The ruling party’s Central Committee is meeting in Dodoma today at the time when a power crisis, the recent resignation of Rostam Aziz, and the Kikwete succession politics have conspired to form a consistently intensifying heat-wave that is tearing through Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
It’s also meeting at the time when there are reports that the pro-Edward Lowassa camp has launched a strategy to craft his image and help him seize the soul of his party ahead of the 2015 succession battle.
The Central Committee convenes its meeting amid two major increased challenges facing the party itself and the nation at large.
The party’s most powerful organ meeting would be under the chairmanship of Jakaya Kikwete, who doubles as the Head of State and includes influential active politicians and two retired presidents, Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa.
Nape Nauye, party’s ideology and publicity secretary confirmed yesterday that the meeting would take place but was reluctant to give details and even the timing of sitting.
“Yes the Central Committee is meeting, the timing is a matter known to the members, there would a briefing after the meeting if deemed necessary,” said Nape briefly in a cautious tone.
CCM’s meeting is taking place a few weeks after expiration of a 90 – day ultimatum, issued to three party’s kingpins, allegedly to be the centre of controversial dealings, which has tainted the party’s image.
In a last resort aimed at cleaning the party, the last National Executive Committee (NEC) ordered the three individuals to resign from all their positions before the party acted hard against them, including the possibility of stripping them of membership.
They are Edward Lowassa, a former Prime Minister who resigned in February 2008 following his proven involvement in a controversially awarded tender for emergency power generation to Richmond company, a key person connected to the company, Rostam Aziz, and former Attorney General Andrew Chenge, who is accused of benefiting financially from a controversial purchase of a radar from Britain in 1999.
Their conduct, among other things, are blamed for relatively poor performance of CCM in last year’s general elections in which Kikwete, as CCM’s presidential candidate, recorded 61 percent victory, compared to 80 percent in 2005.
CCM also succumbed to big defeats in key urban constituencies in Mwanza, Mbeya, Arusha, Iringa as well as Dar es Slaam. The Opposition also managed to storm some traditionally CCM strongholds of Shinyanga, Mwanza, Kigoma, Mbeya and Arusha rural constituencies.
Since then a significant development has prevailed as on July 13 Rostam Aziz announced his resignation from all leadership positions within the party including representation to the legislature.
Rostam’s decision was primarily interpreted as setting the pace for the other two (the three-some giving rise to the cynical name ‘triplets’) accused to follow the suit and relinquish their posts.
However none of the two leaders have followed the path set by Aziz early this month, raising more tension within Africa’s oldest ruling party.
It is still unclear as to whether the Central Committee would have guts to decide unanimously or rather vote for the dismissal of the remaining duos.
Lowassa and Chenge are believed to have strong support from a reasonable section of MPs, and therefore CCM has to tread carefully, since any false moves would cost the party dearly by way of losing several constituencies if by-elections were held.
On the power crisis, the CC is expected to dwell on the workable plan by the government to have an emergency solution in a few weeks as promised by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda when he pleaded with the Parliament to withdraw the defaulted budget for the ministry of Energy and minerals on 18 July.
While the government is brainstorming before delivering a concrete statement on the plan to halt increased power rationing when the budget estimates are re-tabled in the House on 13 August, the party organ would like to hear workable promises to avoid more political misery.
The country has experienced continuous power rationing since December 2010.
The battle for succession
Edward Lowassa, the former Prime Minister whose political dream was shattered by the Richmond saga is desperately struggling to save his dwindling image as well as political mission of becoming the country’s fifth President in 2015.
Viewed by his allies as the right man for the country’s top job, but seen by many as a product of the ‘corrupt politics’ which has dominated the ruling party, Lowassa is struggling to gain the momentum ahead of the party’s crucial election scheduled in 2012.
Stunned by the dramatic stance taken by his party under the chairmanship of President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, Lowassa is planning the political battle that might see the country falling into the trap of South Africa’s African National Conference in Polokwane in December 2007 as captured by author Brian Pottinger, in his book, “Mbeki Legacy”.
Like Tanzania, the South African politics ahead of the Mbeki ousting was dominated by an arms scandal that finally forced President Jacob Zuma to resign as the Vice President, the electricity rationing, crime, education and health.
In Tanzania, the political landscape has been shaped by two major events; the electricity crisis that started in 2006 and the war against grand corruption, which has so far divided the ruling party into two factions.
