Series 10: #ElectionsInTanzania2015: On Ideological Vacuum and Politics of Image in the ongoing elections campaigns in Tanzania

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to speak in the Houses of Parliament in Westminster to members of the UK Parliament All Party Group (APPG) on Tanzania and of British Tanzania Society. The panel, which included Ben Taylor (the famous mtega) and I was chaired by the Chair of the APPG, Hon. Jeremy Lefroy, MP for Staffordshire.

In this post, I am putting forth a summary and an outline of some of the points that I expounded on.

Abstract of my talk:

In June 2015 when 30+ CCM presidential candidates were running all over the country campaigning for the party nominations, Jenerali Ulimwengu wrote, “… they are trying to be philosopher kings without philosophy.” Indeed and unfortunately this is still the case in the ongoing elections’ campaigns. What we are witnessing is, arguably, an ideological vacuum reflected on the mere focus to ‘image’ and personalities rather than manifesto. The result is a watered democracy. That is democracy reduced to discussing personalities, freedom of attending political rallies, and to (some extent) making noises and expressing political preferences and chanting change, yet without given chance to critically scrutinize candidates, parties’ manifesto, and ability to bring the needed change. Change is demanded, but the question is: change from what?   Will change really occur after October 25th?


The ongoing elections campaigns are a highlight of an increased participant civic culture. In political science we read from Almond and Verba (1963) on civic culture- in which they outline 3 types of political culture: parochial (dormant citizens), subject (“ndio mzee” citizens), and participant (active citizens). Over a period of time, I think Tanzanians have gradually moved from a subject political culture towards participant culture. Because….

  • More people have registered for voting
  • Hundreds and sometimes thousands are showing up in political rallies
  • Ongoing discussions on social media, newspapers, and on streets are about elections (candidates)
  • The desire for – mabadiliko– change is evident in the public sphere- despite party affiliation

But the issue is the quality of such debates. Is desiring “change” enough? Change from what? CCM is saying “change” from things as usual while UKAWA/Chadema “change from CCM”. But what’s the national agenda? ACT-Wazalendo is more focused – returning the country to its values/foundations (KURUDISHA NCHI KATIKA MISINGI YAKE). The fact that ACT Wazalendo gets lots of people despite its relatively low publicity efforts and its newness- it shows people want real change. On its campaigning launch, the new party saw thousands of people its grounds even though they did not have celebrities to entertain/attract the masses. It was a sign that citizens are indeed looking after change.

 Ideological Vacuum – “…wanting to be philosopher kings without a philosophy”

  • There are now 3 main parties vivid in the Tanzanian elections (although many more are participating).
  • These are CCM, UKAWA (led by CHADEMA), and ACT Wazalendo.
  • Parties have their manifesto but not defined ideological agenda with exception of ACT-Wazalendo
  • The main parties agenda (for the two main parties – CCM & Chadema) are based on the “end”, which has been reduced to power – “staying in power” or “getting to power”. Of course power is the first purpose of any political party…but usually a political party is driven by an ideology of which is the primary reason why it wants to get into power so that it can put into action what it believes on.
  • In its manifesto- CCM did not explicitly state its ideology, but from what the manifesto is, the party leans on market economy although there’s lots of confusion on other areas. CCM manifesto only lists the achievements in the last 5 years and what they will do in the next 5 years. It reads like a summary from different government ministries of their accomplishments and plans for the next five year. The manifesto is unfriendly to read composed of 217 pages.
  • Chadema’s manifesto states that it is on the centre-but it does not say which centre. Thus creating confusions evident in its uncritical list of things presented in it. It is vague and evident of minimal time put into preparing it.
  • ACT-Wazalendo has coherently stated its ideological leaning side (left wing). It is manifesto is friendly, well thought out, and has priorities. It is very much backed up with the party’s ideology presented in the Azimio la Tabora.
  • The lack of coherent ideological agenda in the two main parties (CCM and Chadema) reduces the election debates into a list of issues/projects to be implemented without critical questioning and analysis.

When candidates are talking about “issues” they are focusing on projects – in fact In fact Prof. Kitila Mkumbo rightly attacked such approach to campaigning when he decided to lecture the country/public on the role of the president – a vision bearer and a thinker and NOT a project manager.

  • The focus in the campaigns has so far been on PERSONALITIES – candidates (Magofuli vs. Lowassa) and not national agenda. For example, NO THOROUGH/SERIOUS DISCUSSION ON CONSTITUTION (the issue is indicated in the manifestos of CCM and Chadema but the discussion on it in the campaigning platform is almost zero).
  • The two main candidates are mostly a reflection of “politics of image” that the two major parties – Chadema and CCM have been working on for months prior to elections campaigns.

