Saturday, 7 November 2015

The Problem of Zanzibar can be solved only by ourselves.

I welcome the article on “The problem of Zanzibar cannot be addressed without understanding the Revolution” by Ali Mafuruki who is a Mainland CCM stalwart and an intellectual, because he says it was intended to start a conversation between intellectuals, historians and our own political leaders to get out of the political mess we have been landed in, and because it contains nuggets of truth around which we can discuss whether history is a tool to understand our past, or a ploy to hold on to power.

In this article Mr Mafuruki adopted a very long-term perspective from slavery which was abolished in Zanzibar more than a century ago. And he offers an incredibly long-term solution over the next 25 years before Zanzibaris can cleanse themselves of their ‘original sin’ of slavery, and before they can be allowed to decide whether they should remain in the Union or quit it.

But what is the problem for which such a vast canvas is being painted?

The problem as Mr Mufuruki admits very honestly is that CUF has won every election in Zanzibar since the advent of multiparty politics but has never been allowed to rule. Coming from the mouth of a CCM stalwart this is very refreshing.

And the problem has now arisen because the Chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission, another CCM stalwart who had lost in a CCM primary, and was then appointed by the CCM President Shein to this august position, has unilaterally and unconstitutionally nullified the election results in which the opposition was set to win once again.

In the context of a Government of National Unity in which neither party loses completely, and in view of the fact that in 2010 the CUF candidate Maalim Seif Sharif agreed not to press for his victory so that ‘maridhiano’(reconciliation) and the GNU is given a chance to bloom, one would have expected Mr Mafuruki to advise his party to allow this wonderful experiment of flourish, and spare Zanzibar and Tanzania as a whole the political turmoil that they are facing.

Instead of doing that Mr Muafuruki takes us for a long detour into Zanzibar’s original sin of slavery with snippets of untruths about Zanzibar’s history seeming to justify “the lady” who had blurted out in the Constituent Assembly that they had overthrown a government with machetes and were not going to surrender their power with pieces of paper (ballots).

Nobody reading Mr Mafuruki’s history of Zanzibar will suspect that before the Revolution Zanzibar was in fact ruled by a British colonial regime and not by the ‘oppressor sultan’ who had been retained as a figurehead in their indirect rule system very much like the mtemis, mwamis and mengis on the mainland.

People of my age still remember this ‘oppressor sultan’ riding his open convertible car at 10 mph with only one policeman who was also his chauffer; and we wonder why our presidents now need to drive at breakneck speed with FFU landrovers in front and at the back, and citizens like us have to get out of their way.

Nor will anybody suspect that there were never separate schools for the so-called oppressor Arabs and oppressed Africans in Zanzibar. As Salim Msoma has related, the princes of the reigning dynasty studied in the same dusty Mashimoni Primary School as other Arabs and Africans. My own deskmate at the Government Boys’ Secondary School was Musa Khamis, former PS in the Ministry of Agriculture, and my other classmates and friends were Taimur Saleh, a former minister in the SMZ, and Abdulrahman Mwinyi, a former ZEC Chairman.

Mr Mafuruki goes on to accuse many people of not understanding that ‘CUF members are largely descendants of the former ruling classes in Zanzibar;’ and yet the founders of CUF included the late Shaaban Mloo, a Zaramo from the Mainland, if he thinks such tribal designations are relevant; Ali Haji Pandu is from a prominent Shirazi family in Makunduchi; among the newest members is Mansour Yusuf Himid, son of one of the top commanders of the Revolution;  and in this election the CUF Presidential candidate claimed that he had received more than 52% of the total votes.

It is clear that Mafuruki’s black & white tinted glasses do not help him analyse such a complex society as Zanzibar that has not remained frozen for the past half century. It is also clear that history is being cynically used by some people as a political tool to hold on to power after their social base has been eroded.

But Mr Mafuruki goes further to claim that ‘the tenuous peace that Zanzibar has enjoyed over the past five decades has been made possible by the Union... Left to their own devices, the Zanzibaris would be at each other’s throats in a minute.’

