By ThisDay Reporter
28th September 2010
THE presidential candidate of the opposition Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA), Dr. Willibrod Slaa, has declared that there is a shift in Tanzania’s political landscape in the run up to the general election, with voters ready to end the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s 50-year rule.
Amid signs that CHADEMA’s campaign rallies are generating a surge in support for the opposition party, Slaa insisted that people were starting to believe that a prosperous “Tanzania without CCM” was finally possible.
The comments come as there has been growing public support for the opposition leader, with the October 31 general election just a month away.
“The first phase of our election campaign has been highly successful. The majority of Tanzanians - even those in the villages - are yearning to see real change of national leadership and in the way their country is being run,” Slaa told THISDAY in an exclusive interview after returning to Dar es Salaam briefly last week from a whirlwind campaign trail.
“The people have shown a lot of enthusiasm to end CCM’s rule, regardless of the dirty tactics being used to try and stop citizens from attending our rallies.”
Slaa said unlike CCM, which has been using television comedy actors and musicians to lure members of the public to its rallies and hiring trucks and buses to provide free transport to people attending its meetings, CHADEMA has been drawing huge crowds with the message of change.
“Thousands of people in towns and villages have been attending our rallies voluntarily. They will not be intimidated by the heavily-armed riot police who come to our rallies to try to threaten our supporters to stay at home,” he said.
Slaa said he was confident of becoming the fifth president of Tanzania despite opposition concerns that the conduct of the vote would not be free and fair.
He said CHADEMA expects to excel in the presidential and parliamentary polls because it is offering voters a clear choice, thanks to its people-centred policies and a pool of “highly qualified” candidates.
“We are confident of winning the election because the people see us as a viable alternative. Voters are fed up with decades of rampant corruption, poverty and underdevelopment under CCM’s rule,” he said.
“When you see influential people such as former district commissioners, engineers, lawyers and other educated people voluntarily joining CHADEMA and running for public office through our party, this means that the country is ready for change and time has come to end CCM’s rule.”
On his campaign trail, the 62-year-old Slaa has pledged to clean up corruption among politicians, tackle poverty, restore public trust and improve social services such as providing free education and health if elected president.
He has also promised to review all mining contracts and make Tanzania self-sufficient in food within three years in order to “end the humiliation of having to beg for food from donors while the country has vast tracts of fertile land.”
“The majority of Tanzanians are needlessly living in conditions of extreme poverty in both rural and urban communities after 50 years of independence,” he said, noting that neighbouring Rwanda has achieved more progress than Tanzania despite its negative history and lack of natural resources.
Slaa described Kikwete’s five-year rule as “disastrous” and said Tanzania has become a laggard nation, while other neighbouring countries in the East African Community were making progress.
He said three quarters of the nation’s budget was being squandered in recurrent expenditures such as buying luxury cars for government officials, allowances and other wasteful spending, while important sectors such as health, education and infrastructure were starved of resources and made reliant on donor aid.
“The people are ready to make Kikwete a one-term president and vote for change on October 31,” he declared.
He urged voters to turn out in huge numbers and give the opposition party a decisive win at the ballot box to end the ruling party’s rule and bring about change to solve the country’s problems.