After Multiparty Democracy Fails, It’s Time to Reset the Button

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China’s development successes under a one-party political system were criticized, but now we have every reason to rethink the distractions, misplaced synergies, and squandered opportunities multiparty democracy has afflicted us with. The question we must ask ourselves collectively is: Is multiparty democracy an end in itself or a means to an end? This article dives into the pros and cons of multiparty democracy and recommends backtracking to one-party democracy in order to speed up uprooting the majority of Tanzanians out of poverty.

The reintroduction of multiparty democracy in 1992 was done half-heartedly and was also pushed by domestic and external factors. Locally, the economy had tanked, and we blamed a lack of democracy to bail ourselves out! We collectively reasoned that a lack of latitude or repressed dissent was limiting our creativity, boldness and resolve to do what Edward Lowassa would have labelled as “MAAMUZI MAGUMU.”

As the wee hour of monoparty democracy beckoned in 1992, productivity was sputtering, the country was reeling from the Ugandan war, and socialism ideals were very much flickering on the backburner. Ten years earlier, the then Premier Edward Moringe Sokoine had battled economic saboteurs who were hoarding goods to create artificial demand because productivity was at its lowest ebb.

We did not ask ourselves bigger questions about whether productivity resulted from mono-party democracy or centralization of the economy. We chose a short-cut cursing and damning both!

READ RELATED: CHADEMA’s Political Protests Fuel CCM’s Victory; You Could Say It’s a ‘JOGGING’ of Mobilization.

Had we been able to differentiate monoparty democracy from centralization of the economy laced with centralized planning, we would probably have seen the big picture. China resisted doing away with monoparty democracy because they were able to read a bigger picture, which we floundered: centralized planning was the bugbear, but monoparty democracy had nothing to do with problems created in the production sector.

Instead of wholesale abandonment of monoparty democracy and centralized planning, the Chinese opted for incremental reforms that over three decades have proven them right and the disciples of doomsday wrong! If you review China and Russia in the late 1980s, you will see that the two countries were at par in terms of development models.

Russia, under Mikhail Gorbachev’s “perestroika” or openness, chose total overhaul, abandoning monoparty democracy and centralized planning, while China retained the former while letting go of the latter, and the results have been profoundly different.

Russia is stuck in the mud, while China is the economic superpower. Russian reforms left it vulnerable to Western conglomerates while China built an export-oriented economy that deployed internal human resources. No wonder China has pulled more people out of poverty than any other nation. It is estimated that in the last three decades, over half of the people who have overcome poverty have lived in China!

The multiparty democracy experimentation in Russia is still a work in progress. Russia reckoned that her people are not monolithic at all, as the Chechnya conflict confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt. China understood that multiparty democracy was divisive and polarizing, and the day it was adopted in China would splinter the nation into many fragmentations. Most do not know there are many languages and religions in China, and not everybody would want to be part of that dream nation.

Monoparty democracy is a recognition that when many divisions and disintegration are confounded, a nation can be a unifier. Multiparty democracy insists on widening our differences and crafting fertile environments for our fracturing. Plenty of energy is wasted in papering over the cracks. If you peek at most ministerial cabinets in developing countries, one feature stands out: ministerial cabinets tend to be bloated.

Most cabinets in multiparty democracies in the developing world have over 60 ministers when all full and half-full ministers are tallied. The real reason appointers tamp the cabinet to the rim with people they hardly need is to appease and ingratiate potential rivals. It is akin to putting a piece of big ugali in their mouth so that they may focus on chewing rather than expressing their disenchantments.

China’s politburo has 7 strong men; no woman is there. Gender activists may poke holes in the Chinese model of governance as unrepresentative; that is a debate I would like to have on another day. But today, let us focus on quantitative arguments to narrow down our discussion.

Tanzanian central committees of almost all political parties have 20 to 40 members. Central committees are our equivalent to the Chinese Politburo. We tend to be inclusive in order to arrest perceptions of underrepresentation.

Also, read Tanzania’s Foreign Policy Acts on Navigating Geo-Political Dynamics.

The cost of inclusiveness to a poor country like Tanzania is staggering and unsustainable. Multiparty democracy has failed to arraign upon runaway official graft. To the ‘haves’, more is added, and to the poor, more is taken away. This is our way of living for the foreseeable future! Some may puncture gaping holes into my paradigms, asserting that elections have not been free, fair and accountable. I concur in all four corners that multiparty democracy has failed to live up to her poster-boy status. However, for the same reasons, I will advocate sweeping it under the carpet for good!!

