By STANLEY KAMANA
An abrupt change of mind by President Benjamin Mkapa and an alleged serious infringement of the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) constitution are two of the main factors that cleared the path for Foreign Minister Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete’s nomination as the ruling party’s presidential candidate in the October 30 general election.
Sources privy to the party's inner circle, said last week that had President Mkapa not shelved confidential reports on each of the candidates compiled by the party’s security and ethics unit, by declaring that none of them was beyond reproach, the fight for the nomination would have been a lot tougher.
Similarly, sources say that if the party constitution had been followed to the letter, allowing the one-man-three-votes election rule that has been in use since 1995, Kikwete might not have won. Under the rule, each member of the National Executive Council is expected to nominate three people whose names will then be forwarded to the general congress of the party, where a winner is to elected.
But due to pressure from the public and media, who questioned the one-man-three-votes rule on the grounds that a weak candidate could sneak through, Mkapa dropped the requirement in favour of each NEC member nominating only one candidate, without having the decision endorsed by the party's General Assembly. It also took Mkapa's personal intervention to keep his Foreign Minister's nomination on course, by turning age and experience in the party into campaign issues.
Although the party had a number of youthful leaders, only Mr Kikwete had risen through its ranks. It was also claimed that even after the National Executive Committee had chosen three finalists – Kikwete, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim and Prof Mark Mwandosya – a top party official spent the day before the nominations campaigning for one of the candidates.
But what actually hap-pened at the Chimwaga Hall on May 5? Despite the happy faces of party followers soon after Kikwete was announced winner, signs that the party was hurting were difficult to conceal.
The apparent overnight transformation of Mkapa from a virulently anti-corruption campaigner who had vowed to give Tanzania a successor who has not been tainted by corruption allegations, but who chose to ignore confidential information on the aspirants must have jolted even the most faithful of party supporters.
Mkapa made six major speeches during the party congress that began on April 29, to the party’s Central Committee (CC), National Executive Committee (NEC), National Congress (NG) and the three introduction rallies at Dodoma’s Jamhuri Stadium, Diamond Jubilee Hall in Dar es Salaam and Amani Stadium in Zanzibar.
There was not a single mention of corruption in all those speeches, a senior member of the NEC who attended all the meetings told The EastAfrican. "Indeed, at times, the party chairman even sounded a bit apologetic, especially when he declared that since none of the aspirants could be regarded as 'Mr Clean,' then the party should settle for the least corrupt of the 11 aspirants."
"This was a great departure from the chairman we know," he said, adding, "This was an abrupt departure from what we thought we were agreed upon. But none of us suffered as much as CCM secretary-general Philip Mangula, whose office had worked so hard to compile the dossiers. He was left crestfallen and devastated," he added.
As it turned out, with corruption ruled out as a ground for disqualification, the first axe fell on John Shibuda, Patrick Chokala, Ali Karume, Iddi Simba, Dr William Shija and CCM vice chairman John Malecela. The reasons given were lack of required academic qualifications, little party exposure and failure to meet the 13-point criteria laid down by the party among others.
On the other hand, Kikwete and Malecela were singled out for excessive use of money in their campaigns. Luckily for Kikwete, he had former Prime Minister and party stalwart Rashidi Mfaume Kawawa to intervene on his behalf, arguing that the country would erupt into chaos if he was sidelined at that stage, apparently because he was popular with the citizenry, said the source.
Kawawa, a former Prime Minister and CCM’s first secretary-general and vice chairman, was a long-time trusted assistant to the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. A life member of the party's Central Committee and of the NEC, He still carries a lot of weight even in his retirement. Unfortunately for Malecela, pointed criticisms by CCM heavyweight Kingunge Ngombale-Mwiru and Zakia Meghji, the Minister for Natural Resource and Tourism, saw his bid unravel.
To our great surprise, Mkapa did not intervene to stop the diatribe against his principal assistant," said the source.
The NEC’s meeting on May 3 began by dissuading former Zanzibar Chief Minister Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal, from contesting and thus endorsing incumbent Amani Karume as CCM’s flag bearer in the Zanzibar presidential race. Another source, a long-time and highly respected NEC member said, "The second item on the agenda was Malecela’s appeal, which was predictably thrown out immediately on the grounds of non-electability."
Although Mr Mkapa had underscored the importance of adhering to the 13-point criteria set by the party, he added five more of his own as the day progressed. He said he wanted a successor who was not only young but who had been come up through the party ranks.
Among Dr Salim, Dr Kigoda, Prof Mwandosya, and Frederick Sumaye, only Kikwete met the criteria, having joined the party as young man fresh from college. The five were asked to leave the hall so that they could be discussed.
"It was at this juncture that somehow the discussion veered towards aspirant Dr Salim," said our source.
"Ali Ameir Mohamed, a former CCM deputy secretary-general for Zanzibar and Minister for Home Affairs took to the floor and all but demolished him." With the discussions turning highly personal against some candidates, Kigoma NEC member, Prof Joseph Mbwiliza pointed at the fact that it was unprocedural to do so since either Dr Salim or any of the other candidates were not present to defend themselves.
Mr Mkapa then called upon the delegates to vote as per his decision of one-man one-vote. Ironically, the ballot papers used were the ones meant for one-man three-votes. Kikwete led the pack with 78 votes, followed by Dr Salim with 45 and Prof Mwandosya with 33.
Prime Minister Sumaye had 30 and Dr Kigoda 21. This seems to have worried Mr Mkapa. On the third day at the General Congress, Kikwete emerged a winner when he garnered 1,072 votes, Dr Salim 476 and Prof Mwandosya 122.
But analysts said the rift caused by the process at Chimwaga might not be bridged soon.