FORMER Prime Minister Edward Lowassa officially quit Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and joined opposition Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA), vowing to fight poverty should he get the opportunity to become president.
He defended his move to defect to the opposition on grounds that his new party’s struggle against poverty was in line with his prophesied resolve.
In his brief address at a special media gathering facilitated by a political umbrella making the Coalition of Four Political Parties, UKAWA, Mr Lowassa urged Tanzanians to register en masse in the ongoing voter registration exercise in Dar es Salaam.
He, therefore, asked the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to extend the number of days for the exercise in Dar es Salaam to ensure no eligible voter is left out.
The defection was announced at a highly-secured meeting attended by top leaders of the four opposition parties forming UKAWA namely Chadema, NCCR-Mageuzi, CUF and NLD.
However, explaining his decision to leave CCM, Mr Lowassa said it was influenced by his belief that the process to drop his name during the vetting process was against the constitution of CCM.
“There were intrigues. Some young people were used by people who hate me to discredit me,” he alleged, thanking CCM-Central Committee members Emmanuel Nchimbi, Adam Kimbisa and Sophia Simba who had also rejected the vetting process. He pointed out that on such grounds; he would be a hypocrite by remaining in CCM and pretend to be happy.
“The CCM I saw in Dodoma is not the one that raised me. As a Tanzanian with love for the country, I say it is over…. CCM is neither my father nor my mother,” he said, adding: “Looking for change outside CCM and after so much soul searching, I am leaving CCM and responding to UKAWA’s call that I join them’’.
Mr Lowassa said that under UKAWA, they have a chance to win this year’s elections. Commenting on claims among sections of the public that he is close to rich people and therefore likely to let the country hijacked by those who have money in case he wins the elections, he stated that he hates poverty and does not want Tanzanians to be poor.
On perceptions that he was a corruption tainted leader, Mr Lowassa said that anybody with evidence that he is corrupt or was engaged in the Richmond (emergency power supply) scandal should either take it before courts of law or ‘shut up and keep quiet’.
Mr Lowassa resigned from his post of prime minister in 2008 over the Richmond energy scandal and has since been held in bad light by a section of the public, including, at one time, by CHADEMA over the matter.
He took a few minutes to explain the Richmond Affair, saying it was prompted at a time when the country was faced by a critical shortage of electricity that threatened to plunge the country into a blackout.
“We took action and hired a company to bring power plants but in the process, we found that these people did not have the capacity to supply as they had pledged,” he said.
National Civic United Front (CUF) Chairman, Professor Ibrahim Lipumba, said that in case UKAWA takes the reins of power, all bad legislations and international agreements would be reviewed.
National NLD Chairperson Dr Emmanuel Makaidi also said that legislations passed by Parliament recently on oil and gas, cyber crime and statistics would be reviewed if the coalition takes over the country’s administration.
Dr Makaidi thanked Mr Mbowe for encouraging Mr Lowassa to join Chadema, describing him as a formidable player in the team. National NCCR Mageuzi Chairman James Mbatia said that while the coalition was bound to have some frictions over some issues, which he observed should be expected in any partnership anywhere, these would be solved when they arise.
National CHADEMA Chairman Freeman Mbowe for the first time spoke explicitly on the negotiations and processes that went behind the scenes as they were facilitating Mr Lowassa’s switch from CCM.
He first welcomed Mr Lowassa and his family into the party, further saying that there is a cross-section of the public who have been made to believe that the new party member is a corrupt person, saying Chadema was not a court of law to judge and convict anyone without evidence.
“We can’t go on with an old story that Lowassa is corrupt and yet we have no evidences that prove so. I would be a weird party chairman to reject a member influx since any party is about people and numbers,” he said.
Mr Mbowe said that one of the big challenges they have been facing as an opposition party was having a parliament that has absolute majority of CCM members.
“The next parliament will be one that does not serve any political party interests,” he hoped. Mr Lowassa is expected to be endorsed by top CHADEMA’S national congress where he is also likely to be announced as the opposition’s coalition’s presidential flag bearer in the October general elections. If endorsed, he will face CCM Union presidential candidate, Dr John Magufuli.
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