Why Z’bar political standoff talks are a circus in futility

17Jan 2016
Our Reporter
Guardian On Sunday
Why Z’bar political standoff talks are a circus in futility

I was very astonished on Friday to learn that the team seeking a solution to the Zanzibar political impasse composed of the CUF and CCM presidential candidates and former Isles political leaders had met the previous day under the chairmanship of Dr Mohammed Shein.

President Ali Mohamed Shain (l) talks with Maalim Seif (r)

Considering that on Monday CUF presidential candidate Seif Shariff Hamad had made it quite clear at a press conference in Dar es Salaam that his party would never accede to a rerun of the poll which was annulled on October 28, 2015, which drew a sharp and quick rejoinder from the CCM candidate, Dr Shein, that evening that, come rain, come sunshine, the rerun would be held, I couldn’t see the logic to justify the meeting.
Indeed, President Shein reiterated on Tuesday at a rally to mark 52 years of the Zanzibar revolution that a rerun in the Isles would be held soon, and a few days before that the Second Vice-President, Seif Ali Iddi, had said that funds for the poll had already been secured and all that the government was waiting for was a Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) announcement of a date for the rerun.
I wish there was some hope that the talks could be fruitful; after all miracles in the world will never cease. But, putting wishful thinking aside and taking realistic stock of what is unfolding on the ground, the talks appear to be much ado about nothing. It is obvious that CCM is has no will to see the impasse resolved in any other way except its way.
All it is doing now is going through the motions of talking while in fact it is bidding its time for NEC to announce the rerun date.
If you ask me, the talks were bound to fail from the word go for two reasons. One: The talks have all along been chaired by Dr Shein, supposedly as Zanzibar president. That notwithstanding, he was, and still is, the CCM candidate in the annulled poll and in the rerun (if it is ever held).
By the cardinal principle of natural justice, why was he (and still is) allowed to preside over his own case? The aura of the presidency aside, Dr Shein is in this instance merely a candidate, just like his rival, Seif Hamad. A neutral person should ideally have been picked to chair the talks.
Two: the composition of the negotiating team leaves much to be desired in that it is too heavily weighed in favour of CCM. I stand to be corrected, but all reports about the team say that there are six CCM members and just one CUF member (Seif Hamad). I don’t need to be a chartered secretary to realize that if an issue came to a vote, CUF would always lose. In such context, do the talks have a chance to succeed? Or, rather, were they ever intended to succeed? Nope!
But, even more worrying, is that there have been recent developments amongst CCM members which seem to indicate that the party is not ready to cede state power to any rival party even if it were squarely trounced at the ballot box (as may have happened on October 25, last year.)
On Tuesday Tanzania’s former ambassador, Ali Karume, was quoted as saying that a law should be passed to bar other parties from vying for the Zanzibar presidency because that was the preserve of CCM.
It is ironical that such an outmoded, undemocratic and discriminatory suggestion is coming from the mouth of a son of the man who is famed to have been the brain behind the Zanzibar revolution – whose main objective was to eliminate oppression and discrimination of the oppressed majority!
Indeed, it would seem that CCM diehards in the Isles are completely out of tune with Tanzania’s march to a more open and democratic country where the rule of law and good governance reign supreme.
Unfortunately, Ali Karume has many sympathizers in CCM. Only recently, the party’s youth wing’s acting secretary general, Shaka Hamdu Shaka, was quoted as claiming in an interview that Zanzibar’s old political parties prior to independence were very much alive today.
“All the former political parties are still theoretically in existence. ASP is the current CCM while CUF represents the ideals of ZNP and ZPPP. I would not like you to be misled. What has ceased are only the parties’ names, but their principles, history and origins are very much alive and will never ever cease,” he said in the interview last month.
Which goes to explain the appearance of racist placards by CCM youth wing members last Sunday at a rally attended by Dr Shein, who doubles as the party’s vice-chairman in the Isles. One of them read, “People of mixed race are Hizbu members. Zanzibar is for Africans.”
With this background it is obvious that the standoff talks are doomed to fail. All the party in power is currently doing is buy time in the endless talks as it lays the groundwork for a ‘landslide’ in the rerun poll – whether or not other parties take part in it.
The other day I made a follow-up on the //WhatMagufuliWould do hashtag to see how President John Magufuli had handled the Zanzibar impasse. He has, during the almost three months since he was sworn in, commanded immense admiration and respect in the way he has been coming up with novel, practical and realistic solutions (tinged with patriotism) to mundane challenges which tasked both his predecessors and contemporaries alike.
In the case of the Zanzibar standoff, his solution is very conspicuous by its absence. Which is very disappointing, coming from Magufuli. Maybe he has got one up his sleeve and is just bidding his time to spring it on us when we least expect it!

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