The appointment of Dr Bashiru Ally as the Chama cha Mapinduzi secretary-general is being viewed as a victory for President John Magufuli over those calling for constitutional reforms.
Dr Ally has been one of the most vocal advocates of the push for a new constitution, which President Magufuli has said is not among his priorities.
Dr Ally, a political scientist and lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, took over the position after the resignation of Abdulrahman Kinana on Monday, and has now promised to toe the party line.
“My position on a new constitution as secretary-general of the ruling party will be different from that of an analyst. As an analyst, I was free to air my views even if they seemed to go against the party’s agenda,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Previously, Dr Ally has called for a new Katiba, saying the current constitution falls short of addressing national consensus.
He said that when it was written in 1977, the country was under a one-party system, and despite some changes to it to embrace multipartyism, it is still inadequately reformed.
“The Nyalali Commission was clear about this and recommended a new constitution in 1991. But politicians, keen to cling onto power, dilly-dallied.
“Even in 1995, Mwalimu Nyerere mentioned some rifts in our nation’s fabric and one of them was the constitution; we cannot go on without a new one,” he once said in a television talk show.
“There is the issue of the Union structure. I think it is going to be contentious in the next stages because if we don’t agree on the structure of the country it is going to be difficult to agree on the constitution,’’ he added.
‘’Hopefully, we are going to resolve it but with difficulty. If we maintain a three government structure, then we will kill the Union. If we want to keep the nation united, we should not be simplistic. It will be a hard question in the next stage.”
The Nyalali Commission of February 1991 was a presidential commission set up under the leadership of then-Chief Justice Francis Nyalali to collect the views of citizens and make appropriate recommendations on whether the country should adopt a multiparty or single party system.
Based on its report, the Constitution of Tanzania was modified to accommodate multipartyism.
President Magufuli has in the past appointed strong voices championing a new constitution to senior government and party positions.
Dr Ally joins other constitutional reforms activists such as Professor Palamagamba Kabudi, who was appointed Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, and CCM publicity and ideology secretary Humphrey Polepole.
Both Mr Kabudi and Mr Polepole were members of the Constitutional Review Commission led by Justice Joseph Warioba, and campaigned for the country to push for a new Constitution.
A constitutional referendum was planned but never materialized, with authorities saying it stalled due to issues of voter registration: It has since been shelved.
After his election, President Magufuli said that a new Constitution was not among his government’s priorities, and that he had never promised that he would introduce it.
Along with Dr Ally, the CCM also appointed Raymond Mangwala as secretary of the party’s youth wing, Queen Mlozi as secretary of the women’s wing, and Erasto Sima as secretary of the parents wing.
Mr Kinana’s resignation early this week sparked speculation about internal wrangles in CCM, with local media reporting that he had been unhappy with the way the assets tracing committee had conducted investigations without involving him.
Last December, President Magufuli appointed Dr Ally to lead a committee to trace CCM’s assets and liabilities. The NEC was expected to discuss its report.
Mr Kinana was also reportedly unhappy with the manner in which CCM nominated the Siha and Kinondoni candidates for the January parliamentary by-elections. The party defied tradition by nominating Dr Godwin Mollel and Said Mtulia, after they had defected from the opposition as MPs, triggering the by-elections.
Mr Kinana was appointed secretary-general in 2012 at the lowest point of the party’s dwindling popularity amid scandals in the Jakaya Kikwete regime.
Mr Kinana then traversed the country, criticised Cabinet ministers and asked then-president Kikwete to sack those who were underperforming and to prosecute civil servants implicated in corruption.
President Magufuli was expected to nominate his own choice of secretary-general after taking over the party leadership in 2015, but he requested Mr Kinana to stay on.
Mr Kinana said at the time that he accepted the request because “party elders” had asked him to do so.
Rumours of Mr Kinana’s resignation were rife last December ahead of the party’s NEC congress in Dodoma. At the congress, President Magufuli said he had rejected Mr Kinana’s request to step down.
In recent months, Mr Kinana took a low profile and avoided party activities, including the October 2017 NEC meeting where President Magufuli dismissed speculations of disunity within the party.
It is unclear what Mr Kinana will do next. Retired party leaders generally maintain a low profile, but are usually recalled during nominations.
Additional reporting by Erick Kabendera