Tanzania: can Mkapa deliver the economic kingdom?

Author:Yahya, Ahmed
Position:Pres. Ben Mkapa - Special Report

Although Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) won the December 1995 elections with a thumping majority, few are convinced that the new team, led by President Ben Mkapa (above) can surmount the mountain of economic problems it has inherited. However, as Ahmed Yahya reports, Mr Mkapa can capitalise on the enormous public support he is currently enjoying to set Tanzania on the path of a new business culture.

The landslide victory for the CCM in the polls, considerably assisted by the opposition parties' decision to boycott the postponed elections in Dar es Salaam (See African Business, December 1995), did not come as too much of a shock for analysts of Tanzania's often turgid politics.

The election results were greeted with hoots of derision from opposition groups, particularly in Zanzibar where CCM won the Presidential election by a hairs-breadth. Elsewhere however, there were noisy demonstrations in support of the new Government led by President Benjamin Mkapa.

The jubilant public mood was expected to subside relatively quickly as Tanzanians returned to face the harsh reality of their daily struggle for survival. Yet the feeling that change has truly come with the elections has persisted and popular support for the CCM Government continues along its heady course.

The new President and his leaner Cabinet of 23 members, are riding a wave of popular support with the independent media, certainly not the most critical in Africa, painting rhapsodic portraits. However, since the new Government has not yet had sufficient time to start making good on electoral promises to deliver a new economic and social kingdom to the country, one wonders what the euphoria is all about.

Indeed, the opposition is convinced that the Mkapa Government is nothing more than the old Julius Nyerere-inspired CCM wine in a new bottle. Mr Nyerere, the former President of Tanzania and now a respected elder African statesman, played an active role in generating support for Mr Mkapa during the elections.

CCM on the other hand is adamant that this has not been a celebration of the return of the old CCM: The "all-poor-together" socialism of the first administration; its suffocating authoritarianism; its inefficiency in delivering public service and keeping open supply channels for essential goods, above all, its systematic failure to turn its equality driven, visionary development effort into a real economic success. The old ideology, CCM officials protest, has been consigned to the rubbish bin of history - and the public seems to agree.

Neither does the memory of the CCM's second administration, led by the outgoing President, Mr Ali Hassan Mwinyi, inspire much joy. The laid-back and benign leadership...

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