Saturday, 07 August 2010 09:55
By Bernard James
A new crop of youthful politicians gunning for parliamentary seats in this year’s General Election have revealed how they turned the tables on the old guard in their party nomination battles, exuding an air of confidence in their desire and ability to bring about a generational leadership change.
Barely in their late 30s, the newcomers, both in the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi and opposition parties, have caused a stir on the national political scene by beating outspoken veteran politicians in the race to the October 31 elections.
The candidates exhibit similar campaign styles, including the suave manner in which they put their messages across to catch the attention of voters and win their endorsement.
In separate interviews with The Citizen, some of the candidates revealed how they used new technology and capitalised on the youth vote to emerge victorious in the party primaries.
They hoped to emulate other young leaders such as opposition MPs Zitto Kabwe and Halima Mdee, who proved their mettle in the outgoing Parliament. Mr Kabwe, the Kigoma North MP is seeking re-election, while Ms Mdee, who was a Nominated MP, will view for Kawe seat in Dar es Salaam on a Chadema ticket.
The election of more youthful leaders to the next Parliament, they said, would herald an era where the country would soon be controlled by people below the age of 45. They hoped to benefit from the fact that their ideas resonate with fellow young people, who constitute nearly 70 per cent of the population of just over 40 million.
Among the young blood, who outclassed long serving, influential MPs, include Mr Livingstone Lusinde, who felled CCM stalwart and former Prime Minister John Malecela, and Mr January Makamba, the son of party secretary general Yusuf Makamba, who beat Mr William Shelukindo for the ticket to run for the Bumbuli seat in Tanga Region. Mr Shelukindo is respected long-serving MP.
Also in CCM, Mr Hussein Bashe defeated outgoing Nzega MP Lucas Selelii, whose role as the vice-chairman of the parliamentary select committee that investigated the Richmond emergency power scandal, had been expected to easily win re-election.
In Zanzibar, businessman Simai Mohammed Said dealt a crushing blow to the minister for Health, Mr Sultan Mohamed Mugheiry, in the battle for CCM’s ticket for Mji Mkongwe constituency, considered the hotbed of Zanzibar politics. The 36-year-old Simai will now face off with outgoing Civic United Front Nominated MP Ismail Jussa in the race to the House of Representatives in October. The latter is also in the crop of articulate younger leaders.
Zanzibar’s CCM deputy secretary-general, Mr Saleh Ferouz, was defeated by the immediate former youth wing (UVCC) chairman, Mr Hamad Masauni. He seems to have rediscovered his footing after his removal from the youth wing’s top leadership in controversial circumstances early in the year.
All the winners said their performances reflected a desire by wananchi to end the recycling of leaders, which has dominated Tanzanian politics in the last 50 years.
But political analysts have warned that age alone cannot guarantee good and credible leadership. A senior University of Dar es Salaam lecturer, Dr Azaveri Lwaitama, said the question Tanzanians should ask is whose interests these young leaders will represent once elected. He also said one should query what role, if any, that corruption or parental influence played in securing them the wins.
However, the younger Mr Makamba said he ran a clean campaign and did not rely on his father to clinch the ticket. The aspirant, who quit his State House job to run for Parliament, said he heavily relied on new technology to connect with youth. He started by launching a book in which he discussed Bumbuli’s problems and outlined his plans and vision to address them.
“As a candidate for change, I recruited as many youth as possible. There were far too many old men and women to begin with,” he said. “I talked about change in a more tangible way and showed how dynamic and accessible I was. Young people were pleased to note that I was much more accessible. I collected 2,100 mobile phone numbers, which I used to send text messages to them.”
Writing on the Facebook page Mr Makamba established to rally support, Mr Isaack Kitogo wrote: “I have been inspired by your vision, enthusiasm and great mind…your researched information, has given me more confidence. The people of Bumbuli need a dedicated and visionary leader of their time.”
In Zanzibar, Mr Simai, the chairman of the Zanzibar Tourism Investors Association (Zati), said he joined politics aged 31, and that his strategy was to involve himself in various social issues. His objective, he added, was to inspire the people to take action to improve their own lives and set the agenda for Zanzibar leaders.
Mr Simai and Mr Bashe also said the new CCM nomination system, in which all members vote, has helped to level the playing ground for the newcomers. “What you see is a revolution by wananchi to do what they want to do,” said Mr Simai, who hopes to link the historic Mji Mkongwe to the world if elected.
In Nzega, Mr Bashe said the biggest factor in Mr Selelii’s defeat was the youth factor. He said 72 per cent of those who voted in 14 wards were young people. Unlike in previous years, he added, many young people had joined CCM in the district determined to play a role in electing their leaders.
“Sixty per cent of Tanzanians are young but they have not been given an opportunity in decision making organs. What you witness today is the awakening of youth to take the lead in governing their nation.”
He saw an emerging trend of young leaders to take over political positions, with the possibility of electing a President aged between 35 and 40 years soon.
Agreeing with the sentiment, Mr Jussa said; “When you look at the statistics, youth account for 70 per cent Tanzanian population. This is the nation of youth.”
He added: “This is not reflected in our politics and in the decision making bodies. There has been no inspiration for young people to take part in national maters. What you are seeing today will help to address the imbalance.”
Another fact, he said, was that people wanted change and haboured a belief that it is the young people “who can dare and who are ready to take risk and test new things in order to push for that change they want”.
The outgoing MP said the country had been recycling leaders for the last 50 years, sideling the young generation, which “is a good resource for pushing forward our development agenda”. He said he was impressed by Bumbuli constituency CCM nominee Makamba, who launched a book as part of his campaign.
He said Tanzanians had decided to elect younger leaders because there was a need for change of leadership. “Our society is dominated by youth, who have decided to choose their leaders from among themselves.”
Mr Lusinde criticised the many long serving MPs “who have refused to voluntarily step down despite having failed to meet the expectation of young voters”. He added: “Even when babies grow, their parents use different methods to stop them from suckling.”
Source: The Citizen