 Politics of Image

  • Tracing from 2000s, CCM has strongly been perceived as a party for the rich, if you are rich you stay in CCM. Through membership of CCM or position, you can get rich. That was a perception in the eyes of the public. Politicians are the richest people. The elections in 2005 and 2010 were a show off of richness and how money talks.
  • Since Kinana became the Secretary General of CCM we can trace changes in trying to rebrand CCM. I noticed this and blogged about the “Politics of Image”. Under his leadership, CCM has systematically tried to rebrand itself- making and showing it off as a party for the ordinary poor Tanzanians. Kinana himself went across the entire country to interact with Wananchi. The images accompanied his trips were of him taking public transport (e.g. central line train), eating with villagers on plastic plates, using hoes to farm, building dispensaries together with the citizens, walking in local markets, etc
  • On its side, Chadema has been showing off good cars branded with M4C, the party convoys and rallies have been largely flamboyant. I think the strategy was to show that it’s a capable party that can lead the country.
  • Lowassa, arguably, failed to understand the trend in CCM secretariat strategy…his nomination campaign was very flamboyant. A number of other CCM candidates were partly missing the point and tried to follow on Lowassa’s strategies (conducting live TV air times – talking to Wananchi, sending images to social media of them having many followers wanting to sponsor their candidacy, self-branded cars, etc
  • Kinana also critically questioned CCM on his public rallies and rebuked CCM ministers who were not performing well properly. All this was partly efforts to rebrand the party
  • CCM- keeping up with its “rebranding” strategy- ultimately chose the person who is mostly considered not rich but a hard worker and serious to what he does- John Magufuli. He did not have a TV-live air show, no use of money and flamboyance in looking for sponsors. He did it silently and his name was a shock to most.

When Magufuli was nominated, my first reaction was – this is a victory to Kinana’s branding strategy!

  • Lowassa and Chadema found a compatible point…shared “image” – also with Chadema’s desperation to remove CCM out of power and get into power, its chairman took a huge risk and invited Lowassa to join in and ran as a presidential candidate for the party and for the UKAWA.
  • Immediately after Lowassa got into CHADEMA there has been lots of enhanced flamboyance – increased branded buses, more helicopters, billboards in Dar-es-Salaam main streets
  • Lowassa also thought of “humbling” himself- like using daladala (crowded public buses), but this was not compatible to the overall strategy of UKAWA neither was it effective with the now full-fledged CCM campaigning flamboyance
  • So the “humble” branding time is now past and the competition has called on flamboyance decorated by “floods” of followers and attendance in rallies. CCM is obviously still trapped in the flamboyant image (billboards of Magufuli are all over the country, artists going round with him….) . Kinana’s strategy was not embedded in the CCM bloodline.
  • But Magofuli is branding and highlighting his strengths more than the party- talking about “SEREKALI YA MAGOFULI” …. This is a strategy.

 The battle of Personalities more than the party:

  • Magofuli- “Serekali ya Magofuli itafanya kazi…”
  • Lowassa- “Lowassa anaweza, ana maamuzi…”
  • Anna Mwighira- “serekali ya ACT-Wazalendo”. More confident to talk about her party since it has an ideology.

 Other issues noticeable in the campaigns:

  • Religions and Politics (personal interests)
  • Use of Nyerere as a moral litmus paper


  • Tanzania will have a peaceful elections
  • Whoever will win- there will be changes – BUT the worry is the quality of that change
  • ACT-Wazalendo is likely to emerge as an active and credible opposition party whatever the results.
  • The country is under going important democratic process (even if it’s watered)- and mostly important, Tanzania continues to be an example and a ray of hope to the region and entire continent of Africa-  a country where a president is democratically leaving the office after his two-terms period.

Thank you 🙂

10 thoughts on “Series 10: #ElectionsInTanzania2015: On Ideological Vacuum and Politics of Image in the ongoing elections campaigns in Tanzania

  1. Baba Tegemea

    Da Aikande,

    That was an interesting analysis — though not a completely objective or well rounded one — but one that gets people to discuss nonetheless. If I may elucidate why I worry about your objectivity — and open-mindedness — in the matter: first of, you did — quite prematurely– predict the fall for Lowassa and CHADEMA the moment he broke ties with CCM and crossed to CHADEMA/UKAWA. That stance would eventually limit your assessment of UKAWA and the election campaign, because in the spirit of self preservation, you will have to remain consistent with your earlier prediction/verdict.

    But even reading from your analysis, you have failed to highlight the big strides that UKAWA/CHADEMA have made during this campaign, so much so that for the first time ever in TZ opposition politics, they stand a real chance at winning this election — notwithstanding the incumbency and massive state machinery that is at work to stop that from happening.

