“One of its most popular tricks was that if you ask it which party is it a member of, it will pick up the TLP membership card”

It’s not often a baboon (or was it a monkey? More below) makes the front page of the Tanzanian press. And it’s not often that the Journal of Democracy does so either. When they both do so in the same story, it has got to be good.

On Monday, Augustine Mrema was reported as being accused of spending TZS 15m on hiring a baboon for his ill fated 2005 election campaign under the Tanzania Labour Party (TLP) flag. Speaking to Mwananchi newspaper (Swahili needed) Mrema himself denied the claim, though not the presence of the baboon; admittedly, hard to deny:

He said that these accusations of misuse of funds are false and that he couldn’t have hired the baboon for that amount as it was the property of the entertainment troupe he had during the campaign.

Speaking to Tanzania Daima (Swahili) he noted the talents of the TLP baboon, called Fandidati:

He said Fandidati….. could ride a bicycle, open bottles, dress and undress herself and tear up the membership cards of other parties. He said that one of its most popular tricks was that if you ask it which party is it a member of, it will pick up the TLP membership card and show it to the audience.

In Thursday’s MwananchiTLP Deputy Secretary Hamadi Tao defended the expenditure, saying that it wasn’t just for the baboon but for the whole entertainment troupe – including their allowances.

So what did this obscure academic paper say to cause such a fuss? It was just one paragraph in the paper Tanzania’s Missing Opposition, available in an ungated version here or at the Journal of Democracy here. According to authors Hoffman and Robinson:

In 1999 Mrema quit NCCR-Mageuzi, stole its property on his way out, and joined the Tanzania Labor Party (TLP), where his embarrassing and reckless behavior escalated. Besides fragmenting TLP’s leadership, heused members’ dues to purchase a home and, while campaigning for the 2005 election, helped himself to $98,000 from the party’s coffers for ethically dubious expenditures—$83,000 to buy alcohol for voters and $15,000 to hire a monkey to attract people to his rallies. Not surprisingly, Mrema’s popularity imploded. In the 2005 election, he received less than one percent of the vote.

Unfortunately, there is no reference* to back up these very specific claims – no newspaper report is cited, no anonymous interviewees are mentioned. It is not presented as speculation or hearsay but as fact.

It is fair to say that this is pretty irresponsible. The authors wouldn’t make such accusations against politicians in their own country for fear of a lawsuit. So why apply quite a different standard here?

More positively, the paper gives an excellent overview of the mechanisms in place to stifle opposition to CCM including pressure on NGOs and media, party funding mechanisms, intimidation of candidates and others. Check it out to be reminded.

One thing it misses is the distribution of power within CCM and the related factionalim within the party. It is no longer the monolithic party that it once was . Opposition is not so much missing as internal. This is already having its affects on the upcoming elections as different factions vie for their opponents seats within the party.

But back to the baboon. The Journal of Democracy paper refers to a monkey while all Swahili language media reports refer to a baboon. USD15,000 is clearly an outrageous sum for a monkey, even including the handlers’ per diems – they’re ten a penny in Dar. But a baboon? That’s a different story….

*UPDATE 19 April 10: There is a reference now. Due to editorial requirements at JoD, references are limited. Lindsay Robinson has been in touch with the following reference:

Khamis Hamad, Uhuru, “Mrema reportedly bought 110m shillings of ‘mbege’ for his voters in last year’s civic elections and hired monkey for 20m shillings” May 1, 2005.

It should noted that Uhuru is a CCM owned newspaper and so had a clear interest in getting at Mrema at the time.

Thanks

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