CLOSE to the middle of last month, President John Magufuli did something in Chato, his home village in Geita Region, which cynics may have dismissed as a sheer publicity stunt. Not so for many who have kept track of the actions, decisions and pronouncements of the man who had not even distantly been whispered as a probable candidate – let alone victor – in the race for the top seat in 2015.
On a short holiday from the hectic, punishing world of national affairs management, Dr Magufuli literally re-lived, briefly, his pre-presidential life, like you and I would do or does . He – again literally – gave a break to the trappings of the highest office of the land, by mingling with his ‘Chatoan’ compatriots at a tiny trading centre within the original bus station of the township.
He sat on a simple bench and freely chatted with them, while a shoe shine boy did justice to his pair of shoes. He also shared a few packets of roast groundnuts he had bought from a hawker with wananchi.
The Head of State reconnected with Chato Primary School, which laid the academic foundation for a man who subsequently became an eminent scientist before venturing into politics – the socalled dirty game. Dr Magufuli made remarks whose thrust was that, success was a product of toil and perseverance.
He narrated what was – and remains – a huge challenge that knocks out faint-hearted souls: long treks to and from school! But for ‘The Man from Chato’, as some light-heartedly characterize him, simplicity is part of his social tableau, rather than a belated, desperate pursuit of ‘A man of the people’ status.
He was among the lowkeyed Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) aspirants for the crowded seekers of the ruling party’s candidacy for the October 2015 poll. And when he clinched the honour – having reportedly been prevailed upon to contest, as opposed to initial personal quest – he thrilled audiences as a drummer, by on-stage push-ups, and greeting audiences at campaign rallies in a couple of vernaculars, to emphasise the country’s cultural and linguistic diversity.
Surface transportation was his preferred mode, apparently reckoning that, the fanciful aviation option smacked of a mockery of the preponderantly poor wananchi who constituted the broadest electoral bloc.
Immediately after being thrust into the seat known alternately as ‘top’ and ‘hot’, he swiftly set in motion a machinery for addressing issues and tackling problems that had, to use a medical analogy, represented a cancer that had been ‘chewing’ the country slowly but surely.
There-in are ills like corruption, wasteful expenditure, shoddy contracts, administrative ineptitude and ghost workers in the public service. It is a safe guess, though, that, to some extent, he, and team mates in the Executive branch of the State, may have been guarded in their zeal to repair the damage.
He was President, alright, and technically, therefore, overall in charge of national governance, but CCM, on whose ticket he had been presidential contest flag bearer, had been under the superintendence of someone else.
That someone was his immediate ex-presidential Promoting cohesion key as CCM turns 40 predecessor, Dr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, who had retained the party’s national chairmanship. The set-up, since its inception in February 1977, as had been in respect of the Mainland’s Tanu and Zanzibar’s Afro Shirazi Party (ASP) from whose merger it was created, was that, the ruling party is the overall power base.
Hence the expression ‘the CCM government’, as would apply to whichever other party could be in charge someday in future. It’s a tricky situation under which, for a few months after a General Election, a CCM-derived president is subordinate to the outgoing one, as, purely technically, the latter is to the former. Mercifully, though, the transition has all along been smooth, but this doesn’t wholly neutralize the caution an incoming boss exercises.
For, he ascended to the top seat through the agency of the party, and whose election manifesto he engaged as a dynamo for attracting votes. It is instructive to recall that, at campaign rallies, Dr Magufuli stressed that should he sail through, he would become leader of all Tanzanians across party boundaries; even chipping in the concession that, CCM hosted some negative elements and tendencies, as it wasn’t a party of angels. The caution alluded to earlier was however neutralized after he was endorsed as CCM national chairman in July 2016. The thrust of his acceptance speech was that, CCM would be returned to the people, to whom it belonged.
The allusion was that, the party, whose parents (Tanu and ASP) had engineered independence struggles, and whose principal agenda was to liberate the people from poverty, diseases, ignorance and other afflictions, had been hijacked by a tiny clique of selfish individuals and groups.
That amounted to derailment from the noble course, and which to a considerable extent had alienated a section of its membership and support base. Some, in there, decamped to the opposition, including fairly senior members – though amongst whom were opportunists eyeing financial and material gains.
Some sought influencepeddling clout, rather than a wananchi service-delivering platform. It is instructive, indeed, that, chairman Magufuli catalogued some negative goings-on within CCM, perpetrated by corrupt, immoral elements.
Just as the public service isn’t a den of crooks by one hundred per cent, as isn’t any of the opposition parties, CCM is not a full-scale entity of righteous people. Given that he has won much credit and restored public confidence considerably, though some quarters view his speed as somewhat Panasonic and scaring, many are certain to count on the new person at the helm of a party that has turned 40, and which controls the government, to cleanse it of the consistently mounting rot.
The party is eager to project itself as a credible party worth investing in through votes in five-year election cycles. Against the backdrop of the stiff challenge that the opposition posed in the latest poll, Magufuli and company are conscious that, their opponents would move fast to fill whatever existing gaps, or fresh ones.
Factionalism is something that its stalwarts may have detected as a spoiler that must be fixed. Crying out for fixing, too, is reviving the robust culture of criticism, and not perceiving those who voice presumably radical and potentially rocky views as traitors, saboteurs, or agents of rivals. As multi-partyism becomes more deeply entrenched, single- party era tendencies should recede farther and farther into history.
One of these was for some senior cadres to perceive themselves as monopolists of wisdom and dismiss the views or ideas of others (especially junior or younger) compatriots as at best pointless, and, at worst, sentiments of hired spoilers.
Some diehard CCM members had nursed the largely offtrack notion that the party was too popular, and the opposition woefully weak for the overall electoral equation to be altered. Trends, especially in the 2015 scenario, struck them like a thunderbolt !
The opposition is naturally anxious to dislodge the longruling outfit, manifested by, for instance, consistently swelling parliamentary constituency ranks and fire-spitting deliveries in Parliament.
This keeps the Executive on its toes, which sho
uld, in addition, be receptive of positive sentiments from well-meaning opposition legislators and ordinary members who subordinate association with particular parties or blocs, to the patriotic spirit. Ultimately, the bottom-line is that multi-party politics should be a healthy phenomenon that enriches democracy, uplifts the social welfare of wananchi and consolidates the national economy.
So, CCM’s fortieth anniversary should simultaneously be celebratory and an opening for deep reflection focused on ensuring that Tanzania remains a land of love, peace and harmony.