Tanzania politics:The holes in the big tent of strange bedfellows

September 16, 2013 12:43 am0 comments by:

Sugu Bungeni2

Democracy is a messy business. The just ended session of Tanzania “august” house ended in turmoil, keeping true to its roots. When the 10th parliament was officially launched in November 2010, CHADEMA MPs walked out amid jeers from their colleagues-especially those from the ruling party CCM. Since that first walkout, many, “truly yours” included-have lost count of how many times our MPs have done that.

The difference between the walkout of MPs this time around ,and the “other walkouts” before is that they presented a “united front”. All opposition MPs with the sole exception of Augustine Lyatonga Mrema from TLP who didn’t participate walked out.

And the jeers followed them, another “trademark” of the 10th parliament.

This time around the walkout of our MPs was triggered by their disagreement over how the Deputy Speaker Job Ndugai handled the session.

And instead of debating the bill before them, the MPs who remained in the house wasted their precious time passionately talking about those who had walked out and some even “lectured” the media not to turn that walk out as the next day’s headline arguing that the headlines were in the house and “not outside”.

I’m not interested in the arguments and counter-arguments made by the opposing sides as to why they walked out but of the holes in the tent of these strange bedfellows. And politicians being creatures of habit are notoriously promiscuous in the way how they handle their affairs.

Prophet Daniel of the Old Testament in the Bible tells of a story about the statue King Nebuchadnezzar saw in a dream. The head was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. The iron, clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces after being struck by a stone.

This motley assortment of things came crushing down.

Back to our parliamentarians.

For starters, there has been a persisting division on the opposition side of the “august” house which as well is as old as the 10th parliament itself.

Opposition MPs squabbled over some standing orders about the official name of the opposition camp in parliament. It was a bitter debate where CHADEMA MPs maintained that they should still be recognised as the “official” camp of the opposition in the house, while those from CUF and one from NCCR-Mageuzi wanted that particular standing order changed to recognize all opposition MPs.

In settling political scores, CCM MPs sided with those who wanted changes and carried the day. CHADEMA refused to include the other parties in the shadow cabinet thereafter. And the opposition camp was more divided since then.

As per our legal and political arrangements, Zanzibar is semi-autonomous within the Union, and following rounds of bitterly contested elections in the Isles-it was agreed that the magic formula for maintaining peace and stability in the Spice Islands was to invite the big players on the dining table. As things are today, Civic United Front-CUF is in a bind.

To say that their position is ambiguous might be an understatement.

Of the many reasons given by our MPs as justification for their walkout was what they termed as lack of participation of Zanzibar in the ongoing process of writing a new constitution for the Union. But on behalf of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, the Second Vice President Ambassador Seif Ali Idd-who happens to be an MP as well, said that countered that argument saying Zanzibar was involved in the process.

Now, CUF is part of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar together with CCM. Which “CUF” do those who walked out represent?

CUF’s participation in the government in the Isles has been one of the chief causes of bitter exchanges and simmering tensions within and without parliament between them and the other opposition MPs-especially those from CHADEMA who accused CUF of “being married to CCM”, or “being CCM B”.

There was also that acrimonious exchange within and without parliament of CUF and CHADEMA MPs. The latter alleged that the former supported same sex marriage, which is a politically suicide matter. And the response from CUF MPs was palpable with anger.

Responding to a question from a journalist during a press conference of opposition MPs to explain the root causes for their walkout, as to how CUF and CHADEMA ended up on the same side, Habib Mnyaa, MP for Mkanyageni constituency-CUF claimed what brought them together was “common interests”.

The silver lining here is that for once, the majority of our opposition parliamentarians came are working together on something. Just for how long this will last no one knows. I’m not holding my breath, who knows what kind of stone will come through the holes, crushing down the big tent standing now.

Be that as it may, few are in doubt that our parliamentarians won’t produce more tawdry drama. This is a country in permanent election mode.


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