Last year, when the defection of councillors of the main opposition party Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) was at its peak, the party’s legislator for Arumeru East in Arusha region, Joshua Nassari unveiled video footage to back claims that a district commissioner was negotiating a bribe with a councillor.
Mr Nassari later submitted the footage to the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) requesting it to be considered as evidence of bribery. The agency however dismissed his plea on account that the legislator had politicised what should have been a legal issue.
The councillor at the centre of the bribery allegation later joined others in switching camps to back President John Magufuli in the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
The wave of defections continues, with the count of opposition councillors who have crossed over reaching 75 by last week.
At the national level, four members of parliament have ditched the opposition for the ruling party. Two of them — Mr Maulid Mtulia and Mr Godwin Mollel have been re-elected on the CCM ticket.
This begs the question: What next for the opposition?
Although CCM has the majority representation in parliament, the opposition which came together under Ukawa in the 2015 polls garnered more seats compared with previous years. Chadema got 70 slots compared with 48 in 2010, while the Civic United Front (CUF) got 45 seats compared with 36 in 2010.
This is mainly attributed to the influence of opposition icon, former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who left CCM protesting being left out of the presidential race in 2015.
Analysts attribute the wave of defections to the political environment.
President Magufuli has been hard on his opponents. He has restricted political rallies and live broadcasting of parliamentary sessions, while the arbitrary arrests of opposition leaders is denying the opposition breathing space.
Politicians, including national party leaders, are only allowed to hold rallies within their constituencies. Violators face arrest and prosecution.
A score of opposition leaders face prosecution for unlawful assembly. Recently, Zitto Kabwe, leader of ACT-Wazalendo and MP for Kigoma Urban was ordered by the Minister of Home Affairs, Kangi Lugora, to report to Regional Police Commander of the southern region of Lindi for indictment and conducting a political rally out of his constituency.
Also, the MP for Kawe in Dar es Salaam Halima Mdee was arrested after speaking to her voters who wanted to air their concerns. The police are yet to state the reason of her arrest but it is believed to be “conducting a meeting without permission.”
Opposition legislators also claim that the government is denying them allocation of taxpayers’ money to fund development projects.
The ruling party’s youth wing chairman, Kheri James confessed during a by-election campaign that the government had failed to give a councillor money for development projects because he represented an opposition party which is not part of the CCM vision.
“We don’t give you (opposition) development funds and there is nothing you can do about it?...We don’t give you because you did not tell your electorate that when you reject CCM you reject schools, dispensaries, roads…”
However, Professor Kitila Mkumbo, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water said the assertion was false.
“The chap was overwhelmed by election campaign…you know what it takes to be a youth,” tweeted the PS.
Muzzling the opposition
Recently, legislators Mwita Waitara (Ukonga) and Julius Kalanga (Monduli), announced their defection to CCM from Chadema, in a midnight event streamed live on social media.
While Mr Waitara cited tribalism, money squandering and the lack of democracy in Chadema, Mr Kalanga said it is difficult to adequately represent his people from the opposition because the government is reluctant to work with it in development projects.
Chadema chairman, Freeman Mbowe said most of the defectors are formerly CCM members who crossed to Chadema in 2015 following the Lowassa wave when many hoped that the former PM would become president.
“This does not worry us because these are just insignificant people who had no idea of what it takes to be in opposition,” he said.
He believes that defectors are being lured by CCM and the government as a way of muzzling the opposition.
Dr Adolf Mihanjo, the head of faculty of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam termed the defectors as people who lack ideology and are only keen on getting leadership positions hence are likely to create friction in the destination party.
He said if defections are sponsored it violates a major principle of power which requires one to have a strong opponent in order to be strong.
“People have a feeling that defectors are being bribed and this will lead to natural resistance within the opposition which will see them forge a new strategy to survive,” he said.
Last week, the Tanzania Constitution Forum called for amendment of the Constitution to bar politicians who defect from running for political office.
"The aim is to avoid unnecessary costs the government incurs in organising frequent by-elections," said TCF chairman Hebron Mwakagenda.