“Chipukizi” Have Emerged! Should We Expect a Bright & Impactful Path in Tanzanian Politics?

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“Chipukizi” are boys and girls of about 8 to 12 years of age affiliated with the ruling party, CCM, being prepared to be future public leaders. The recent election of Chipukizi leaders that has rewarded children of senior CCM national leaders has sparked a vigorous debate about the relevance of the existence of Chipukizi and the training it offers in the 21st Century, where skills about the information age are considered vital to navigate the challenges of modern civilization.

The history of “Chipukizi” can be traced to TANU, the then ruling party, which consolidated power under one-party rule on 10th July 1965, effectively abolishing a multiparty democracy and initiating a role for Chipukizi.

It is an idea borrowed from communist China and was adopted by TANU – Tanganyika African National Union, the freedom-founding political party that later, in 1977, was dissolved together with the Zanzibar, ASP – Afro Shirazi Party moved on and transformed into a new political party called CCM (Chama cha Mapinduzi).

During TANU’s existence, there was TANU YOUTH LEAGUE – TYL as an initial stage to nurture her youth to be future leaders. TANU YOUTH LEAGUE was established in 1954, no sooner than TAA (TANGANYIKA AFRICAN NATIONAL UNION) was transformed into a political party. In those days, members of TYL were the jobless or the underemployed and semi-educated who opposed traditional leaders in coastal areas. When CCM was born in 1977, TYL and ASPYL -(AFRO SHIRAZI PARTY YOUTH LEAGUE) became UVCCM UMOJA WA VIJANA WA CCM.

The first president, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere’s eight-day visit to China in February 1965 was regarded as the genesis of the formation of Chipukizi within TANU. On that trip, no sooner than Nyerere disembarked from his plane, the Chinese teens in military outfits garlanded him with a parade of honour salutes and handed him a bunch of flowers before he was welcomed by his host, the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, Mao Tse Tung.

In the same year, TANU adopted the Chinese youth wing as a preparatory stage for nurturing future public leaders. Chipukizi were differentiated from TYL, whose age bracket was between 13 – 35.

Chipukizi, since then, has been taking part in military parades, singing motivational songs, learning political education and playing an essential role during Uhuru Torch marches. Chipukizi, just like their Chinese counterparts, never misses an occasion to grace events of welcoming foreign dignitaries, and she has deployed those roles and leadership positions within her ranks to make a case for TYL leadership positions.

Chipukizi military-based training is outdated and unprepared to tackle modern-day problems. Henceforth, it makes no sense to expect to be a launchpad for public service where job specifications and qualifications are best obtained in the institution of learning.

While Chipukizi leaders often end up running the UVCCM, fewer and fewer of her leaders ascended to national, regional, and district leadership positions after reintroducing the multiparty system in 1992.

Except for Chairpersons and secretary generals of the UVCCM, who are automatic members of the CCM’s top national organs from the central committee, National Council, and the general meeting, the rest of her leaders have an unenvious task of joining the public service unless they successfully run to be councillors or members of Parliament.

During the party system of governance, there was no competition outside of CCM, and UVCCM, the women, and the seniors’ party wings of the CCM had special seats in the Parliament. With such avenues allocated to them, it was easier to envisage a political career from UVCCM to the national limelight.

Inside CCM party machinery, representation of the UVCCM is available in higher hierarchies, which are the national executive Council and the central committee. Experience has shown that electors prefer those with academic qualifications to be elected members of the National Executive Council. At the same time, those without them are spurned except if the semi-illiterates have a unique contribution, like singing or superior organizational skills.

The teens who solely depend on pushing their political careers without having advanced education often find themselves rejected, and even if they seek councillors or MP posts, they find themselves unqualified. Where a former member of Chipukizi succeeds without academic credentials, you will see he has political connections that permit him to hold executive positions in the UVCCM as district or regional secretary.

Later, with a trail in UVCCM employment, it is possible to be hired as a CCM district or regional secretary. If they seek government posts, they either activate a political patronage system that has catapulted them where they are or have no alternative but to earn academic qualifications.

It is not a surprise to see every senior CCM politician touting top academic credentials to impress the electors that he is more than ready to hold the reins of power on their behalf. The veracity of those academic qualifications is a subject for another day.

Is Chipukizi Still Relevant in The 21st Century?

The best way to answer this question is to start from the beginning, where the idea of Chipukizi was borrowed and adopted: China. China’s economic breakthrough has been accredited to technocrats but not politicians perse.

Suppose you evaluate the Chinese politburo of seven men. In that case, you will see that all have been armed to the teeth with some academic qualification, and some have spent most of their political career in either regional administration or the civil service. Each one brings years of testing and proven public service and achievement.

CCM or any other political party worthy of her name will seek to emulate how China is grooming her future leaders. Chinese Chipukizi is not an institution to train future leaders, and we have seen no evidence indicating that being a member of Chipukiziis is a qualification for public service. We see no reason Chipukizi should be retained in the information age where technology rather than physique is needed.

The former president broached the debate of the relevance of Chipukizi, The Late Dr John Pombe Magufuli, who, during his acceptance speech for CCM national chairpersonship, had asked the CCM general meeting whether Chipukizi was still needed or Chipukizi was a distraction from releasing these teens to pursue the skills they will need to make ends meet.

While Magufuli had raised an essential topic of the relevance of Chipukizi in modern-day challenges that demand brain power more than physicality, regrettably, the matter was quietly swept under the carpet. The CCM constitution still regards Chipukizi as one of their vital organs!

Apart from Chipukizi’s being irrelevant due to technological demands, there is another reason she ought to be disbanded. The history of youthful engagement in political affairs tends to slide into violence as a means of survival and acceptability.

Militia known as GREEN GUARDS are where Chipukizi tend to transition, and established politicians use them as tools to intimidate and harass political rivals. The history of youth in politics shows that because they are inclined to be underemployed, they are vulnerable to being manipulated to advance the parochial ambitions of local politicians.

Green guards have been associated with political hooliganism during elections. They besiege the opposition political meetings by running around those meetings while singing war songs to intimidate the opposition. Political thuggery has been linked to this group, whose conduct resembles a mafia organization.

Unless one is grooming Chipukizi for political violence, the best solution is to disband and encourage them to hone the technical skills they will need to cope with the demands of the modern-day labour market forces.

To bring an end to politically related violence, we are calling for the dissolution of both the Green Guards and the Chipukizi.

Also read The 2024 Local Government Elections as a Precursor to the 2025 General Elections: What Can We Expect?

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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Clemence Alinanuswe
Clemence Alinanuswe
3 months ago

African governments and society should focus on creating environment for young generation to learn skills needed in 21st century and not on colonial education which has no relevance to our society today. Due to lack of employment and hard economic conditions our societies have inclined to depend on politicians to bring changes thus seeking political positions rather than productive skills that will change our Africa.

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