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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Perils of one-party culture in a multiparty democracy

15th April 2012

The last month was dominated by politics particularly the by-election at constituent, ward and village level in some parts of the country. A parliamentary by-election were held on April 1 and the result showed that the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) lost the Arumeru East seat to Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA).

At the ward level where there were nine wards to be contested, CCM won in four wards of Raganga in Bariadi, Chang’ombe in Dodoma, Vijibweni in Temeke and Kiwangi in Bagamoyo.

The official opposition CHADEMA retained its Kirumba ward in Mwanza and added two more after winning at Lizaboni in Songea and Kiwira in Rungwe, winning three out of nine wards at stake.

The other parliamentary opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF) managed to win at Msambweni ward in Tanga. At the village level the media reported only one election which took place in Sengerema at Mwabasabi village and won by CHADEMA.

If we assign three points to the constituency poll, two points to the ward and one point to the village contested position the result would show CHADEMA scoring ten points, CCM eight points and CUF two points. This simple analysis indicates that CHADEMA was the overall winner.

Upon the announcement of the result, CCM accepted defeat and congratulated the winner where it lost, a sign of political maturity and something to be proud of. This is not the first time CCM has shown that political maturity, it did so in 2008 during the by-election in Tarime following the death of Chacha Zakayo Wangwe. Acceptance of election result is an issue in Africa and in all young democracies.

The just ended by-election took place 20 years after multiparty democracy was restored, slightly upsetting the recorded wish of 80 percent of Tanzanians who participated in the Nyalali Commission hearings or put in written suggestions. The majority feared that multiparty democracy will bring chaos and violence in the country and disrupt our peace and unity. Two decades down the road the signs are everywhere that prove the 80 percent as close to the truth.

In three general elections in Zanzibar, violence, killing and a first batch of political refugees was experienced. Multiparty elections tore Zanzibar and Zanzibaris into two lines of political affiliation. People stopped social and economic interaction and replaced it with suspicion and hate.

Luckily enough the presence of wise people saved the situation through the formation of the government of national unity. Although it brought back unity and peace in Zanzibar, other opposition parties mock it and say bad things about it. This position of other opposition party especially CHADEMA is further proof that multiparty democracy is to seek power at the expenses of our unity and peace.

On Tanzania mainland, elections have also produced scenes which endanger our unity and peace. At the beginning, the election process was mainly characterised by character assassination which was also present during the one party election but at least at that time there was a mechanism of controlling it.

In this era of multiparty politics, character assassination is practiced with impunity. Only a few people can manage to seek redress in courts like these who managed to turn the result of the Arusha constituency recently, but the damage has already been done.

In Tanzanian politics once you are said to be a thief, so you will be to death. Character assassination is practiced within the party and across parties against leaders of opposing parties. In character assassination media outlets have played a leading role.

The practice of character assassinations has come of age and is manifested by deeds like the highly publicised Benjamin Mkapa versus Vincent Nyerere, Stephen Wassira versus Nobody and Livingstone Lusinde versus Nobody. What is reported in the media try to suggest that Mkapa, Wassira and Lusinde all from CCM, unilaterally attacked their counterparts.

This is not objective at all rather it has all the signs of subjectivism. I managed to view the “matusi ya Lusinde” clip hosted by CTV. At the beginning the viewer is introduced to the slogan of CHADEMA. The critical review of the content of the clip clearly confirms that the content does not conform to public utterance but the audience was happy with it and kept the speaker going.

In public speaking, if the audience is not happy with what the speaker is presenting, the speaker can not continue for long. The fact that the speaker spent 15 minutes presenting the nonsense points to a more serious issue which is facing our society. Our society has become a society wedded to non-serious issues.

This is reflected everywhere. A Bongo Flava artist show at any university in Tanzania will attract a bigger audience that a public lecture delivered by any known scholar. Newspapers like Sani, Kiu, Ijumaa and Uwazi sell more copies than mainstream dailies, including Kiswahili newspapers. Serious issues and serious people attract minimal space and time as time goes.

Moreover, the content of the Lusinde clip shows that he was reacting to something which the other side did not want the public to know. We all know that it takes two to tangle. We all know that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If the public is made to be the judge, how on earth can it do so without hearing the other side?

All people who are accusing Mkapa, Wassira and Lusinde have nothing to lose in this case as the society punishes whoever acts in retaliation, but that does not close the door for the public to know the other side of the story.

If this case is going to be decided relying on one side of the story, the society is going to create a vicious circle of bad feelings which ultimately ends in violence. It is common for one side in a conflict to provoke the other side for its action in order to invite the general public to a predictable reaction.

For instance the opposition in Libya used this strategy against the Muammar Gaddafi regime, bringing the international community’s reaction against the regime. We did not hear what Marco Materazzi told Zinedine Zidane during the 2006 World Cup final where Zidane was sent off for headbutting Materazzi.

At least in this case the lip reader was asked to analyse the lips of both parts to the conflict and bring out what actually transpired. This forced the two to tell the public the truth.

Zidane corroborated Materazzi’s statement that the Italian defender had insulted his sister. After hearing both sides of the story, FIFA banned and fined Zidane and Materazzi But this is not the case in our scenario; no such effort has been made and no fair judgment is being done. In my view both CCM and CHADEMA deserve to be punished, lest the situation grows out of control.

