Come April 1, 2012, Arumeru East electorates will decide which candidate among many deserves to represent them in the National Assembly during the constituency’s by-election.
The decision day would definitely be preceded by fierce political campaigns, scheduled to last for three weeks after taking off on March 9. Staff Writer FLORIAN KAIJAGE visited parts of the constituency and looks at the key issues in the run-in to the campaign, matters likely to stalk the campaign trail to harness voters' sentiment for the ballot.
This will be the only second by-election since the 2010 general elections, after Igunga, Tabora region last October, as veteran MP and top businessman Rostam Aziz vacated his leadership posts due to intra-CCM squabbling over party popularity.
Unlike the Igunga scenario, the battle in Arumeru East follows the demise of incumbent MP Jeremiah Sumari, who passed away on January 16 after months of illness
Intra-party primaries to pick a candidate have been going on for weeks now as the main opposition party Chadema was finalising the voting last Wednesday prior to heading for central committee endorsement that was expected yesterday.
Joshua Nassari, aged mid - 20s and who emerged second during the 2010 election looks set to getting the nod from Chadema’s top body as he scored more than 90 percent of the 888 cast votes.
For CCM, to a certain degree matters will be shaky as the central committee ordered a re-run of the selection, between top ranked candidates Siyoi Sumari and William Sarakikya on the ground that none of the six aspirants scored 50 percent of all valid votes, as per regulations governing the party’s elections.
However, whereas the scoring level was given as explanation for the re-run, the said criterion (50 percent) was not taken into account anywhere in the 286 constituencies nationwide during 2010 parliamentary election.
And clearly appearing to have reached a decision aimed at appeasing rival CCM factions, the top brass lengthened the selection a bit, by a re-matching of the leading aspirants.
Interestingly, no one was warned, reprimanded or punished despite the commotion during the selection process. It appeared a number of things had to be examined, like how the primaries were supervised by regional officials of the partry, and how the rating was put for central committee scrutiny.
It sounds awkward to learn that party officials at district and regional level could erroneously ‘overlook’ an important requirement of reaching a 50 per cent level to qualify as the preferential candidate.
Still it must be acknowledged that the supervision machinery was under enormous pressure from candidates whose campaign basis is influential families maneuvering to keep key political positions within hereditary boundaries.
Siyoi Sumari is the son of the late Jeremiah Sumari and is reported to be married to a daughter of Edward Lowassa, the MP for Monduli and former premier, which makes the Arumeru East preferential poll an intra-CCM referendum on the popularity of the ex-premier, and he won hands down.
Once again Siyoi managed to triumph in the re-run as it was easier to clock 50percent with only two candidates standing.
Acceptance of his win in preferentials by the CC in a meeting yesterday was considered to be a formality.
Now as politicians try to set the ground for the voters' hearts and minds ahead of the ballot on April 1, what are the key issues on which campaign battles stand to be centred?
Scarcity of land, water and related conflicts, chiefly.
The area is experiencing increased scarcity of land, attributed to the rise in population, in which case the district authorities and constituency leaders have been facing unending conflicts.
The situation is said to be compounded by large scale farmers who have occupied large sections of land on various farms in the area.
It is worth pointing out that most farmers engaged in floriculture (flowers) and green beans hold large chunks of land, a few reaching 3000 hectres. Though these farms dotted around Tengeru, Usa River and Maji ya Chai were properly acquired through local government authorities, the farmers or investors are increasingly viewed as land grabbers.
The big farms are also associated with rerouting water on natural streams, denying the public enough water for domestic use. About eight years ago serious clashes erupted between a green beans plantation around Tengeru and the surrounding community, saying the farm was diverting natural streams. The clashes cost the life of one villager.
The overall scarcity of water also forces some residents to travel a distance using donkeys in search for water. This has been a case for areas such as Kikatiti wards.
Decline of coffee and alternative crops
For several decades coffee dominated as the main cash crop for Arumeru residents, in like manner as most of Kilimanjaro and Kagera regions. In Kilimanjaro, via the regional union KNCU, accessing secondary education was tied up for many years at the time of independence to scholarships the union extended to children of its members.
