Tanzania's CCM: Is the Benign Hegemony Crumbling?

Once viewed as one of the strongest political parties south of the Sahara, the CCM has recently suffered mixed fortunes amid allegations of corruption and internal wrangling aimed at influencing the 2015 succession.

Tanzania’s governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party held its 8th National Congress on 14 November 2012 at which President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete was re-elected as the party’s national chairman. CCM, one of Africa’s longest-ruling parties, has not faced a serious threat to its rule in the two decades of the country’s multiparty dispensation. Once viewed as one of the strongest political parties south of the Sahara, the party has, however, in the recent past suffered mixed fortunes amid allegations of corruption and internal wrangling over the 2015 succession.

Mindful of diminishing public approval for a party that has dominated the politics of the Union of Tanganyika (mainland) and Zanzibar (island), President Kikwete initiated a restructuring process in 2010 that culminated in the recent national congress. Among those elected were Philip Mangula (vice chairman [mainland]) and Dr Ali Mohamed Shein (vice-chairman [Zanzibar]), with both winning 100% of the vote. Former East African Legislative Assembly speaker Abdulrahman Kinana was elected secretary general, while former Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Asha Migiro became secretary general for foreign relations.

The election of Mangula as vice chairman is instructive. The new vice chairman (mainland) is said to bring experience, integrity and the ability to unite and revive the party, and apparently Tanzanians welcome his election. Mangula served as the secretary general of the party from 1995 to 2007 and subsequently retired from the party, taking up farming. Some see him as a clean and honest man untainted by recent allegations of corruption and therefore better placed to rescue the party’s declining image. There are, however, others who are concerned about the personality differences between the new vice chairman and Kinana that might affect the operations of the party. Mangula is a conservative technocrat, though seen to be opposed to corruption, while Kinana is regarded as a forceful character and sometimes a loose cannon.

Mangula will need to cultivate cooperation in the divided CCM if he wishes to instil confidence in party supporters. He may, however, find fighting corruption a herculean task. The party is seen to be deeply enmeshed in graft and any effort to fight it will no doubt end up polarising the CCM. Corruption has tainted the image of Kikwete’s leadership since his rise to power in 2005. In 2006, Wikileaks reports suggested that the president was implicated in a bribery scandal involving the Albwardy Group, which apparently gave ‘inappropriate gifts’ to ‘top Tanzanian officials’, something the president has vehemently denied. On 4 May 2012, President Kikwete succumbed to public pressure to sack six ministers in the high-profile ministries of finance, energy, tourism, trade, transport and health due to allegations of corruption. A number of CCM members have also been implicated in various corruption scandals; the latest being the youth wing of the party, whose recent elections were marred by vote buying. Although some former ministers accused of corruption have cases pending in court, no high-profile CCM member has thus far been convicted. Last year, donor countries cut funding pledges to Tanzania after expressing concern about corruption and the slow pace of reforms. Tanzania now ranks second in an East African Bribery Index at 39,1%, having moved up from third place in 2011 with a bribery index of 31,6%. However, Kikwete remains relatively popular, with a 2012 survey by Policy and Research for Development in collaboration with Afrobarometer indicating his approval rating as standing at 71%, although this is a substantial decrease from the 90% he held in 2008.

Apart from corruption, the country has increasingly faced calls for constitutional reforms from both within the CCM and the opposition parties. There have been calls, for instance, for the separation of power between the presidency and the CCM national chairperson’s position, a reduction of presidential powers and the need for an independent electoral commission to oversee the forthcoming elections. While Tanzania was ranked Partly Free by Freedom House’s Democracy Index in 2010 and a hybrid regime in 2011 (moving up the Index from 92 to 90), there is a pervasive feeling, especially among opposition parties, that the ruling party is ruthlessly committed to holding onto power. The CCM is accused of, among others, blurring the distinction between the party and the state and using coercion and other illegal ways to weaken opposition. One example cited is the incident in September this year whenTanzaniasanti-riot police allegedly killed a journalist while dispersing supporters of the opposition party Chadema on the basis that it was an illegal gathering. This came a week after another person was killed in Morogoro town and several wounded when police fired tear gas to break up an opposition protest. It is against this background that the CCM has been accused of perpetuating one-party rule with the trappings of democracy.

For a party whose leadership transition has consistently been seamless, the current perceptions and divisive internal wrangles are threatening its dominance ahead of the 2015 elections - in which President Kikwete will not run again after serving his two-year constitutional terms. He seems to realise the extent of the challenges and the threat they pose to his legacy. This explains his attempts to reform and restructure the party. In 2010 he initiated a CCM sloughing/rebranding drive (Kujivua gamba’), which entailed the ruling party touring development programmes, while in April 2011 the party asked a number of its top brass - including its secretary general, Yusuf Mukamba - to resign voluntarily or face expulsion. Those who resigned were replaced by a set of politicians with a cleaner reputation, although this did not dramatically change the party’s image. The recent party congress and elections were meant to augment this process by giving the party a new face. Interestingly, the majority of CCM supporters seem to remain confident about the party’s fortunes on the basis that it has done better than previous leaderships to improve the economy and living standards of Tanzanians, despite the difficult global economic situation.

Looking at 2015, it is unlikely that the CCM will lose its stranglehold on power, but it is probable that the opposition will gain statistically. Though substantially fragmented with 20 different political parties and accused by some of self-inflicted shortcomings, the opposition has been slowly growing in strength, as witnessed in the 2010 elections. President Kikwete was re-elected with 62,8% of the vote (his party garnered 186 out of 239 seats), compared to 2005, when he was elected with 80,28% (with his party gaining 206 seats out of 232). The strongest opposition party today is Chadema (Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo, or the Party of Democracy and Progress), which in the 2010 elections managed to increase its share of the national vote when its presidential candidate, Dr Willibrord Slaa, gained 27,1% of the vote. In 2005 it had gotten only 5,88%. Chadema also won 44 National Assembly seats.

The CCM is also facing challenges relating to the political differences between mainland Tanzania and the island of Zanzibar, with some Zanzibaris accusing their mainland counterparts of political marginalisation. Indeed, Zanzibar, an important tourist attraction,has in the recent past witnessed anti-government protests (Uamsho-Awakening) and the increasing radicalisation of its youths due to rising poverty and unemployment levels, which the youths blame on marginalisation by the Tanzanian government.

Overall, the CCM, like the Africa National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, is one of several liberation parties in Africa that are still in power and, like the ANC, the CCM is increasingly facing its greatest opposition from within. This is the time for the CCM to rejuvenate itself by moving beyond electoral platforms and manoeuvres to remain in power towards becoming a real instrument for improving governance. It is interesting that President Kikwete seems determined to leave a reform legacy by inaugurating a Constitutional Review Commission in June this year to collect and collate views from the public and develop a draft of the constitution that will be validated via a referendum. The commission is expected to complete its work in October 2013. If, however, government officials continue to use public coffers for personal gain, the CCM may not regain its slipping grip on legitimacy.

Mashaka Lewela, Research Intern and Emmanuel Kisiangani, Senior Researcher, Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division, ISS Nairobi

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