Tuesday, 03 August 2010 16:44
By Tom Mosoba
Zanzibar made history last Saturday by overwhelmingly endorsing constitutional changes in a referendum that will pave the way for the formation of a government of national unity later this year.
Such a government will be the first ever in the country since the armed revolution that rooted out the Arab Sultan rulers in the early sixties, and also in the modern times following the introduction of multi party politics in Tanzania in 1992.
The momentous vote was won by some 188,705 (66.4%) of 293.039 people who participated in the exercise against 95,613 (33.6%) of those who were not in favour of the outcome that will now significantly alter the way politics is played in Zanzibar.
Political leaders, representatives of the donor community and even the common man on the streets have immediately welcomed the referendum outcome, with a majority saying it would finally guarantee peace and tranquility in the Isles that had hitherto remained perilous every election year.
But as the dust settles, different interest groups will take stock of what transpired on the campaign trail and what the final result would mean for their role in the future of Zanzibar. Some are not entirely ruling out new political realignments prior to and after the October 31st General Election.
While one could say the poll result brought out the general want for reconciliation among the people of Zanzibar, the pattern would however tell quite a different story. “It was a positive vote for unity by the people but as observers we could not fail to notice that deep antagonism, mainly within the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi remained,” explained Dr Benson Bana, the Chairman of a local observer team.
That voters in Pemba gave an emphatic ‘Yes’ vote and are still more enthusiastic of the new political order than their colleagues in Unguja may have not been entirely surprising. As in the past elections, Pemba has tended to vote for the Civic United Front (CUF) to the last man standing and in the referendum sided with their leaders who campaigned for ‘Yes’.
“We have proved that CUF as a party and its supporters are peace loving and not violence prone as our critics branded us,” said Mr Mohammed Sanya, the outgoing MP for Mji-Mkongwe. He said however that the referendum exercise was a matter of all Zanzibaris irrespective of their affiliations.
The referendum results showed that the people of Mtambwe District in North Pemba Region, the home town of Mr Seif, had the highest Yes votes, with 95.1 per cent of the 5324 people who cast their votes.
At 78.2 per cent, Makunduchi District voters in Southern Region, were the least in favour of the government of national unity. Here a whopping 4961 people voted No. Some of the public personalities hailing from here include the minister for education Mr Haroun Ali Suleiman who lost in the CCM contest to vie for the Zanzibar Presidency and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Mr Pandu Ameir Kificho.
They were followed by those in Muyuni District in the same Southern Region with 74.7 per cent of the voters rejecting it. Some 4503 voters in this home place of the minister or Union Affairs Mr Mohammed Seif Khatib voted No. At one time Mr Khatib harboured interests to stand for the Isle’s presidency but interestingly did not offer his candidature when the time came.
Other Districts that vote ‘No’ included Donge, Makunduchi, Muyuni Kitope, Chaani, Chwaka, Dole, Amani Kwahani, all in Unguja Island. These are the bases of many senior CCM leaders, including those holding government ministerial posts, and are believed to have encouraged an underground campaign against the move to install a government encompassing all political parties.
But all the Districts of Southern and Nothern Pemba regions supported the ‘Yes’ side with scores above 80 per cent. Outside Pemba, Urban West Region comprising some Districts in Zanzibar’s headquarters were also in favour, with the seat of government at Mji Mkongwe scoring an impressive 88.5 per cent of the ‘Yes’ votes.
“The people in Pemba voted the way they did because they know this was their only chance to end decades long feeling of alienation from government. They are the ones who have suffered more and paid the huge cost of a system of winner takes all despite the fact that polling results divided Zanzibar into two, almost equal parts,” said businessman Said Mohammed said.
A freelance Journalist who has worked in different positions, including in government since the 1960s Mr Said Said told the Political Pullout that voters in Pemba read through the ID crisis that preceded the referendum as a means to lock most of them from voting in the General Election. “Therefore they have triumphed over such schemes and will look orward to once again feeling proud to be part of the patriotic changes.”