    You reduced UKAWA’s campaign to “getting to power” and made no hesitation to insinuate that their version of change would be a “watered down” one. You used very few words to describe CHADEMA’s manifesto, and went on to say how “vague” and without substance it all is. You failed to mention their promise to overhaul the KATIBA process and return to the Warioba draft, what most in civil society have considered the necessary starting point to restore the nation to its roots and obtain national consensus. However you were quick to give so much credit to ACT , saying it’s “more focused” and “returning the country to its values”. Based on what indicators/solid evidence? Getting “lots of people despite its relatively low publicity efforts and its newness,” is that to be the ultimate indicator of political credibility– couldn’t help notice that you also insinuated that only people going to ACT’s meetings are the ones who want “real change” (whatever that means).

    Preparing a document that is fascinating and exciting to read, is that all it takes to be credible? If CHADEMA and UKAWA have made some mistakes, do they take away all their credibility and the good fight they have put on, despite being constantly restrained –and at times brutalized– by the unforgiving state machinery? How perfect are the other parties? Is this to be a beauty contest?

    I might have come across as a defender of UKAWA, but let me tell you that is not my intention. I am trying to be critical of your viewpoint because surprisingly, CCM seems to winning the “intellectual debate” and has most of the academics and civil society on their side, all because CHADEMA ” betrayed their principal” and fielded a controversial politician. They are judging the opposition way too harshly — while failing to do the same for CCM — and forgetting the uphill task that is to be in opposition politics in Tanzania.

    I do not wish to turn this into a fully-fledged review of your presentation, but I just thought it important to point these issues, for starters.

    1. Mkude

      Thank you Aikande for putting up your thoughts, as Baba Tegemea has well put it that, your analysis is, but, good for opening up discussion.

      I am tempted to associate myself with the critics given by Baba Tegemea. When I read through your presentation I cant resist the feelings that you have based your assessment in simple facts a case at hand is when you have the courage to call CCM as a party of ordinary people basing on Kinana’s trips. CCM has never been the party for poor people but the party that manipulate the poor and instigate some unfounded psychological fear to the same poor people to perpertuate their stay in power.
      I wonder in your discussion there is no iota where you mention the fact that there has been unequal politicalk grounds between the CCM and the opposition parties and the coalition called UKAWA being the main opposition victim. I do not want to draw some examples of my claim, after all you don’t need to be an expert to notice that state machineries are in favour of CCM.
      Who are you serving?


      1. Observer

        Aikande has presented a very impartial view on the campaigns in Tanzania “Ideological Vacuum and Politics of Image”. She is very clear that CCM presidential candidate is focused on Politics of Image, CHADEMA is driven by ideological vacuum given the about turn party took when picking their flag bearer who has hardly elucidated what he will do to bring the much anticipated change. She correctly identifies that ACT will pick the spoils. And that’s what about sums to the picture emerging now with the Opinion Polls.

        In her submissions, it would have been tremendously helpful to gain insights on the campaign patterns at constituency level. Especially as a result of Kinana’s efforts and CHADEMA candidate’s recent call that attendees at his rallies should give his candidature 3 goals (vote for Councilor, MP and President). It is events at these levels that will determine the final outcome despite huge rallies we are witnessing.

        Therefore Mkude, she scores highly on the account of what she has presented here and I would not say that she is biased in favour of CCM.

        Keen Observer

        1. Baba Tegemea

          Bottom line is, you should be very afraid when you see academics and civil society, toeing the ruling party/government line. You should also be equally afraid when the same, do not wish for regime change, and wish to maintain the status quo — as they use their intellectual prowess to write lengthy analyses of how “bad and unready the opposition is to govern” or fabricate opinion polls favorable to the ruling party during election time; but the same people — after the election–publish tons of research showing how bad the education system, or health care or the ‘inequalities’ are!
          Be very wary!

          1. Shiru

            Ba Tegemea and Mkude, I think you want to subject Aikande while she has been very objective on what’s taking place.
            First, I will urge you both to refute that there is no ideological vacuum in the side of UKAWA. Also, it will be better if you can refute that Kinana is not playing politics of Image, Image is not necessarily a reality.
            Secondly, Chadema’s manifesto does not make sense, it doesn’t add up. Their acts and speech are contradictory why don’t you admit this. Yes CCM has got flaws but why ain’t we seeing the flaws of opposition. Aikande she is showing that if truely people were objective they should look and pay attention to ACT wazalendo for the effort they are trying to show.
            Yes, regardless of any government that is elected academician have a moral role to critic and applaud what the government is doing?
            There are serious concerns with UKAWA which its the role of good citizens to point them out. Why have we simply ignored the concerns raised by DR SLAA (Chadema), Lipumba (CUF), Mama Musore (NCCR) and Nyambabe (NCCR).
            I guess a better way forward is to weigh and see what’s better for our country instead of going with emotions
            Better the devil you know than you dont

  2. Nicholas

    Shimboni mae Aikande!

    I note a repeated typo with, “Magofuli”, instead of “Magufuli”.

    I agree with Baba Tegemea.


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