Kigoma North MP Zitto Kabwe was yesterday stripped of all his leadership positions in the leading opposition party Chadema in a surprise move announced in Dar es Salaam.
The decision reached after a lengthy meeting on Friday night by the opposition party’s Central Committee meeting was officially confirmed by the party’s lawyer Mr Tundu Lissu at a hushed press conference.
It was made in the presence of national chairman Freeman Mbowe and Secretary General Wilbrod Slaa.
Mr Lissu said the youthful MP has been removed as deputy secretary general and will also be asked to step aside as deputy leader of opposition in Parliament and Chairman of the influential Public Accounts Committee.
The move blamed on an alleged plot by Zitto and close confidants to wreck the party, which immediately drew widespread debate across the country and on the social media networks, is likely to test the opposition party’s unity and strength in the days to come, especially in the light of the next general elections which are about two years away.
It has also left Mr Kabwe whose political career has been on the rise since joining the opposition ranks in unfamiliar deep waters of party politics, with some of his confidants and supporters uncertain of his next course of action.
The Kigoma North MP has recently been on cross hairs of some party bigwigs and yesterday declined to say much on the announcement, that for the first time dealt him a major setback in his self-declared interest to lead Chadema and run for the country’s presidency.
Reached for comment, Mr Kabwe pleaded for more time to reflect on the matter. “The party will give a statement. I won’t react for now. I need time to reflect and consult other members and my constituents,” he responded via email.
Stripped alongside the MP were Dr Kitila Mkumbo as a member of the Central Committee and Mr Samson Mwigamba, who had earlier been sent packing as Chadema’s chairperson for Arusha Region.
Kabwe and company have also been given fourteen days to explain in writing why they should not be stripped of party membership.
Addressing a packed press conference at the party’s headquarters yesterday, Lissu said the CC will convene an emergency meeting shortly after the expiry of the fourteen days to go through the defence by the three people and make a final decision.
He said the CC had directed the party’s parliamentary caucus to convene immediately and strip Kabwe of his positions in the august House. issu said the three have been accused of involvement in a plot dubbed ‘victory strategy 2013’ to destroy Chadema. The party is due to hold internal elections late in the year and it was believed Zitto was eyeing a higher seat.
He had previously sought the chairmanship but was prevailed upon to drop the ambition on grounds of not having been adequately mature to cope with the post’s daunting challenges.
According to Lissu, the strategy indicated how the three along with an unidentified Chadema official who works at the party headquarters planned to unlawfully overthrow the party’s current top leadership.
Lissu, who is also the MP for Singida East, said the said coded strategy intended to see Zitto ascend to the top and dethrone Mr Mbowe.
“Zitto who is the mastermind is referred to as MM, Dr Kitila is referred to as M1 and Mwigamba is referred to as M3 while the unidentified official is referred to as M2,” said Lissu.
He said Dr Mkumbo admitted before the CC to have designed the strategy and that Zitto was the person who was referred to as MM. Lissu said the strategy was lastly edited by Dr Mkumbo on June 30 before being sent to Zitto for his final endorsement. However, Lissu said when asked about it, Zitto denied any involvement in the plan.
“Although Zitto denied any involvement in the plan, the CC is convinced that he was the mastermind of the entire plot to oust the party’s leadership,” said Lissu. According to Lissu, the Zitto group breached Article 10 (1) (XIV) (IX) of the Chadema constitution. According to him, the sections bar Chadema leaders from engaging with people who preach about segregation and rumour mongering. “Under the strategy, Zitto is favoured to be the next Chadema chairman due to his religious affiliation; they argue that since he is a Muslim , he will attract Muslims into the party,” said he. bowe said the party won’t tolerate anyone regardless of his/her position within the party who violates the party’s constitution. “No one is bigger than the party; neither me, nor Dr Slaa nor any other member will be spared if he/she went against the party’s constitution,” said Mbowe. Mbowe also defended himself against allegations that he was power hungry.
“Being an opposition party chairman isn’t an easy task and I will be more than happy to hand the position over to another member provided that the constitution is adhered to; but I will continue to serve as long as party members want me to do so,” said Mbowe. In yet another turn of events, the party’s vice chairman for Mainland, Said Amour Arfi, who is the MP for Mpanda Urban, reportedly wrote an official letter to the party leadership to announce he was resigning from the position.His letter copied to the media cited what he termed as intolerance within the party as the reasons for the decision to step aside. He said since 2010, his colleagues have been uncomfortable with his role in the election in Mpanda District, especially after PM Mizengo Pinda was re-elected unopposed.