According to credible information gathered by The Guardian on Sunday for months now, the decision by the ruling party to ask Lowassa, Chenge and Rostam to resign from their political positions within CCM, wasn’t expected after the well planned ousting of former Speaker.
When Lowassa was forced to resign in February, 2008, after he was named by the Dr. Harrison Mwakyembe-led committee on Richmond saga, his political career was shattered.
To many, especially his loyal supporters, the sudden, and dramatic downfall of their ‘head prefect’ wasn’t expected considering his alleged contribution to the election of President Kikwete.
After Lowassa’s downfall, which, was described by President Kikwete as a ‘political accident’, his allies directed their anger to former Speaker of the National Assembly, Samuel Sitta and his camp.
While Richmond saga successfully brought down Lowassa and two Cabinet ministers, it also widened the new era of the dirty politics within the Kikwete’s inner-circle.
Lowassa and his camp fought heavily to retaliate with their main target being the then Speaker, and finally their battle yielded the positive results at the end of last year, when Sitta was thrown out of the race by the Central Committee.
Previously there were two different attempts to remove Sitta from his Speaker’s chair through the National Executive Committee meetings in Dodoma.
All these attempts failed because of lack of credible support, but enabled the party to form a Special Committee led by former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, which was mainly tasked to probe the source of the rift between Sitta and his camp, and Lowassa and allies at the other hand.
The Committee’s report wasn’t made public.
So far those close to Lowassa have launched a special strategy to revive the defunct group known as Mtandao or the network. Since Lowassa was among the party’s top brass who participated in the election of President Kikwete in 2005, he is using that opportunity to recruit members of his campaign team.
The recruitment would start at the grassroots to national level, whereby those elected in various positions including the Party’s General Assembly and National Executive Committee are pro-Lowassa.
The idea is to capture the soul of the Party ahead of the crucial succession battle for the 2015 election.
Already the coordination of eligible and loyal members has started at district, regional and national levels, according to the preliminary reports gathered by The Guardian on Sunday team.
Lowassa has also launched another under-cover move to capture the support of faith-based organisation mainly from Christians, taking the advantage of being close to some of the religious leaders since 1990s.
Apart from the faith-based groups, Lowassa’s camp is also consolidating its ties with sections of the media, taking the very same route he and his colleagues used six years ago to beat their rivals within the ruling party.
“You need the media, the loyal supporters within the party and enough money to grease your campaign…we are capable of having all and that’s why Lowassa is our next President, ” one MP close to Lowassa camp told The Guardian on Sunday.
Speaking under conditions of anonymity, the MP who is from Lake Zone region added, “Zuma was forced to resign, but managed to bounce back after capturing the soul of ANC…we are also focusing on capturing the soul of the ruling party.”
Kikwete holds the last crucial card
However, what still puzzles Lowassa’s camp is the unpredictability of the Party’s National Chairman, President Kikwete, who has remained firm and silent about the ongoing succession battle within the ruling party.
“Our biggest concern is the big boss (President) because so far we don’t exactly know what he thinks about Lowassa’s bid for presidency or whether he has a candidate to succeed him in 2015, ” the MP from Lake Zone added.
However, the future of Lowassa politically will depend on how his party will act about the resolution that required him and his two colleagues to resign from all their posts within Chama Cha Mapinduzi.
According to well placed sources within the party’s inner-circle, President Kikwete stills holds the crucial card on the battle to State House through the ruling party.
Though the pro-Lowassa camp have likened President Kikwete with Thabo Mbeki who first lost the control of the party in Polokwane in 2007, before he was ousted one year later, the situation in Tanzania is very different from the South Africa.
While in South Africa the incumbent knew he couldn’t stand for the presidency, he then sought to control the party, while in Tanzania JK is not pursuing either option.
He would gladly leave the presidency and the country to a trusted lieutenant and this is what has been puzzling the pro-Lowassa camp.
“The grave mistake they will do is undermining the power of JK…the truth is that he holds a crucial card about who will succeed him in 2015,” a former Prime Minister who declined to be named told The Guardian on Sunday over the phone.
The Former Prime Minister who served during the Mwinyi regime said, “I can’t rule Lowassa out of the presidency, but if what the media has reported recently that he has decided to face his former boss in the battle for 2015 is true, then he is digging his political grave.”
“JK would love to give this country to a very trusted person who will safeguard what he has achieved as well as healing the wounds within the party…that’s why I strongly believe he has the crucial card on 2015, ” the ex-PM stressed.