OPINION: Tanzania union under threat

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli

Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu

Tanzania’s 25 October 2015 national elections returned Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Party of the Revolution) to power on the mainland but produced contentious results in Zanzibar.

CCM’s John Magufuli has already been sworn in as the country’s fifth president, with a Zanzibar woman, Samia Suluhu Hassan, as the vice – president.

On the Indian Ocean islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and a few small ones, Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s Ali Muhamed Shein was challenged by Seif Sharif Hamad of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) who initially declared himself the electoral winner before the whole process was nullified because it had allegedly broken some section or other of the Electoral Act.

Another election will be held on a date to be announced later.

Zanzibar has always been more politically volatile than the mainland, formerly called Tanganyika, even before the two came together on April 27, 1964, as what was known as the United Republic of Tanganyika. The name Tanzania was adopted on October 29, 1964.

Zanzibar had been a British colony since 1890 and Tanganyika was a German colony from 1891 to 1919 when Britain occupied it following the defeat of Germany in the First World War.

Earlier, Zanzibar and the other islands had been slave trading centres run by Arabs from Oman and other Middle East countries.

During that period black people were seized as slaves from Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanganyika, the DRC, Burundi and Rwanda and were sold to Portuguese, Spanish, British, German, French, Swedish, Greek, Indian, Italian, Pakistan and other buyers.

Some slaves were kept by the Arab rulers of those islands and their descendants such as Sheikh Abeid Karume and Hassan Nassor Moyo who were later involved in the island’s political activities through the Afro – Shirazi Party (ASP) an aspect of whose socio-economic programme was the emancipation of the black people from the traditional Arabic oppression and exploitation.

The present socio-political alignment on that archipelago should be interpreted and understood in that culture- historical context.

Those who are aligned to the Chama Cha Mapinduzi are in effect pan-Africanists whose major aim is the unification of Africa. Those opposed to the CCM have a micro-nationalistic tendency similar to that of the pre-independence Zanzibar regime of Sultan Sayyid Jamshid ibn Abdullah who fled to Oman during the January 12, 1964, armed revolution led by Field Marshal John Okelo.

CUF is calling for the weakening of ties between the mainland and Zanzibar, in fact for more autonomy for the archipelago. Before Zanzibar became independent on December 10, 1963, it depended on tourism and cloves for its economic survival. It still does.

The islands are an example of a country that would be unviable socio-economically were it to stand on their own as a nation.

Tanzania is not endowed with many mineral resources. Unlike its western neighbours, the DRC and Zambia, Tanzania has only a few mineral deposits which include diamonds, mica, gold, silver, graphite, tin, lead, tungsten and titanium. None of these minerals are found in large quantities as in the DRC or in South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe or in Botswana where some of those minerals occur.

Its agricultural potential is relatively great as it has large bodies of water such as Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Rukwa, Lake Eyasi, a part of Lake Malawi, Lake Manyara and Lake Natron. It has in addition a few rivers some of which can be used for irrigation. However, most of its soils are very poor, unlike those of the Highlands of Kenya.

About 80 percent of Tanzania’s fishing industry is based on its abundant fresh water resources. Its export-oriented agricultural sector produces coffee, tea, sisal, cashew nuts and some tobacco. Tourism contributes much to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Tanzania’s founding president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, did two very important things for which history will always give him accolades. His government did its utmost to make people of Tanzania agriculturally self-sufficient.

Highlighting the importance of agriculture through the Swahili slogan: Siasi ni kilimo (agriculture is politics), he launched the ujamaa villages to promote the country’s agricultural potential.

The ujamaa concept was meant to prevent the emergence of a class of extremely rich agriculturally exploitative Africans. It organised people into co-operatives on a voluntary basis.

The scheme failed, however, because most of the people opted for urban centres where they felt that they could access material comforts with much less physical work than in the agricultural fields.

The second thing for which Nyerere’s Tanzania will always be remembered for by every self-respecting African was its utterly selfless commitment to the liberation of the entire African continent  and its islands such as the Seychelles and the Comoros.

If it were not for the pan-Africanist beliefs of Mwalimu Nyerere and his whole administration, two things could not have happened in Africa. One was the decolonisation of Africa, especially the region south of the Sahara, and the other was the removal from office of the unbelievably atrocious regime of General Idi Amin of Uganda.

Successive Tanzanian administrations have had much less serious challenges than those that were faced by Mwalimu Nyerere’s Tanzania. Some of those challenges were, to all intents and purposes, threats to the state as was the case with those posed by the recalcitrant Portuguese colonists in neighbouring Mozambique, the ruthless, entrenched western capitalist interests in the DRC, and the openly western-supported racialist white minority regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa.

While President Magufuli’s new administration will undoubtedly continue Tanzania’s struggle against hunger, ignorance and disease, it will also continue promoting the interests of the world’s down-trodden as Tanzania has always done.

We are very much likely to see a typical example of the age-old historical process of change and continuity occurring simultaneously as the country’s application of a probably modified economic policy based on the February, 1967 Arusha Declaration.

That Declaration proclaimed the necessity to abolish dependence on foreign capital by exploiting Tanzania’s resources independently, by developing the country’s social infrastructure to keep pace with the population growth rate, and by building democratic institutions and processes on a progressive trajectory.

It was on the basis of that Declaration that some industrial enterprises were immediately nationalised, resulting in 50 percent of Tanzania’s industrial output being produced by state-owned companies by the end of 1967.

Modifications are inevitably likely to have been and to continue to be made to that historic Declaration as geo-political changes occur, and new experiences influence socio-economic policy generators.

All that is much more easily to have happened, and to continue to happen, under the auspices of Chama Cha Mapinduzi, a successor political organisation to the Tanganyika African National Union (Tanu), the party that authored and proclaimed the Arusha Declaration.

Tanu and the Afro-Shirazi Party were dissolved and officially merged to become Chama Cha Mapundzi on January 21, 1977 at a national conference attended by 2,500 delegates in Dar Es Salaam.

The aim of the Tanu and the ASP as constituted in the Chama Cha Mapinduzi is to consolidate African unity at, first, national, second, regional, and, third and finally, at continental level. In addition to that pan-African goal, it is important to emphasise that the security and prosperity of Tanzania lies in national unity, so does that of the East African region and that of Africa at large.

Parties that call for the withdrawal of Zanzibar from the union (Tanzania) represent directly or indirectly religio-cultural tendencies that existed before the liberation of Africa, a process in which Tanzania played a leading role.

 Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email: sgwakuba@gmail.com

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