Since Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) happens to be the ruling party in Tanzania, its internal political dynamics, at any given time, can’t be and ought not be taken for granted, as the party’s fortunes and misfortunes are likely to have a significant impact on the socio-economic and political direction of our nation.
At this initial stage of our commentary, an observation made by late founder of this nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, that a strong CCM is likely to run state affairs efficiently while an unstable one will lay the ground for chaos, may be recalled to emphasize the significance of CCM’s modus operandi to political stability.
One is therefore not surprised to note that the constitutional changes endorsed by CCM’s National Executive Committee a few days ago are among the hot themes being currently discussed enthusiastically, by both party members and other citizens countrywide.
Of course, the amendments have come at a time of public anxiety to watch every move made by the party, spurred by its own publicly proclaimed intention, about a year ago, to purge targeted alleged captains of corruption, or “Mafisadi ” in Kiswahili, from its leadership ranks.
The gist of the constitutional changes is in the election regulations which, among other things, makes the NEC position a full-time job performed at district level, thus effectively barring members already having another full-time occupation from contesting for NEC membership.
The adoption of this regulation implies that incumbent legislators and councillors are automatically out of the NEC race in the coming party elections, now a few months ahead. The creation of an Advisory Council of the party comprising former party Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen is another landmark change, which automatically remove retired Heads of State from top party organs like NEC and the Central Committee.
Indeed, the above mentioned changes may look ordinary and harmless to the common citizen and even to party members with little interest in constitutional matters related to the organization he or she supports, but to those with keen interest in the country’s political trends, as well party cadres with political ambitions, what has happened is a landmark shift with a big impact to their fate and the country’s future.
In short, the CCM constitutional amendments and the brains behind these Machiavellian moves, have successfully and surprisingly killed several birds with a single stone. First, some of the big political names earmarked for purging from the top organs of CCM, including those earlier given a chance to bow out voluntarily, have been floored without putting up a fight worth writing home about.
Some observers had thought the so-called “skin shedding” exercise would only be effected after a showdown between troops lined up by the financial giants in the party and those loyal to the current leadership. This has not happened, thanks to the political skills of the party Chairman, much as there is always a tendency to underestimate the survival instincts of the ever smiling national leader.
The second implication, which is closely related to the first one, is that plans of most 2015 presidential hopefuls intending to contest the seat on CCM’s ticket have been thoroughly disrupted.
Networks of State House aspirants have all along been busy indentifying politicians to sponsor for NEC entry, so as to gain influence in this important ladder for whoever intends to be nominated by the party for the presidential contest.
The new regulations have not only denied our ambitions men and women the opportunity to be in NEC and improve their political CVs, but have also blocked their supporters from joining this strategic organ. So, these presidential position seekers have no choice but to devise other game plans, when there is little time to do so effectively.
In short, the rat race for the presidency in the ruling party is now likely to be well managed, or rather contained - which is a good thing, given that tuning members of the public to be preoccupied with 2015 elections when there are all sorts of challenges to contend with, amounts to unnecessary distraction.
Some observers are also of the view that by taking these measures, the ruling party is using its experience in politics to put its house in order early enough in preparation for the 2015 nomination run, so as to gain advantage over its rivals.
But with the economy performing poorly, poverty being entrenched, and corruption running amok, is CCM likely to continue with its dominance of the country’s politics, much as it strives to re-invent itself? Only time will tell.
Henry Muhanika is a Media Consultant (firstname.lastname@example.org)