Which way for CCM? Sunday, 27 March 2011 06:06 digg POLITICS The ruling party faces trying moment in looming succession fallout As the date nears for crucial meetings of Chama Cha Mapinduzi's top decision making organs, all eyes will be on the national chairman, President Jakaya Kikwete, as he prepares to name new secretariat officials. By Tom Mosoba and Sylivester Ernest The Citizen Reporters Dar es Salaam. The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi is at a crossroads, with the national chairman, President Jakaya Kikwete, increasingly coming under pressure, as the jostling for key leadership positions intensifies ahead of the impending overhaul of the party's top echelons. The recent controversial statements by the party's youth wing (UVCCM) and former Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye's candid rebuttal on Friday, of accusations by the Secretary General, Mr Yusuf Makamba, and Cabinet minister William Lukuvi, could be viewed as the curtain raiser to a looming showdown. Scheduled meetings in Dodoma in early April, of the party Central Committee (CC) and the National Executive Committee (NEC), both to be chaired by President Kikwete, are expected to come up with far-reaching changes that will sweep aside the old faces, as the party tries to find its new footing amid divisions that threaten its nearly 50-year grip on power. Some party officials and independent political commentators generally agree that CCM has reached a critical stage that requires "soul searching" and a "complete rebirth" to regain its momentum and beat off the opposition, which is capitalizing on its setbacks. President Kikwete is being called up to stamp his authority on the party he has led since he first came to power in 2005, as the succession battle shapes up during his second and final five-year term. Pundits say Mr Kikwete's pledge to rein in dissent and maintain internal party discipline is bound to face stiff opposition from groups jostling for vantage positions in readiness for the 2015 elections, in which he will not be a candidate. A cross section of leaders and commentators told The Citizen on Sunday in wide ranging interviews that it will take difficult decisions and sacrifices for CCM to overcome a credible challenge from the opposition, particularly, Chadema. The opposition party's performance in last year's General Election stunned the ruling party, eroding its power base in the Lake Zone. Last week, CCM's publicity and ideology secretary, Capt (Rtd) John Chiligati, told The Citizen on the sidelines of the MPs' seminar on Budget and Revenue Collection in Dar es Salaam that his party would overcome any challenges. "Basically, the Dodoma meetings will assess the performance of our party in the last General Election, but there are a number of things to discuss, considering the current political challenges," he said. Asked about the growing clamour by the UVCCM, which recently called on certain officials at the party's secretariat to quit their positions, Mr Chiligati said the party was "not bothered at all because they (the noises) were normal." "That's the consequence of democracy and, in fact, despite having the freedom to talk…UVCCM can't change a thing if it is not planned by the party," the Manyoni East MP said. Youth wing officials have called for "serious ideological and personnel reforms" in response to the new political challenges. "I can't predict who will come in or who will leave, but it is obvious, we want to see new faces," Mr Martin Shigela, the UVCCM secretary general said last week. An MP, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, said: "I can't mention names here but everyone knows who will be leaving…just wait and see." He said the opposition was exploiting the internal weaknesses in CCM and, especially the failure to solve ordinary people's problems to gain popularity. "We all need to agree that we are in trouble. In one region, a CCM official can't even organise a rally. The local people are fed up with our party," the MP said. "The appointments made by the President, especially to the Cabinet can explain that. He put in people some of us we did not expect. Now, do you expect anything special from them?" (Mhhhhh!) The head of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Dar es Salaam, Dr Benson Bana, said it was evident that there were cracks within CCM. Dr Bana said the party faithful would emerge as the big winners if changes were effected sooner than later, adding that it was time for all "all those who are singing a different tune to leave". The scholar added: "If you are within the party but you are against your leaders, for whatever reason, it is better you leave." He advised the party to bring into its leadership new blood who would match the "current wave of changes" in the political arena. "Let these old men go and enjoy the rest of their lives. There are a lot of people who can bring some good to this party." The Dar es Salaam regional CCM secretary, Mr Kilumbe Ng'enda, said the party needed to up its game to stem the opposition tide. "Next year's party elections should be used to remove those who have led our party to where it is now." Though he would not name any names, Mr Ng'enda said: "Yes, new faces will come in, but let us not deceive ourselves that only youth can do well for the party and the nation. Leadership has nothing to do with age. We have some old men who have wonderful leadership qualities." Secretariat officials whose positions are said to be threatened following direct UVCCM criticism include Mr Makamba, Foreign Affairs minister Bernard Membe and Local Government minister George Mkuchika. Those tipped to gain include Mr Chiligati, the current treasurer, Mr Amos Makala, and Cabinet minister Lukuvi.