silencing, of the faction within CCM associated with Lowassa. After losing out on his nomination bid, the former PM left the party to become the opposition presidential candidate during last year’s general elections. Politicians who were known to support Lowassa, and yet remained within CCM, are now being made to denounce their former ally while others have been threatened with the prospect of expulsion from the party. Meanwhile, members of the Tanzanian business community who backed Lowassa now find themselves in a very precarious position, with some reports of businessmen taking their operations abroad. Senior officials within CCM have suggested that, far from weakening the party, the fall from grace of one of its strongest factions could actually help restore unity, at least temporarily.

Another important point in his favour is that Magufuli himself has made an accurate diagnosis of the political challenge ahead of him. When delivering his inaugural address before Parliament, he identified two obstacles to achieving his development aims: ‘leaders like us in here and crooked, deceptive businessmen.’ Unlike his predecessors, who have made similar observations, Magufuli is showing signs of actually following words with action, notably through his crackdown on tax avoidance. He is also set to take over as CCM Chairman later this year and, along with the reform minded Secretary General, has hinted at a political cleanup in the 2017 internal party elections.

Finally, Magufuli’s popularity since taking office also makes it more difficult for any political opponents within the party to criticize him openly.

Each of these apparent advantages has its downsides, though. Magufuli’s lack of a strong network coming into office makes him vulnerable as much as it frees him from costly political debts.  Discussions with some insiders have pointed to a potential isolation within the party, something which may not be helped by his tendency to appoint technocrats to key positions, or by his promise of an aggressive crackdown on political financiers and corrupt politicians alike. The purge of Lowassa supporters in the party, which former President Kikwete is leading, also shows signs of creating more divisions rather than restoring unity.

Ultimately, it is unclear how Magufuli—or anyone else—could do away with the entrenched cronyism that has come to characterize CCM. Since the 1980s and 1990s when first economic liberalization saw the party lose control over parastatals and then political liberalization cut its lucrative government funding, CCM has grown to depend on financial support from the private sector, which it then rewards through government tenders, tax breaks, and other kickbacks. This state of affairs is what has helped fuel party fragmentation across rival clientelist networks, as observed by Cooksey and Gray earlier in this piece. While Magufuli appears to have a window of opportunity to reign in rent-seeking within CCM, and deliver substantive development gains in the process, it is unclear how long his agenda can endure without a relapse into the old way of doing politics.

Political dissent under Magufuli

Whatever one may think of Magufuli’s development agenda, political tolerance and a faith in institutional checks and balances do not appear to be among his main qualities.

Regarding the opposition, Magufuli has been loath to intervene in a series of political stand-offs since he became President. Admittedly they were not of his making, but he showed no sign of wanting to contribute to their solution. Most obviously, he has refused to intervene over the political impasse in Zanzibar, which emerged following the decision by the chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission to annul the results from last year’s elections. This move appears to have been motivated by a strong opposition performance in the polls. A rerun election was held in Zanzibar on March 20, but with the main opposition party boycotting the polls, CCM made a clean sweep amidst record low turnout. In the lead-up to this latest vote, rumors spread of police violence against opposition sympathizers, buildings belonging to both CCM and opposition supporters were torched and a critical journalist was kidnapped. Many fear more unrest ahead.

Magufuli also refused to heed opposition calls for him to address the stand-off over the mayorial elections in Dar es Salaam, which the opposition accused CCM of trying to rig.

Regarding Parliament, concern that the government was trying to control the legislative body surfaced shortly after Magufuli took office. He nominated lawyer, who had previously served as Deputy Attorney General, to become MP. She subsequently contested and won the position of Deputy Speaker, despite no prior experience in parliament, bar a brief stint in the Constitutional Assembly. Many interpreted this move as an effort to install a government watchdog in the House. Tensions rose again after the opposition found its strongest members were kept off the most powerful parliamentary committees. It appears the executive had a hand in lobbying the Speaker over the composition of these committees. The opposition has developed a confrontational style in the house; however, the decision by one of the parliamentary chairmen to have the entire opposition side forcibly removed by the parliamentary guards was a further low point for that institution. The opposition standoff was triggered by a government announcement that the public broadcaster would stop live broadcasts of parliamentary debates.

In recent years, the Tanzanian Parliament has become more assertive. It has refocused the political agenda by helping to reveal corruption scandals and by strongly criticizing elements of the government annual budget. However, as one CCM MP noted, ‘I don’t think the President is going to be so submissive to the Parliament again.  Actually, we have very clear evidence he wants to control it. So he won’t be driven by the parliament but he will want to drive it.’

Magufuli has certainly brought a new energy to government in Tanzania, and with it, a genuine sense of optimism, which should not be dismissed. Indeed, his push for more accountability and government investment in social services is already bearing fruit. As we move forward though, tensions within his own party, and its crony politics, could pose a serious challenge to his administration. His negligent handling of opposition, meanwhile, is already feeding into a deepening political stalemate in Zanzibar while his apparent aversion to legislative criticism threatens to impoverish political debate.

