Tundu Lissu is Tanzania’s best hope of defeating President John Magufuli

By Zitto Kabwe

Election day, 28 October 2020, will go down as a key moment in Tanzanian history. It can be a day when we choose change that sets us on a path to growth, jobs and happiness. Or it can be a day when we are consigned to a future of repression and poverty.

On Friday 16 October 2020, I officially endorsed Chadema presidential candidate, Tundu Lissu, to be the next president of the United Republic of Tanzania. ACT Wazalendo structures across the mainland and Zanzibar will be recommending that our supporters vote for Tundu Lissu on the ballot for the Union Presidency.

This is the right thing to do for the future of our country and its people. We cannot afford five more years of repression, human rights abuses, violations of our core freedoms and the entrenchment of so many Tanzanians in a vicious cycle of poverty and hopelessness. ACT Wazalendo’s mission is very clear. We want to build a growing Tanzania that creates jobs for all and enables our people to live happy and decent lives.

The first step towards realising that mission will be for Tanzanians to vote for change on 28 October 2020. In addition to their strategy of disqualifying opposition candidates throughout the Union, the governing CCM is relying on a divided opposition to split the vote on the presidential ballot to enable five more years of President John Magufuli. Any true patriot cannot stand by and allow this to happen.

Since the start of the official campaign period, it has become abundantly clear that Tundu Lissu stands the best chance of beating President Magufuli in the presidential election. His platform aligns in large part with that of ACT Wazalendo’s, particularly with our focus on growing the economy, creating universal access to quality healthcare and rebuilding our education system to create better opportunities for our children to live decent lives. Furthermore, Mr Lissu aligns with our vision for a more just, equitable and peaceful union between the mainland and Zanzibar.

Given this, there could be no question of us continuing to run a separate presidential campaign. Too often in our region and on our continent, petty self-interest has trumped what is best for the people. The best way to remove President Magufuli from office this month is for us to unite behind Tundu Lissu and support his candidacy for the presidency of the United Republic. I have called upon the other opposition parties to follow our lead and do what is best for Tanzania. It is quite simple. Any presidential vote that is not cast for Tundu Lissu is a wasted vote. And in this election of our generation, there can be no wasted votes. It’s time to make the presidential ballot a two-horse race. And when it becomes a two-horse race, there can be no doubt that Tundu Lissu will win.

We welcome that Chadema has also recognised that the same applies in the case of the Zanzibar presidential race. It has witnessed that ACT Wazalendo candidate Seif Sharif Hamad has the best chance of defeating CCM candidate Hussein Mwinyi. Accordingly, Chadema has endorsed Seif Sharif Hamad to be the next President of Zanzibar and has asked its structures in the Islands of Zanzibar to recommend that its supporters vote for our candidate on the Zanzibar presidential ballot. We thank Chadema for this selfless act which is in the best interests of the Zanzibar people.

"Despite the unfairness and threats we face, we as the opposition will continue the struggle for freedom. The stakes are far too high for us to give in. And evidence abounds that from Arusha to Lindi, Dar es Salaam to Kigoma, Unguja to Pemba, the people of our nation want change."

The state-controlled Registrar of Political Parties is already running scared and has been sending letters to us and Chadema saying that we cannot form a coalition at this late stage and that we will be “confusing” voters with messages of endorsement. Frankly, this is complete nonsense. We are not forming a coalition. Endorsing other candidates is not forming a coalition. Our candidates for parliamentary and council seats across the country will still continue to contest on ACT Wazalendo tickets.

Furthermore, to say that any endorsement “confuses” voters is insulting to Tanzanians and reflective of the contempt with which the establishment holds the people. The people are not confused. They want change. The registrar should not project their current panic around a CCM loss on to the population.

This has been by no means an easy or straightforward election period. Already, a strong case can be made that the election is not free and fair. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) have both sought to do the CCM’s bidding by disqualifying candidates for spurious and ridiculous reasons that would not withstand an independent judicial review. Violence has pervaded the campaign trail with opposition candidates being attacked and abducted. The police have sought to intimidate the opposition, using tear gas to disrupt opposition rallies and have made illegal arrests.

Despite the unfairness and threats we face, we as the opposition will continue the struggle for freedom. The stakes are far too high for us to give in. And evidence abounds that from Arusha to Lindi, Dar es Salaam to Kigoma, Unguja to Pemba, the people of our nation want change.

President Tundu Lissu and president Seif Sharif Hamad will make a formidable team and will set the mainland and Zanzibar back on a path of democracy and growth. Make no mistake, I will hold president Lissu to account in Parliament. I will support him when he does well. But I will not hesitate to hold him accountable if he does wrong. However, unlike the current president, Tundu Lissu understands that this is what democracy is about. He will not seek to imprison me for criticising him. I look forward to serving in a new parliament with a new government that recognises the value and importance of democratic freedoms and does everything it can to uphold our constitution.

Election day, Saturday 28 October 2020, will go down as a key moment in Tanzanian history. It can be a day on which we choose change that sets us on a path to growth, jobs and happiness. Or it can be a day on which we are consigned to a future of repression and poverty. I have no doubt what Tanzanians want. And their wishes can become a reality if they exercise their sacred right to vote. It is time to prepare to vote for change. People of Zanzibar, prepare to vote for change and vote for Seif Sharif Hamad as Zanzibar president. People of the United Republic, vote for Tundu Lissu. Our collective future depends on it.

This article was published by The Daily Maverick.

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