Kikwete comes under fire over graft suspects By Bernard James, The Citizen Chama Cha Mapinduzis commitment to fighting corruption has come under scrutiny, with critics accusing its presidential candidate, Mr Jakaya Kikwete, of publicly embracing individuals facing graft allegations. Political analysts were concerned about the legal, political and moral implications of President Kikwetes decision to involve in his campaigns for the October 31 General Election politicians charged with corruption or abuse of office. At a campaign rally in Iringa earlier this week, a former secretary general of the Tanzania Football Federation, Mr Frederick Mwakalebela, who has been charged with bribing voters in the partys primary poll, was called to the podium in front of Mr Kikwete, to declare his support for the party, in a show that has raised questions over CCMs stand on corruption in elections. Mr Mwakalebela, who won the party nomination, was axed by the National Executive Committee (NEC) in favour of the outgoing MP, Kilimanjaro regional commissioner Monicah Mbega, accused of bribing voters. He denied the charge in a court in Iringa. A former Governor of the Bank of Tanzania and founder of the opposition party, Chadema, Mr Edwin Mtei, recently criticised President Kikwete for urging Rombo constituents to re-elect Mr Basil Mramba. The former Finance minister is currently on trial for alleged abuse of office that caused the government a loss of Sh11 billion. President Kikwete invited Mr Mramba to the dais at a campaign rally and asked the people to vote for him, describing him as an old hoe that does not rust. Mr Mtei said the President should not go around asking the people to vote for anyone, who has been taken to court over corruption allegations, if he wishes to send a strong signal that he is committed to waging war against the vice. Former Infrastructure minister Andrew Chenge, who resigned after being implicated by the UK Serious Fraud Organisation of involvement in the radar purchase scandal, was cleared by CCM to defend his Bariadi West seat. He has, however, not been charged with any offence relating to corruption. The chairman of Agenda 2000 Participation, a non- governmental organisation promoting democracy and good governance, Mr Moses Kulaba, said: Though these people have not been convicted, embracing them publicly could have far reaching implications in the war against graft. He added: In the public view, I dont think they deserve the honour of being touted by the President because their credibility is still a subject of scrutiny. He said the President should have distanced himself from the suspects until the cases against them were determined, because in politics, its the public opinion that counts more. Mr Kulaba added: Had I been a presidential adviser, I would have told him to stay away from the suspects for the law to fully take its course. He wondered why CCM had turned to Mr Mwakalebela after rejecting him over alleged corruption. So what message are they sending to the public? For his own credibility, the President should campaign without necessarily involving such people. The CCM action, he added, would only discourage anti-corruption bodies. But a long serving law lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaaam, Prof Chris Peter Maina, said there was nothing legally wrong with what the President had done as the individuals had not been convicted. He cited Section 13 (6) (b) of the Constitution, which stipulates that No person charged with a criminal offence shall be treated as guilty of the offence until proved guilty of that offence. Prof Maina added: I dont think we will be doing justice to condemn those facing criminal offences before they are found guilty. I think they have the right to fully participate in public affairs until convicted. If we deny them such opportunities, what will happen if they are found not guilty? He said condemning such people prematurely could have very serious implications, since in politics it is possible for rival individuals to employ dirty tricks to weaken their opponents. But some critics raised the issue of moral acceptability. The executive director of the Tanzania Media Womens Association (Tamwa), Ms Ananilea Nkya, said: I was shocked when my President went to publicly to solicit for votes for corruption suspects. Ms Nkya, the winner of the 2010 Tanzania Woman of Courage award for promoting equality, opportunity and justice for women and girls, charged that some credible leaders were being compromised for political interests. Political parties can die but Tanzania must remain with leaders of integrity. Lets not compromise the integrity of our nation for the sake of securing a big number of MPs. This is like digging a grave for ourselves. Ms Nkya challenged leaders to borrow a leaf from the book of founding President Julius Nyerere, who, in the 1995, citing corruption allegations, influenced CCM to reject a candidate it had picked to vie in his home constituency in Musoma. Mr Nyerere had declared than that he would not agree to be led by a corrupt individual. But CCMs deputy secretary for propaganda and publicity, Mr Richard Tambwe Hizza, defended the involvement of the graft suspects in election campaigns. He said the enactment of the 2007 anti-corruption law confirmed that CCM was committed to fighting graft. He also said the re-introduction of nominations to pick the partys flag bearers was another indication of its anti-corruption stance. Mr Hizza said it would be unconstitutional to block the uncondemned. He said former TFF secretary general Mwakalebela had every right to reaffirm his loyalty to the party. Two years ago, Mr Kikwete, while on a state visit to Mozambique, told Tanzanians living in that country that his government would only take people to court after ascertaining fully that they were involved in what they were being accused of. A Dar es Salaam businessman, Mr Mathew Budodi, said: The President has apparently forgotten his own pledge by associating directly with those who have been taken to court over corruption claims. Are they clean now that they are being fronted to win votes?