Tanzania – An historic election

Tanzania’s elections last Sunday were the most competitive the country as ever seen. Results so far suggest the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party will remain in power, extending its 54-year reign. But even if CCM wins, these elections mark a decisive shift in Tanzania’s politics.

CCM divided

This campaign season has laid bare the entrenched factionalism within CCM. What was once a highly centralized, bureaucratic party is increasingly split by rival networks of competing political elites. These networks link national political figures, influential financiers, and regional and local party leaders, who are in many areas grouped into personalized political machines.

Faction tensions reached a fever pitch during the CCM presidential nomination process last June and July. A leading contender was Edward Lowassa, a former Prime Minister in outgoing President Jakaya Kikwete’s first government before he resigned over a corruption scandal.

This fall from grace set Lowassa at loggerheads with Kikwete, his former political ally. It is widely accepted that Kikwete personally intervened to ensure Lowassa did not get the CCM nomination despite enjoying widespread support. The nomination instead fell to John Magufuli, a long-time minister with no clear factional affiliation.

Lowassa responded to his exclusion by defecting to the opposition, where he was selected as the presidential candidate for the coalition known by its Swahili acronym Ukawa. Lowassa brought with him a wave of other defectors from CCM, including more former ministers and local party cadres, especially from his home area in Arusha region where his personal network is strongest.

This development fundamentally changed the election calculus, giving the opposition a shot at winning the presidency.

The opposition united

Tanzania’s opposition parties were in a relatively strong position even before Lowassa’s entry.

Four parties—Chadema, CUF, NCCR-Mageauzi, and NDL—united in the Ukawa coalition in 2014 and had agreed to field joint parliamentary and district council candidates in the 2015 elections. Chadema, now Tanzania’s leading opposition party, had also built up its local party structures in the years following the 2010 elections, and had managed to implant itself in areas where previously it had only a slight presence.

Lowassa’s arrival at the helm may have cost the opposition some of its support, particularly as parties like Chadema built their reputation as anti-corruption crusaders and were now seen to embrace a politician long maligned as corruption incarnate. CCM took advantage of this situation during the election campaigns, branding the opposition hypocrites.

Even so, the opposition momentum only grew with Lowassa drawing huge crowds at rallies. CCM meanwhile was struggling with its own flagging legitimacy, seemingly relying on the relatively untainted image of its presidential candidate, Magufuli, to carry the day. More skeptical observers tended to question both candidates’ promise of ‘change.’

The election results so far

Vote counting is still ongoing with CCM leading. Besides providing a sign of who will ultimately win, the available results reveal interesting patterns.

In a country where politics do not generally play out along ethnic lines—certainly not when you compared with neighbouring Kenya—it is striking that both Magufuli and Lowassa’s home regions have swung strongly in their favour. In Magufuli’s home area south of Lake Victoria, a number of constituencies that previously voted for opposition parliamentary and presidential candidates—and where Chadema hoped to consolidate its base—reverted to voting CCM. Around Arusha, the swing was still more dramatic in the other direction. A large swath of constituencies that had never previously voted opposition did so for both the parliamentary candidate and presidency, including constituencies that voted CCM by 60-90% in the last elections.

It would be a mistake, though, to interpret these swings as a marker of purely ‘ethnic’ voting. Both Magufuli and Lowassa’s areas are ethnically diverse, making it difficult to rely on one group to win a victory. What’s more, if we take Arusha as an example, the opposition was already making strong inroads there on its own. What Lowassa was able to add was his own political machine, carved out from within CCM over the 20 years he has served as a Member of Parliament. Finally, there is also a rational assessment voters make whereby they judge that having a president from their area—regardless of ethnicity—will ensure development gains for everyone.

Whichever way you choose to interpret this regional vote, it does add to the perception of a more personalized politics where party allegiance is pegged to personal networks.

The importance of personality is also implied through the prominence of split-ticket voting in a number of regions. For instance, several constituencies in the CCM regional stronghold of Morogoro have gone to opposition parliamentary candidates even though these same constituencies supported CCM’s Magufuli for President. Voters in other regions, notably Mbeya, are more consistent, voting Chadema across the board and seeing off at least one minister and regional CCM chairman in the process. In that area, at least, it is clear that Chadema as a party is firmly implanted.

Finally, much has been made of the growing number of CCM big-wigs who have lost in the elections so far. An emblematic case was the defeat of Stephen Wasira, a minister under three different presidents and a top ranking CCM official. Wasira lost to a young woman, Esther Bulaya, who stood out as a CCM MP critical of government in the last parliamentary session before defecting to Chadema (ahead of Lowassa) earlier this year. This result speaks to a growing popular disillusionment with a CCM old guard, its yes-man politics and its apparent inability to address critical issues, such as corruption.

