Tanzania’s president, Jakaya Kikwete, collapsed today at a public rally when launching his presidential campaigns for a second term in office. This incident took place at Jangwani grounds in Dar es Salaam, as the incumbent cut short his speech and fell in the hands of his aides behind him. The crowd stood still as he was carried and rushed for first-aid, and then returned after 20 minutes to close his speech without any political pomps. This was his third time in five years. The last time he collapsed it was in October 2009; when his aides cited fatigue as reason for the embarassment.
Something is seriously wrong with the government of Tanzania, in the way it regards and treats journalism. It is becoming increasingly bitter with critical journalists; and this time around, as we prepare for the 2010 general election, I have become a victim of the government’s threats.
A few days ago, I received secret information about the government’s sinister moves against me and other journalists who criticise the president. By the way, the president is vying for the second term in office this year. Five days after the warning, my office received a ‘confidential’ letter from the office of registar of newspapers. It was summoning the managing editor to report to the registrar’s office to discuss the government’s concerns about my article: “nani atajivunia rais mwoga, asiyejiamini?” which translates to “who could be proud of a timid, inconfident president?”. The article had been published in Tanzania Daima newspaper, on August 8, 2010 under my column Maswali Magumu (Tough Questions), addressing the president’s resistance to take part in a planned public debate for presidential candidates.
In the letter, the managing editor was stricly advised to ‘take me with him’ to the registrar’s office. There we were, on Monday August 16, 2010, at 2.00 pm. Unfortunately for them, my most immediate article published the previous day was even more disturbing to the government. Its headline went “JK bado hafikirii kushindwa?” meaning “Is JK still not considering defeat?” JK is an acronym for Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania’s president. The article was meant to encourage election losers to accept defeat gracefully; and it quoted JK saying, in 2005, that he wasn’t in the race for defeat.
So, these two articles became a subject of discussion in the registrar’s office. Around the table were the registrar, Clement Mshana, assistant registrar Raphael Hokororo, an officer with the Tanzania Information Office (MAELEZO), Jovina; my managing editor, Absalom Kibanda and myself.
What transpired in the course of this ‘discussion’ confirmed the secret information I had obtained from my sources about the government’s malicious moves to deal with listed critical newspapers and journalists before elections. It was clear, the registrar was acting on instructions from Ikulu (state house). But one statement struck me. One of these government officers, who thought I was too harsh and becoming a hero for criticising the president, told me: “Remember, all the heroes are dead…”
Need he say more?
TANZANIA’s most vibrant opposition legislator, Dr Willibrod Slaa, has become a political phenomenon since his party, Chadema, appointed him presidential candidate for the 2010 general election. An eloquent speaker, he is a crowd-puller, a smart orator, an enigmatic politician, a composed personality and, now people call him, the country’s ‘redemptor.’ He will be competing with five other contenders for the country’s top-most office – four from the opposition, one from the ruling party, CCM.
So far, they include Professor Ibrahim Lipumba of Civic United Front (CUF), Mutamwega Mugaywa of Tanzania Labour Party (TLP), Hashim Rungwe of National Convention for Construction and Reform (NCCR-Mageuzi), Christopher Mtikila of Democratic Party (DP), and incumbent Jakaya Kikwete of CCM.
Already, President Kikwete has expresses his fears, telling his party not to underrate the opposition. He was referring the current political wave caused by Dr. Slaa’s charisma. The just ended preliminaries in the ruling party have left it maimed. Groups of disgruntled losers are considering crossing over to Dr Slaa’s party. In some people’s eyes, CCM is slowly disintegrating and falling apart, as the opposition gains momentum.
Until his party officially endorses him, he is not yet a candidate. Official campaigns start on August 21, 2010. But he is the country’s most magnetic politician. Whatever the trend and outcome of the campaigns, there are obvious signs that Dr. Slaa’s popularity and charisma are changing and shaping Tanzania’s politics like never before.
And, come polling day, October 31, 2010, Tanzania’s political landscape will never be the same again, thanks to this phenomenon; the influence of the former Roman Catholic priest who once worked as secretary general for the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC).
WHEN I wrote about coalition governments last year and suggested it would happen in Zanzibar, few people paid attention. Now it has happened – not through prediction but from political analysis. Zanzibaris have voted in a referendum to pave way for a government of national unity involving two major parties, CCM and CUF, that have practised the politics of rivarly for 15 years consecutively. It looks like a trend now: Kenya, Zimbabwe, UK and Zanzibar (Tanzania). Who is next?