Series 8 #ElectionsInTanzania2015 – Observing the “vacuum”: The absence of Ideology in Tanzania’s Political Parties and the Mere Quest for Power

In these July 2015 weeks of ongoing parliamentary candidates nomination process, more drama is unfolding in Tanzania. We have seen a number of politicians moving across parties mainly out of (1) personal disappointments within their own parties; (2) their names being cancelled in the nominations; and of course (3) in attempts to secure their seats/office.   I have yet to hear anybody moving across parties for ideological or policy purposes. It is disappointing.

I am even more disappointed with the opposition-mainly UKAWA- for being a “refuge”/ running place for those who can no more be accommodated by their parties. Do parties within UKAWA have clear criteria for being a member with intentions to run for an office? The main party within UKAWA, CHADEMA, has, from its inception marketed and branded itself as a party that fights corruption. Indeed, the party built itself up to this point on that agenda. Over its lifetime it has been a thorn in the flesh of the ruling party. As a result, we have seen a number of “checks and balances” results due to its presence in the parliament as an opposition party. In the 9th session of the parliament, i.e. 2005-2010, for example, its leaders exposed most significant corruption issues. But now we are seeing this “brand” being compromised.

In addition, what are the procedures for getting their candidates? I have often asked the same without getting any appealing answer. At least in the ruling party, with all its weaknesses, has very clearly set up procedures/stages through which they can get their candidates. That process was clearly observed during the nomination process of Presidential Candidate between July 10th and 12th. Despite the many complaints from party members and some of the party leaders and elders, the candidate chosen has been considered legitimate. Party members and many other presidential candidates contestants have accepted and are supporting him in his race. The party did not break up as many had envisioned. The variable for that was one – it has put in place clear procedures for getting a candidate and that procedure was followed- at least from structural basis.

Having said that does not exclude CCM from my concern here – i.e. the ideological vacuum. CCM needs to get back to into its founding principle (i.e. an ideologically driven party- as its founding leader, Mwalimu Nyerere had done) focusing on ideology than concentrating on maintaining power. As much as CCM has managed to keep up with its structures, it has not kept the ideology. And (at least in polisci) when we speak of strong institutions we do not only mean structures, but also embedded ideas- that is ideology. In this note, I still feel an increasing sense of vacuum of ideology in CCM that is partly why its politicians can easily move to other parties. In other words (excuse my language) the absence of ideology is reflected in the “whoring” characters of its politicians- moving across parties.

It is thus very disappointing to see dissidents from other parties running into or looking into opposition as a refuge and being welcomed. There are even rumors that one of the “formidable” presidential candidates who was cancelled in the running is negotiating with opposition party leaders to join in. These are only rumors for now, but time will tell us the truth. TIME!

The problem, if anything, is the absence of ideology and policy-driven politicians. What we are having in Tanzania are politicians whose quest is only power and not ideas. Power, in Tanzania, is often seen as an end and not means to implement a party’s or politicians ideas/policy. I must, however, commend one opposition party for trying to focus on Ideology- the new ACT-Wazalendo party, at least from what I have heard them speaking and writing- is focusing on the ideology presented as “Azimio la Tabora”, which is based on Democratic Socialism. At this point (and in respect to the scope of this entry) I will reserve my comments on this Azimio. BUT the point here is the fact that this party is having a coherent ideology and consequently it has managed to state the conditions for joining their party-especially if one wants to run for an office on its name- i.e. the candidate will need to declare your wealth and will have to stop doing business so as to avoid potential conflict of interest. This, they have presented as “Miiko ya Uongozi”- i.e Leadership Ethics. I think this is probably why, we have not seen most of the “rebel” politicians running to it during this nomination process. We simply can gather one reason – it’s not attractive to their personal interests. Recently Moses Machali joined ACT- Wazalendo, my expectation is that the party will keep its word and let him declare his wealth in accordance to standards set. If the party will compromise, it will also be a disappointment.

My hope and…wish….and advice is WE (Tanzanians) need to focus on ideas and policy and not persons. Our focus on “who is who” has diminished our politics into cheap talk shows of personal benefits and networks instead of AGENDA. When there is no ideology or respect to ideology we end up with “ZOMBIE” politicians who instigate “ZOMBIE POLICIES” (see Krugman’s New York Times’ Blog on Zombie Ideas). It is very disappointing. I am disappointed.

Look at the differences (in terms of leadership and policy presentation) during Azimio la Arusha (1967) and now? Undeniably the Ujamaa policies in the Azimio la Arusha had lots of weaknesses and the country faced many economic challenges- but we had a structure, norms, and values- that have, thankfully, hold us (as a Nation) to this very days. The values and norms established during the implementation of Azimio la Arusha have persisted for a long time and partly the reasons why we are still a strong peaceful nations. But cheap politics is gradually eroding these values- and if we are not carefully with the subsequent Zombies (politicians, political parties, and policies) we will kill our nations- because of the vacuum we are increasingly creating.


One thought on “Series 8 #ElectionsInTanzania2015 – Observing the “vacuum”: The absence of Ideology in Tanzania’s Political Parties and the Mere Quest for Power


    I concur with you that our politicians focuses in power, even opposition politicians they are lamenting by using corruption while their ideologies focuses on other thing. General understanding is that ideology influences policies but in our country we make policies to manipulate voters rather than showing how we can achieve development through our belief. Politicians are required to understand that political parties is like ‘religion’, and every religion has its tenets and canon to this end the canon of political parties is ideology and other rules in support of their ideology. Failure to understand ideological and philosophical basis leads to inequitable achievement of development policies.
    As you proposed there must be procedure and requirements for one to join a political parties, among the requirement shall be a member shall undergo ideology training for more than two month. I think CCM have the college which trains their members Protocol and Party Ideology.
    However concerns goes to the office of Political Parties Registrar, during the review of election manifestos they have to consider if they relate with parties ideology. not only this political parties they have to submit a detailed analysis of how their manifestos relates with their ideology.
    other concern is towards our media that are required to use scholars in providing political analysis, policies analysis and other analysis to make sure they influence public participation in policy making and values driven society rather than intuition driven society.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.