But are these even the real results?

While polling went smoothly on Sunday, vote tallying has raised serious concerns to the point where both sides are now accusing the other of foul play.

On Monday, police raided a number of Chadema vote tallying centres and eight volunteers were later charged with publishing false election results under the newly enacted and much criticized Cyber Crimes Act. This incident prompted a volley of accusations and counter-accusations form Chadema and CCM.

More worrying, however, was the decision made by the Chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission on Wednesday to nullify the Zanzibar elections on the basis of vague allegations of ‘irregularities.’ This came after the opposition presidential candidate for Zanzibar announced he had won and security forces surrounded a hotel where ZEC commissioners and international election observers were staying.

The opposition sees the ZEC announcement—issued just as vote counting was nearing completion—as a panicked response to CCM losing the election in Zanzibar. Lowassa has also responded by calling into question results published by the National Electoral Commission responsible for counting votes for the Union President and National Assembly candidates.

Tanzania has a reputation as a peaceful country where election violence, outside of Zanzibar, is virtually unknown. The rapid degeneration in trust after the Sunday polls—and the nullification of the Zanzibar election—has brought the country into unchartered territory. Political leaders are calling for calm, but so long as accusations continue to fly, the potential for a dangerous escalation cannot be ruled out.

As it stands, the elections in Tanzania have proved historic. Even if they do not herald a transfer of power, they have unveiled the extent of factional divisions within CCM as never before. They also testify to a public desire for ‘change,’ particularly within Tanzania’s growing youth population. However, how that change will be delivered, and who will oversee it, is more uncertain than ever.

Tanzania – The ruling CCM party unites (for now) around a presidential nominee

Africa’s longest reigning ruling party has dodged a bullet. Sunday 12 July, Tanzania’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) nominated its presidential flag bearer after a bruising campaign threatened to split the party. John Magufuli, current Minister of Works, will carry the CCM banner in the October general elections, and very likely become next president of Tanzania. Widely characterized as a ‘hardworking’ individual unburdened by factional allegiances, Magufuli’s nomination led observers both inside and out of CCM to praise the party for finding a unifying candidate. The current celebratory mood should not, however, blind us to the significance of the nomination process itself. The factional rifts, unprecedented expense and accusations of violating party rules that characterized the campaigns point to internal party dynamics that are both weakening CCM and exacerbating Tanzania’s endemic corruption.

In brief – Tanzania’s political economy of corruption

Over the last ten years, Tanzania has weathered an unprecedented number of high profile (and highly costly) scandals linked to the misappropriation of public funds. These corruption cases include a 2006 decision to award a lucrative emergency power supply tender to a shell company, fraudulent payments worth $131m made by the Bank of Tanzania to 22 local companies, and the most recent controversy over funds diverted to top government officials out of an escrow account set up by the state-owned electric supply company.

Analysts link this increase in corruption cases to growing factional competition within the ruling party. This factionalism both fuels grand corruption and makes it more difficult to check.  As Cooksey (2011) argues, ‘within the ruling party, the use of rent-seeking of all types to advance the interests of groups of rentiers intent on taking control of the party has heightened pressures to loot the public purse and natural resource.’ Gray (2015) meanwhile highlights how the balance of power between these party factions undermines CCM’s ability to control rent-seeking activities. Despite the party’s strong formal political institutions and appearance of centralized authority, ‘neither the president nor any one particular faction could enforce its particular agenda within the ruling party.’ These interest groups remain ‘weak vis-à-vis each other,’ unable to police or channel their competitors’ rent-seeking ambitions.

Predictably, CCM inability to manage rampant corruption is hurting the party politically. Each new scandal provides fresh ammunition to an emboldened opposition while frustration is also spreading within the party itself. Efforts to reassert the authority of ‘the party’ over corrupt elements in its midst have, as already implied, largely failed, leading to an internal dissonance that does little to bolster CCM’s credibility in the eyes of the public.

The presidency – the ultimate political prize

CCM’s factional competition—and its consequences—are most pronounced when it comes to winning the party’s presidential nomination. With this year’s presidential nomination, factional tensions reached new heights; their roots, however, lie in a long history of nomination struggles.

Already in 1995, the presidential succession within CCM was marred by controversy.  In order to win the party ticket, candidates had to make it over a number of hurdles in a process that has changed little to date. First, they had to collect endorsements from a set number of party rank-and-file. After submitting their nomination forms to the party head quarters, contestants then had to get the stamp of approval from the party’s ethics committee. In a third step, the Central Committee, composed of roughly 40 top party leaders, had to select five names from the pool of eligible contenders. The National Executive Committee (NEC) was then tasked with selecting three names from the five, which were finally forwarded the National Congress, the supreme decision-making body.

