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July 04, 2005

Chadema offers Tanzania real change and genuine democracy, argues Robert Halfon

Posted by Robert Halfon

On returning from Tanzania, Robert Halfon is convinced that - after forty years of cronyism and failed socialism - the political movement Chadema offers Tanzania real change and hope for the future. As with everything the Social Affairs Unit publishes the views expressed in this article are those of the author, not those of the Social Affairs Unit, its advisors, Director or Trustees.

The taxi stopped as the police lights flashed and the sirens sounded. In a flash he pulled to the side of the road. A Tanzanian junior government Minister was passing through with a ten car motorcade (a mixture of Mercedes Benzes and Toyota 4 wheel drives) as an accompaniment. The Minister was on his way not to a summit on reducing third world debt, but to the plush residential district on the Dar Es Salaam Coast where Tanzania's political class live.

Just half an hour before I had been with the taxi to see one of Dar Es Salaam's poorest districts, a shanty town composed of huts made of corrugated iron. Children barefooted, were playing in rubbish dumps. The taxi driver was clearly nervous about driving through this area and warned us that if we had arrived at night, our throats would have been slit in seconds.

But despite this tale of two cities, Tanzanians have real hope for the future. Away from the plush hotels - filled with the political class, visiting Western dignitaries and IMFers, World Bankers and NGOs - there is a new political movement dedicated to transforming the lives of every Tanzanian. This political movement known as Chadema (meaning democracy and development) recently opened its HQ in one of the poorer parts of Dar Es Salaam in order to show the people that it differed from the corrupt cronyism of the ruling party CCM.

After gaining independence in 1961, Tanzania was subjected to an unfortunate experiment with one party state socialism and full blooded agricultural collectivisation. Tanzania is now one of the poorest countries in the world. 18.7% of Tanzanians live below the food poverty line and 35.7% live below the basic poverty line. 12% of the adult population is HIV positive. The President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa is prized member of Blair's Africa Commission and is seen as close to Tony Blair. However he is also a strong supporter of Robert Mugabe and his policies.

In the early 1990s, following internal political difficulties and pressure from aid donors and Western Governments, the Tanzanian government agreed to introduce a limited multi-party democracy and hold free elections.

Amidst the new politics, one man stood up and set out a new vision for Tanzania. Edwin Mtei, a former Finance Minister who had fallen out with Julius Nyerere over the direction of economic change, decided to establish a new political movement in spite of the bias in favour of the existing ruling party.

Thus in 1993, Chadema was born. This was a political movement that believed in an open society with open markets, that the best way of ending poverty was through a strong economy based on capitalism and a strong society that would end corruption and support families and communities.

Bit by bit, Chadema is taking the country by storm. Coming from nowhere, Chadema has gone up from three to five seats (in the face of continued political intimidation, lack of fair resources and election fraud), it now controls a number of local councils and is set to win even more constituencies in the October election. Chadema is also expected to make a very strong showing in the Presidential election as it is expected that its current leader, the charismatic and popular Freeman Mbowe will stand.

What is the secret of Chadema's success? First it is a party that has clearly defined its values. "Real Change, Real Freedom" is not just a slogan but guides every policy statement and principle. Second, Chadema is a party of unity. In marked contrast to other political movements, Chadema is not riven by personality disagreements or factional disputes. Third, the Chadema leadership has been very careful to select a new generation of bright, earthy party apparatchiks to run the party. People join the Chadema movement not just because they believe in its ideology, but because they know that the membership and leadership are composed of decent fair minded and ethical individuals. Fourth, Chadema is thirsty for knowledge. The Chadema leadership has scoured likeminded political movements across the world to learn from their experience of setting up a political party, establishing a Party HQ and, most importantly, of how to win elections.

In the UK, the Conservative Party International Office has been instrumental in giving Chadema advice and training support. And that is how I came to be in a taxi seeing a Government Minister travel past in his absurd motorcade.

Sent to Chadema alongside John Earl, a highly respected political consultant (once running field operations at Central Office), our job was to help Chadema target resources at target seats, position the movement in terms of their values and help define a political message as well as organise their Party HQ. All these activities were given strong support by Chadema staffers and the Party Central Committee. Many other Conservative Party trainers have gone to Tanzania to support Chadema in every way possible.

Although unlikely to win the Presidential election this time, Chadema will perform creditably and lay down a marker for the 2010 elections - which they have every chance of winning. They are also in a strong position to win more Parliamentary seats this time around.

After forty years of cronyism and failed socialism in Tanzania, the people are in the mood for change but fearful of changing the status quo, of their livelihoods and intimidation if they vote against the ruling party. But as Chadema becomes more successful by winning more constituency seats and governing local councils creditably, over time, it will become impossible for the Government to stop the tide.

As its name suggests, Chadema will be one of those few political movements that achieve real change and real freedom by its unstinting support for grassroots democracy and by trusting the people. Chadema is patient because the movement knows that its time will come.

Robert Halfon works as a political advisor. In the 2005 General Election he was the Conservative Party candidate for Harlow.


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Successive UK governments have lauded their desire to stamp out corruption in the developing world. Yet it should be noted that Tanzania - although it is chronically corrupt - is the third biggest recipient of UK bilateral aid, only beaten by Iraq and India. In 2003/2004 it received 80 million of UK bilateral aid. See www.dfid.gov.uk/pubs/files/sid2004/sid2004-table6.pdf

Posted by: Jonathan at July 5, 2005 04:50 PM
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this sounds rather optimistic. last time I looked, the ruling CCM party had about 80-some percent of the vote. meanwhile this movement has taken more than a decade to go from three to five seats. if it is 'taking the country by storm' it may be a rather slow-moving storm.

Posted by: s masty at July 6, 2005 11:56 AM
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the chadema party can be a powerful and a good political party in tanzania althogh facing a lot of challenges from the leading party which uses the authory and power that the have to oppres this growing parties hope to my perception the party with future is CHADEMA

Posted by: paul leitura at July 13, 2009 01:33 PM
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