Of late another characteristic of multiparty elections has emerged. This is none other than the attitude of not accepting multiple views. The mere fact of holding different positions, views, beliefs or affiliation is enough to justify name calling, finger pointing to hurt feelings and cause material damage. It started in CCM with “huyu si mwenzetu” phenomenon which climaxed in the creation of “mtandao.”

During the 2010 general election a vitumbua making old woman in Mwanza City, who was out doing what she does for a living, was attacked and her vitumbua booted onto the ground by supporters of CHADEMA who were coming from an election rally.

The crime of that old woman was her act of donning her head with a CCM scarf. Children were trained to steel their parents’ voter registration cards to prevent them from voting. In some cases married women were threatened with divorce should they go out and vote for another party against the will of their husbands.

This was practiced in the Tarime by-election and has now been rolled over to cover the whole of Tanzania. The practice is targeting women as it is believed more women support CCM as compared to other political parties. Some women were intimidated by groups of unruly young men on their way to polling stations to discourage them to go and vote. This could be one reason why so few people turned out to vote during the 2010 election.

The Isamilo CCM ward office also in Mwanza was burned to ashes by supporters of CHADEMA to force the returning officer to release the results of polling stations around the area. Information from the CHADEMA supporters indicated that properties of CCM and CCM supporters were listed for torching, but the worst did not come about, thank God.

In the just ended Arumeru East by-election, one young man who formerly was a CHADEMA member but switched to CCM after losing put in the CHADEMA preferential votes was attached by his former comrades CHADEMA for committing the crime of switching parties. In 2010 the same act had happened to the candidate of CHADEMA who was attacked by unknown people during the campaigns. The CHADEMA candidate had also switched from CCM after losing in preferential voting.

What is more shocking is unbecoming behaviour of burning party symbols in public to demonstrate that the party in question had stopped to exist. During the Tarime by-election in 2008 some members of CCM switched to CHADEMA and presented to their new leaders in CCM t-shirts and flags. In the election rally Zitto Zuberi Kabwe administered the burning of the t-shirts and the flags before the crowd. This act triggered a debate in social networks but no action was taken about it; the perpetrators just laughed out their exploits.

The same Kabwe has done it again in the Kirumba ward by election where he administered the burning to ashes of CCM flags and membership cards collected from people who switched sides.

It is a taboo and a curse to burn clothes in African culture. In general, culture does not accept degrading another person’s symbol. In a civilized world it is a crime to burn another person’s symbol.

In democratic society to burns other parties’ flag is an undemocratic act, and is never heard to happen. My take is that in the eyes of Kabwe, only one political party has relevance of existing at a time, meaning no more multiparty politics. Is this what we want?

Multiparty democracy in Tanzania has created a few political elites who have turned the majority of us into irrational onlookers. By so doing and by making the majority into followers being pumped with whatever the elite sees fit, they have dehumanized us into zombies.

None of the political elites have suffered like the common Tanzanians. They make us take part in demonstrations and face live ammunition as if these things no longer kill.

They call the demonstration peaceful while in fact whenever they take place businesses close and economic activities are disrupted. Furthermore, multi party elections in Tanzania have caused death and left a number of people injured or maimed.

Political elites advocate breaking of laws, whereas lawfulness is the backbone of democracy. Democracy cannot survive in the absence of the rule of law. But what is seen in practice clearly points to the fact that we do not respect the rule of law. For example political elites are testing the integrity of the judiciary as it was manifested by the remark and comment of the former Arusha Member of Parliament and nobody has taken notice of this sorry state except the State House which in fact is the accused.

Former MP Godbless Lema is a long time friend of fellow MP Highness Kiwia. They were both elected in the 2010 election on the CHADEMA ticket. Unfortunately their elections were petitioned in the High Court by voters from their respective constituencies who chose to exercise their legal rights as voters though they are seen as stooges of the losers in the election.

Nonetheless the High Court entertained them. Both petitions were presided over by the same High Court judge and on judgment day Kiwia won but his friend Lema lost. These two friends can stand as juror to decide whether the judiciary is an independent pillar of the state or it is compromised.

Sociologists have pointed out that democracy like technology has created more problems and challenges than those they have solved. In Africa democracy seems to be losing the ground it had initially gained. If a strong party wishes the other party to perish this is definitely a step back from multiparty politics.

If some politicians cannot stand other people’s views, opinions and positions what they are wishing for cannot be part of multiparty democracy. If strategies are made to make people eligible to vote miss that opportunity what we are creating cannot fit in multiparty structures.

In multiparty rule strategies are meant to make people vote for you and not to vote at all. If one takes part in election and at the end refuses to accept results and forces a government of national unity, the refusal amounts to the creation of a new phenomenon which will definitely not be called multiparty democracy.

Africans are not tied to glocalized multiparty democracy. History is on our side, as Mwalimu Nyerere and others created African Socialism, so we can create our own democracy that suits our African traditions and culture. But whatever we do we have values to protect, with the key values being our humanity, unity and peace.

What is the way forward? Functionalist sociologists believe that every system is embedded with the mechanism to regulate itself. In our case the solution could be lying with the media, religious leaders and elders. Unfortunately, the media can not help us as it has been hijacked by political elites.

The media report and disseminate what they are told to do. The same could be said of religious leaders and their institutions. Worse enough the elders are not listened to or also have taken sides.

A good description of our situation is its potential to be chaotic and anomic. We have to pray for our country and ourselves so that sense returns to our institutions and political parties, to work as a system lest we soon reach the point of no return.

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