Zanzibar mourns the advocate of three-tier system of government

Saturday August 20 2016

The struggle for a new system forced Aboud Jumbe Mwinyi to resign as Zanzibar president in 1984. He died on August 14, 2016, aged 96, at his home. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH |

The death of former Zanzibar president Aboud Jumbe Mwinyi comes at a time when the Isles is in a political dilemma akin to the one that forced him to step down from the high office in 1984.

Jumbe stepped down during the CCM’s national executive committee meeting in Dodoma after he had tried to alter the two-states Union structure.

The state of the Union is still a touchy matter in Tanzania, with the removal of a proposal for a three-tier government from the draft constitution having resulted in a stalemate in 2014. 

Jumbe, with the help of Ghanaian lawyer Bashir Swansi — whom he would later appoint as the Isles Attorney General — had secretly worked to produce a quasi-legal document in defence of a three-government (Zanzibar, Tanganyika and the Union) structure. But unknown to him, his secret document was stolen from his office and landed in the hands of president Julius Nyerere.

Therefore, when President Nyerere, who was chairing the NEC meeting, broached the Union subject to members, one of the party members, Peter Kisumo, who had served as a Cabinet minister in Mwalimu’s government, suggested that members from both sides of the Union take part in the discussions on the controversial document.

However, Mwalimu was against the idea and directed that discussions on the document be confined to CCM members from Zanzibar, a position that was supported by the majority.


Given the sensitivity of the subject and the way Zanzibaris viewed the sovereignty of their country, it was clear Mwalimu did not want any decision arising from such discussions to be viewed later as having been influenced by the Mainland.

But before the start of the discussions on the document, prime minister Edward Moringe Sokoine suggested that as much as the discussions on the document would be confined to Zanzibaris, it would be proper if the document were read to all, so that all NEC members could be on the same page.

And Sokoine, who was increasingly becoming a force to reckon with in Tanzania’s politics, had his suggestion endorsed by both Mwalimu and members at the NEC meeting.

Vice-president steps down

Jumbe was the first to be given the floor. He explained, in detail, his position. Jumbe said the economy was going from bad to worse in Zanzibar and that it was his considered opinion that only a change of the Union structure would solve problems.

As they say, the rest is history.

Mwalimu ordered, at the end of the discussions, that his vice-president step down. And Jumbe is reported to have responded that he had no problem with that. What was notable about Jumbe’s funeral in Zanzibar on Monday was the presence of almost all leaders who had attended the NEC meeting in Dodoma on that fateful day in January 1984.

With the exception of President John Magufuli, the funeral was attended by the who’s who in the Tanzanian political leadership.

The opposition camp was well represented at the funeral by the man who contested last year’s presidential election, former prime minister Edward Lowassa.

President Magufuli was represented at the funeral by Vice-President Samia Hassam Suluhu and Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa.

During the 1984 NEC meeting, Lowassa, Mashaka Chimoto, Ukiwaona Ditopile Mzuzuri, who were then still young, and the former editor with the defunct Tanzania News Agency (Shihata) Enzi Talib were members of the ruling party’s secretariat tasked to take minutes.

Chimoto and Mzuzuri have since passed on, the former in an accident and the latter from a stroke.

Enzi Talib, a Zanzibari, was one of the members of Aboud Jumbe’s funeral committee.

Democracy to the Isles

Mr Jumbe had assumed the Zanzibar presidency after the assassination of president and chairman of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council, Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume, on April 11, 1972.

He had served as minister of state in the president’s office during the reign of Karume and is credited with two things: The introduction of the Zanzibar Constitution and democratisation of the Isles.

It was due to his role in the latter that when he stepped down, Nyerere paid glowing tribute to him — for introducing democracy to the Isles.

It was during his tenure that the House of Representatives, a Zanzibar version of parliament, was established. Until then, the Isles had been ruled by Karume and had no parliament to speak of.

During his reign as president and chairman of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council, Mr Jumbe also appointed young graduates as ministers in his government. He also included in his government young educated men from Pemba, which had until then been considered a bedrock of opposition in the Isles.

Jumbe also appointed Seif Shariff Hamad, the current secretary-general of Zanzibar’s main opposition party, the Civic United Front, as his personal assistant.

He would later appoint Hamad as his minister for education. In the words of Enzi Talib, Hamad, even at that time, leaned towards the three-governments theory.

However, when Aboud Jumbe was being taken to task over his belief in three governments in the NEC meeting by his fellow Zanzibaris, as Mwalimu and his team looked on Hamad had sided with the majority of Zanzibaris.

According to Talib, Hamad and other young, educated Zanzibaris who were holding various positions in the government went in fear of Aboud Jumbe after he had warned that whoever betrayed the Zanzibar revolution, would be met with what he described as ‘revolutionary justice.’

Since then, Hamad, whose party has not only remained out of the present Isles’ government (on account of its refusal to take part in the re-run of the isles presidential election) but also refused to shake hands with President Ali Mohamed Shein during Jumbe’s funeral, has gone full circle to embrace what Aboud Jumbe had stood for.

Jumbe will also be remembered for facilitating the merger between the Isles ruling party Afro Shirazi Pary and the Tanganyika African National Union to form what has come to be known as Chama cha Mapinduzi.