Popular votes created a virtual one-party state in Tanganyika, the mainland part of Tanzania, in 1960, when the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) led the mainland to independence. The Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) created a de facto one-party system on Zanzibar following their 1964 revolution. A presidential commission established on the mainland in 1964 to explore the desirability of a one-party system recommended that Tanganyika become a de jure, or legal, one-party state following the 1966 elections. Tanganyika was already a virtual one-party state. Although the law permitted multiparty democratic electoral politics, the TANU regularly won elections in 1958, 1960, and 1962. In fact, the TANU won all parliamentary seats except one. Julius Nyerere, the father of Tanzania’s independence, did not think that multiparty politics were good for Africa; he stated that “a struggle for freedom from colonialism is a patriotic struggle which leaves no room for differences.” Nyerere believed that the Westminster model was divisive in an African context.
A small handful of people could pose a threat to the state, in Nyerere’s mind, and a well-organized faction—or, worse yet, an opposition party—posed a more substantial risk for creating unrest. Each party, in his opinion, might become associated with one candidate, and his tribe would dominate that party. This might eventually lay the foundation for “a state of potential civil war.” Where differences between parties were inconsequential, a multiparty system promoted “a spirit of purely artificial rivalry, like that which exists between a couple of soccer teams.” Where the differences between parties were “fundamental,” the potential for internal unrest was great.
Nyerere believed that democracy could thrive within a one-party system by encouraging vigorous competition within the party for nomination and office. He defended his position by arguing that overwhelming support of the TANU meant that opposing candidates stood a negligible chance of election. Nyerere believed that a one-party system whereby candidates belonging to the same party competed for election restored the principle of meaningful choice. Moreover, if all of the political tensions within the nation were contained within one party, then religious, regional, and ethnic groups would have to discuss their differences. Argument would lead to understanding and shared values. Nyerere elevated Kiswahili, making it the national language, so that members of parliament, like Bibi Titi, who did not speak English, could participate in national debate on important issues of the day. The TANU members would communicate in a common language, and tribalism, religious discrimination, and racism would be discouraged. Every Tanzanian would be accommodated within one system through the one-party state.
Nyerere was not alone in viewing new African states as fragile, and he was not merely rationalizing prolonged tenure in office for himself. He believed in freedom of choice, competition, and individual rights within the one-party state.
The one-party system did allow voters to express dissatisfaction. In successive elections between 1966 and 1980, many members of the Tanzanian parliament were voted out of office. Voters elected candidates who supported the Arusha Declaration of “socialism and self-reliance,” launched in 1967. Tanzanian voters also elected leaders who supported the Leadership Code, which limited leaders to owning one house, one farm, and one directorship on a corporate board in order to
. Moyo wa Kujitolea: Silaha ya Maendeleo: The Human
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970.
Combat corruption and elitism. Voters had some choices within this system, and they took advantage of them.
Although the two one-party states of Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964, the two political parties, the TANU and the ASP, did not merge until the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Party of the Revolution), or CCM, was officially formed in 1977.
Tanzania was a de jure one-party State from 1977 to 1992. Throughout this time, the National Conference was the highest organ of the CCM. The National Election Commission (NEC), however, appointed candidates and reserved the power to remove members of parliament by revoking their party membership. In 1988, seven members of parliament were dismissed from the party, thereby also losing their seats in parliament. This demonstrated the power of the NEC.
When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1990-1991, this opened debate on the advisability of one-party States, and the CCM organized a national conference to discuss Tanzania’s political culture. Conferences, workshops, and seminars provided other forums for discussing one-party vs. multiparty politics. In Kiswahili, these discussions are called mageus (the turning point). After more than a year of discussion, then President Ali Hassan Mwinyi appointed a presidential commission to consolidate the views of the nation and to offer recommendations. At the 1992 CCM conference a 16-page document, the Report of the Extraordinary National Conference on the Recommendation of the National Executive Committee to Change the Political System in Tanzania, recommended that CCM’s monopoly of power end. Subsequently, President Mwinyi implemented a new multiparty democratic system, despite the fact that 80 per cent of Tanzanians polled favored a one-party state. Political pluralism, a strong civic society, and a market economy replaced the old system. This trend reflected broader international reforms, as well as the conditionality of international donors who linked foreign aid to adoption of the new culture. A third of Tanzania’s gross domestic product was conditionally underwritten by Western donors. Former head of state Nyerere found such international pressure “contemptible” and “hypocritical,” but recognized the need to change to a multiparty system so long as new parties were not forced to adopt external conditions.
Tanzania made a smooth transition from a one-party to a multiparty state. The CCM has since undergone profound changes. CCM branches in the armed forces and workplaces were abolished in 1992; CCM members in the armed forces had contributed $700,000 annually, and the loss of this money was a painful one. Moreover, party chairpersons, both national and local, now no longer receive salaries; theirs are now part-time volunteer positions. CCM offices have a smaller staff. Party officials, on loan to CCM offices from state owned corporations, have had to either return to their former jobs or retire. To reduce operating cost party secretariats fired many employees. Of the seven ideological colleges, only Kivukoni College in Dar es Salaam remains operational. Currently the Kivukoni Academy of Social Sciences functions like a private college. It offers courses on law, public administration, communications, development, management, and international relations, as well as a little ideological and political education. Students pay fees to attend.
It must be noted that the privatization of state companies, implementation of harsh economic reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and the switch to a free market economy occurred with little or no tribalism or communal violence. CCM candidates promise voters many more years of peace and stability. Thirty years of socialist policies and Julius Nyerere’s idealism maintained harmony among Tanzania’s 120 ethnic groups. It minimized class divisions, openly fought public corruption, and encouraged religious tolerance. With a grassroots organization envied by rivals and a divided opposition, the CCM’s hold on power seems secure.
Dallas L. Browne
See also: Nyerere, Julius.
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