A momentous process is on the cards this end of November, and not too many people are paying attention.
This will be the civic election, which is supposed to provide the Tanzanian people with representatives that will direct the affairs of the country at civic level, the aldermen and councillors to serve in our villages, towns, cities and district authorities.
The importance of this process lies not only in the fact that it renews our governance structures at the most basic level, but that it also affords us a glimpse into the strengths of the various political parties as they ready themselves for the Big One, the general election slated for the year 2020.
But, alas, it may not be what I state it to be, because we live in a world with a competition deficit, wherein one party has been given free rein to do politics where the others have been all but interdicted.
The interdiction has come in the form of the head of state, President John Pombe Magufuli, in effect declaring a ban on all political activities except those practised by representatives in their respective constituencies.
This would mean—or would it not?—that a member of parliament is allowed to carry out activities only in his/her constituency, ditto for a councilor in his/her ward, etc.
But what would that mean for a political leader, say a national leader of a political party who does not hold a constituency seat?
My reading of that is that he would not qualify to engage in any political activity anywhere. Now, that is not the constitution and that is not the law.
It is only the diktat of the president, but it seems to hold, because opposition politicians have tended to err on the side of caution and avoid confrontation with a police force that has recently made it clear it will clobber anyone who tries to be clever.
In the meantime, the ruling party is having a field day, even though it suffers a serious lack of competition in that field.
Ruling party cadres, including the president, are crisscrossing the country without hindrance and the messages sent out to the electorate carry one message: Only Magufuli can transform this country, only CCM can run this country as it should be run.
The practice has been to run off the list of big projects that Magufuli is supposedly implementing, even when sometimes these are projects inherited from his predecessors.
I have no problem with people thinking that President Magufuli is a great man, but at least let the others who may not agree with that assessment have their say.
A man could be great without necessarily having to ram it down the throats of those who beg to differ, and a lot of times when signs appear of people trying to force people to accept such things without question, I know I am looking at problems whose magnitude we cannot even fathom presently.
Magufuli is doing some great things, but there is no reason to think that he is supernatural, that he is infallible, that he is a Messiah without whom this country cannot survive.
I believe that even he should be the first one to tell these sycophants to shut the damn up, because he knows only too well that what they are doing is try to ingratiate themselves with him for their personal shameful gain.
What happens in these civic elections will give us an idea of what next year’s general election will look like, not only in terms of political performance, but in the sense of fairness that can be observed in the very conduct of the elections.
If it looks like the ruling party was left to play foul and run amok while the opposition parties were severely trammeled, muzzled and blinkered, the victory of the ruling party will be hollow to that extent of that trammeling, muzzling and blinking.
Having elections that mean nothing at all is worse than having no elections at all, because then elections become another occasion for creating dissentions, hate and animosity.
They serve as syringes that inject poisons into the bloodstream of the body politic that slowly but surely encourage morbidity and eventually kill the whole system.
Who can possibly benefit from such a scenario except those who don’t love this country, with all their claims to being patriots? This November and next year, we shall watch.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]