In 1995, two young CCM politicians, Edward Lowassa and Jakaya Kikwete, threw their hats into the ring. When Lowassa’s name was cut by the central committee, he aligned behind Kikwete, who eventually won the largest share of votes in the National Congress. Former president Julius Nyerere, the highly respected ‘father of the nation,’ intervened however, declaring Kikwete too young, and calling on the runner up, Benjamin Mkapa to take the nomination.

Lowassa and Kikwete were not deterred. After serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs under Mkapa, Kikwete returned to try his luck in 2005, again with the backing of fellow MP and long-time Minister Lowassa. The two are reported to have made a tacit agreement that in ten years time, Kikwete would support Lowassa’s presidential bid. They ran an aggressive nomination campaign. With the help of Rostam Aziz, a wealthy Tanzanian ‘oligarch,’ they marshaled funds to help gather a large number of endorsements, far exceeding the party’s minimum requirement. The CCM ethics committee was tasked with compiling dossiers on all contestants, which led to a recommendation that Kikwete be eliminated early due to excessive campaign spending. President Mkapa, however, shelved the dossiers, maintaining that there was ‘no Mr. Clean’ so no need to single out any particular contender. Other prominent CCM leaders meanwhile argued that there would be public unrest if Kikwete were eliminated given his widespread popularity. Kikwete eventually won the nomination, but the disregard for party procedure, the widespread use of money to climb to the top, and the harsh criticism directed by some party members against Kikwete’s fellow contestants meant CCM was left divided.

The party appeared to reunite at the start of Kikwete’s first term, basking in his 80% vote share garnered in the 2005 presidential elections. This honeymoon proved short lived. In 2007, the so-called Richmond scandal surfaced. The subsequent investigations were aggressively pursued by Parliament under the leadership of Speaker Samuel Sitta. They culminated in a committee report which included a recommendation that Lowassa, whom Kikwete had appointed Prime Minister, should relinquish his premiership. When a majority of CCM MPs supported the committee’s position, some motivated out of principle and others out of a desire to distance themselves from corruption, Lowassa had little choice but to resign. He did so defensively, alleging that the Richmond investigations had been nothing more than a witch hunt.

There were no subsequent prosecutions, but the fallout from Richmond led to the emergence of two loose factions, the ‘anti-corruption crusaders’, including a number of MPs with Speaker Sitta as their unofficial leader and the Lowassa camp, which included notably Rostam Aziz and the then CCM Secretary General, Yusuf Makamba. Beyond the seemingly altruistic aims of the Sitta camp, many observers alleged that Sitta had anterior motives. They noted how the then Speaker had also helped campaign for Kikwete in 2005 and had been frustrated in his hopes to accede to the premiership, subsequently resolving to use his parliamentary position to pursue Lowassa. For his part, Kikwete endeavoured to distance himself from both camps, but the fallout with Lowassa was profound as the President had done little to defend his Prime Minister in the heat of the Richmond scandal. Lowassa quickly set to work building up ties with local party structures, notably through the CCM youth wing, seemingly in preparation for a future presidential bid.

The tensions between these two camps led to a series of clashes within the party. In 2009, a NEC meeting failed to oust Sitta as Speaker of Parliament after many argued he was working against party interests. After appearing on the verge of challenging Kikwete for the presidency in 2010, Lowassa as well as Rostam Aziz—who faced fresh corruption allegations—lost their NEC positions in April 2011. Sitta, meanwhile, regained his. The Sitta camp was also credited with removing Yusuf Makamba, a Lowassa sympathizer, as Party Secretary General. Makamba was first replaced by Mukama, alleged to be a tacit Lowassa supporter, and later by the reform-minded Abdulrahman Kinana. Kinana along with the party Ideology and Publicity Secretary, Nape Nnauye, have positioned the party secretariat firmly behind the anti-corruption campaign. In particular, Kinana launched a national tour to revive the party’s ties with its base. He used his regional visits to preach an anti-corruption gospel and to reassure CCM members of the party’s good intentions. He has also warned the national leadership of the dangers for CCM electorally if it does not clean up its image.

Nevertheless, the Lowassa faction’s strength did not wane, despite his struggles with the party leadership. Throughout Kikwete’s second term, Lowassa and his supporters continued to build their network, notably among regional and local party leaders. All signs pointed towards another battle ahead, this time over the 2015 CCM presidential nomination.

The 2015 nomination campaigns

This year’s presidential nomination process has been billed as a struggle of ‘the party’ versus the individual. Could CCM stick to its institutional principles and procedures or would it be overrun by the maneuvering of opportunistic factions?

An unprecedented 42 presidential hopefuls entered the race, circling the country to collect endorsements. Lowassa had by far the most expensive and elaborate campaign. He launched his bid in late May at a rally, which attracted thousands. He went on to collect 850,000 endorsements from party members, far exceeding the 450 required in the party rules. Samuel Sitta also entered the race, although his was not a strong campaign. A greater threat to Lowassa’s ambitions was Bernard Membe, Minister of Foreign Affairs and rumored to be Kikwete’s favorite (also his brother).

