The UKUTA Dilemma


The recent declaration by Tanzania's leading opposition party, CHADEMA, to put up a 'wall' of defiance in September against what they deem to be dictatorial tendencies of the current President, Dr. John Pombe Magufuli, is just as symbolic as it is 'symtomic' of how the opposition views itself in this country.

First off, commendation must go to Hon. Freeman Mbowe, Chairman of CHADEMA and Leader of the Opposition in parliament, for having been central in redefining opposition politics in the country. Hon. Mbowe is someone whom I have found cause to salute at every juncture: from making youth matter in Tanzanian politics starting back in 2005 to riding on the movement for change and making numbers matter in the ‘mafuriko’ of 2015.

He has systematically risen to the occasion at every occasion and established himself as one of Tanzania’s most formidable political forces in our recent history.
Then along came Magufuli - the not-so-politically-correct politician and not-so-presidential President. Magufuli has, from his nomination and the elections that followed in 2015, positioned himself as the voice of the opposition within CCM, hijacking in the process, a platform traditionally left as a reserve for the opposition in Tanzania.

Choosing to commune directly with the people who opposed him and/ or his party, leading to highly contested election of 2015 as opposed to dealing with the parties that represented their plight, Magufuli has left the opposition struggling to reorganize in a very unfamiliar terrain.

Magufuli has taken to employing instruments of governance vested in him by the Constitution to fast track his development agenda and diffuse the traditional political banter that plays out in Tanzania much to the frustration of the opposition who, now, in a spirit quite contrary to that of UKAWA, no longer believe that the Presidency has the ‘dictatorial’ powers Magufuli is currently exercising.
This is a very valid departure point for our well intending opposition given the script they have been following this far. But the question of whether the problem is the Presidency or the President is just as contentious as the question of whether the solution is democracy or development and/ or which should come first.

Quickly, it starts to become evident that the opposition may have reached the natural peak of its strategic potency in opposition politics and be struggling with an identity crisis as a result. Not to say that they are no longer a force to reckon with; just maybe not the same force they use to be and this may take some adjusting to. This peak, they have reached, is not as much a sign of their decline as an opposing force but rather a sign of an opportunity they may have to reinforce their existence as a ruling force instead.

Yet the opposition, at least strategically, seems still fixated, if not, driven by its parliamentarian representation as opposed to its increasing local government and ward counsel representation; which currently stands at unprecedented 30% nationwide with concentrations in certain areas going upwards 70%. For example, when they build this ‘wall of defiance’ in Dar Es Salaam, a city ‘technically’ run by the opposition itself, what message are they going to send and to whom are they sending it?

Parliament, by its nature, is a lobbying unit for which those truly without a ‘significant’ voice inside may occasionally need to kick and shout to be heard, but can the same be said even of local governments and ward counsels?

Since the opposition took over Dar, the profile of the Mayor has dwindled by comparison. Suddenly all I hear of and see are the politically charged RC and DCs of the land? Where are the local government chairs, ward counselors and municipal Mayors that for now are dominated by the opposition? Isn’t CHADEMA the ruling party of Dar Es Salaam at least?

In 2016, unlike any other time in our history, the opposition is also a ruling party having access to instruments of governance that we need to also see them exercise. It is high time that in their mix of political tactics more airtime be given to show how the opposition is also contributing in running the country and not just challenging it.

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