- Aug 2, 2010
By JENERALI ULIMWENGU | November 17 2012
The Chama cha Mapinduzi has thrown its party and enjoyed itself thoroughly, and the GOP may now heave a sigh of relief.
There is cause for feeling relief. To begin with, in an environment of severely lowered expectations, one has to be thankful that no major catastrophe occurred.
Delegates arrived on time, the agenda items were deliberated on (or not) more or less as they were expected to be deliberated on (or not) and, barring the usual bickering in the now increasingly fractious outfit, things seemed to go off smoothly.
Or so an uninformed observer would think. Beneath the calm that was on display in Dodoma last week where the colour of the week was a deep green touched off with a gold-yellow that reminded you of Norwich City football club, serious dissention lurked, grim battles were fought and low blows delivered.
As reported earlier in this space, battle lines have been drawn for the next general election, slated for 2015, when the two terms Jakaya Kikwete is allowed come to an end. It's the end of an era whose significance could go well beyond the usual succession story we have become accustomed to in the African context.
The old party is showing more than its age; it is creaking under the weight of a long incumbency that has been rendered especially problematic by deepening and broadening corruption and generalised cluelessness, in which drift seems like the chosen direction.
In the past few years, the party has received a lot of stick from an electorate that has more than tired of unfulfilled promises and dashed hopes, and there are those who predict an earned exit for the party in the next election, though obituaries would be a little rash for now.
What seems to be gnawing at the party's very heart is the undeclared, and yet very real, succession battle among various power brokers within the tired organisation, individuals who have been gathering cash and people to challenge for the leadership mantle when Jakaya is done.
The daggers are drawn and very little quarter is being given between the contending groups, which seem to hate each other with more passion than they hate, or fear, the opposition Chadema.
The whole year long, elections at various levels, from the district upward, have been coloured by this contest, each group tallying the number of officials it can call its own who have been elected to the critical organs that will make the crucial choices come 2015.
Meanwhile, Jakaya has been waltzing above the fray, feigning and tantalising, refusing to show his hand as rumours as to his leanings abound. In a remarkable demonstration of his willingness to procrastinate, he even postponed the naming of the central committee, the politburo, thus refusing to show his preference among the squabbling factions.
At the same time, he announced his secretariat, the day-to-day executive to run the affairs of the besieged behemoth. Abdulrahman Kinana takes over as secretary general from Wilson Mukama, who was looking increasingly out of place, and the once discarded secretary general, Philip Mangula, comes back as vice-chairman.
Out of Jakaya's hat also came a few old rabbits, including Asha Rose Migiro, fresh from a stint in New York as Deputy Sec Gen of the UN, and Zakia Meghji, once finance minister.
The focus, however, will be on Kinana and Mangula and their working chemistry. The latter is a quiet bureaucrat who has a reputation for probity and an aversion to corruption. The former is an old hardnosed campaigner who gets things done, any which way but lose.
His cavalier style will certainly set him apart from the John Locke-quoting Mukama, though it remains to be seen whether he can teach a tired old dog new tricks ahead of 2015, or whether all that has been happening is tantamount to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
All the while, Captain Jakaya may not even know that the iceberg has been struck.
Jenerali Ulimwengu, chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper, is a political comentator and civil society activist based in Dar es Salaam.
E-mail: ulimwengu @ jenerali.com