Steady decline of coffee prices in the world market coupled by reduced government subsidies in pesticides resulted in extensive discouragement and falling levels of production.
In turn Arumeru residents have opted for seasonal crops especially green and yellow vegetables such as cabbage and carrots. Others include onions. Banana remains a perennial crop which serves as a food crop and a cash crop on the other hand.
However, the main challenge facing farmers on the seasonal crops is the slump of prices during high (harvest) season as the supply becomes high and demand remains relatively constant.
Parties’ perspectives and prospects
Speaking to this paper Chadema Secretary for Arumeru district, Toninan Nandonde who is based at Usa River said his party was confident to emerge the winner.
“We bank on youths who are pro-change; we are in a new era where people even in remote areas are aware of their rights and are at liberty to elect the candidate they trust can represent them. The age of superiority of CCM and being regarded as part of peoples lives are eclipsed.
On social services the Chadema district secretary notes: “Arumeru needs at least three district-level hospitals. There is a district hospital in Tengeru but for a person from Ngarenanyuki ward to Tengeru to see a doctor is more than 120 kilometers. Mbughuni resident have to make not less than 80 kilometres to the same place, an excessively long distance. The matter should be clearly addressed in the coming by- election campaigns.”
In regard to education Nandonde acknowledges that the government initiative to establish a secondary school for every ward was useful and beneficial to Arumeru East as it has guaranteed most young Tanzanians access to education.
“Establishment of these schools is a commendable job but this should not be the end of the business. These schools need to be equipped with a sufficient number of teachers, relevant books as well as laboratory equipment. How for instance can a school with more 200 form three students use only eight literature books? Such a scenario was likely to compromise the quality of education offered, he asserted.
Lameck Nchemba, the CCM Secretariat head of Finance and Economic Affairs who visited Arumeru for ground work told The Guardian on Sunday in Arusha that there was no way his party could be defeated in the due by-election.
“I view the work ahead as easier than what we encountered in Igunga last year. The party (CCM) structure here in Arumeru especially the youth wing is well in place and every member’s readiness for work is amazing. In fact a defeat for CCM here would be equal to the sun rising from west and setting in the east,” humourised Nchemba in buoyant feeling.
It stands to be like a two-horse race between CCM and Chadema candidates as it was during the 2010 parliamentary and presidential elections.
Then CCM candidate Jeremiah Sumari (late) scooped 34,661votes, equal to 62.23 percent whereas Chadema’s Joshua Nassari, (who is seeking his party’s renomination) attained 19,123 that accounted for 34.33 percent of the total cast votes – 55, 698. No other contender reached 300 votes mark.
Nchemba who was in charge of the Igunga by-election campaigns as CCM campaign manager says he did not feel much pleasure about the Chadema vote late 2010 against the well known Jeremiah Sumari.
“Factors have changed. During the 2010 election the CCM candidate was feeling sick and failed to reach some of the areas to solicit for votes. Opposition parties used this opening to convince some of our potential voters. This will be not the case this time around,” the secretary intoned.
Asked how Chadema managed to go neck to neck with CCM in the 2011 Igunga by-election despite the fact that it didn't even challenge ex-MP Rostam Aziz in 2010 polls, Nchemba said the resignation left a bitter taste in the mouth in Igunga. Disgruntled CCM followers denied the ruling party a score of votes, which he believes isn't the case in Arumeru.
Now the public awaits a campaign run without unnecessary abusive languages and cooked blame throwing, accusations and every sort of foul-mouthed practices to keep up spirits of the rank and file in a charged atmosphere up to voting day.
We are sure that billions of shillings will be poured to Arumeru or much is already being poured. The office of the Registrar of Political Parties estimates that a by-election costs about Sh19 billion ‘be it wholly legal or with illegal inputs.’
In this regard every direct and indirect participant in the Arumeru East by-election would be aware that there is life after vote casting day and results announcement, thus all activity is supposed to focus on how the constituency's future is buttressed afterwards of which candidate, or party, wins the vote.