To other observers, the Pemba results have also demonstrated that CUF’s Secretary General Mr Seif Shariff Hamad still commands a lot of following and respect there and could certainly be angling to be in the centre of the expected new government. Mr Hamad has already been nominated by his party to run for the Presidency in what would be his fourth attempt. Having served as Chief Minister in the CCM government, the opposition leader has not shied from admitting that deliberately skewed government planning have consigned Pemba to poverty due to past political rivalry.
For the sake of this huge constituency, Mr Hamad, who alongside President Amani Abeid Karume engineered the final and significant push for reconciliation and tagged alongside the President to campaign for ‘Yes’, was at hand to welcome the victory on Saturday. He declared; “This is a win for Zanzibar, its people and the united republic of Tanzania. We have opened a new chapter for our country and should now forget the past and move forward as one people.”
President Karume whose extra energy to drive through the nod for a GNU would certainly be pleased with the voters who have given him what political commentators say would be one of his presidency’s most important legacy.
So, if there was anything for President Karume to prove before leaving office after 10 years in the helm, and having been accused of ruling with an iron fist, it is to leave Zanzibar in secure hands of his predecessor. While this task is almost done, the remaining few days could prove trickier if divisions within CCM that played out ahead of the referendum are anything to go by.
In Zanzibar, it was expected that Karume could after all now have reason to whip those in CCM’s inner circles and in government who gave luke warm support for the referendum. A District Commissioner in the seat of government was last week sent packing in a move linked more to his remarks critical of the government’s campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote.
“I will not be surprised if that did happen but what is dangerous for CCM will be what kind of realignments that could follow if he was to sack ministers in the last days in office,” a senior party official who requested to remain anonymous said. He explained that the clique around the ‘No’ vote were radicals who control vital knowledge and means of authority and political power in Zanzibar.
“We do not expect a fall out in the General Election but what is true is that Karume’s successor will have a lot of work to do to unite the party and rally all its leaders around the GNU. Things may be a bit complicated because some players here were have been opposed to President Karume’s embrace of the opposition and have often accused him of playing a part in the anointment of Dr Mohammed Shein to inherit him,” explained the CCM official.
According to the source, the ‘No’ team has cards held up its sleeves and few people know what their next course of action is. “They partly lost the plot in the referendum by running underground campaigns using threats and intimidation,” he said.
The CCM’s Deputy Secretary General Mr Saleh Ramadhan Ferouz hinted to a possible disciplinary move against unnamed CCM leaders in an interview after he attended a public meeting last week in Zanzibar, during which Karume accused leaders in the party of mounting “character assassination and peddling lies and rumours” in a campaign to derail CCM’s stand on the referendum.
Mr Ferouz, a key right hand man to Karume accompanied CUF’s hamad to receive the results on Saturday during which he said the people had spoken and it did not matter whether some people liked it or not. “These results are a true reflection of the desire of the people of Zanzibar. The important thing now is for all those who voted ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ to unite and build their country,” Ferouz said.
“We are collecting information on them(CCM leaders opposed to referendum) and will table findings at relevant party organs for the next course of action after the referendum. The party will not tolerate those who are undermining this process from within,” he said earlier on Thursday before the vote. He said those spreading “propaganda” on the referendum were doing so for selfish motives.
A majority of members of the public, mainly from the business community also feel that some politicians may not be interested in peace because of an underlying fear to lose privileges that they have enjoyed in government for over the years.
In an interview, the CCM House of Representatives nominee for the political hotbed in Mji-Mkongwe constituency, Mr Simai Mohammed Said called for more civic education to educate the public on the new political order, saying it is likely that many people are yet to grasp the opportunities that come with a GNU. “The said CCM divisions are temporary and would be delt with smoothly by the party’s top echelons. Those of us who voted “Yes’ did so for the sake of our young generation and while the “No’ side had the right to express themselves, they failed to offer a better alternative out of our current mess to be able to win the hearts of the people,” explained Mr Simai who is also the Chairman of the Zanzibar Tourism Investors Association (Zati).
“I am more positive of the future of this country and can firmly credit President Karume for leading CCM into this direction. The top party leaders being linked to the campaigns to reject the GNU are all in place to play their role and have the obligation to now embrace the decisions of our internal organs to enable CCM win in the October 31 General Election and be the one to chart the path for Zanzibar’s new democratic order,” said Mr Simai.
Source: The Citizen