So finally it has happened. After being unceremoniously dumped out of the race for the CCM presidential nomination, followed by more than two weeks of will-they-won’t-they flirtations and negotiations, Edward Lowassa has been welcomed into Chadema’s embrace. With the other parties in the Ukawa coalition (CUF, NCCR and NLD) apparently in support, it looks like Lowassa is set to become the coalition’s presidential candidate.
As a former Prime Minister, Lowassa is the most high ranking CCM figure to switch parties since Tanzania introduced multi-party politics. He was many people’s favourite to win the CCM nomination, and this move has the potential to dramatically shake up Tanzanian politics – and the forthcoming general election. Continue reading →
The long-awaited launch of ACT Wazalendo as Tanzania’s newest political party finally took place on Sunday. As expected, Zitto Kabwe, whose long-running battle with his former party, Chadema, recently came to an end, has been appointed as party leader.
Perhaps the new party’s most notable policy position is their insistence that all party leaders much make a declaration of their assets, which will be posted online. Continue reading →
It could be a very big day for Tanzania today. The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, under the determined leadership of its chair, Zitto Kabwe, promises to present its findings on the IPTL / Escrow audit report as prepared by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG), despite apparently considerable pressure through official channels from the Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda, the judiciary and others, and through unofficial (and unpleasant) channels from unknown sources.
For background on the case and why it is so significant, I recommend two excellent articles in the Citizen newspaper, which has reported steadfastly on this topic for many months:
Last weekend, Statoil management finally broke their silence on their leaked contract for gas production in Tanzania. In an interview with The Citizen newspaper, Statoil’s Country Manager for Tanzania, Øystein Michelsen, spoke at length, including on the subject of contract transparency:
“Statoil respects the position of any government in the countries where we operate with regards to whether the contracts are made publicly available or not. In a number of countries where we operate the contracts are publicly available and Statoil does comply with that position. In Tanzania, the contracts are confidential and for that matter, Statoil also complies with that position.” [my emphasis]
“In 2012, Transparency ranked Statoil as the most transparent company among the world 105 largest publicly traded companies [see here]. We will continue to promote transparency, but we will also respect contract terms and the obligations we have towards our partners.”
The Citizen used this as their headline: “Investors accuse govt of keeping contracts secret.” And the point is clear: Statoil has no objection to contract transparency. Continue reading →
Over the weekend, the Tanzanian press finally began to pick up the leaked Statoil PSA story, prompted by Zitto Kabwe’s comments on the issue (in English and Swahili).
The Guardian made the story its front page lead on Saturday (5/7/14), while other papers caught up on Monday (7/7/14): This Day (front page lead); Mwananchi, Nipashe and Mtanzania (second or third on front page); and Daily News – see slideshow below. Majira had a cartoon today (see above), as did The Guardian on Sunday (see bottom of post). This Day also printed in full my piece in African Arguments last week.
Natural gas is a game changer in Tanzania, both economically and politically. The latest reports suggest that there may be as much as 51 trillion cubic feet available, not huge by global standards, but enough to have raised expectations sky high – see cartoon. The public and policy makers are excited, and it’s already having significant effects on both local and national politics.
“One Minister stated in the Parliament that “with the natural gas reserves Tanzania has, poverty will be history”. How I wish it was that simple! A plus and minus equation. Unfortunately the reality is opposite. There are chains of evidence that resources, due to many factors engraved within a ‘lesser’ leader, may lead to curse.”
We all saw it coming, and yet we were surprised when it came. Zitto Kabwe was sacked by his party late last week.
No longer will Zitto be Chadema’s deputy secretary, nor deputy leader of the opposition in parliament. There’s even a suggestion that he will be stripped of his party membership, with uncertain consequences for his status as an MP – Tanzania doesn’t allow independent MPs, and “crossing the floor” to join another party mid-term is unheard of.
I will come to the implications in a moment. But first, some background is essential.
Zitto has long been a difficult character, both for the government and his own party leaders. He is quite possibly the most popular political figure in the country (though no data exists to confirm this) and has been a huge asset to his party. At only 37 years old, he has an appeal to the youth vote that no other politician can match. But there have always been suspicions that his energy and drive owed more to his personal ambition (he had already indicated his intention to run for the presidency in 2015) than his party allegiance. Continue reading →