Yes, multipartism needs rethinking, from all sides

13Apr 2021
The Guardian
Yes, multipartism needs rethinking, from all sides

CHANGE is very much in the air as CHADEMA national chairman Freeman Mbowe takes the quite anticipated step of writing to President Samia Suluhu Hassan to seek a platform to map out how the country gets out of the political quagmire of a non-functioning multiparty system.

This step has in all regards already taken, and in that case the former leader of the parliamentary opposition was only making public in his weekend press conference what he has already written to the president. The remarks he made were poignant not just for what he said about the fifth phase government, but candid need for reflection.

In his remarks and probably in what the CHADEMA leader wrote to the president, he was frank in his admission that the late president John Magufuli was a hard working person, even visionary in what he set out to do, but understandably the opposition leader would have much to pick out on the methods he used.  While his feelings about how the late national leader handled political parties shall widely meet with sympathy, in like manner as his personal misfortunes in business activities, including closure of company and personal accounts from December 2018, it isn’t all. Plenty will reverberate as to where the opposition stands in what happened, how it helped the country to move into a crisis of multipartism, or rebuilding it.

There is an ancient expression that “Rome was not built in a day,” and experience shows that democracy in Africa will not be built in a one off manner, just by holding democratic elections. That is the point of departure but the system has to be sustained, implying that its key stakeholders should not overload it with onerous, unachievable demands all for their own peculiar interests. While opposition leaders talk of the fifth phase in the past tense, there is a danger of repeating it if lessons aren’t learned on workable multipartism; the different parties must contribute to making the system stable, not swearing to destroy it.

As the opposition seeks the president’s understanding and relaxing controls of multiparty politics, they will have to figure out how they conform to what the president said about allowing media organs to start their work, those which were banned earlier. She said that they should be told to follow the laws of the country – which the opposition isn’t promising, only seeing the draconian controls as a grave mistake. Worse, the remarks by the Chadema leader appeared to burden those around the late president as failing in their duties to protect rights of other political stakeholders because they were pampering the president.

The Chadema leader notably said that “in order to get a good tomorrow which is safe and better than the previous, we have no option but to think out openly where we come from, where we are and where we wish to go or we ought to go. The main enemy of human prosperity is to shield the truth from being known,” he declared. The truth isn’t just that political activities were suppressed but that much of that activity wasn’t rational in the first place, and was bound to explode at a certain moment, and it did after the polls in 2015. The entire system was based on lies – state operations were said to be individual acts of theft of billions of shillings, the government pays a commercial debt and the legislature explodes, etc.

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