Fiery Tanzanian government critic Tundu Lissu, who survived an assassination attempt in September outside his Dodoma home, has dismissed the recent defections of high-ranking opposition members to ruling CCM party, saying they showed “a lack of principle”.
Speaking from his recovery bed at the Nairobi Hospital in Kenya, the opposition chief whip said Chadema’s goal to bring genuine reforms to Tanzania remained unshaken adding that the government needed to respect human rights and dignity of citizens.
Mr Lissu said such desertions are due to political pressure and the desire to reap personal benefits.
“Members such as Masha, Katambi and Kafulila who are leaving are free to do so since democracy is all about personal choices. Masha was originally in CCM and has returned. Kafulila was initially in Chadema, then went to NCCR, then CCM, then joined Chadema, before going back to CCM. What can I say about such movements that show a lack of principle? I can only wish the defectors well but my loyalty to the cause remains steadfast,” the Singida East MP said.
Mr Lissu also cited Dr Walid Kabur and Dr Wildfrod Silaa as further examples of what he termed “a long list of defectors” whose desertion was inconsequential.
“Despite the defections that have been ongoing since 1990, our party has still been gaining millions of followers, and these individuals’ departure has actually created space for more principled members to take their place,” he said.
Mr Lissu said the development was not unique to Tanzania and that political activity behind defections was often characterised by betrayal, greed, and desire for overnight riches among politicians.
“We should not be too quick to forget our history even as the defections occur. Politics has never existed without defectors and traitors to legitimate causes in Tanzania, Europe, America and beyond. People become impatient because the power they wanted is slow in coming their way, some are greedy for political and financial benefit and others simply lack a defined political stand and purpose,” the lawmaker said.
Mr Lissu’s comments came in the wake of defections by David Kafulila, Laurence Masha and Patroba Katambi from Chadema to the Chama cha Mapinduzi party. Albert Msando, Edna Sunga, Francis Muigamba and Kitila Mkumbo also left ACT-Wazalendo for CCM.
His remarks echoed sentiments by University of Dar es Salaam lecturer Bashiru Ally, who said the legitimacy of a political party lay in its social base and not in large membership or popularity.
Dr Ally said the defections will not help the ruling party nor the opposition.
“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.
But Mr Lissu has vowed to continue his crusade for justice and democratic space in Tanzania despite the setback occasioned by the shooting, saying he was as determined as ever to bring genuine reforms to the country.
"The path to freedom is never easy and not paved with flowers and gold, but I'll stay the course until my people achieve their dreams and destiny," Mr Lissu said.
He called on Tanzanians to support him and the main opposition Chadema party in its quest to ensure the entrenchment of democracy, human rights and economic prosperity in society.
“Our supporters should not lose hope over incidents such as my attack, but should press on to ensure that we achieve our objective of accomplishing genuine reforms in Tanzania. The struggle has only just begun,” he said.
Mr Lissu would not however be drawn into talk about his rumoured ambitions for seeking the presidency in the next election scheduled for 2020.
“These is an issue I would rather discuss when I am finally out of the hospital. I will not talk about them from a hospital bed in Nairobi since they relate to the Tanzanian people, who deserve to hear about it on their home soil,” he said.
- Additional reporting by Kilasa Mtambalike.