Zanzibar. The Civic United Front (CUF) yesterday talked up its election hopes, with Secretary General Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad painting a picture of an economically prosperous Zanzibar after the October 2015 General Election.
Mr Hamad, who doubles as the First Vice President in the Government of National Unity under the CCM-led Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, told thousands of CUF supporters at Mnazi Mmoja grounds that the Isles’ economic ills were due to what he dismissed as the clueless leadership of the ruling party. The four-time contestant for the Isles’ presidency said Zanzibar has what it takes to graduate from an economically miserable country to a properous one. “With all the potential around us, we only need to do two things–change the union system with Tanganyika and a visionary cadre of leaders,” he said to applause from supporters chanting party slogans. Yesterday’s meeting was meant to launch the party’s election committees in readiness for the October polls. The party also dished out 12 vehicles, 50 motorbikes and stationery for use in the party’s administrative stages–from ward to constituency, zonal and national levels.
Mr Hamad–who holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA Honours) degree in political science, public administration and international relations from the University of Dar es Salaam–argues that the Union format has turned Zanzibar into a destitute, desperate and dependent nation that cannot make “sensible” decisions for the good of its people.
He added: “We are told Zanzibar is a country yet foreign affairs is a union matter and we cannot, therefore, make decisions regarding international relations without the consent of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania…in short, we are a country that cannot engage with other nations without the approval of the United Republic.”
Qatar and Turkish Airways are said to have applied to start direct flights to Zanzibar but have been turned down by aviation authorities. “This is why we support the position of Ukawa [a political grouping that brings together CUF, Chadema, NCC-Mageuzi and NLD] that we will not take part in the referendum for the Proposed Constitution,” Mr Hamad said.
If left to make its own decisions after it comes to power, he added, the CUF-led govermment will turn Zanzibar into a Free Port Area (Zone). This means the semi-autonomous island would become a trade hub for East and Central Africa and
develop along the lines of Dubai, which is a major economy in the Middle East largely due to its Free Port Zone where investors bring in their merchandise without paying tax. Mr Hamad added: “With our strategic location, there is no reason why Zanzibar should not become the Dubai of Eastern and Central Africa or be a Hong Kong or Singapore of Africa.”
With a Free Port Zone–which runs from the Sea Port to the Airport–Mr Hamad believes, investors will flock to the Isles. “This is the type of Zanzibar that we want to bring under the leaderhip of CUF,” he added. “No leader will go to investors and ask for a 10 per cent share in kickbacks.”
Citing the case Qatar, which he visited recently, Mr Hamad said the Southwest Asian nation was on a similar economic footing with Zanzibar 50 years ago. The semi-autonamous Island became independent in 1964 before merging with Tanganyika to form Tanzania in that same year.
Qatar, which won its independence from Britain in 1975, is said to have resisted calls to unite either with the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia. With oil and natural gas at its disposal, Qatar made decisions that benefitted its citizens. Locals account for just a quarter of the population of the Arab country while three-quarters of the population are foreign workers attracted by the country’s economic fortunes. Mr Hamad said: “With oil and gas in Zanzibar, I see no reason why we should not be like Qatar. We need only start exploiting our oil and natural gas at a time when decisions are made in Zanzibar instead of implementing decisions that are made in Dodoma–and this can only be done under the leadership of CUF.”
Earlier, former Zanzibar Cabinet Minister Mansoor Yusuf Himid stole the show with his eloquent arguments on why Zanzibaris must say a big “No” to the proposed constitution.
He added: “We need a government that will respect the views of everyone irrespective of their social status, religion or tribe…a government that makes decisions within Zanzibar and a government that will revive Zanzibar’s respect for foreign nations–and Maalim Seif’s CUF has what it takes to do that.” Zanzibaris love the union as evidenced by the fact that the people of the Isles are a mixture of different races, Mr Hamad said. “Even God wants unity in families, tribes and nations but what we are against is the kind of union that exists between Tanganyika and Zanzibar,” said Mr Himid, who was sacked as a minister in the CCM-led Government in 2012 after he publicly opposed the two-government system in the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.
Source: The Citizen, 22 Feb. 2015