Big news filtered out of internal elections in the ruling party to reconstitute the National Executive Committee (NEC), widely seen as a preliminary test of popularity ahead of informal candidate or aspirant building for the fateful 2015 nomination.
This particular election date is important because there will be a change at the very top, in which case party elections coming in the intervening period between the last general election and the fateful polls have an added importance.
They set the tone as to which direction the party is looking for its next phase of leadership, even if there isn't a new generation of leaders in a strict sense, as there has been a tendency of continuity from the first phase presidency.
Of notable importance was the failure to pass the test of becoming new NEC member for Hanang in the current polls for former prime minister Frederick Sumaye (pictured), who sought to stage a political comeback to the limelight, with unfulfilled ambitions for the presidency as the main intention.
Those among local observers concerned with institution building saw this initiative in a negative light, for it represents an innate incapacity to retire, by a two-fold pretext of being youthful in age, just above 60 that is, and also having performed quite well in his tenure as premier. He was the only prime minister (leaving aside the first phase initial period of Mwalimu's close associate Rashidi Kawawa) to have served a full ten years.
Failing to stick to retirement is an aristocratic attitude of belonging to a class of rulers, in which case so long as one has the energy to serve, he should be out there serving, that is, ruling, as only this way can his personality be properly realized.
When an aristocratic attitude gets hold of the country's leader, he quickly metamorphoses into a despot, as any democrat knows 'there is a time to sow, and a time to reap' in which case there is a time to be sworn into office, and a time to hand over office. In ethical terms, those who are marginally inclined towards democracy accept to go as part of the democratic process, its bitter side as it were, but those who are profoundly ethical, or democratic, see intrinsic value in retiring.
Mwalimu Nyerere often reserved his most profound ethical addresses revealing his inner self to world audiences, where his words were unlikely to be lost in their value and instruction, despite that quite often he did so on local forums as well.
Still it was one thing when he explained retirement to local crowds or CCM gatherings and when he was on his last state visit abroad, specifically to the United Kingdom early 1985, to say his farewell as Head of State, in a country whose leading political parties had learnt to adore Mwalimu (Labour Party) and to loath him (Conservative Party). His remarks at a banquet given in his honour by the Lord Mayor of London remain the last word on the issue of retiring.
Mwalimu said candidly that even if he continued serving as Head of State for another 24 years (which he had served or was finishing serving at that time) there is one thing he still would not have been able to do for his country, namely to hand over the reins of office to someone else - and lead, by example, in giving the loyalty the new leader needs from the citizenry. During the first term of the second phase Mwalimu largely stuck to that position, but appeared to waver during President Mwinyi's final term, the reason partially being pressure from CCM and other hierarchies. But he helped Mwinyi save the Union.
This sort of sentiment isn't just relevant at the national level but also at the local level, that when a passage of powers has been effected, the retired incumbent should on no occasion seek to make a comback, as that tarnishes a 'social contract' existing between him and residents of the area, that is, constituents.
When the person seeks to make a comeback, that represents a vote of no confidence in the person who he helped vet into office, which is disloyalty, like a father interfering in household quarrels of his son, without having been approached for advice or arbitration. A serving MP, member of NEC or any other elective post should be put on ballot, questioned by rivals or those he leads, not by the retired.
The lesson handed over in Hanang in the race for NEC membership where Dr Mary Nagu, a veteran cabinet minister, has placed herself beyond doubt as a capable leader by flooring a spirited challenge from a well-oiled campaign by ex-premier Sumaye, is not the first of its kind.
There were instances in the past where veteran leaders believing themselves indispensable in public life put up candidacy for Parliament at age 65 or 70 and were displaced by 'roosters' in their first bids for the legislature, for instance in Mwanza back in 1990 when Paschal Mabiti floored Ambassador Paul Bomani. There was also a recent case where ex-CCM vice chairman John Malecela lost to a youthful aspirant at Mtera.
In a different context, there was a spirited rally in the 2010 nomination race in Mwanga constituency where retired top leaders Cleopa Msuya and his close associate Peter Kisumo canvassed against the re-election of Prof. Jumanne Maghembe, who trounced the duo resoundingly.
From then on the two are effectively retired instead of leading by remote control, and occupy advisory or elderly positions, with Kisumo as chairman of the CCM board of trustees, and Msuya as board chairman of TBL, definitely out of day to day politics. It is in this manner that generational renewal and a democratic ethos, which means the voice of the people and not of indispensable leaders, is heard and orients collective destiny.
The manner in which Frederick Sumaye has failed his long announced political comeback is symbolic for institutionalisation of democracy and helps to assuage fears that money is now capturing the reins of democracy, since this indicates once again that supposedly rich retired or retiring leaders cannot orient public imagination by guise and deception.
That would be the case if the CCM fabric was torn asunder and opportunist politics of ethnicity (like that absurd Republic of Northern Tanzania blurted out earlier this year) or militant born again pro-Sultan thinking drove the public into the arms of protectors, instead of electing leaders by merit and inspiration. A leader is someone who wishes to contribute, not to rest.
At the same time there were indications that CCM is not altogether short of breath as has for a while been feared, when the leading opposition party, Chadema, lost its treasured Mwanza mayoral seat, and faces an uphill battle in its twin municipality of Ilemela, where Chadema rebels stopped the polling by court injunction.
CCM publicity chief Nape Nnauye must have donned his best suit for the day, when he handily read out the riot act to Chadema secretary general Dr Wilibrod Slaa, first for having prophesied that CCM was on its deathbed for failing to axe from leadership suspects of supposed grand corruption, and then went on to lose the Mwanza seat. Nnauye felt confident to explain why Chadema lost the poll.
There is one truism Chadema leaders may have started to realise in the wake of the Mwanza debacle following the prolonged fatigue in Arusha mayoral polls early last year.
It is in sum that there is clear dissonance or discord between its frontal opposition at the national level and interaction at the local level. The national leadership seeks of its cadres the sort of vehement anti-establishment outlook that is partially in resonance with its insurrectionist youthful cadre, but out touch with local interaction.
When a party is organised on an insurrectionist basis, with militants likely to be called out at short notice for a demonstration or conduct bordering on violence or chashing with the police, democratic institutions at the local level are compromised.
In many areas what counts in local polls is not which party one represents but whether one is trusted by peers, fellow elders elected into the municipal or district council, and whose votes a party candidate is seeking.
They trust a person for his civic outlook and not for his party following, while Chadema national leaders privilege all out war with CCM, thus placing their local organizations on the wrong foot; they face rebellions, they expel cadres, lose seats.