Interviewed by Mlimani TV station early this week about why his party recorded abysmal performance in the just ended by-election in Uzini constituency on Zanzibar island, Ismail Jussa Ladhu, deputy secretary general of the Civic United Front, declared that CUF didn’t win the seat because there are more Christians and churches in the area than Muslims and mosques.
It’s a rare mind revelation from one of the more highly trusted CUF officials, better educated than average and with considerable exposure locally and outside, becoming a symbol of what kind of leaders we have in this country.
It’s perhaps the clearest illustration of what some of the CUF leaders especially those who defected have been saying about this political party. They have accused CUF of being a Muslim-dominated party, saying it has a clear religious bias.
Though we don’t believe those allegations seriously because the Political Registration Act of 1992 has proper safeguards on such misdirected politicking, one cannot ignore even the more glaring signals, as in this case. The Act provides that any party that is statutorily identified with religious activities and faith partiality can’t be registered, but the revelation from Jussa confirms what its party dissidents, past and present, have all along critics have been saying.
Jussa simply wants us to believe that Christians are anti-CUF while Muslims are pro-his party. We thought and believed that those who have been voting for the party in the past elections in Tanzania did so because of being attracted by CUF’s policies.
But according to Jussa, it’s the opposite. He clearly believes that his party can win easily in those areas where there are Muslims in majority and Christians as a minority. Jussa might be right because being one of the members of the CUF’s inner circle; he has all the facility to understand why in some areas his party is popular while in others it registers abysmal performance.
What is appalling is that we still have leaders who believe in the politics of divisions along race, ethnicity and faith based issues, instead of advocating for a clear policy that will eradicate poverty as well as bringing prosperity economically, politically and socially.
From Jussa’s verdict, those who voted for CCM and Chadema are Christians because in Uzini constituency there are more churches and Christians than Muslims. While Jussa might have some details in the area’s demography or psychology which most other observers may not be aware, his comments can only be qualified, unavoidably, as totally unacceptable.
The point here is that if this is how politics is going to be managed in this country, then Tanzania is slowly descending into chaotic politics in future. It means that the CUF, when it has its back on the wall, is ready to abandon statutory rationality (policies), pluralism (non-racial and non-sectarian) attitude in favor of playing to the gallery of religion, to attract irrational fears and votes, with readiness for violence. All religious politics ends in violence, by definition.
That Jussa might statistically be right doesn’t count, but rather that his comments are unjustifiable if they represent the spirit of that political party, their line of action in the months to come – that is, in any future polls and in preparing for polls.
Those sentiments and the political orientation implied therein is what must be avoided at all costs and are consequently harmful to the political climate, to the peace and understanding constituting the reason both for the constitution and the formation of a Government of National Unity. He has simply shown how he treads in cheap politics of divide and rule.
In a country that has been battling and weathering serious allegations of religious division between Muslims and Christians in the history of the ruling party, Jussa’s comments serve to add petrol to the fire, worsening the situation.
Our leaders have to be careful about what they say to the public and what they shouldn’t, the sort of imagination they should keep to themselves, so that they don’t stir up the tiger of revolt that is part of politics, itching for a fight for whatever reason, so long as an important person has said it is right to burn and kill. They should be mature enough to distinguish between ‘pillow talk’ and public discussion.