For Cabinet ministers whose budget estimates some MPs seek to block, ‘Bunge’ turns into a temporary hell on earth, while for analysts, the drama is a story of a mirror with two contrasting reflections.
Some analysts view the pressure that legislators in the CCM-dominated House exert on ministers as a sign of a weak government, while others counter-argue that it represents maturing democracy.
Those who spoke to the The Guardian on Sunday this week, narrowed down the problem to the ‘triumvirate’ of lack of discipline within the ruling CCM party, failure by the Prime Minister to assert commanding power, and government failure to run the show.
The move is happening even after the dramatic removal of former speaker Samuel Sitta, who was once accused of allowing too much space to the lawmakers to crucify President Kikwete’s government between 2006 and 2010.
One of the factors cited by Sitta’s rivals during their bid to oust him from the Speaker’s chair, was that he was siding with ‘rebels’ and opposition MPs by allowing attacks against the government formed by the ruling party.
But, even under the new leadership of Madam Speaker Anne Makinda, CCM lawmakers seem to be treading in the same direction they did during the leadership of Sitta.
Confronted by growing popularity of Chadema’s MPs who are few, but have a strong voice in the House, the ruling party’s lawmakers have opted to nurture the style condemned by their fellow members in the past few years.
However, taking into account what transpired in Parliament recently, political analysts say it’s not just democracy, but just clear signs of a wobbling government caused mainly by internal divisions within the ruling party.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand”, perhaps, this quote by Abraham Lincoln sums up the real situation within the ruling party.
According to analysts, it’s these divisions that is really troubling the current government, though to CCM legislators, the blame should be apportioned to poor performance by some Ministers.
Political analysts said CCM was no longer united, adding that the recent practice of CCM legislators against their government look to be setting a scenario of having multiple parties within one party as well governments within the government.
The analysts say further that legislators’ behaviour, especially those from CCM, does not seem to be relying much on the party’s strength for their political undertakings.
Dr. Ezaveli Feza Lwaitama, a senior lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam said:
“We do not have private candidates yet, but the way CCM MPs are debating in the House, one can easily mistake them for products of a private candidates system’.
He explained that when caucus meetings were held before a particular parliamentary session to forge a common stance on a given matter, but some MPs voiced sentiments quite to the contrary of that stance, it is evident that the party no longer has widely known powers to agree on previous tradition of oneness of puropose, and penalizing dissenters, no longer held sway.
The budget estimates for the ministry of Energy and Minerals was withdrawn from the house after the House unanimously declared it faulty, because it lacked a short and long term workable plan to end power crisis.
It was approved after the government came up with a 523 billion shilling power rescue package in a span of four months – from August to December 2011. The ultimate approval was preceded by several unfruitful party meetings, chaired by Prime Minister.
“It wasn’t the budget but just the politics within the ruling party…the budget is a process that involves cabinet and MPs as well through their committees, ” a long serving MP within the ruling party who declined to be named told The Guardian on Sunday.
The MP added, “ You have the MPs allied to former PM, Edward Lowassa who feel betrayed by the current government as well as the party, but at the same time you have a group that is loyal to the appointing authority.”
“What will happen is the collision of power between the two groups, though some would like us to believe that it’s democracy in the making…this is the 2015 politics within the ruling party.” The MP added.
For the case of the Ministry of Natural resources and Tourism, the Premier was compelled to act as a redeemer by announcing the government’s decision to suspend all permits for exportation of live wild animals, followed by Minister Ezekiel Maige’s pronouncement to suspend the Director of wildlife to pave the way for investigations on the clandestine exportation of 116 species of animals, including three giraffes, in November 2010.
The estimates for the Ministry of Transport and that of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development were approved after strong statements from Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda who jumped in to rescue the government.
And, whereas Pinda announced the addition of Sh95 billion on the budget for Transport ministry, he was forced to give a lengthy clarification on the much criticised land grabbing by foreigners and political leaders in various regions.
“Now it would be proper to restructure the cabinet by reducing its size and strengthen the advisory machinery around the Prime minister, who is now assuming the responsibility to answer questions across all ministries, after all why should we have so many ministers if they are unable to defend their budget speeches as it has been the case for some of them, “ queried Dr. Lwaitama.
He added that if the current CCM back bench rebellion is looked at earnestly you spot that the criticism was centered on corrupt practices of various executives within the government and not based on policy matters.
“CM MPs seem to be displeased with the way its government is running the business entrusted to it and thus they see the party’s image and future position in a serious jeopardy,” he remarked.
He further remarked: “But on other hand the law makers from the ruling party act in a more strategic way to deprive the opposition, mainly Chadema, of the opportunity to steal the show and be perceived as those who care most about peoples’ social economic problems; recall the incident of January Makamba (chair of parliamentary committee on energy and minerals and a member of CCM Secretariat), who strongly criticized the budget speech, but quickly changed position and pleaded the House to approve it after the rescue package was presented – this is a strategy to show the public that CCM can have key matters resolved.”
On the case of commanding powers of the premier, Dr Lwaitama says the recent happenings have seriously exposed the undermined PM who is no longer is able to sanction his MPs, attributing the situation to the fact that he does not posses any key title in the party, and thus lacks influence on the legislators.
Dr. Hoseana Bohela Lunogelo, Executive Director of Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF), said he sees the CCM legislators rallying against their government as a pure repositioning ahead of the next election in 2015.
‘This is a premature repositioning before next election; remember that ministers are also MPs, and therefore sometimes there are times when the arguments in the House are a pure politicking practice as it is clear that MPs do not read the estimates in the Parliament but access them earlier during the committee meetings. Why should they wait to become vocal during the parliamentary sessions?”
He concurred with Dr Lwaitama that the stance by CCM’s lawmakers originated from political worry that if they did not criticize the government and have critical matters sorted out, the opposition would enjoy that opportunity and score substantial points.
“I agree and commend them they way they have been behaving especially on pressing the government to attend keenly on public matters such as energy which needed a bigger budget, but I disagree with them on the way they pushed for more money on the Transport budget because not much money would be used in the first year of the programme to revamp certain key sector such as Railway’.
One cabinet Minister who declined to be named described the stance taken by some CCM’s MPs as ‘ dangerous’ to their own government and party.
“My stand is that some MPs are driven by greed and motives to gain popularity but at the expense of their party and government, ” he said over the phone.
“Some of their arguments are genuine but majority are driven by greedy and political agenda ahead of 2015,” he said, adding that some are venting anger for not being included in the cabinet.