TANZANIA’S ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) this week nominated the country’s Works minister John Pombe Magufuli as the party’s candidate in presidential elections set for October, almost assuring him of being the country’s fifth president as change continues to be a constant in that country.
In what was at times a fractious contest, Magufuli (56) emerged victorious from an initial list of 38 candidates who sought nomination, before the number was whittled down to just three. Magufuli garnered 87% of the votes, beating off his two female challengers Justice minister Asha-Rose Migiro who is a former UN deputy secretary-general and ex-Foreign Affairs minister, and Amina Salum Ali, currently the African Union’s ambassador to Washington.
Initially, Magufuli was not seen as a frontrunner in a strong field which included six women, but he reportedly benefitted after party heavyweights cancelled each other out.
Several top-ranking CCM officials, among them Vice-President Mohamed Bilal, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, former prime ministers Edward Lowassa and Frederick Sumaye as well as current Foreign Affairs minister Bernard Membe were also vying for the presidential candidacy, creating tight competition.
Thus Magufuli, a former Maths and Science teacher, will take over from the outgoing Jakaya Kikwete who has served his two terms and has publicly announced that two terms are more than enough.
Although opposition parties have indicated they will field one candidate to square off with Magufuli, he is still expected to comfortably win the presidential poll given the popularity of CCM which has been in power since Independence in 1961, currently enjoying a two-thirds majority in parliament.
The party’s strength lies, to a considerable degree, in a vibrant internal democracy system as evidenced by the large number of officials who openly campaigned for the party presidency without fear of reprisals. The constant renewal in CCM — the longest ruling post-liberation party in Africa — and the prominent role played by young leaders has meant that the party is constantly renewing its leadership and generating fresh ideas unlike Zanu PF, for example, where President Robert Mugabe, the African Union and Sadc chair, has been at the helm of the party since 1977 and has ruled the country since Independence in 1980.
Mugabe and Zanu PF can learn much from CCM on the benefits of cultivating internal democracy and leadership renewal.
Once a very popular party, Zanu PF’s star has been waning since the emergency of the MDC in 1999. The party has been increasingly relying on the military and underhand tactics which include intimidation, violence and rigging to win polls for political survival, unlike the vibrant CCM.
Despite having a 91-year-old leader, succession talk remains taboo in Zanu PF and those who dare seek leadership renewal have been ruthlessly purged from the party, weakening it in the process, while also entrenching blind loyalty and the patronage system on which Mugabe has come to depend on for leadership longevity.
The biggest such purges occurred in the run-up to, during and after the party’s December congress last year when former vice-president Joice Mujuru and several party heavyweights — among them secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and other officials — were dumped ostensibly for seeking to overthrow Mugabe.
As Mugabe becomes older and frailer, factionalism has taken root in Zanu PF with officials positioning themselves behind the scenes to succeed the aged leader. Before the December congress, the party had two main factions, one led by Mujuru and another by Emmerson Mnangagwa who has since been elevated to the Vice-Presidency.
What has happened in Tanzania should thus be an indictment on Mugabe who seemingly wants to die with the party, says political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya.
“Kikwete, who is much younger, became president when Mugabe had long been in power and he is now leaving while Mugabe continues his stranglehold on power,” Ruhanya said. “There is no doubt that CCM has survived this long because it continues to be renewed democratically in terms of leadership. For Zanu PF, unless the party reforms, Mugabe is going to die with the party and it is dangerous to manage succession through death.”
After Tanzania’s founding president Julius Nyerere relinquished his long hold on power in 1985, following Independence in 1961, the country has had Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and Kikwete as presidents.
Other countries in the region among them South Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique have had relatively smooth power transfers after some initial problems in some cases, although in some cases like in that of Mozambique’s Frelimo, the succession has been tightly managed.
Nonetheless, there has been change in those countries unlike in Zimbabwe. Since Mozambique’s founding father Samora Machel died in a plane crash in 1986, Mozambique has had Joaquim Chissano, Armando Guebuza and Filipe Nyusi.
South Africa attained independence in 1994, but has had four presidents in Nelson Mandela who served one term, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma. Ruling ANC delegates were in 2012 allowed to choose the party’s leader in Mangaung after then vice-president Motlanthe openly challenged Zuma. And despite being defeated in a heated contest, Motlanthe was allowed to continue as the country’s vice-president until Cyril Ramaphosa came in.
“Mugabe is playing games, setting party heavyweights up against each other because when he appointed Mujuru as vice-president a decade ago, he had openly encouraged her to aim higher, making observers wonder what had changed since then,” another analyst Eldred Masunungure said.
Maybe Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, has the answer. Writing in a state weekly recently, Zhuwao said talk of Mugabe succession was “divisive, counter-revolutionary, regressive and contrary to Zimbabwe’s developmental and transformational aspirations”.