By Salma Said, Zanzibar
Two senior Zanzibari ministers have poured cold water on the prospects of forming a government of national unity in Zanzibar, following the recently improved relations with the opposition Civic United Front (CUF). Speaking on separate occasions, the Zanzibar Deputy Chief Minister, Mr Ali Juma Shamhuna, and the State Minister in the Vice-President’s Office (Union), Mr Mohammed Seif Khatib, opposed the idea of setting up a coalition government.
Their controversial views come in the wake of President Amani Abeid Karume’s much-praised ice-breaking meeting with his long-time political rival, CUF supremo Maalim Seif Shariff Hamad, at State House, Zanzibar, during which they agreed to set aside their differences and open a new political chapter of national reconciliation.
Though President Karume and Mr Hamad have not categorically stated that forming a unity government is one of the issues they agreed on at their landmark meeting, many people have praised both men and called on them to form a coalition as a means to end the long-term political standoff in the Isles.
Following, the first meeting between the two key leaders in many years, CUF secretary general Hamad addressed public rallies and announced that his party had decided to formally recognise President Karume, who defeated him in the last two hotly disputed General Elections.
Those in favour of a unity government in Zanzibar, include a former Prime Minister and long-serving international diplomat, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, a Chama Cha Mapinduzi deputy national chairman (Mainland), Mr Pius Msekwa, the registrar of political parties, Mr John Tendwa, and the East African Community (EAC) secretary general, Mr Juma Mapachu. They all said a coalition government was the answer to Zanzibar’s political problems.
But yesterday, Mr Shamhuna, who is also the Isles’ minister for Information and Sports, said during a radio interview that Zanzibar did not need a unity government, as that would not solve its current problems. What was needed in Zanzibar, he said, was to nurture a culture of accepting defeat in elections.
“Zanzibar does not need a coalition government or a government of national unity. The most important thing is for us to promote the culture of accepting defeat after election results are announced. If we build that culture we will be able to work with any president that is elected,” he told the Zenj FM interviewer.
For his part, Mr Khatib said in Pemba earlier this week that CCM did not need to merge with any other party to ensure unity among Zanzibaris. He said only the ruling party could assure the Zanzibaris of unity, “as this is its national policy”.
Mr Shamhuna said Zanzibaris should elect people who would deliver the goods, and that those defeated should learn to accept defeat and cooperate with the government in power. “If we form a coalition government thinking that will be the solution to our problems, we will be wasting time, as what ails us is selfishness and lack of a sense of nationhood”, he declared. As long as politicians continued to pursue their personal interests, no lasting solution to the problems in Zanzibar would be found.
“The solution is to do away with selfishness. We don’t need speeches or meetings in order to do that,” said the deputy Chief Minister who has been mentioned as being among those eyeing the Zanzibar presidency next year. Mr Karume will not be seeking re-election, as he will be completing his second and final five-year term.
Mr Shamhuna said: “It seems some people have forgotten that Zanzibar is a revolutionary country. Some take Zanzibar as a country of lazy people. People have forgotten that we gained our independence through a revolution.” He said a group of Zanzibar “hardliners” would still oppose even if another party won power in a democratic election.
Mr Khatib, who has also been mentioned as a potential presidential contender, said: “We do not need to work together with another party because only CCM can unite all Zanzibaris.” He said CCM members in Pemba had been tolerant despite being harassed and mistreated by their CUF counterparts.
“This is not small issue. You have continued to be loyal to CCM despite all the hardships you are facing. This proves that CCM can unite you without having to co-operate with any other party,” said Mr Khatib, in an address to CCM members in Pemba that was yesterday aired on Zenj FM, which he owns.
Commenting on who President Karume’s successor next year should be, Mr Shamhuna said: “Age does not matter. Zanzibar needs a person who can manage the country’s affairs and tackle the prevailing challenges. “Given where we have reached, when I am asked what kind of a President we need next year, my view is that we need a person who can manage Zanzibar well. We don’t necessarily need a young or old person,” he said. Such a leader, he added, should then pick his team on merit.
But, he said there was no need to include politicians from a rival party for supposed political reconciliation to be achieved. “We should pick people on merit and should not allow anyone to pressure us,” he said. He said there were three or four groups supporting those aspiring to take over leadership from President Karume.
“We have heard them say that if their person is not nominated they will not vote. Others want a youthful candidate. Some are talking about their turn to produce a president. We have heard all of them and I think there are three or four groups gunning for the presidency,” he said in a programme which was repeated several times.
But he argued that no one would be elected the Zanzibar President “because it is his turn or because he is young”. He added: “We are not going to yield to any pressure. Zanzibar will not elect a president on someone else’s whims.” He said the Zanzibar president should be a Zanzibari and it shouldn’t matter whether he’s from Unguja or Pemba.
Source: The Citizen 26 Nov. 2009, Dar es Salaam