JPM set to shake up CCM as JK bows out

22Jul 2016
Polycarp Machira
The Guardian
JPM set to shake up CCM as JK bows out
  • Can the ‘Magufuli effect’ bring real reforms to a tainted establishment that has lost much support among Tanzanians old and young? That is the question

PRESIDENT John Magufuli faces the daunting task of unifying a deeply divided ruling party and dismantling an increasingly corrupt system of leadership as he gets set to officially take over the chairmanship of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) tomorrow, party insiders have revealed.

Magufuli’s immediate predecessor as head of state, ex-president Jakaya Kikwete, is scheduled to formally hand over the steering wheel of the country’s oldest and most established political party in an uncontested election, in line with ages-old CCM tradition.

There have been muted calls from within the party establishment for the CCM leadership to be “properly contested”. However, those calls appear to have been quietly but conclusively rejected, paving the way for Magufuli's coronation.

Outgoing chairman Kikwete all but confirmed this yesterday as he chaired the CCM central committee meeting that precedes today's national executive committee (NEC) gathering, ahead of tomorrow’s climaxing extraordinary national congress.

Said Kikwete: "There is only one agenda ...the nomination of President (Magufuli) for election as the fifth national chairman of CCM."

Kikwete’s passing on of the leadership baton to Magufuli is in keeping with CCM's unwritten rule which says the new (country) president after a general election will also automatically assume the ruling party leadership without a contest.

And so more than 2,400 delegates to the CCM national congress are expected to endorse the leadership change in a "Yes and No" vote.

"The question is not whether Magufuli will be voted in as CCM chairman or not. The question is if he will get a landslide vote or not," one party insider told The Guardian.

There are reports that some "old guards" within CCM remain wary of President Magufuli expanding his government anti-corruption crusade to include the ruling party and making sweeping leadership changes at national, regional and lower levels.

It is no secret that CCM has long been tainted by openly corrupt practices like vote-buying in internal leadership contests where bribes commonly change hands. Even the party's presidential nomination process last year was initially overshadowed by such allegations.

Magufuli himself has publicly declared that unlike some of his rivals for that crucial nomination last year, he did not spend any money on bribes to win votes and did not accept any campaign contributions from well-to-do CCM supporters.

According to an official close to CCM: "Business tycoons have traditionally wielded a lot of influence on CCM by using their financial wealth to act as kingmakers by buying votes in favour of their preferred candidates."

Against this backdrop, the big question after Magufuli takes over CCM's leadership tomorrow will be on the type of changes he might bring to the party.

One of the first things he is expected to do after being formally installed as party chairman is to appoint members of the powerful party secretariat who will be entrusted to help him run things and implement whatever agenda he might have, according to party sources.

Incumbent CCM secretary general Abdulrahman Kinana is widely expected to step down, but could yet be convinced by Magufuli to remain in the position for sometime to ensure continuity, analysts said.

Kinana has publicly stated that he would prefer to retire, but hinted that he sees his fate lying in the hands of Magufuli as the new party leader.

"We don’t expect Magufuli to immediately overhaul the party. He will likely make a few key changes quickly, and then take more time to closely study the party’s inner workings before shaking things up for sure," said one CCM official.

"We also expect Magufuli to focus on strengthening CCM's revenue collections from its various sources and do away with our party's dependence on financial contributions from corrupt businessmen," the official added.

Magufuli will also be inheriting CCM at a time when the longtime ruling party is fast losing the support of the urban youth, who now seem to favour the opposition as reflected in the voting patterns of the 2015 polls.

CCM has also been accused of "complacency" after being in power for almost 40 years since its establishment in 1977.

Former prime minister and ex-CCM vice chairman John Malecela has meanwhile welcomed Magufuli's expected succession of Kikwete in the party chair, saying he expects the new party boss to display the same type of strong leadership style he has shown in government.

“Our party needs some serious reforms in terms of leadership and management that only a strong person like Magufuli can deliver,” Malecela said.

He also said CCM could do with the introduction of Magufuli-type cost-cutting measures. “He should do everything to restore public trust in the party,” the ex-premier stated.

At the same time, local political commentator Dr Benson Bana told The Guardian yesterday that CCM is likely to extend its dominance over the country's political landscape under the leadership of Magufuli.

“CCM now needs to go forward at the same speed that Magufuli has been driving the government. He will likely push party leaders to get closer to the people and maintain integrity in all that they do,” Bana said.

He added that since CCM needs to regain its original stated identity as a party of workers and farmers, the new leader seems right for that particular job.

Bana also dismissed suggestions by some observers that since Magufuli appears to be more of a technocrat than a politician, he might struggle to lead a complex political establishment like CCM.