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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Cabinet overhaul and CCM fragmentation

19th May 2012

Dust is yet to settle in the higher echelons of the ruling party as well as in its grass-roots politics in the wake of the recent cabinet overhaul and radical changes in district administrators.

In the latter case, for instance, plenty of documentation is being produced on how close associates of the president’s son, who is widely believed to be an adviser of sorts to his father, got plum DC appointments similar to the run-up to the 2010 general elections.

And in at least one instance, the opposition Chadema party is canvassing district opinion against the appointment of Abihudi Saideya, claiming that he was rejected by the people at a former station he had been posted, while other newspaper reports link him with associates at the highest level of government, etc.

Even more phenomenal was a spirited statement of self-defence or fending off attacks and jeering on the part of former Natural Resources and Tourism minister Ezekiel Maige, who defended his record by insisting that he took measures to control illegal wildlife trade, only that he stepped on some powerful figures’ toes.

If that is the case it would imply that part of the need for the cabinet reshuffle was to please vested interests that may have been hurt by the actions of some ministers – in that sense including Maige who featured prominently in stories about live wild animals which were captured and illegally exported last year.

It is the same story with most of the dumped ministers, that the MPs had an axe to grind with them for personal reasons.

It isn’t inconceivable that the end result of the cabinet overhaul at the instigation of MPs will leave a bitter after taste in the mouth, for it was clearly a result of a fear of public opinion, as the president wasn’t convinced of the ministers’ personal wrongdoing, blaming the whole thing to bureaucratic conflicts and misbehaviour.

For instance, plenty of the wrongs cited in the report of the Controller and Auditor General date back to the financial year 2009/2010, when some of the dropped ministers (including Maige) were not handling the errant ministries at the time.

In addition, the rules governing parliamentary work leave a lot to be desired, for personal purchases by a minister are ‘revealed’ in the House, an institutional shortcut.

In his explanation, ex-minister Maige said that each MP was entitled to a loan amounting to 290m/- for the asking, and it isn’t difficult to obtain a bank top-up facility of a similar amount, for instance the borrower mortgages a house to the lending bank, which is precisely what he did.

If, for instance, MP James Lembeli (whom Maige did not mention in his response over the social media) had queries with the 400m/- amount that the minister said was the price of the house, it does not appear that the floor of the National Assembly was the right place to raise the matter, instead it should have gone to the Ethics Committee. 

It is where leaders declare their property, in which case the public has a right to clarification, and MPs ought to use the same channel, not a one-stop shop called Parliament.

Suddenly the ruling party, and to some extent, the wider administration was becoming a beehive where everyone talks whatever they want to talk, in which case one could hear ministers taking personal initiatives. For instance, Lands minister came up with a beach houses demolition plan, saying the buildings were legally permitted by faulty at a policy level.

That is evidently a depiction of confusion, and it is this sort of thing that makes people despair with the government or probity from time to time, for the one issuing a building permit should be aware of the prevailing policy, and if a minister comes after five years and discovers an error, it isn’t the fault of the builder. But then everyone seeks popularity…

What was more interesting was to hear that at least one regional commissioner had berated district commissioners for becoming a ‘burden,’ listing all sorts of negative things on their part, some speculating that they were holding portfolios of campaigners for the 2015 presidential candidate nomination in CCM.

Whether an RC, by the job description, is entitled to raise public ire about DCs is one thing, but this is complemented more than sufficiently by moves to prosecute district executive directors for misuse of public funds, without having to establish if this wasn’t willed by the councils themselves, that is, the representatives. Everyone is looking for some popularity, a bit of it.

Equally difficult to figure out as to its rationality was an aspect of reports coming out of the ruling party’s National Executive Committee, where it was said that CCM chairman Jakaya Kikwete told NEC members that if ex-premier Edward Lowassa wishes to leave the party, he was free to to so.

Chances though are that the former premier will battle his way right up to 2015, and remain in a pivotal position for the top, then place himself as kingmaker as to who takes over that position. This idea doesn’t seem too far from the highest level strategy for end game 2015. When it was being said that the Alliance for Democratic Change was linked with Lowassa’s options, didn’t JK show his interest?

There is however a silver lining to this confusion, that it has at least one value that was also discernible in the ‘skin-shedding’campaign of last year, namely the need to take away the microphone from Chadema, to give them trouble getting people to follow what their leaders say or do.

It was more or less for the same reason that CCM took over the ‘war against corruption’ from Chadema after the ‘list of shame’ was given at a Mwembeyanga rally in September 2007, and indeed CCM MPs made it one better by getting rid of the prime minister on an issue that wasn’t quite distinct from Chadema’s claims, though in its depth it was a question of refusing reform. Why Dowans instead of funding Tanesco?

That is why it is hard to ascertain that the cabinet overhaul or extensive reshuffle has on the whole been positive for the ruling party, that on the whole it has calmed the fears of its Chadema-sensitive wing, that when the opposition shouts that ministers are ‘thieves,’ it is no longer possible to say that this is an opposition view, and instead it starts looking as if it is true.

When,for instance, Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe asked that the CAG look into the accounts of the Terminal II building at the Julius Nyerere International Airport, whether indeed it required 3m dollars from the government and 6m from China Sonangol Holdings Co (CSHC) as reported was right or the 3m dollars from the government was largely enough for the purpose, no contradiction came up. The Speaker ruled that the government should do as the opposition leader said.

This effort to upstage Chadema at each instance is to the detriment of cohesion in CCM, now throwing overboard the cardinal rule of collective responsibility – where it would be necessary for upper levels of the cabinet to be sure of a minister’s wrongdoing and saying so, such that the departure of a minister becomes something that arises within the cabinet.

Still this kind of reaction isn’t a fourth phase innovation, as most previous administrations provide ample examples of how they reacted, contrary to own feelings, to remove ministers who came under attack from parliamentary quarters.

Then Finance Minister Simon Mbilinyi and his deputy, Kilontsi Mporogomyi, left in a hurry when opposition leader Augustine Mrema alleged on the same floor of Parliament that 900m/- kickbacks from fish fillet traders had been shared at the top levels of the state, while ex-Industry and Trade minister Iddi Simba was falsely accused by the MPs of causing the sugar price’s large hike by having issued permits to industries to import sugar – while facts of the matter were altogether different.

The price hikes came from a 100 percent rise in import duty to please a few local producers against the protocols of the World Trade Organization, which however came into force later, while the sugar duty hike was in 1998.

In that case there is a scenario where CCM is tiring its own constituencies when it gives an impression that whatever the opposition says against it is true, including the whole issue of ‘writing a new constitution,’ despite having had peace for 50 years with the old one.

As the outbursts of newly elected MP Joshua Nassari demonstrated, the demand for a new constitution is ploy to accommodate all sorts of demands that were carefully weeded out so that national cohesion and harmony can be assured.

There are two big demands that shall see to it that the new constitution bid fails.
First, seeking to put the union in question to a referendum, and secondly the reduction of the powers of the president, so that chaos can set in quite easily.

When all the dropped ministers return to their constituencies and say that there is no leadership in cabinet but listening to cooked-up stories and penalizing upright people to please a noisy lobby with an axe to grind after the failure of the MPs’ demand for a huge hike in daily allowances, it is hard to see how CCM will be able to pull together towards 2015.

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