We were bamboozled that multiparty democracy would change our culture and norms. Well, the gospel truth is that nothing can change us until we learn to change ourselves from our homes, where we all spend most of our time. Remember, an average person spends almost half of his life at home At home?

Yes, you heard me right! Not at the workplace, not at school, and not at prayerful church. Sleep alone chips off a third of our lifetime, and most of that is in bed at home. Those who spend more than half of their lives away from their home tend to die young. It is a discussion for another day.

Election rigging is an indicator that we have rejected multiparty democracy, and acknowledging that is not in any way dancing with the wolves. Why spend a lot of money pretending we are a multiparty democracy while we are not? If we agree—and I know this is a tough sell given the type of Western propaganda and brainwashing ingrained in many of our people’s minds—sadly, hypocrisy has been esteemed!

The rise of a West African military junta is an unequivocal signature of the failures of African multiparty democracy to free us from the bondage of poverty. I add without hesitation that multiparty democracy is now a national security threat that, unless it is addressed now, the injustices will grow disproportionately to the level many will agitate for a military take which will be regrettable. African multiparty democracy is synonymous with official graft as we seek to fix its malaise; it keeps snowballing, to our collective astonishment and dismay!

I always reminisce with fondness at how we used to manage our elections during the multiparty democracy era. CCM/ TANU picked candidates and assigned them with Jembe (hoe) or Nyumba (house) avatars. There was no rigging. Nobody alleged his votes were hard done by for obvious reasons.

Public service was what it claimed to be! Public servants were frugal during monoparty democracy, but multiparty democracy has churned out thugs, murderers, acid throwers, liars, looters and greedy men and women beyond imagination. The irony is no registered political party is spared over these malfeasances. CHADEMA points one finger at CCM, oblivious to her four fingers pointing at herself!

You must be out of your mind to believe that CHADEMA is our redeemer. They took one billion shillings from now deceased Mustafa Sabodo, promising to sink many wells. Sabodo cheque was picked by Dr Wilbard Slaa and Mbowe, the then CHADEMA putative leaders. Until his demise on 23rd March 2024, CHADEMA had never seen the wisdom of reporting back to this great philanthropist how they had razed his massive cash!

Even today, we are still rummaging where those wells were dug so that we may record them. Since they did not account for his money, we have a reason to suspect that CHADEMA’s top leaders ate the money. Of many legacies, Sabodo left behind was to expose the hypocrisy of CHADEMA. As an ice on the cake, history clearly shows that a leadership challenge to Mbowe ends up with the rival showing the exit door. Such a political party cannot climb a higher moral ground with a clear conscience. The rest is a circus which we should collectively rebuke.

They demand a new constitutional order in areas that will benefit their leaders. Look at how CHADEMA is structured: while the party is preaching separation of powers in her party, we see a top-down, heavily structured system of governance. Suppose one is an MP or an ex-MP. The same person will also be lording over party activities where he resides.

CHADEMA would like to retain presidential term limits, but in their constitution, that was off the table a long time ago. The agonizing question concerning them is what they believe in besides seeking their self-interest. This is a reminder that the scripture is spot on when it says God has peeked at a man from heaven and saw every man busier doing their own thing, and nobody was walking with God. CHADEMA cakewalks this verse.

With them not showing any signs of taking this nation somewhere, we need to ask ourselves why we cling to a multiparty democracy that serves the political class but forsakes the rest of us. Why not adopt the Chinese model of development and revoke multiparty democracy to focus on uprooting the majority from the mires of poverty? The party’s best shot is arresting hardships with MAANDAMANO! We all know what CHADEMA lacks, which is IDEAS.

As the opposition quests for a new KATIBA, we now have a reason to consider a new constitution seriously, which could also mean resorting to monoparty democracy minus centralized planning. China is doing better without the clutter of living the lie of multiparty democracy.

We, too, can follow suit and reap what the Chinese sowed and harvested. The choice is within our hands of whether to keep pleasing Western powers and be poorer of the poorest or, for once, deploy monoparty democracy as a tool to disentangle ourselves from the shackles of endemic poverty. The choice is ours, but are we ready for “KUFANYA MAAMUZI MAGUMU?” Edward Lowassa, too, is watching from heaven with a bated breath, so to blurt it out!

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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