2 February 2013

Tanzania: How to Minimise Political Defections

ABDULKARIM Atiki is a household name in local politics especially when one looks at cadres who have defected from one party to another. Atik started his political path in CCM then defected to NCCR Mageuzi where he also started as an ordinary member and rose into holding a key national leadership position - senior mobilization officer.

He then crossed over to Civic United Front (CUF) where he held the same position. But satisfaction is important in anything that one does. That lacked on the part of Atiki who, once again decided to move, this time joining the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) as an ordinary member.

Atiki sees himself as an inspiration to many young and old people in both Dar es Salaam especially at Manzense area and Coast Region. He says when multiparty democracy was embraced in the country in early 1990's, he was on the forefront in mobilizing youths to join politics. He recalls that he managed to influence many of them to join opposition parties.

"I did open a door for many youths who started thinking of facing the challenges of politics at a tender age," explained Atiki at his Kinyerezi residence in Dar es Salaam. While in NCCR-Mageuzi, Atiki stood as the party's candidate during a parliamentary by-election for Ubungo. His efforts did not yield fruits but never stopped him from giving it another try.

He attempted again during the 2005 general elections when he contested the Kibaha Rural Parliamentary seat this time under the CUF ticket. He was also defeated. At that time, he says many people were timid to join politics especially being associated with the opposition camp. Atiki was born in August 16, 1962 in Dar es Salaam in a family of 10 children - 3 girls and 7 boys. He got his primary education from 1970 to 1976 in several schools in Tanzania. He completed Form Four at Forodhani Secondary School also in Dar es Salaam in 1980.

He could not pursue further education because by the time he finished secondary education his father passed away and he assumed the responsibility of taking care of his siblings. "I immediately started taking care of our businesses and supporting my family," he said. He took the challenge of running the family business which deals in building construction materials, transportation and house construction wholeheartedly. "At the same time I strived to acquire more business skills through training both in the country and abroad," he said.

He said that his late father, Mr Rashid Ali Atiki, was well known for his integrity. His father was highly respected by many because of his kindness, honesty and virtues. He was the first person to establish a bakery in Dar es Salaam in 1960s. He became a household name. "Our mother Nuru Rashid Mohammed is still living with us," he said.

He mentions construction of CCM Ward office at Manzese which also housed a Primary Court as one of the major contributions by his father during his lifetime. The court still operates at the area. "He also constructed a mosque at Manzese. There are many other things that he did to the community which I cannot list down," he said adding: "He was also always ready to defend a righteous course in life, without any fear.

For example there was a time when anti-corruption officials would approach him to know about a certain civil servant's property. He would willingly cooperate with the officials by providing relevant information if that official had sought a loan from his company," he said. He said his father's death was a big blow to the family and the community at large. "We had lost a treasure... his kindness and piousness lit our house," he said.

When asked to comment on his defection to NCCR Mageuzi from CCM, Atiki said it was after the 1994 local government elections. At that time Mr Mpanda won the elections for Councillorship through CCM ticket, his opponent from NCCR Mageuzi, Dr Lamwai petitioned the results in the court and won. The election results were nullified. What disappointed Atiki was CCM's decision to field another candidate instead of allowing Mpanda to reclaim the seat. "Many were not happy with CCM's decision to abandon Mpanda.

We therefore decided to support Dr Lamwai mainly out of frustrations," he said. Most often when such defections take place they are meant to send a strong message to the party concerned that politics is not a one man's show, but collective decision of members. But there are always intra-party conflicts which also compel some members to defecting to other parties. Atiki said most low and middle income countries' governments are afraid to allow democratic processes.

He blamed some government leaders who misuse their positions for their own good. Some of these leaders, for reasons best known to themselves, try to sabotage other political movements within the same party or individuals they feel are a threat, he noted. "I believe CCM's government can never hold any ill intention or coin strategies to sabotage any political party or individual. It is some wicked individuals who hold some key position that abuse powers vested on them," he sad.

Atiki said the challenge ahead of the sitting government is to assume the role of a patron for all political parties. It is upon the government to ensure it leaves a legacy of strong government foundation. For example, he said founding leaders such as Abraham Lincolin, had laid a strong foundation for his country the United States. George Washington did the same. These founders did not stand for their personal interest but the interest of the people and the American nation, he noted.

He also spoke on the government's role which he said was to regulate and oversee political activities and not otherwise. Therefore, he was of the view that the country needs an independent watchdog in every political aspect. "It is high time now that the National Electoral Commission Chairperson was not appointed by the president so is the Registrar of Political parties," he said. Voter's education is another challenge which he thinks has to be addressed by the government and other non-governmental organizations. "If our potential voters are not properly educated the chances of voting in favour of people who do not deserve to be leaders are high," he cautioned mentioning the crucial role of the media.

"How can you reach the masses without using the media? Since the government has always reiterated that voters should be educated on the proper ways of exercising their democratic rights during elections, it augurs well for the media to intensify the campaign to ensure that every citizen of this country is aware of this value," he concluded.

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