Last year we witnessed a power struggle within the opposition NCCR-Mageuzi, and some left the ring bloodied while others celebrated. Then Civic United Front followed suit, they too expelled their maverick legislator from the party following a wrangle with senior party cadres. The real reasons for the events in the opposition political parties may never be shared with us, but we have been told of the ostensible ones.
I call them ‘supposed’ reasons because, for one, the parties have a penchant for keeping secrets, thus we may never know for sure if what they are telling us is just another way of misinforming us. Why would they reveal their secrets now? And two, the allegations and counter accusations between the cadres make it difficult for an outsider to believe who is telling the truth and who isn’t. We are at a loss as which line to follow, the official party line or that of those dismissed from the party.
What we are never officially told is that all the fuss is a product of someone trying to tighten their grip on the buttered bread. It is a result of a struggle for top leadership position within the parties, pitting an incumbent against a few otherwise loyal followers who all of a sudden realized that they too deserve a slice of the buttered bread. When one stays in a leadership position for too long, the trappings of power gets the best of him or her, this is what we are witnessing today.
Such politicians start to develop the idea that being a leader is a divine right that must be protected by any and all means necessary. It is my understanding that both NCCR-Mageuzi and CUF hold periodic party elections to elect their leaders. But to claim that these parties operate democratically would be a fallacy and only the naïve would fall for that. Recent events have demonstrated just how muscles matter more than the ballot box.
What the expelled CUF legislator, Mr Hamad Rashid Mohammed, was demanding has its validity. He wanted the party’s secretary general, Mr Seif Sharif Hamad, who also happens to be the Zanzibar First Vice-President to relinquish his post in the party. The basis for his claims is that since Mr Seif is now part of the government of national unity, with the blessings of the party, he has become incapacitated in his role as the party’s secretary general, and thus should step down.
Apparently, Mr Seif wasn’t too amused by Hamad’s proposition. One thing led to another, push came to shove and the best man remained standing. The same story is said to have happened in NCCR-Mageuzi. A group of rebellious party cadres toyed around with the idea of ousting the party’s national chairman, Mr James Mbatia. I bet they never foresaw or imagined the ferocity with which he would defend his position.
Recent developments have been cause for concern as well. Perhaps it is a good thing that opposition parties have been on the other side of the fence this long. The power struggles have been a litmus test for their democratic credentials. They put themselves to the test and we were forced to observe from the sidelines. And it is sad to note that whatever changes that these parties have gone through do not amount to anything near growth.
That certain individuals are regarded as indispensable in certain positions is unhealthy for any organization, let alone a political party. A political party, of all organizations, should be seen as an entity that will never wither even with the departure of supposedly key figures. A party should be seen as capable of moving forward with or without self-proclaimed important figures. True, some people will have more political clout than others in a party, but that should always be regarded as secondary.
Of primary importance ought to be the functions of the party, among which is the orientation of party cadres to be able to fill top positions. Any serious party would want to be perceived as a government in waiting and not a grouping of bickering lots lusting for power. Leaders too must show a willingness to step down when the need arises. Whatever transpired within the parties that led to recent events, it doesn’t look like a movement forward. From a distance, it rather seems like a step back, but we’ll wait and see.