As Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda yesterday remained tight-lipped, the fate of seven cabinet ministers and one deputy minister who are said to have been ordered to resign by the ruling party caucus is now in the hands of President Kikwete, who returned in the country yesterday ready to face the current political storm.
Amid unconfirmed reports leaked mainly by CCM legislators on Saturday night in a bid to pressure the executive to accept their decision, the Prime Minister was expected to announce the fate of the seven cabinet ministers and one deputy minister yesterday morning.
But as the nation waited yesterday with baited breath, the Premier didn’t make any announcement as earlier expected, creating uncertainty about the current political storm carefully orchestrated by the Opposition, before the CCM lawmakers hijacked the battle.
When confronted by journalists yesterday in Dodoma shortly after the National Assembly session was adjourned, Premier Mizengo Pinda declined to confirm or deny reports about the impending resignation of the seven cabinet ministers and one deputy minister.
However, Premier Pinda said that he would issue a statement tomorrow (Monday).
Reporters confronted the Prime Pinister yesterday after CCM party caucus secretary Jenister Mhagama told reporters on Friday evening that what was discussed in the meeting would be made public by Prime Minister Pinda yesterday, but until the session was adjourned in the afternoon there was no sign of the Premier giving any statement.
Premier Pinda was confronted at the Parliamentary grounds by reporters who were eager to confirm reports that the CCM party caucus that sat from early evening to midnight on Friday in Msekwa Hall had, among other things, pressed for the sacking of eight ministers and a deputy minister.
“I don’t know from which source media people have picked the information. Where have you got such information?” Premier Pinda asked when asked to confirm the reports, which were widely covered by the media yesterday. The Prime Minister also declined to say if he had received any resignation letter from any minister.
“I have not received any resignation letter from any person,’ said Pinda, but when quizzed to say if he was ready to receive the letters he simply replied: “If they submit the resignation letters we shall receive them.”
But as Pinda declined to comment on the matter, Transport minister Omar Nundu yesterday took a fierce stance in the National Assembly against accusations levelled against him by the House Standing Committee for Transport.
In what stunned many in and outside Parliament, the minister alluded to what he referred to as a hidden agenda against him planned and being implemented by some Tanzania Ports Authority officials after he allegedly questioned a $320 million deal to expand the Dar es Salaam port.
However, the minister was cut short on several occasions by House Speaker Anne Makinda. Later, some MPs seemed to sympathize with the minister, with one calling for the formation of an independent committee to investigate the multibillion-dollar ports expansion deal to establish who was actually telling the truth.
In trying to establish the fate of the seven cabinet ministers and one deputy, The Guardian on Sunday spoke to some prominent CCM lawmakers, who confirmed that the party caucus had recommended their sacking or resignation in order to save what they called the “dwindling image of the party as well as the government.”
However, all the MPs who spoke to this paper declined to be named, citing sensitivity of the matter.
The legislators stressed nevertheless that the party caucus did indeed resolve that the eight ministers should leave offices.
Though no names of the said ministers have been made public, unconfirmed reports had it that they are Minister for Finance Mustafa Mkolo; Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives Prof Juma Maghembe; Minister for Trade and Industries Dr Cyril Chami and his deputy, Lazaro Nyalandu.
Others said to be on the list are Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (Regional Administration and Local Government) George Mkuchika; Minister for Health and Social Welfare Haji Mponda; Minister for Transport Omar Nundu and Minister for Energy and Minerals William Ngeleja.
Unconfirmed reports also showed that until yesterday afternoon only one minister had submitted a resignation letter while others were still undecided.
The CCM party caucus was held on Friday evening after Kigoma North MP Zitto Zuberi Kabwe announced in Parliament on Thursday that he would move a vote of no confidence in the preme minister tomorrow.
According to Zitto, the motion was aimed at seeking a vote of no confidence against the Premier after the ministers failed to deliver. According to the country’s constitution, the Prime Minister is the head of government business in the National Assembly.
According to Zitto, most ministers had dismally performed. He said the massive looting of billions of shillings from public coffers, embezzlement and theft of public funds revealed by Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Ludovick Utouh in his audit reports proved that the whole government was ‘rotten’.
According to parliamentary standing orders, moving a motion of no confidence in the prime Minister involves collecting signatures of at least 20 percent of the total number of MPs in the House.
The current Parliament consists of 350 MPs. Therefore, Zitto was required to collect at least 70 signatures. Information which reached this newspaper yesterday afternoon here stated that the Opposition MP had collected 71 signatures by Thursday afternoon, some of which were from CCM legislators.
Section 133(2) (b)of the Standing Orders provides that any motion for a vote of no confidence in the prime minister shall not be moved in Parliament if there are no accusations that the PM has violated the Public Leadership Code.
What are the possibilities ahead?
However one looks at it, the latest political storm gives political mileage to the Opposition Chadema party, whose MP, Zitto Zuberi Kabwe, initiated the move.
However, some CCM MPs, such as Deo Filikunjombe (Ludewa) and Kangi Lugola (Mwibara) also supported the move by signing the form. But most CCM MPs who expressed their anger at the ministers’ failure to perform refrained from signing the form, sending a signal that the ruling party MPs were not courageous enough to act.
Since President Jakaya Kikwete is the appointing authority for ministers, information circulating in the public domain has it that the ministers were still undecided as to who they should submit their resignation letters.
Reports also stated that President Kikwete arrived yesterday in Dodoma for a mission still clearly unknown, but one could make an educated guess that his travelling to Dodoma at this juncture has to do with an impending leadership shake-up.
By all standards, President Kikwete would have to dissolve the cabinet and come up with a new line-up as it is difficult to fill gaps left behind by eight ministers, should they actually resign as they have reportedly been ordered to.
There are those who think that the President may decide to dissolve the National Assembly instead and call a snap election, but such an option is difficult considering the fact that the government has no budget for the purpose.
Reaction from MPs over Zitto’s decision
A section of legislators who spoke to The Guardian on Sunday said what Zitto did was within his parliamentary roles. Zitto himself said he was happy that he turned parliament into a stronger and active tool.
Kaika Ole Telele (CCM- Ngorongoro) said CCM MPs also signed the form because they were fighting for the national interest. The leader of the official Opposition in Parliament Freeman Mbowe said what Zitto did what in line with the agenda of Chadema.
“We fully support the decision taken by Zitto because the government lacks accountability. Without any external pressure the CCM-dominated parliament would be dormant and the government would not be accountable,” Mbowe said. He said all ministers were supposed to be sacked for their gross irresponsibility. “We have information that the party caucus wants the ministers to resign, but until now we hear that only one has done so. I think this is because we don’t have the culture of resigning,” he added.
Deogratias Ntukamazima (CCM-Ngara) criticized Ziito, saying the ministers should have been given an opportunity to be heard. “The CAG reports have just come out. Before reading the documents we rush to accuse and punish them,” he said.
However, he said it was improper for the government not to respect the recommendations and decisions reached by Parliament.