Chadema’s Internal Strife: A Constitutional Crisis Threatens Party Unity

Supporters of Tanzania’s main opposition party Chadema, hold party flags on a motorcycle during their first political rally after an imposed ban in 2016 was lifted, at Furahisha Grounds in Mwanza, on 21 January 2023. (Michael JAMSON / AFP)

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The days of Chadema being the biggest opposition political party appear to be coming to a screeching halt as a constitutional crisis brews to break it into shards. Paradoxically, Chadema has made a national constitution part of her campaigning manifesto. Little did she know that she was talking about her cockeyed constitution.

The Deputy Chairperson of Chadema, Tundu Lissu, has revealed in public that dirty money is being circulated to win party positions and that concession insinuates Chadema is on a deathbed. This article parses the Chadema constitutional crisis, why the future is gloomy, and why there seems to be no way out for reconciliation.

The founders of Chadema, in their considered wisdom, bequeathed upon the current crop of leaders a constitutional order that would have seriously challenged Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s (CCM’s) ironclad on power, but the latter, being power mongers, changed their constitution to create a “cult of personality”. Chadema would love to preserve presidential term limits despite the rhetoric behind the quest for a new national constitutional order. However, back home is preaching water while swirling wine!

When Freeman Aikael Mbowe’s two terms were about to end, he expunged the constitutional term limits. Since then, he has become a lifetime chairperson of Chadema because he has carefully erected an aura of a cult of personality around himself. In fact, Chadema now has a KAMUZU BANDA in Mbowe of their own making. Regrettably, most Chadema members are caught in this sect where Mbowe is a supreme leader, and whoever stands to challenge him is shown the exit door in such a humiliating way.

Read Related: Freeman Mbowe Has a Valid Point to be Heard, But Where Is the Truth?

With this in mind, we must ask ourselves: What is wrong with Tundu Lissu’s broadside? Tundu Lissu is the immediate Chadema presidential candidate who believes he was rigged out by the late President John Magufuli in 2020 and would love to have a second stab in the presidential race. That is where his path crosses with that of his boss, Mbowe, whose cold calculations require him to run in 2025 for the much-coveted presidential prize.

As far as Mbowe is concerned, it is now or never! With the two protagonists eyeing the same presidential sweepstakes, it is obvious one of the two has to give in, and that person will be Tundu Lissu.

Why is Tundu Lissu Locking Horns with Mbowe?

Tundu Lissu accuses Chadema of massive corruption as it gears up for internal elections, questioning where bundles of money are coming from. Lissu is also very critical of Mbowe’s invitation to President Samia Suluhu Hassan to Chadema meetings. Contextualizing all this, Lissu lambastes Mbowe’s judgment and raises the banner that Mbowe is unfit to govern.

While Lissu’s ire may appear directed to issues unrelated to Chadema politicking for the presidential 2025 nominations, I read that Lissu perceives Mbowe will bag the nomination. He is attributing it to dirty election money that will rig him out.

Tundu Lissu Political Ace Card

After listening to several Tundu Lissu pronunciations on the stump, it is clear his political future lies elsewhere but not in Chadema. The assassination cemented Tundu Lissu’s presidential aspirations and attempts on his life, where he reaped plenty of sympathy votes. But since then, he has nothing to showboat: Criticism against the government is now just too cliché to get him the presidency. He needs something else that will catch the imagination of voters.

Deprived of a parliamentary launchpad to showcase his debating skills, voters have problems connecting with him. Besides, the Magufuli administration he blames for attempting to execute him is no longer in office. In politics, prolonging an ambition devoid of an emotional connection is tough.

Mbowe will not let anybody stand in his way of winning the Chadema presidential ticket, even if that may lead to parting ways with Tundu Lissu. As things stand today, the animosity runs deep. Therefore, Lissu will jump ship and join ACT Wazalendo, where his former buddy Zitto Kabwe will be too happy to hand him the presidential ticket.

Also, read An Inquest of What Went Wrong in The Last Constitutional Reforms

Kabwe is more interested in building his political party than advancing his political portfolio, so the two will fit like a hand into a glove. Of more damning, Zitto will be glad to bleed Chadema white after the way they dismissed him from the party after showing interest in throwing a gauntlet against Mbowe for the chairmanship. It will be poetic justice of some sort.

As a Zanzibar axiomatic wisdom reminds us, “Mhini na mhiniwa ndiya yao huwa moya….hakuna anayepata.” meaning the plotter and the plotted path is the same, neither of them prospers. Both Lissu and Mbowe will lose the presidential election in 2025 to President Samia Suluhu Hassan. Mbowe will seek a face-saving posture, blaming Lissu as “Judas Iscariot”. Lissu will blame the Chadema constitution for churning out personality cults, tribal supremacy, and entitlements.

In the 2020 presidential nomination inside the Chadema hierarchy, audios were hacked that showed the Chagga inside Chadema were determined to throw a spanner in the Tundu Lissu presidential stab. Who forgot the alleged attack on Mbowe’s ankle?

My understanding was that if Tundu Lissu’s presidential justification for winning the Chadema presidential nomination was a ‘gun attack’, then Mbowe reasoned he too was attacked by hoodlums because CCM perceived him unbeatable! Well, those are my thoughts and may not necessarily be true to the letter. Of trivial note, both were assailed in Dodoma. Do you believe in coincidence? Well, I don’t!

Can the Two Sides Bury Their Hatchets and Forge a Winning Team?

The constitutional crisis in Chadema arises from removing term limits, ensuring Mbowe holds the reins of power indefinitely. Elections inside Chadema are rituals deserving of no inquisition. You must be naive to believe Chadema’s clarion of “PEOPLE’S POWER!” It is a white lie. There is no such thing as people’s power. Chadema is a business entity that profits a very few individuals; the rest just carry the can to enrich them.

Tundu Lissu knows too well that Chadema is a tribal party created to support Chagga’s path to the highest office in the land. Changing the Chadema constitutional order ensured a Chagga would always head the party, and Tundu Lissu was determined to break that tribal yoke.  Sadly, time is not on his side.

Most Chadema Politburo or central committee members side with their Chairperson Mbowe, and Tundu Lissu is a “lone ranger”. That explains why he is now taking his fight to “PEOPLE’S POWER”, where he will prevail to break Chadema into two parts. Lissu will ultimately say that Chadema is not a national party, so he is decamping to ACT Wazalendo.

Read Related: CHADEMA’s Political Protests Fuel CCM’s Victory; You Could Say It’s a ‘JOGGING’ of Mobilization

I can see many non-Chagga, most of whom follow suit and join Lissu wherever he decides. Sceptics will blame CCM machinations, but the truth should come out now. CCM did not knock off leadership term limits in the Chadema constitution nor designate Chadema as an ethnic political party. Chadema is her worst enemy.

After Tundu Lissu leaves Chadema in a huff, ACT Wazalendo will assume the position of Tanzania’s biggest political opposition party. Chadema will have to dive deep into its constitution and decide whether removing term limits was its undoing. That is a story for another day. As long as Mbowe is at the helm, the party’s prospects of winning power will dwindle because the opportunities presented by injecting new blood and ideas are blunted.

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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