Tanzania’s former prime minister Edward Lowassa officially quit the ruling party CCM and joined the main opposition party Chadema in a historical move in the country’s recent politics.
Mr Lowassa, a CCM strongman who has attempted to run for presidency for 20 years, blamed the Chama cha Mapinduzi leadership for his defection, saying the party’s presidential nomination process last month was flawed.
He added that key people in the party axed him to vent their fury against him.
However, it is unclear whether some members of Mr Lowassa’s inner circle who had decided to seek nomination to run for parliament on CCM ticket would also decamp to the opposition.
Mr Lowassa criticised how the CCM nomination process was conducted, saying the ethics committee did not have mandate to axe him, rather it was the responsibility of the central committee to shortlist the names of the candidates.
“What happened in Dodoma has put a dent on CCM and denied me the right to express myself before CCM members so they could vote for me.
“I will be hypocritical if I said I have trust in CCM; the CCM I saw in Dodoma was not the party that I was brought up in,” Mr Lowassa said at a late evening press conference Tuesday organised by the opposition coalition Ukawa.
Mr Lowassa said it was time to look for change outside CCM and further asked Tanzanians to register for the polls in large number so that they could vote out the ruling party come October.
Asked about his sources of wealth and the perception that he was close to the rich Tanzanians, Mr Lowassa said he dislikes poverty and that he was running for presidency to ensure that all Tanzanians became rich.
His role in the Richmond scandal that saw him resigning as prime minister in 2008 was also raised at the press briefing but Mr Lowassa dismissed the claims that he was behind the deal, calling on people with evidence against him to go to court. He further said that graft had continued in government despite his resignation on the basis of corruption.
After his brief remarks, Mr Lowassa’s wife, Regina was handed Chadema’s membership card and was also given a card thereafter.
Ukawa co-chairman and Chadema chairman, Mr Freeman Mbowe said the party expected millions of supporters to follow Mr Lowassa, adding that a third of CCM MPs were supporting the former premier.
In what is seen as a strange turn of events, Mr Mbowe came out in defence of Mr Lowassa’s corruption allegations despite the party having in the past put him on a ‘list of shame’ as one of the most corrupt Tanzanians.
Admitting that most of Chadema supporters were questioning why the party had welcomed Mr Lowassa, he asked the members to be patient, saying they will come to understand why such a decision was made.
“A party is made up of people; I would be insane if someone brought millions of people and I reject them. Lowassa has opened doors for CCM members who feared to defect to the opposition,” said Mr Mbowe.
According to Mr Mbowe, the axing of Mr Lowassa from the presidential race by CCM has given him an opportunity to ‘finally reveal the truth’ about the Richmond scandal.
On his part, Ukawa co-chair and NCCR Mageuzi chairman, James Mbatia said even if Mr Lowassa had joined the opposition, the coalition would ensure that his rights are protected as a retired prime minister and further said that Ukawa would not split as most people anticipated.
“Kanu in Kenya lost the election and it is now CCM’s turn. We are requesting the security forces not to favour CCM during the October election; Tanzanians have decided, they want change,” Mr Mbatia said.