While many within the party described the large number of contenders as an indication of CCM’s internal party democracy, others pointed to what appeared to be strategic efforts by some to act as spoilers, crowding the race to make it more difficult for a few heavyweights to dominate. Party members were also disturbed by the at times vicious attacks contestants levied against each other, in the process laying bare the party’s internal divisions. The anti-corruption message remained a common theme for those positioned against Lowassa. The latter, meanwhile, systematically distanced himself from corruption allegations while also seemingly trying to make a virtue out of wealth, claiming he hated poverty and there was nothing wrong with being rich. With this message, he hit back against the Ujamaa (socialist) heritage of the Nyerere era CCM, which many of his detractors argue the party should try to reclaim.

Lowassa was by no means the only candidate running a controversial—and expensive—campaign. Six presidential hopefuls, including Lowassa and Membe, were previously sanctioned by the party for early campaigning. Party leaders also issued repeated warning about money spent getting endorsements breaching electoral rules. One very rough estimate of the amount spent on endorsements alone (whether directly or indirectly) resulted in a disturbingly high figure: $10m.

As the party neared the next phase of the nomination process, the meetings of top party organs, tensions started to rise still further. Rumors quickly spread that the ethics committee had cut Lowassa’s name. The Central Committee then delayed considerably in announcing the five shortlisted names, which fuelled concerns about behind the scenes wrangling. When the Committee finally did announce the list, Lowassa’s name was conspicuously absent although Membe made the cut. Three Committee members took the unprecedented step of denouncing the committee’s decision, claiming it went against party procedure. Lowassa supporters—many of whom had been bussed to Dodoma, seat of the CCM head quarters—began protesting in the streets, which quickly led to the police cordoning off parts of the city.

The tension continued as the National Executive Committee convened. After delegates began singing a Lowassa campaign song, a dazed Kikwete broke with protocol, interjecting, ‘This has never happened before.’ A number of delegates continued to push for Lowassa’s name to be added to the list, an effort overcome only after interventions from elder statesmen, including former presidents Mkapa and Mwinyi. Lowassa supporters reportedly did effectively mobilize, however, in ensuring Membe’s name did not make it through to the next round, thereby exacting collateral damage on the rival faction. One additional event casting a shadow over the whole affair involved the seizure by police of suitcases containing TSh700m (over $300K) allegedly meant to bribe delegates.

Out of this fractious process, three candidates, John Magufuli, Asharose Migoro and Amina Salum Ali made it through to the Naitonal Congress, which handed Magufuli a resounding victory with 87% of the vote.

Unity restored?

As noted above, the reaction to Magufuli’s nomination was celebratory. The message throughout the next day’s press was that CCM had indeed managed to overcome the factions and reassert ‘the party’ and its principles. Magufuli had conducted his campaign ‘quietly’ with little if any media attention. He had collected the required 450 endorsements, no more. He had a long history of serving as a minister under both Mkapa and Kikwete and for the most part avoided entanglement in any major corruption scandal. All of these factors prompted even disillusioned CCM members, nostalgic for a by-gone era of less commercial politics, to praise the party’s decision.

An editorial in the leading Swahili paper Mwananchi (The Citizen) was nevertheless more circumspect, warning, ‘The task ahead for the party is even greater than that which has just ended… This party has not yet healed the wounds and cracks that resulted from the struggle between the candidates and their factions.’ While CCM escaped with a seemingly good candidate, this was in some ways by default as factions cancelled each other out. The nomination process made it very clear just how pervasive this factional politics is, and the extent to which it is enmeshed in CCM’s largely failed efforts to control corruption and the monetized political competition it engenders. However good Magufuli may be as a candidate, the nomination of no one individual can transform the situation.

Tanzania – As corruption spreads under President Kikwete, Parliament quietly gains strength

The past year has been a politically tumultuous one for Tanzania. Controversy over a new draft constitution, uncertainty over coming elections, media censorship, and police violence were only a few of the issues to crowd headlines. Yet as one observer noted recently, ‘nothing galvanized public opinion and aroused such passion’ like the disappearance of $122m out of an escrow account held by the Tanzanian central bank.

The Tegeta escrow scandal, as it is known, came to a head late last year when the Tanzanian parliament—or Bunge—passed a resolution calling on President Kikwete to remove four high ranking officials from his government. This call led to a cabinet reshuffle last month in which Kikwete sacked his Minister for Land while leaving the Minister for Energy and Minerals to resign.

