The Civic United Front (CUF) has recently been in the spotlight due to the ongoing power struggle within the party. After the opposition party's former chairman Professor Ibrahim Lipumba and 10 other members were suspended recently, Mr Julius Mtatiro was appointed interim chairman. In this interview, the CUF leader sheds more light on the unfolding drama in the party with Political Platform reporter John Namkwahe:
How many CUF members and supporters really want Prof Ibrahim Lipumba out?
Of the 676 members who attended the last general meeting, only 100 members supported Prof Lipumba. The rest wanted him out. In fact, 800 members were supposed to be part of that meeting. In any case, what it proves is that only a handful CUF supporters and members support him. Even in the National Governing Council, only nine members backed Prof Lipumba, out of 60. The rest stand on party's side. However, during the party's Central Committee meeting held in Zanzibar at the end of last month, 47 members attended - 30 representatives from Zanzibar and 17 from Tanzania Mainland, respectively. The remaining four members from Tanzania couldn't attend. On the same day, I was appointed CUF interim chairperson to fill the position left vacant after Prof Lipumba's resignation. This will be until the general election takes place. Therefore, the chaos in the party is just a transitional challenge that will not last longer than necessary. CUF will continue to flourish. The situation could have been worse if the majority members backed Prof Lipumba, but only nine members out of 60 in the National Governing Council still trust in his leadership.
Chaos marred the congress you referred to. Do you believe it is an inside job or there are external forces?
There are elements of both internal and external factors. According to various readings related to African politics, there is intelligence to the effect that ruling political parties, those that have been in power for far too long, have a tendency to highly control opposition politics in their regions. To do so, they usually establish some small political parties in the name of opposition. They finance these small parties divide the opposition and earn more votes during hard times. The same thing applies to Zanzibar, and it was evident in the last general election. Some small political parties were financed to conduct campaigns and cause confusion in the election. So, in other words, the chaos in the opposition is to a significant extent caused by people from outside who purposely intend to destroy the opposition.
Do you think CUF is strong enough - for the 2020 General Election?
CUF is still a big threat. We have a good number of intellectuals who are capable of leading the party. You can see the outcome since Prof Lipumba's departure - CUF still maintained its dominance in Unguja, Pemba and in some regions of Tanzania Mainland.
But Prof Lipumba's exit has somehow affected the party...
CUF couldn't win all constituencies. But he could have played a big role in convincing voters to cast their ballots for the party and Ukawa due to his experience. CUF could have won at least 18 in the Mainland.
After serving as CUF interim chairperson, do you have any plans to vie for the position on a more substantive basis in the future?
I don't plan to vie for party's chairmanship in the near future. I will continue to serve the Civic United Front as a loyal member. The party is still good hands after the departure of Prof Lipumba, who had served as chairman for a very long time. I still give it some time for me to be well-prepared for the top position, but definitely not now.
What is your take on nationwide demos against President John Magufuli, and Chadema's decision to push them back?
I sincerely commend Chadema for pushing back the nationwide rallies to October 1 order to give more time to consultations between the party and government. It's important in a democracy. On behalf of CUF members and supporters, I would like to declare that we will also participate in the demonstrations come October 1.
What is your take on the government's decision to relocate its headquarters to Dodoma?
Answer. I am strongly against President John Magufuli's decision to shift the offices to the Dodoma. It is a waste of money. The government should instead use the money to revive industries and create jobs for the country's youth. During election campaigns, President Magufuli promised to revive industries, but his government has not done anything tangible nearly a year after assuming power.
But what is your general assessment of how President Magufuli's government has performed?
We are going through a very difficult period, frankly. The President is defying the Constitution, and it is our responsibility as the opposition to make sure laws of the land are respected by the head of state. For example, the President has no legal basis to ban political activities because these are right enshrined in the Constitution and Political Parties Act. Almost a year after taking over all President Magufuli has shown is his desire to silence the opposition. Mr Jenerali Ulimwengu rightly said President Magufuli is taking us back to 1990s. I find it to be the truth.