Tanzania’s main opposition parties have made the country’s rising cost of living their common weapon to woo supporters of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi to their side.
Both Chadema and ACT Wazalendo focused on painting vivid pictures of government inertia in the wake of spiralling prices of food and other basic commodities to drum up new public support.
Just last weekend, ACT Wazalendo held its first public rally since the ban on political rallies was lifted, touting a new party brand under the slogan ‘Taifa la Wote, Maslahi ya Wote’ (Nation for all, benefits for all) in Dar es Salaam’s Mbagala suburb.
Party leader Zitto Kabwe used the platform to address what he called “the elephant in the room” living costs that he said were becoming a social problem big enough to relegate Tanzania’s entire democratic reforms debate to the back seat.
“The government keeps using the war in Ukraine and Covid-19 as excuses but there are still interventions that it can make to address this crisis in our midst. It needs to provide us with answers right away,” Mr Kabwe said to loud cheers.
Demand for new constitution
Chadema’s leaders pegged the rising cost of living to the party’s main demand for a new constitution as soon as possible in their own initial remobilisation rallies held mainly in Dar es Salaam and around the Lake Victoria zone.
According to chairman Freeman Mbowe, the party is looking to “rebuild a strong national movement by going door to door and street by street.”
“We will be addressing a big weakness among Tanzanians in terms of political passiveness and low participation levels despite being exposed to increasingly frightening economic realities,” Mr Mbowe told a rally in Mwanza.
Addressing last Sunday’s ACT Wazalendo inaugural rally in Dar es Salaam, Mr Kabwe proposed that the state-run National Food Reserve Agency should start collecting crop harvests from all farmers in the country and distribute the food itself with price caps “to ease the burden on consumers during these difficult times.”
Prevalent national challenges
ACT-Wazalendo chairman Juma Duni Haji said the party also planned to address other prevalent national challenges related to water availability, healthcare services and irrigation for farming “as matters of priority.”
“CCM has for so many years tried to solve these problems in various ways but we still don’t have a clear idea of what this country should look like 60 years from now. Let’s join hands to get this country to where it needs to be,” Duni said.
He also urged the government to release a timetable for promised electoral system changes by November this year.
“Beyond that there won’t be enough time left to implement any reforms before the next elections cycle begins, and we will feel like we’ve been tricked,” Duni said.
Tanzania will hold civic elections in late 2024 followed by presidential and parliamentary polls in 2025.
ACT Wazalendo is presently planning more rallies in the Zanzibar archipelago before moving on to Tanga, Coast region and Kigoma which are all considered strongholds of the party.
Chadema’s top hierarchy, including vice chairman Tundu Lissu who has returned from a long period of exile in Belgium, held a three-day private retreat at a Dar es Salaam hotel in late January to plot their next move in the new political space.
Lissu and fellow Chadema stalwart Godbless Lema, who has also announced his pending return from exile in Canada in March, are expected to be important spearheads adding a missing element of firebrand impetus when the party next takes to public platforms.