17 September 2010

Tanzania: Dr Slaa - Bouquets and Errors


Dar es Salaam — CHADEMA's presidential candidate Dr Wilbrod Slaa is not only a very daring but also a risktaker who never takes no for an answer, even if it means losing a position as valuable as that of Member of Parliament. There is no doubt that he wields power and respect in his party, not so much because of his education and age, (Chadema had chosen to be identified as a youth party) but for his zeal to pursue any agenda.

Dr Slaa for example, was among the first MPs who were on the forefront in demanding stern action, following revelation that an independent international audit had established more than 131 million US dollars from the Bank of Tanzania's External Payment Arrears (EPA) account had been improperly paid to 22 local companies between 2005 and 2006, many of them allegedly fictitious.

At the age of 62, the 2010 Chadema presidential hopeful owes much of his ecclesiastical past to the Roman Catholic Church where he was raised as a student and priest. He served the church for the better part of his teenage life, attending seminary schools and later becoming a Father - a rather affectionate title given to Catholic priests. 'Father Slaa humbly served the faithful from 1977 to 1991 in Mbulu Diocese as a padre and rose through the church ranks to become Vicar General in 1982.

The then man of God became Secretary General of Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) from 1985 to 1991 before joining Tanzania Society for Blind as Managing Director from 1992 to 1998. As old age was creeping in perhaps, 'Father Slaa' gave up his service in the Church including celibacy and concentrated on politics. But even after becoming a laity, information on Dr Slaa's family status is scanty.

While he is non-committal on his marital status in a CV posted on the Parliament website, he is believed to have fathered two children with Ms Rose Kamili, Chadema's candidate for Hanang' constituency. Obviously, Dr Slaa does not belong to the married club. Far from it, while launching his party's campaign trail at Jangwani grounds last month, he introduced a woman companion, Ms Josephine Mushumbushi as his future wife.

Unfortunately, word went around that Josephine is actually someone's wife. This new development culminated in a pending lawsuit filed by one Chediel Mahimbo claiming, among other things, that Dr Slaa was having an affair with his wife. Dr Slaa's passion for politics dates back in 1974 when he was elected chairman of the then TANU branch at Kipalapala and as CCM youth secretary Foreign Branch while he was a student in Rome from 1980 to 1982.

His bid to run for parliament in his home constituency of Karatu on CCM ticket in 1995 aborted, prompting him to defect to CHADEMA. He successfully captured the seat and became the first multiparty Member of Parliament in Karatu and retained the seat in the

2000 general elections. Dr Slaa dedicated substantial part of his youth serving the Roman Catholic Church which he grew up and went to school until he quit in 1998, to take up a political career.

He, however, made a choice that upset many people when he decided to run for the presidency, snubbing a general public opinion that almost guaranteed him a seat in parliament for his home constituency of Karatu. That the candidate does not have sufficient visibility to win the election is obvious, given the stiff competition from the ruling party, CCM.

Thatwas his mistake number one. He stunned the public even more when he, a PhD holder, picked a primary school leaver as his running mate. Assessed fairly, Mr Said Mzee Said, can simply be described as a non-starter. Were he to become the next vice-president, would he stand the work pressure, sensitise the nation on education matters or confer with the international community, given his level of education?

That was Dr Slaa's mistake number two. Like all political parties in the opposition, Dr Slaa's campaigns are full of impossible pledges. He banks on 'loopholes' to tout his manifesto, with emphasis on cutting government expenditure, streamlining the cabinet and creating a three- tier government structure.

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