Tanzania’s main opposition party Chama cha Democrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) and the government are headed for a clash as the party has vowed to give President John Magufuli sleepless nights starting September 1 over what it termed as exhibition of “dictatorial tendencies.”
Chadema said it will defy the president’s ban on public rallies and organise countrywide protests.
The party said it is protesting against the enforcement of the Cybercrime Act, which limits freedom of expression; a ban on political activities and the sacking of public officials without due process.
Chadema has formed a lobby, Umoja wa Kupambana na Udikteta (Ukuta), Swahili for coalition against dictatorship and whose acronym means wall and is calling on civil society, political parties and citizens to join the movement.
Chadema said the ban on political rallies is against the Political Parties Act.
Tundu Lissu, the party’s lawyer, said they will only inform district police chiefs of the intended rallies and proceed to hold them. “We are going to do this because the law allows us,” he said.
Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe said the party’s central committee will defy the president’s order.
“We are going to take to the streets countrywide,” he told journalists last week.
“Ukuta (wall) is meant to protect you, to protect democracy and to protect the country,” he said.
The ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) condemned Chadema’s planned protests, saying its agenda is to disturb the peace.
At a press conference last week, CCM spokesperson Christopher ole Sendeka said the rallies were aimed at dividing Tanzanians and discouraging citizens from supporting the government.
“It’s a lie to tell people that the government is repressing democracy. There is no way the government can do such a thing,” Mr Sendeka said.
“They are still able to do their internal meetings, such as the just ended central committee meeting that came out with the announcement. Nobody interrupted them. So, how can they say there is no democracy?” he asked.
Police have warned that they will not allow any rally organised by political parties unless such meetings are called to deliberate on key constitutional issues.
The Registrar of Political Parties Justice Francis Mutungi joined also asked Chadema to call off the “defiance” rallies, saying they will only cause chaos.
“Chadema’s announcement infringes on the Political Parties Act and is riddled with violence-inciting language that is likely to cause street chaos,” Justice Mutungi said.
Section 9 of the Political Parties Act bars the use of force or violence as a means of attaining political objectives.
Ole Sendeka warned the demonstrators that “the government is ready to face them.” He said Chadema was trying to get attention by spreading lies to the public.
“We understand that this time round they have no agenda as most of the things they claimed they were fighting for are being implemented by President Magufuli,” he said.
“CCM wants to remind Tanzanians to think critically before deciding to join the planned demonstrations and rallies… These people have no good intention with our lives, all they want is to disturb the existing peace and harmony of the country,” he said.
“There is no successful operation on record that has been done by opposition parties,” he claimed.
The party’s spokesperson further asked Tanzanians to ignore the demonstrations, urging them to keep working hard to improve their welfare and the country’s economic growth.
“We urge state organs not to hesitate to take legal action against anyone, who will disrupt the existing peace, unity and solidarity. These demonstrations, which are a violation of valid orders, are holding back the country’s development agenda. We have all reasons to ignore them,” he said.
Protests by Tanzania’s opposition come two months after similar undertakings in Kenya where lives were lost and property worth millions of shillings was destroyed in Nairobi and Kisumu.
Kenya’s main opposition group, Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord), organised defiance protests to push for the disbandment of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, claiming its commissioners are partisan and cannot be trusted to oversee next year’s general election.
The government of Kenya and the opposition have since agreed to form a joint parliamentary committee to look into electoral reforms, even as the country enters the final 12 months to the next election.
Additional reporting by Deogratius Kamagi, Citizen