The shock resignation of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) secretary-general Daniel Chongolo this week exposed simmering power tussles within Tanzania's ruling party that is showing all signs of becoming messy as the next elections cycle approaches.
Chongolo's exit was based on a resignation letter that he submitted on Monday, citing a smear campaign waged against him on social media. But the whole affair remained shrouded in mystery, even after CCM confirmed his departure on Wednesday after a meeting of its Central Committee in Dar es Salaam.
According to the official party statement issued by its publicity and propaganda secretary Paul Makonda, President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the party chairperson, confirmed "receiving and endorsing" Chongolo's request to step down. But reports later emerged that the president had also ordered an "investigation" into the circumstances leading up to his abrupt exit.
Party insiders privy to the meeting's deliberations quoted her as saying it "could taķe time" to get to the bottom of the matter and directing that the position remains with no permanent replacement while the internal inquiry is underway. Deputy secretary-general Anamringi Macha is to oversee the party's administrative affairs in the meantime.
The fact that none of this information was conveyed in the official CCM statement added intrigues to public speculation about what was going on behind the scenes at a party that has reigned supreme over Tanzania's political landscape for decades but is also notorious being secretive about its internal politics.
Chongolo, previously a district commissioner in the late John Magufuli's government, was hand-picked by President Samia to head the party's secretariat in April 2021, less than a month after she took over the presidency in the wake of Magufuli's death.
The post of secretary-general is the third highest in the CCM hierarchy, after the chairperson and vice-chairperson. Chongolo's predecessors are Bashiru Ally, a close Magufuli ally throughout his five-and-half-year tenure, and Abdulrahman Kinana, who held the position during the Jakaya Kikwete era and is currently the party's vice-chair.
However, like Bashiru before him, in his two-and-a-half years as SG Chongolo has had to grapple with perceptions among the party's elite of his being an “outsider," who was plucked from obscurity and placed above more deserving heads, thereby fanning public sentiments that his true standing within the party has remained precarious at best.
The sentiments have gained momentum in recent weeks.
He has faced a smear campaign, especially on X (formerly Twitter), with his detractors accusing him of financial and moral improprieties.
In his November 27 resignation letter addressed directly to President Samia, Chongolo made no direct reference to the contents of the X posts, asserting only that they had placed him in an untenable position given his high-profile party role.
“I am not ready to see CCM have its image tarnished in connection to my position as party secretary-general and the allegations of personal misconduct that are being levelled against me personally, and so with all due respect I request you as party chairperson to accept my resignation,” he wrote.
Chongolo’s letter almost immediately went viral on social media but remained unverified as CCM began a two-day programme of internal meetings involving the party secretariat (which he himself was scheduled to chair), National Executive Committee and finally the Central Committee.
Whatever the final outcome of the Chongolo saga may be, political pundits have already began questioning what its timing may portend for Tanzania's erstwhile ruling party as it prepares for local government elections in October next year and the general election involving presidential and parliamentary seats in October 2025.