Mwanza The capacity to address hardships that face the people in a plain language and gestures that resonate with many is the cause for Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) rise in popularity across the country, social commentators and analysts say. And nowhere else than in the Lake Zone has the passion for the opposition party increased in leaps and bounds, especially following last year's General Election in which many voters deserted the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi. Being the most populous area in the country, the Lake Zone has over the years enjoyed relatively low cost of living, with the majority of its residents earning their income from diverse economic activities. The region has abundant livestock and cash crops such as cotton, and it covers Lake Victoria that has been able to generate employment for thousands of people directly and indirectly. The area is also known for large availability of minerals, especially gold, which had enriched many through artisanal mining before privatisation. But this wealth has for the past ten years been shifting from the people through privatisation, as the lucrative activities formerly done by individuals directly are now taken over by foreign companies, with the people left to seek other means of survival. That, coupled with the current high cost of fuel, which now sells at Sh2100 a litre, exorbitant food prices and hiked cost of electricity, have automatically sent the consumer price index higher, leaving many people in the region unable to afford basic goods, and hence the disenchantment with the ruling establishment and its policies. Mr Enock Abdufundo, a taxi driver who participated in the Mwanza demo held over a week ago, says he supports Chadema because its leadership understands what the common man is going through. He said Chadema's demonstrations were intended to protest against the high cost of electricity and sugar, among other essential commodities. "My family is among the victims of the high rising cost of electricity," he said, adding that his father, who is a member of the Tanzania People's Defence Forces (TPDF) in Mara Region, has been forced to disconnect electricity at his house because the family could no longer pay the bill. He was concerned that while the cost of electricity was rising, the government still intended to pay billions of shillings to dubious companies like Dowans, at the expense of the people. "Chadema has been at the forefront of the fight against dubious companies aimed at milking Tanzanians with the support of the CCM leadership," he asserts. For his part, Mr Jonathan Nyamhanga, 49, says he was once involved in small-scale mining, but after the government privatised North Mara Gold mine he could no longer continue with the job and subsequently lost his vital source of income. According to Nyamhanga, who was also at the Chadema rally, apart from making people lose their main source of income, the privatisation of the mine has not benefited villagers there, but instead there is harassment and alleged killing of innocent people in the name of the protecting foreign investors. "We see billions of shillings coming from our own land which we once depended on; while we are left to die in poverty," he said. Worse still, most of the promises made by the government with regard to corporate social responsibilities to be implemented by the mining company are yet to materialise, he said. Ms Mary Daudi, 37, a food vendor, says she supports Chadema because it advocates their right to do business in Mwanza town. She said the CCM government, instead of helping them, has been harassing and chasing them by using the city auxiliary police who ended up seizing their food and goods. "I took a loan to run this business which helps me to pay school fees and other bills, but someone comes and takes away all that I bought and cooked to sell; just like that, simply because I am trading at so-called unauthorised place, this is not right," she said. Ms Daudi said she had been forced to start all over again twice after her merchandise were taken away by the city askaris, but she was glad that she had managed to save some of the profit that helped her restart again. Another street vendor, Mr Steven Makungu said his small kiosk together with the commodities were taken away by the askaris in a recent operation. According to Makungu, it took him five years of carrying things in a box to hawk around the streets in order to afford setting up the kiosk that was taken away just a week after he got it. "Now I am back to square one, and it is because of this reason I support Chadema. The party care about low-income people whom the ruling party has ignored in favour of the rich, their families and friends," he said. Mr Lucas Massaka of Bunda who comes from the Taturu pastoral community, says he has been a staunch supporter of Chadema because CCM has ignored the community he comes from. "Our people in Mariwanda village have for the past 15 years been wondering how to feed their livestock because the area they had been using has been privatised to Grumeti Game Reserve," said Mr Massaka. He said the community there has been relocated about ten kilometres away - at a place where there is no enough pasture and water. He added that the people were being arrested and fined up to Sh500,000 by Grumeti reserve game wardens if found feeding their cows in the privatized land, which once belonged to the pastoralists. To him, Chadema is the solution to these problems, which he says are brought by some corrupt leaders who no longer consider the plight of the common man. However, while the majority of the poor and hard-pressed people seem to be rallying behind Chadema, CCM thinks otherwise and says the opposition party has a hidden evil agenda. Addressing the Nation at the end of February, President Kikwete said Chadema's was trying to incite people to turn them against the government in order to grab power undemocratically. He said the opposition party's recent demonstrations were not only undemocratic, but also posed a threat to national peace and security. Other voices have followed suit to demand that authorities clamp down on Chadema saying its move to win the public was dangerous.