Tanzania’s transition: “It’s Kikwete”

by Phyllis Johnson – SANF 05 no 45
Tanzania’s two main daily newspapers ran the same headline on Thursday, 5 May, in large letters across the top of the front page: “It’s Kikwete”.

This was the culmination of a unique selection process by the party in government, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), whose first leader was the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

Nyerere created the United Republic of Tanzania on 26 April 1964 by bringing together into a union the newly independent countries of Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

That union has had two heads of state after Nyerere, “the father of the nation” who lead the country to independence in 1961. He stood down in 1985 after establishing a multiparty political system.

CCM is now engaged in a transition from Benjamin William Mkapa, who has served two terms as the third president of the republic and will stand down later this year, to a fourth presidential candidate who will contest the elections on 30 October.

After much political lobbying in public and private over the past few months, the process began in April with 11 candidates indicating their interest in the top job through submission of nomination forms to the party hierarchy. Candidates had to obtain signatures from 250 CCM members in at least 10 regions of the country (including two in Zanzibar) in order to have their nominations accepted by the 15 April deadline.

The party Central Committee began meeting in the capital, Dodoma, in the first week of May to screen the candidates, beginning with the ethics committee.

The ethics committee was guided in its work by regulations set by the party a few weeks earlier, as the standard code of conduct for the candidates. They took their time in this important activity, one party source said, so they would be able to justify their decisions “so those affected would not be aggrieved”.

The five names submitted to the National Executive Committee (NEC) were mostly well-established politicians in the leadership of the party, some older than others, and with one newcomer, the Minister of Transport and Communications, Mark Mwandosya.

The NEC then met behind closed doors to discuss their choices, casting a total of 208 votes. They had set 13 qualifications on which to base their decision, including leadership experience in government and public service, and wisdom and integrity.

Others were the possession of minimum university education; capacity and ability to promote and protect national unity, peace and stability; the vision to protect national interests; capacity to deal with international affairs; boldness in fighting injustice and oppression; and avoidance of self-enrichment.

The NEC presented three names to a one-day Extraordinary General Meeting of the party in Dodoma on 4 May.

The three finalists were Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, who polled 78 votes; Salim Ahmed Salim, Chairperson of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation and former Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity, 45 votes; and Minister Mwandosya, 33 votes.

Addressing the meeting before the vote, President Mkapa, who is chairperson of the party, urged them to adapt to changing times and nominate a young contestant who could appeal to the younger generation.

He listed five essential qualities to guide the delegates in their task of choosing the CCM’s candidate for the Union presidency. These included the ability to protect the Union, and to articulate national interests to neighbouring countries and the rest of the world.

He stressed the need for a high level of political maturity to uphold good governance, human rights, the rule of law, and accountability; and he said the candidate must be “saleable” to the electorate.

Mkapa said that, although CCM is the oldest party in the country, it must “march with the times by deliberately opening up its leadership to new blood. If we can recycle ourselves, election after election, our young people will lose faith in us, believing the generational gap cannot be bridged and hence try their luck with opposition parties.”

He said it is necessary to appreciate the composition of an electorate which is dominated by young people.

“Let us ask ourselves what young Tanzanians want from their leaders. If we give them what they want, or what will give them hope for the future, they will continue to vote for our candidate,” Mkapa said. “If not, they will drift to the opposition.”

A total of 1,670 delegates cast valid votes with a clear majority of 1,072 votes (64 percent) going to the popular foreign minister, Jakaya Kikwete, thus avoiding the need for a run-off if no candidate had received a majority. Salim polled 476 votes (29 percent) and Mwandosya got 122 votes (seven percent).

Kikwete, 54, is a long-time party cadre who ran second to Mkapa in the 1995 leadership contest and has served as his foreign minister for the past decade. He emerged from the youth wing of the party.

The current vice-president, Dr Ali Mohamed Shein from Zanzibar, was named as his running mate.

The candidate was presented to the public at a mass rally on the day after his selection. He will face the candidates of other parties in the 30 October election, including Professor Ibrahim Lipumba of the main opposition, Civic United Front (CUF).

Amani Abeid Karume, the president of Zanzibar, easily won the nomination as CCM candidate to lead the islands for a second term. Zanzibar has its own president, with no jurisdiction over the mainland, and the incumbent was returned unopposed as the party candidate to contest the elections in Zanzibar on the same date.

CCM also considered its draft election manifesto focused on fast economic growth to achieve a target of 10 percent growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2010, up from the current 6.7 percent. (SARDC)