By Rodgers Luhwago
There is no doubt Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) top leaders are scratching their heads about a candidate to succeed Zanzibar`s President Amaan Abeid Karume as Tanzania prepares for general elections next year, even though the ruling party has laid down nomination procedures. According to the constitution, Karume will leave the presidency after serving two consecutive five-year terms.
Prospective candidates normally start early to chart strategies ensuring that they eventually get nominated as flag bearers during the election. And, already there are reports of politicians showing interest in the Isles` top political seat. They include the Minister for Defense and National Service Dr Hussein Mwinyi, Tanzania`s ambassador to Italy Ali Karume who is President Karume`s brother, former Zanzibar Chief Minister Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal, curren t Chief Minister Shamsi Vuai Nahodha and the Minister for Union Affairs, Mohammed Seif Khatib.
The Guardian on Sunday solicited personal opinion of Professor Haroub Othman, renowned Zanzibari political scientist lecturing at the University of Dar es Salaam, who granted the following Q&A interview.
Question: What qualities should Zanzibar president have?
Answer: A candidate who will rise above petty partisan politics and not view Zanzibar through the glasses of its haunting past. Given our constitutional requirement, a candidate must be sponsored by a political party. However, one who wins will work for all Zanzibaris and be seen to encourage national cohesion, tolerance and patriotism. He/she must be convinced advocate and defender of constitutionalism and human rights.
Q: A special CCM committee in Zanzibar found Gharib Mohamed Bilal as best candidate for presidency in 2000 but was dropped by the central committee (CC) in favour of Karume. What was behind that decision?
A: In 2000 as well as 2005, the special committeeʼs choice was Mohamed Bilal. But on both occasions the higher CCM organs – the CC and the National Executive Committee (NEC) – did nominate him. In the first instance, a vote was taken in the NEC, and Dr Bilal lost. In the second instance, the party chairman then, Benjamin Mkapa, asked him to step down and he agreed. No reasons were given. But I think this had something to do with factionalism within CCM. In an article that I wrote after the resignation of Aboud Jumbe in 1984, and the appointment of Ali Hassan Mwinyi as Interim President, I warned Zanzibaris that from then on whoever would be their president will be decided in Dodoma by a body whose majority of members is non-Zanzibari. Also in 2000 there was propaganda that Bilal, as Chief Minister, was too close to the outgoing President, Dr Salmin Amour, and therefore it would be `Salminism` without Salmin. In 2005 it had something to do with union presidential politics.
Q: Do you think Billal can make it this time?
A: I do not see why he should not contest, though to be frank, I would like both CCM and CUF to put up a completely new face: somebody under 50 years of age educated, a real democrat, broadminded; and it does not matter whether he/she comes from Tumbatu, Kengeja or Changu Island. There are 16 names in CCM being mentioned as possible candidates, some of whom are senior civil servants; which makes me really wonder whether there is a neutral civil service in the islands.
Q: What`s your experience of CCM`s nomination process of its presidential hopefuls?
A: I have been studying Tanzania Elections from 1980. What I can say, from what I saw especially in the last elections, is that the use of money and other corrupt practices very much influenced the outcome. And it starts from the time of nomination in20the party organs.
Q: Ambassador Ali Karume lost his bid for Union presidency in the preliminary nominations in 2005. Now he wants to become Islesʼ president. Is he the right candidate?
A: But, does he qualify even to register? Last time I went to register there so many objections were raised. I threatened to take the matter to the court of law. They had said I was not a resident even though the law says that a Zanzibari who had to come to the Mainland to work in a Union institution qualifies to register for the Zanzibar elections. Coming back to the question, Ali Karume is one of those 16 persons whose names are mentioned.
Q: How do you asses their chances?
A: Of all the 16 CCM members said to be vying for the position, Dr. Bilal is the best. But I am not sure if his party will nominate him.