Dear Tanzania Electoral Commission: Do not pull a ‘Kivuitu’ on the voters

Tuesday October 27 2020

Signage of Tanzania's National Electoral Commission. Tanzanians hope for a free and fair election. PHOTO | THE CITIZEN | NMG


Hon Semistocles Kaijage;

Hon Mbarouk Salim;

Hon Mary H.C.S. Longway;

Hon Asina A. Omari;

Hon Thomas Mihayo;

Hon Omari Ramadhani Mapuri;


Honourable commissioners, ladies and gentlemen,

Please allow me to address this letter to you at the same time as I let the world into what has moved me to take this extraordinary step a few days before the elections.

I have elected to use this mode of communication because of the gravity of the situation as I perceive it in Tanzania right now, a situation which could easily lead to dire consequences for too many of our people, and our country generally, unless wise counsel is made to prevail and a rightful path is chosen which assures people that justice will be done during the upcoming elections, which alone can be the guarantor of peace.

I am sure that you are all too well versed in the intricacies of the job you have been tasked with for me to want to expound on it any further. You have been put in charge of the electoral processes in the whole country at a time when divisive politics has taken centre stage and the political temperature is rising with each passing day.

Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, your task has been rendered even more complex than it should have been in other circumstances by the fact that not too many people believe you can be fair to all the contestants even if your commission is called ‘’Independent’’ in the legal documents; and the problem arises from your very commissioning.

If it is true that he who pays the piper chooses the tune, why should anyone believe that you can play any song except what your paymaster says you should play? After all, your paymaster is on record as saying he will not appoint people to such positions as yours, pay them good salaries and generally treat them well, and then let them go and declare the electoral victory of the opposition.

Most people in the country have heard this a couple of times, and I am sure all of you commissioners have heard it too. Furthermore, a senior government official has been heard telling the voters, “Even if you vote for the other parties, CCM will form the next government.’’

Your commission, which has made it a habit to censure opposition candidates over statements they have made, has not censured the official. In plain parlance, the official was telling people not to bother to vote unless they vote for her party. Now, tell me if that is not worth at least a word of caution.

I put it to you most respectfully that you have not covered yourselves in glory during this campaign period, and some of the statements from some of your subaltern agents have been out-and-out scandalous, and the records are eloquent.

Now, I know that you can’t help yourselves. You were given a good job that pays well, and, to be fair to you, even I would have taken it with two hands. There is very little you can do about your ‘’independence’’ either, since your appointing authority seems to think that the way you were constituted is the way independent commissions are constituted, only that it is dead wrong.

However you can do two things: One, you can decide to be as fair as you can be in the space of the few days leading to the polling, the counting, the tallying, the verification and the declaration of results. Two, you can methodically note all the aberrations you have observed in the course of carrying out your duties, with the view to proposing that they be done away with in the future. This way, you would be the last commission constituted the way you were.

Favour one side

In 2007, another commission in the neighbourhood messed up the Kenyan elections and the violent aftermath left over 1,500 dead, a tragedy Kenyans rue to this day. The chair of the commission was called Sam Kivuitu, now sadly deceased. Kivuitu’s sin may have emanated from a desire to favour one side over others; it could also have been due to incompetence among his staff.

Both of these exist within your commission: You have people working for you who must please the Executive no matter what, on the ‘who-pays-the-piper’ basis; then you have relatives of some officials within the commission whom you cannot sack. Sometimes the two comingle, and what you have is nothing less than a catastrophe: Having an incompetent relative bent on having his/her uncle declared the winner.

I know that you know that the one who pays you as pipers is the Tanzanian taxpayer, and I believe that taxpayer wants you to give her value for her money. She has placed these elections in your hands, and expects you to deliver a free and fair election.

From what I have tried to state above you are hardly capable of doing that. But I beseech and implore you to mitigate the situation and salvage whatever you can in this late hour. Most of all, I believe you know better than to try to do a Kivuitu on your country.

Safe elections!

Jenerali Ulimwengu

Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]