After 30 days of campaign rallies, Meru residents are today expected to come out and line up at 27 polling stations to elect a new MP for Arumeru East constituency, who is to fill the vacancy left by the late Jeremiah Sumari.
Eight candidates from different political parties are contesting for the Arumeru East parliamentary seat, though Chadema (Joshua Nassari) and CCM (Siyoi Sumari) are the favourites.
Other parties include Sauti ya Umma (SAU), Democratic Party (DP), United People's Democratic Party (UPDP) and Tanzania Labour Party (TLP).
Others are National Reconstruction Alliance (NRA) and Alliance for Tanzania Farmers Party (AFP).
Those contesting are Shabaan Moyo Kirita (SAU), Charles Msuya (UPDP), Mohamed Abdallah Mohamed (DP), Abraham Chipaka (TLP), Hamisi Juma Kieni (NRA) and Abdallah Adam Mazengo (AFP).
According to the returning officer, Trasias Kagenzi, a total of 127,425 voters are expected to appear at designated polling stations today and make their final decision on who will be their new representative in the National Assembly.
Kagenzi explained that everything for the by-election was going on as planned, adding that all election materials, facilities and officials were to be dispatched to their respective polling centres yesterday evening.
“In this by-election, we’re equipped with all the required election materials and facilities. This time around we have enough number of computers to easily compute final results,” he said, adding that the results will be released in time.
The official noted: “By 6pm some of the wards are expected to start submitting their final results and after getting all the results we’ll not hesitate to announce the winner of the election.”
Earlier, Chairman of the National Electoral Commission Justice Damian Lubuva reiterated that his commission was well prepared prepared to make the election free and fair.
He asked party, religious and government leaders to sensitize the people to come out and cast their votes to fulfill their democratic rights, as stipulated in the country’s constitution..
“People shouldn’t fear to come out and take part in this by-election. Nobody is going to harass them. What is needed is for them to come with their voter ID and line-up for the important event,” Lubuva said.
He explained that polling stations would be opened at around 7am and closed at 4pm, thereafter counting of the cast votes will commence.
“This election will be held in a very transparent manner. Results will be released and announced at each polling station, there will be no transfer of ballot boxes,” he stressed.
Lubuva asked party representatives to work according to the rules and regulations governing elections.
Commenting on 'Form number 17', the retired judge said: “That form will not be used as an alternative to a voter ID. People who are eligible to vote are those with voter IDs.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police Isaya Mngulu asked Meru residents to ensure that they adhered to the rules and regulations governing elections, reminding them that they were required to stay 200 metres from polling centres.
He said: “We are here to ensure that peace and tranquillity prevail in this election and we’re not here to threaten the people. People should wake up early in the morning and cast their votes.”
The by-election will be witnessed by a number of observers from within and outside the country, including representatives from Dar es Salaam-based embassies.
Investors flee Meru ahead of today’s poll
Prince-Josh Adams from Arumeru reports that a number of foreign investors have fled Meru area to neighboring towns for fear of violence in today’s Arumeru East by-election, a survey has established.
Meru residents decide today in a by-election that most observers believe will be tightly contested between the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) flag bearer Sioi Sumari and the main opposition Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo’s (CHADEMA) candidate Joshua Nassari.
A random survey conducted by The Guardian on Sunday in Usa-River where several investors stay indicated that a number of them, along with their families, had crossed the border to Kenya while others had gone to Moshi, Arusha and Dar es Salaam to ensure their personal safety.
“Many investors have fled with their families as political tensions deepen ahead of the by-election. They fear that they might be the target in case of violence, taking into consideration that the politicians have put land owned by them high on the electoral agenda during the campaigns,” said a trader.
Inaugurating the CCM campaign early last month at Usa-River township, former President Benjamin Mkapa declared that he was going to advise President Jakaya Kikwete to undertake a sweeping land reform in Meru.
CHADEMA flag bearer in the hotly contested by-election, Joshua Nasari, also has on his campaign trail persistently vowed to push for repossessing land allocated to non-resident investors in Meru if elected.
Land reform is a hot election item which targets the seizure of big tracks of land owned by rich individuals with a view to transferring them to poor, landless people on the slopes of Mount Meru.
Analysts say that in Meru one cannot talk politics without addressing the issue of land, that’s why each party has taken up the issue as a major electoral pledge.
Sources privy to the horticulture industry say that the investors fear that impending land reform could affect their investment portfolios dearly.
“Land reform utterances in the parliamentary by-election campaigns in Arumeru-East have created a new fear for horticulture investors,” the trader noted.
Investors are worried that the Meru land reform push might follow the model of the worst excesses of Zimbabwe’s land reform process, where white settlers suffered irreparable damage.
Despite criticism and condemnation, particularly from the West, Zimbabwe pressed on with its land reform programme, confiscating 4,500 white-owned commercial farms to resettle about 300,000 families.
Meru, with 20 horticultural farms worth nearly $300 million, employs around 15,000 local people, said Jacqueline Mkindi, the Executive Director of Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA).
This is due to its large size and varied landscape that provides ideal water, soil and climatic conditions for a complete range of floriculture and horticulture productions. Mount Meru slope’s temperate highlands are ideal for European flowers and vegetables, while tropical lowland zones are superlative for warm-climate fruit and flowers.
Horticulture, the third major foreign currency earner after mineral and tourism, earned the second East African community (EAC) largest economy, nearly $990 million in the past three years, cementing its position as the third largest foreign currency earner.
