20 years of multi-party politics in Tanzania

20 years of multi-party politics in Tanzania

It was during what was called “the wind of change” that was blowing across the African continent in the wake of the crumble of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. Multi-lateral as well as bilateral aid agencies took advantage of the political reforms that were taking place in the Soviet Union to pressurize African countries to undergo political democratization if they were to qualify for aid.

Besides, there was a substantial minority in Tanzania – both in the ruling CCM and elites - which yearned for a multi-party system. Tanganyika, the country’s name before 1964, was a multi-party democracy before independence. Two notable parties in existence during the colonial epoch were the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) under the chair of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the African National Congress (ANC) led By Mr Zuberi Mtemvu.

In Zanzibar, the parties included the Afro-Shiraz Party (ASP), the Zanzibar National Party (ZNP) and the Zanzibar and Pemba People’s Party (ZPPP). Tanganyika gained independence from Britain on December 9, 1961 and became a republic a year later. In 1964, Tanganyika united with Zanzibar to produce a single country called a United Republic of Tanzania.

In 1965, TANU outlawed a multi-party system in the country to uphold national unity and to accelerate development. Thereafter in 1977, to maintain a single-party system of government, TANU and ASP amalgamated to form Chama Cha Mapinduzi. Surprisingly, in February 1990, Mwalimu Nyerere, the architect of one-party rule, made a Uturn when he declared that it was no longer treasonable to discuss the introduction of multi-party politics.

Tanzania, he said, like the rest of the world would be affected by democratic changes sweeping across the globe, and thus advised his party and government to be primed for the changes. “When you see your neighbour being shaved, wet your head to a void a dry shave. The One party is not Tanzania’s ideology and having one party is not God’s will. One party has its own limitations,” he said.

Two years later, Mr Nyerere pushed CCM to take hold of the initiative and guide the nation into a new era of multiparty democracy. The result of Mr Nyerere’s changed view, was the opening of a wider political debate in the country. Within a short time an independent National Steering Committee composed of academics, lawyers, students, political activists, clerics and others was launched on February 28, 1991.

This committee, on which there was an array of nascent opposition figures, launched a National Committee for Constitutional Reform (NCCR) to cater to demands for a constitutional conference, free creation of political parties and a conference to debate a future political system.

Before embarking on multipolitics, on February 27, 1991 President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, appointed a presidential commission chaired by then chief justice Francis Nyalali to collect the views of the people whether they needed or not the multi-party democracy. The commission, which was famously known as the Nyalali Commission, was tasked, among other things, with the following:

• To discuss and suggest changes in both the constitutions of the United Republic of Tanzania and Zanzibar, and any other relevant law or modification in the country’s political culture.

• To pinpoint any problems that might arise in connection with Zanzibar’s place in the union in the event of changing the political system. The commission took a year to complete this task which entailed travelling throughout the country, visiting at least eight villages in each administrative district. In addition, it required members of the public to correspond with it expressing their views on the proposed political reform.

Then on December 11, 1991, the commission submitted an interim report to President Mwinyi in which it unanimously endorsed a multi-party system. And finally on February 17, 1992, it submitted another report to the president which contained all the other recommendations prescribed in its terms of reference. According to a survey, supporters of a multi-party democracy in Tanzania say it gives voters a wider choice of polices, parties and candidates than the one-party system.

But the majority were uncertain about the benefits of this system compared to the previous one. The Nyalali Commission recommended the formation of the Office of the Registrar of Parties whose function, as its name suggests, is to register political parties. This function started in July 1992. According to the Political Parties Act, for a party to qualify for registration must, among other conditions, not be based on tribal, ethnic or religious groups or seen to cater to the interests of these groups.

The party must also be seen to support the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar and shun violence as a means of attaining it political objectives. There are two processed for the registration of a party. First, there is the provisional registration; and second, the final registration. The former requires a party to present its constitution for scrutiny and the latter requires the party to obtain not less than 200 registered members from each of at least 10 regions of the United Republic of Tanzania.

Of these regions, at least two must be from Zanzibar – one each from Unguja and Pemba. Besides, the party concerned is required to get members from both Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar. The first to register was the ruling CCM. It met all the registration requirements and was given a certificate. From 1992 to 2005, there were 13 registered political parties, and from 2006 to date the number has increased to 20. The parties include:

• Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) – the ruling party

• Civic United Front (CUF)

• Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA)

• Tanzania Labour Party (TLP)

• United Democratic Party Other parties:

• Chama cha Haki na Usitawi (CHAUSTA)

• Democratic Party (DP)

• Demokrasia Makini (MAKINI)

• Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD)

• Hizb ut-Tahrir

• Jahazi Asilia

• National Convention for Construction and Reform-Mageuzi (NCCR-Mageuzi)

• National League for Democracy (NLD)

• National Reconstruction Alliance (NRA)

• Popular National Party (PONA) • Sauti ya Umma (SAU)

• Tanzania Democratic Alliance (TADEA)

• Progressive Party of Tanzania- Maendeleo (PPT-Maendeleo)

• Union for Multiparty Democracy (UMD)

• United People’s Democratic Party (UPDP) But the most popular and active political parties are CCM, CHADEMA and CUF.


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