Recent defections of high-ranking members of Tanzania’s opposition to Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) have left parties worried that the ruling party is trying to weaken democracy.
During a recent meeting of CCM’s national executive committee to endorse aspirants to positions within the party, six members of the opposition ACT-Wazalendo and Chadema were welcomed after switching parties — something that is increasingly becoming common.
Laurence Masha and Patroba Katambi left Chadema while Kitila Mkumbo, Francis Mwigamba, Edna Sunga and Albert Msando ditched ACT- Wazalendo for the ruling party.
Shortly after welcoming the six defectors, President John Magufuli said they were expecting more members of the opposition to join the ruling party and on Wednesday, another member of Chadema and outspoken former legislator, David Kafulila, said he was leaving the party.
University of Dar es Salaam lecturer Bashiru Ally faulted the defections saying the legitimacy of a political party is not in its huge following or the popularity of its members but its social base.
“These parties cannot even get their members to be loyal to their cause. They have failed in the basic function of a political party,” he said.
While each politician gave personal reasons for switching parties, Dr Ally said the move will neither help the ruling party nor the opposition.
He said defections are also a result of disgruntled members realising they have no relevance within their parties.
“Some of them are driven by parochial self-interests, which need them to be in certain parties,” he said.
In July 2015, former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa left CCM and joined Chadema after what many believed to be his axing from CCM’s presidential preliminary race.
University of Dar es Salaam political science lecturer Benson Banna, said the opposition has lost focus because the government has already tackled a number of demands made by the opposition.
Mr Masha, a former minister for home affairs, first said he was taking a break from politics when announcing his decision to leave Chadema, but he later said he was “returning home” by rejoining CCM.
Mr Katambi said his decision was informed by the transformation made by the current government, adding that politicians in the opposition hardly deliver on their promises. Other politicians who defected expressed similar reasons for leaving their parties for CCM.
Mr Kafulila said he defected because he had lost faith in the opposition’s sincerity in the fight against graft, abuse of office and other ills.