In 2009, the TAHA organiser says, the industry brought home a total of $310million, while in 2010, the fastest growing sub-industry earned the country $330million and in the year 2011, it fetched $350million. The sub-sector also created nearly 45,000 direct employment opportunities to local people.
The dean of Faculty of Law at Tumanini University, Elifuraha Laltaika says that the proposed land reform is contrary to the spirit of investment guarantees offered to investors under the Tanzania Investment Act of 1997 and the Constitution of the United Republic.
“Most of these companies had applied under the Tanzania Investment Act number 26 of 1997 and, therefore, they are bonafide investors, and they enjoy investment guarantees, including a predictable investment climate,” Laltaika empihasized.
The TIC Act, Section 22 (b), provides that “no person who owns, whether wholly or in part, the capital of any business enterprise, shall be compelled by law to cede his interest in the capital to any other person.”
For more than a decade investors have been certain about at least one thing in Tanzania: its political stability. But a surprise change in the political wind in Meru in parliamentary election is introducing political risks on the scene.
According to the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), Tanzania is arguably one of the most attractive countries in all of Africa to do business.
In fact, Tanzania has experienced virtually uninterrupted peace since its inception in 1961, in which case political stability is the confidence anchor on which the country’s shift towards welcoming foreign investors relies upon.
Foreign and local investors are protected against nationalization in Tanzania, which expressly guarantees investors’ security of tenure and ownership as well as of repatriation of dividends and profits.
A recent World Bank Report on Doing Business categorized Tanzania among the top ten best reforming countries in the world, while investment risk have been at pains to point out rising government debt and parliamentary radicalism on land issues and procurement contracts.
….Returning land to Arumeru voters: A right or bribery?
Meanwhile, Gerald Kitabu reports that as Arumeru people vote today to elect their Member of Parliament Mzumbe University don Honest Prosper Ngowi has questioned the government’s decision to allocate undeveloped farms from investors to the constituency’s villagers.
He asked: “In Arumeru land has been returned to the villagers, but why now? Why during this period of election?”
Ngowi said returning the land to the villagers during the election period, and not before, leaves a lot to be desired. Throughout the campaigns, land was one of the main agenda issues to lure voters and swing voters.
Ngowi was speaking at the British Council in Dar es Salaam during a special breakfast meeting when contributing to the topic, “The Village Land Act: It is worth protecting?” organised by Policy Forum.
He said in the African context, every citizen has interest in land, be it urban dwellers or rural communities, cautioning that if Tanzania is not careful, people may see it turn into another Zimbabwe.
During the breakfast other academicians, economists and land activists also faulted the current Village Land Act, saying it does not adequately protect the villagers interest and associated resources due to lack of ownership.
They cited Mining Act, Wildlife Act and Forest Act are other example of bad laws as they don’t reflect people’s interests, and that they instead benefit few people and some foreign investors.
Marcossy Albanie from Citizen Parliament watch wondered how such unfriendly acts could still exist while there are lawmakers sitting in parliament without reviewing them.
“These laws were enacted by parliament…is this the proper way the laws should be operating?” he wondered
When launching the Arumeru East by-election campaign on March 11, former President Benjamin Mkapa said he would advise President Jakaya Kikwete to seize various undeveloped farms from investors and hand them back to the people.
Presenting a paper on security of tenure in village land, Executive Director of HakiArdhi Yefred Myenzi said there was confusion over the Act, saying the origin of the current controversial land laws was the colonial tenure system.
He said the tenure dates back to the 1890s and the 1920s and after independence nothing changed as the land is under President. “Is that statutory protection given to land holders or occupiers against possession by other interests?
“In Tanzania, land holding is through deemed right or granted right with equal status before the law,” he said.
He also criticised the technical language used in both English and Kiswahili in the law, saying it was too technical and aimed at confusing people. “There is a lot of misrepresentation and error in the two versions of the VLA. Section 60(9) of Village Land Act (English Version) and Section 60(9) of the Village Land Act (Swahili version) contradict in the quorum of women members of the village land council.
“While the English version maintains that there has to be four members of whom at least one shall be a woman, the Kiswahili version reads; ‘Kikao halali cha mkutano wa Baraza la Ardhi la Kijiji kitakuwa watu wanne ambao wawili kati yao watakuwa wanawake’ Is it three or four? What are the implications in either case?” he asked.
He said there should be devolving the radical title down to the lower level organs, adding that is village Assembly, District Council. It would enhance villagers’ opportunity to participate in decision making on land and related resources within their localities as well as ownership to land and those other resources
He suggested double categorisation of village land and general land should be removed and serious review of the land administration system should be undertaken and institutional framework set up to reduce bureaucracy, unnecessary forms and political interference.
Responding to questions and views of the participants, a land officer from the Ministry of Lands, Swagile Msananga, defended the role played by the government, but admitted there were several challenges like lack of public awareness on land laws and the absence of village land registries.
He listed other challenges as district councils, responsible for implementation of Village Land Act saying they are handicapped by low level staffing both qualitative and quantitative,
“Village council members lack knowledge and skills on their roles as council members and on the various laws on land; there is also village boundary problems which cause constant conflicts with their neighbours on their demarcations.
He said there was a need for ccontinued public awareness raising, collaboration with other development partners and stakeholders, capacity building in local authorities at the district, ward and village levels, and the mobilization of both technical and financial resources.