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Opinionista

Heady scent of change hangs over the spice islands of Zanzibar 

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Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad is National Chairperson of the opposition Alliance for Change and Transparency, ACT, in Tanzania.

Tanzania’s ruling mainland party, the CCM, is being challenged for power in Zanzibar’s October 2020 elections by the Alliance for Change, ACT Wazalendo. The CCM has ruled semi-autonomous Zanzibar – made up of the islands of Unguja and Pemba – since it merged with Tanganyika to form Tanzania in 1964.

This is a difficult time for the people of Zanzibar. Instead of working for the people, the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and its leaders continue to manoeuvre to remain in power to enrich themselves, rather than serving the people. 

For the last four years, Zanzibar has not made any progress, largely because of the stolen 2015 election. Zanzibaris endure a government that took power by force, disrespecting the democratic wishes of the people of Zanzibar and breaching the 1984 Zanzibar Constitution and its amendments which require a Government of National Unity.

The CCM government is sowing the seeds of discrimination among Zanzibaris. Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of youth employment where a Zanzibari youth is given an opportunity for employment only because of place of birth and political affiliation and not because of qualifications, ability and competence. In the Zanzibar of today, one needs to be connected to the governing CCM to get ahead. 

Discrimination abounds in obtaining crucial government services and official documents such as birth certificates and Zanzibar ID cards. Zanzibar ID cards are currently being issued discriminately, again depending on political affiliation. The consequences for our people of being denied ID cards are devastating.

There are reports of rampant corruption and huge misappropriation of government funds in Zanzibar. Some senior government officials are involved in corrupt deals in major projects run by the Zanzibar Social Security Fund (ZSSF). In addition, there are reports of the embezzlement of investors’ funds. Therefore, it is not surprising that several crucial projects have failed to be implemented because of corruption. Tanzanian President Magufuli and his government continue to protect corrupt officials within the government of Zanzibar. 

The standard of living on the islands has continued to deteriorate with individual income a third of what it used to be. The economy has collapsed and both big and small businesses are struggling due to the sizable and numerous taxes introduced by the government. Youth unemployment is rampant with the current government aimless and lacking policy to deal with the matter.

Foreign exports have collapsed due to the fall in the production of cloves and seaweed, while foreign imports have increased to nearly 46%. Zanzibar, a traditional trading nation, continues to suffer because of a loss of business and consumer confidence. This has been exacerbated by the delay in the seaport expansion and the unfinished construction of the Zanzibar airport terminal – key to the sustainability of the tourism sector. 

There is only one way to change the current situation and that is through a democratic election that is free and fair. Zanzibaris are eagerly waiting for the October 2020 elections to complete the unfinished transition of 2015. October 2020 provides us with a pivotal opportunity to remove the CCM from power and rid Zanzibar of all types of discrimination, political rivalry, mismanagement, corruption and difficult living conditions. In October, we have a chance to bring good, principled leadership that will unite all Zanzibaris, promote accountability and strengthen an economy to work for all the people.

ACT Wazalendo has declared 2020 as the year of removing the CCM. I personally will lead efforts to ensure that we create a grand coalition bringing together all serious political parties, civil society organisations, professional bodies and social groups that will lead Tanzanians in their desire to remove CCM from power and to bring in positive changes in Tanzania, both in Zanzibar and on the Mainland. I appeal to my fellow leaders and our political parties that despite the many challenges facing us, our common goal to defeat CCM and give Tanzania the much-desired change is of more significance than our differences. This is the time to set aside our differences to unite Tanzanians to remove CCM in 2020.

This year, 2020, can and should be a historic year for Tanzanians to open up a new chapter to clean up our country and bring about the positive change that will transform our lives. This can be the year of action to bring about real and positive change in Tanzania that ends 59 years of CCM dishonesty.

ACT Wazalendo is determined to build a thriving Tanzania with a happy and decent life for all. Included in this goal is a vision of Zanzibar that sees her take her rightful place on the world stage as a gateway to Africa, a trade and financial hub in the Indian Ocean, a centre of excellence in education and a corridor for cultural exchange and understanding between different civilisations. ACT Wazalendo can lead us to transform Zanzibar into a flourishing economy with a unity of purpose and prosperity for all our people.

Zanzibar can be a facilitator for trade and economic growth for the United Republic of Tanzania and East Africa, just as Singapore was a catalyst for change for Malaysia and the Far East, Hong Kong for mainland China, or Dubai for the rest of the United Arab Emirates and the entire Gulf region. 

Zanzibaris are fully aware of these opportunities and recognise that these opportunities can only be achieved if they bring the political change that is so required. It is precisely for these reasons that they opted for change in all the previous elections, and in 2020 they will be resolute in their determination and will not capitulate as they are conscious of their struggle and the changes they are fighting for. 

The governing party has denied Zanzibar and its people their choice of a leader they elected to be their president in the previous five elections from 1995 to 2015. The annulment of the October 2015 general election in Zanzibar was most disgraceful. In that election, I defeated the CCM candidate, Dr Ali Mohamed Shein, in obtaining 207,847 votes representing 52.8% against his 182,011 votes or 46.2%. Throughout the past four years, I have worked diligently in bringing about harmony and goodwill in the country and urged restraint by the disconcerted Zanzibaris who were robbed of their victory. In this year’s elections scheduled for October, Zanzibaris will endeavour to protect their votes and defend their path to change.

October 2020 will see the end of CCM domination in the Tanzanian political landscape Article 8 of the Union Constitution and Article 9 of the Zanzibar Constitution spell out clearly that sovereignty belongs to the people and it is the people who should be the source of power for those in positions of government. We shall defend the Constitution this year. Change is coming. DM

 Maalim Seif is the former Vice President of Zanzibar and likely Presidential Candidate for October’s general election.

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