Why does such a statement sound so much like a justification for the European colonisation of Africa?

Yes Zanzibar was politically divided right down the middle between a racial black African conception of the Zanzibari nation that was supported by Nyerere who helped unite the African and Shirazi association into the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP), and a non-racial national conception of the nation propounded by the Zanzibar Nationalist Party (ZNP) and the Zanzibar & Pemba People’s Party (ZPPP) with an emphasis on an inclusive geographically defined nation.

In the last election before independence the country was not divided between a small Arab minority of 17% and an African majority, but between ASP which scored 54% of the votes while the ZNP/ZPPP Coalition got 46%.

Failure to form a GNU at that time to unite the nation on the eve of independence had led to the Revolution and the suppression of nearly half the people of Zanzibar for the next 30 years. Half a century later, the balance has shifted closer to the exact half, and CUF has won every election in Zanzibar but has never been allowed to rule, according to Mr. Mafuruki.

Everybody also knows that without the Police and the Army which are Union institutions, and the ruling party, the prodigal son in Zanzibar would not have been able to ‘win’ on its own.

They have not hesitated to use brute force. In fact, those who were at the throats of Zanzibaris in 2001, killing more than 40 mostly in Pemba, raping many women and girls, and sending more than 2,000 into exile as refugees to Kenya were not other Zanzibaris, but Union forces. This was a big blow to the reputation of Tanzania, but not a single person was booked for the crimes, and the Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry was awarded with an ambassadorship.

Even during the latest election, Zanzibar appeared like an occupied territory with armoured personnel carriers roaming the roads in Pemba, and Zanzibar became a ghost town for nearly a week with people afraid of the army and police to venture out even to buy food. Why were passengers landing from the ferries made to kwenda kichura (frogleap)?

In fact the Union has become part of the problem of Zanzibar instead of being part of the solution. During its 50 years what has it done to bring about national reconciliation that Mafuruki now advocates? In fact it has repeatedly done the exact opposite to divide Zanzibaris so that it can continue to rule on both sides of the channel.

In 1984 President Nyerere used the sole ruling party to force the resignation of the second President Aboud Jumbe who had been elected by the people of Zanzibar. His sole crime was to seek to take his dissatisfaction with the structure of the Union to a constitutional court provided for in the current constitution.

In 1987 it was the turn of the Seif Sharif and his group to be expelled from the party and to be detained for more than two years, which led to the setting up of CUF. And the story goes on and on.

As Mr. Mufuruki admits, the Union structure is ‘vastly flawed and cannot be relied upon to offer a lasting solution,’ and it is not surprising that a section of Zanzibaris ‘resent the Union and view it as an alien imposition not reflecting the will of the people of Zanzibar.’

We had a rare chance last year to write a new constitution to make it acceptable to both sides of the Union, and the Warioba Commission provided a workable blueprint.

However, instead of embracing change, the conservative faction of the ruling party succeeded in dividing Zanzibaris once again by forcing their members, some of whom were ready for change in the interest of Zanzibar, on pain of dismissal from the party, to stick to the current 2-government 1977 constitution with superficial make-ups.

This was done precisely because the Union Government and ruling party apparently feared a more autonomous Zanzibar may reduce its power and control over Zanzibar’s oil and gas, and the revenue that will come from them.

So what does he propose? A referendum in Zanzibar on the merits of the Union, but a NO vote ‘should mean that Zanzibar will be allowed[by who?] to exit the Union structure in 25 years if a second and final referendum confirms the same outcome.

Added to the 50 years of the Union already, this means that it will amount to a total of more than 75 years, which is more than the total period that the British ruled in Zanzibar from 1890 to 1963.

I thank Mr Mafuruki for laying out his ideas for debate on the Problem of Zanzibar, and for his honesty which is rare among our politicians; but there is nothing that he has offered, either in the analysis of the problem or in the solution, that offers any hope for Zanzibaris. It is a bleak picture of‘Kero za Muungano continua.’

Zanzibaris will have to find their own solution, based on their ownmaridhiano, starting from now.


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