As temperatures cool, commentators are now beginning to put this latest cabinet makeover into context. An analysis published by The Citizen last week notes that Kikwete has made seven cabinet reshuffles during his nine years in office, which together led to the removal of 60 ministers. Prior to the Tegeta saga, the most notorious incident involved Kikwete’s former Prime Minister Lowassa, a man who was also the kingmaker credited with manoeuvring Kikwete into office. Lowassa was forced to resign in 2008 over the Richmond scandal. Crucially, the Citizen reports that all high profile reshuffles under Kikwete were in response to pressure from parliament over corruption.

Various explanations have been fronted to explain the increased frequency of cabinet reshuffles under Kikwete. These point to, among other things, the political engagement of a more youthful, media savvy populace as well as the tenacity of anti-corruption crusaders like Zitto Kabwe, current chairman of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC). But if we take a step back, two important—and related—trends emerge. First, there is the increasing factionalism and competitive patronage within the ruling CCM party. Second, the steady institutionalization of the long-marginalized Bunge.

On CCM factionalism

The Chama Cha Mapinduzi party controlled Tanzanian politics throughout the one-party state period and has remained hegemonic since the first multiparty elections in 1995. As some analysts argue,[1] these elections were the first experience of ‘candidate centred politics’ in which aspirants’ strengths—both financial and strategic—were critical to the final election outcome. The new pressures resulted in greater competition both between and within parties—especially CCM—and the steady commercialization of politics.

While former president Nyerere—affectionately nicknamed Mwalimu or Teacher—still presided over national politics, internal CCM divisions remained contained. In particular, they did not greatly affect presidential nominations. This fragile stability crumbled, though, during the 2005 elections when money and networks pitted various CCM factions, and their preferred nominees, against each other. The fallout from this bruising competition reverberated throughout Kikwete’s first term in office, notably with the Richmond scandal.

Commenting on this new dynamic, a 2014 ODI report describes the ‘current political settlement ’in Tanzania as ‘an unstable alliance of public and private interest groups practicing competitive patronage around the ruling party and president.’ As such, the report argues that CCM ‘is likely to invest major resources in staying in power by buying support through a combination of natural resource plunder, tax exemptions for key supporters and the conduct of non-competitive tenders.’

While a majority still predict that CCM will have little trouble winning the presidential and legislative elections later this year, it is clear that such victories are coming at an ever higher cost. Political and financial improprieties perpetrated during elections now leave sitting governments with a messy trail of corruption scandals to contend with.

On a Bunge ‘with teeth’

There is no immediately obvious reason why CCM factionalism should go hand in hand with an increasingly assertive—and institutionally empowered—parliament. Yet that is the trend.

For much of the post-Independence period, the Tanzanian Bunge was viewed as weak, even by regional standards. While MPs in neighbouring Kenya would occasionally join together in criticizing the executive, the Bunge remained a neglected backwater. For ambitious individuals, it was a career dead-end—or at best a stepping stone—in a state dominated by government and party bureaucracies.

In the 1990s, two things began to change. First, parliament started to attract attention—particularly among businessmen—as a strategic way to access prized politico-economic networks. At the same time, the anticipation of a multiparty transition led a large cross-section of MPs to show more political independence, notably by pushing for constitutional amendments to strengthen legislative powers.[2]

This early parliamentary spring nevertheless did not yield immediate, lasting results. The two parliamentary sessions following the 1995 and 2000 elections remained muted. After 2005, though, CCM and opposition MPs in the 9th Parliament joined hands in pushing for an ambitious institutional reform programme. This included changes to the standing orders, such as enhanced committee oversight powers and new powers to table private members bills. While observers were initially sceptical, this momentum carried over into the 10th parliament, which again reviewed committee structures. The latest wave of reform led to the introduction of the Kabwe-headed Public Accounts Committee, now a hero of the Tegeta scandal saga.

Analysts have linked the earlier period of legislative assertiveness to a temporary decline in CCM party unity ahead of the 1995 transition. A similar story may well apply to the post-2005 House, this time roused not by the prospect of an imminent political transition but rather by the growing number of disgruntled CCM MPs, frustrated by internal party factionalism and further energized by their activist colleagues in the opposition. While the prospects for cross-party coalitions and parliamentary assertiveness do not extend to all issue-areas, there is a shared intolerance where corruption is concerned.

But does a strong parliament make a difference, really?

The combination of competitive patronage in CCM and a more assertive parliament certainly helps explain the sharp increase in cabinet reshuffles under President Kikwete. It is rather less certain whether the Bunge’s policing efforts are having much of an effect on the overall trajectory of Tanzanian politics. Where corruption is concerned, impunity is still the norm. Lowassa has bounced back from his Richmond shame and is now a leading candidate to become CCM presidential nominee for the 2015 elections. Meanwhile, after Pof. Muhongo resigned last month as Minister of Energy and Minerals, Kikwete quickly appointed him an ambassador.

But even with these apparent setbacks—which by no means constitute a full review of parliament’s impact—it seems likely that the Bunge’s actions may yet have a significant ripple effect. At the very least, it has helped draw public attention to issues of corruption. Ahead of elections, there is growing speculation about what this attention might yield in terms of growing opposition support. While many cannot imagine an end to CCM’s over 50 year stay in power—or be sure of what that might mean for Tanzania—recent events are fuelling a growing wave of speculation.

Posted by Michaela Collord

[1] The below is in part informed by a discussion paper delivered by Hon. Ezekiel Maige, Member of Parliament from 2005 to date.

[2] See, for instance: Killian, Bernadeta. “Comparing Performances: The 1990-1995 Single-Party Parliament and the 1995-200 Multi-Party Parliament.” People’s Representatives: Theory and Practice of Parliamentary Democracy in Tanzania. Eds. Mukandala, R.S., S.S. Mushi and C. Rubagumya. Kampala, Uganda: Fountain Publishers Ltd, 2004. 183-200. Print.

Tanzania – Parliament pins the executive over corruption scandal

As noted by one observer, last Saturday was ‘a big day in Tanzania.’ In an unusually bold move, the Tanzanian parliament passed a resolution calling on President Jakaya Kikwete to remove four high-ranking officials in his government. The Minister and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Minerals topped the list, followed by the Attorney General and Minister of Lands. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, narrowly avoided joining his colleagues on the parliamentary chopping block.

The vote comes on the back of lengthy investigations into the disappearance of $122m out of an escrow account held by the Tanzanian central bank. The funds in the account—opened jointly by the state-run power utility TANESCO and Independent Power Producer Ltd (IPTL)—were paid to IPTL’s putative owner, Pan Africa Power (PAP), in 2013. Only in early 2014, when TANESCO won a long-pending court case against IPTL and went to claim the funds in the escrow account did it emerge that PAP never in fact legally purchased IPTL and that the funds were fraudulently acquired with the collusion of officials in the executive as well as two judges and three MPs—all from the ruling CCM party.

What is remarkable about the escrow scandal is not the amount of money involved—Tanzania has unfortunately seen worse in recent years. Rather, it is the sheer number of those involved, not to mention the fervour with which Tanzania’s oversight institutions—namely the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) and Parliament—are pursuing them.

Parliament’s opposition-headed Public Accounts Committee (PAC) started the ball rolling last March when it tasked the CAG to investigate the process leading to the irregular withdrawal of money from the escrow account. The CAG probe ultimately resulted in a report spanning three volumes. The report details a financial saga whose roots lie in the early 1990s and whose many threads crisscross from Malaysia to Hong Kong to the British Virgin Islands to Kenya and back to Tanzania. Analysts of illicit international financial flows note how the ever more complex quality of these fraudulent dealings stretch the capacity of many oversight institutions, particularly those in low-income countries. Understandably, then, the quality of the CAG investigation has won the admiration of many both in Tanzania and abroad.

The PAC also handled an adverse environment to draft its recommendations and ensure—after last ditch obstructionist efforts—that they were tabled before parliament. For the most part, the recommendations won the support of both ruling party and opposition MPs, although some key figures—including the Prime Minister—were spared.

A primary reason for this bipartisan agreement is the perceived electoral implications of the escrow scandal. As one MP argued, ‘There was no way the Parliament could have saved these people [the accused officials.’ He then added, ‘How could you do that and go back to your constituency to ask wananchi [citizens] to contribute for school labs.’

Beyond the political fortunes of individual MPs, however, the escrow scandal is already raising serious questions about the strength of the CCM party ahead of the planned 2015 general elections. CCM has ruled Tanzania since Independence. In 2005, President Jakaya Kikwete was elected with 80% of the vote on an anti-corruption platform. Five years later he saw his winning share shrink to 60%. Observers attribute this precipitous decline to public anger over the corruption scandals that plagued Kikwete’s first term. His chief opponent, Wilibrod Slaa of the opposition Chadema party, was also able to win over a record level of support notably as a result of his own anti-corruption credentials, which he earned while working as a member of PAC in parliament.

The Chadema party, more generally, has attained a new level of prominence as a result of the escrow scandal. Domestically, its members in parliament have attracted considerable attention due to the critical role the played in PAC. Meanwhile internationally European donors, who in October suspended $490m in aid to the CCM government, are now hosting a delegation of top Chadema officials to discuss the escrow scandal as well as alleged CCM manipulation of the recently concluded constitution drafting process.

But it is too early to celebrate the outcome of the escrow scandal investigations. Despite the apparent success story of a newly empowered CAG, an assertive Parliament, and an emerging opposition, there are still many concerns linked to the escrow affair. Of course, the scandal itself points to a lack of integrity in government, highlighting just how deep the penchant for corrupt dealings runs. The performance of Tanzania’s oversight institutions, meanwhile, although impressive in its own right, is not certain to achieve the desired end. In particular, parliament lacks the constitutional powers to demand accountability from the executive; it is limited to merely calling for executive action in line with its recommended sanctions, thereby leaving the ultimate decision to take action—or not—with President Kikwete.

The initial signs are not altogether promising. Already one of Kikwete’s deputy ministers has lamented parliament’s decision to ‘scapegoat’ politicians while ignoring technocrats, who the minister implied are the real ‘culprits’. What’s more, the fundamental power mismatch between parliament and the executive is preserved in Tanzania’s controversial new draft constitution, which many critics are calling on voters to reject in a referendum set for next April.

Last Saturday’s parliamentary vote did indeed mark a ‘big day in Tanzania.’ But there is still a risk that a recalcitrant president may leave it as an opportunity squandered.

Tanzania’s constitutional review in limbo

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete used his 2011 New Year’s address to announce a long-awaited constitutional review, the first since Tanzania became a one-party state in 1977. Three years on, the process is now on the brink of collapse, mired in partisan gridlock and controversy over the status of the union between mainland Tanganyika the island of Zanzibar.

Current troubles aside, the constitutional review got off to an auspicious start. Shortly after the New Year’s announcement, Parliament passed the government Constitution Review Bill, and in April 2012, Kikwete won praise for his choice of appointees to the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), the body tasked with drafting the new constitution. In June 2013, the Vice President unveiled a first draft, which was then reviewed by the constitutional councils of each district. In December, the CRC presented a second draft constitution, now subject to approval by a Constituent Assembly (CA) before being put to a popular referendum.

There is plenty to commend in the second draft constitution. It offers stronger protections for human rights, and notably women’s rights. It also incorporates a number of articles aimed at diminishing the power of Tanzania’s “imperial” president and ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). These include measures requiring parliamentary approval of presidential nominations, restricting recent party leaders from becoming House Speaker, and removing the ban on independent presidential and parliamentary candidates in general elections. These proposed changes accord with past recommendations by reform-oriented MPs, keen to transform parliament into an institution “with teeth.”

Such positive elements are lost, though, in the political storm that is now raging over the status of the union. This controversy dates back to 1964 when Tanganyika and Zanzibar, two former British colonies, joined to become the United Republic of Tanzania. The result was a two-government structure. The government of Tanganyika merged with the Union government while Zanzibar retained its own administration. The second draft constitution proposes to replace this two-tier system with a three-government structure, restoring the Tanganyikan government and replacing the Union government with a less powerful Federal administration.

Justice Warioba, chairperson of the CRC, defended the proposed three-government structure, arguing that it is in line with popular opinion and would address concerns over equal representation and resource allocation. CCM has long opposed this remedy, which would likely diminish its power. President Kikwete nevertheless responded to Warioba with a call for partisan unity. “The [CA] is the prime stage towards getting a new constitution,” he affirmed, adding, “The entire group should represent people and not particular interests.”

CCM and President Kikwete did not hold this line for long. Concern over undue party influence exploded shortly after the CA convened to adopt its Standing Orders in February 2014. Members fiercely debated whether to allow closed voting, which advocates argued is essential to the assembly’s independence. President Kikwete exacerbated these initial tensions with his inaugural speech before the CA, which he used to convey a partisan message in favour of a two-government structure.

That was in March. The situation has since deteriorated further. Opposition members have denounced the CA Chair for allowing CCM to dominate committees; mudslinging and vitriol continue to disrupt debate; and in the latest move, the opposition coalition, Ukawa, resolved to boycott the assembly pending reconciliation over the union issue.

With partisan clashes unlikely to abate, the current constitutional review process is beginning to align with a history of CCM-led, top-down reform. The opposition parties might have played their cards better, but the overriding impression is one of CCM dominance and presidential meddling. This situation casts doubt on the basic motivations behind the President’s New Year’s announcement back in 2011. Kikwete’s then newfound enthusiasm for constitutional reform came at a time when the CCM government was working hard to burnish its democratic credentials. The effort was richly rewarded with a state visit from Obama in 2013, during which he praised Tanzania for its commitment to good governance. Critical observers were quick to counter with examples of deteriorating press freedoms and human rights abuses. The criticism didn’t stick, though, and with Kikwete touting its progress before foreign dignitaries, the constitutional review was another score in the government’s favour. The review process is itself now tainted with abuse and threats, however. Partisan controversy aside, members of the disbanded CRC are reportedly being harassed by state security forces while Chairperson Warioba is under constant surveillance.

What started out as a promising reform effort has reached an impasse. The new constitution’s enactment was initially scheduled for April 16 2014, the 50 year anniversary of the Union. The jubilee date will nevertheless be imbued with a different kind of symbolism. Divided and fraught, the CA is set to adjourn on April 25 until August, leaving a question mark hanging over Tanzania’s half-century old Union.