The Uses of Political Compromise

DISPUTES are being heard outside the chamber of the Constitutional Assembly whose work is proving to be more of a strain on nerves than most commentators believed earlier. It was assumed that there was plenty of enthusiasm with that were given as the views of the people, to move towards a three-tier government system. As had already been acknowledged earlier, the ruling party is totally ill at ease with that formula, while the Mainland and Isles oppositions and civil society are elated at it. At the end of the day CCM has the majority, thus an obvious stalemate.

Another issue that is being raised outside the chambers is how the two sides of the union would settle some sharp differences in relation to reaching not just a compromise on tier system, but also on the substance of the union. A Zanzibari can easily purchase property on the Mainland and settle, while a Mainland ‘citizen’ cannot purchase a plot of land, a house or a farm in Zanzibar and settle down. While some in CCM are beginning to acknowledge the need for change in that area, senior officials of the Isles opposition vehemently oppose any such shift.

There is in Zanzibar what is often called an insular fear, that people who live on islands are usually steeped in fear of marauding hordes from the Mainland who would come and strip them of their land and culture.  Already this thinking affects inter-union ties and is being expressed in provocative actions especially in attacks against premises or individuals of the Catholic Church, and at times the Anglican Church. None of these cases has been investigated and a water tight case presented in court, which has a role in Mainland fatigue with the union, especially in church.

In the final analysis it is vital for key Isles opposition leaders to remember that the days of an insular relationship with the Mainland where the latter protects the Isles revolutionary authorities from wrathful groups in the Gulf or in the Isles, but on no account should the Isles integrate with the Mainland, are more or less over. It is not just a Mainland integration issue but of the East African Common Market, on the basis of which people from the rest of the EAC zone are expected to be free to purchase assets and settle in any place among the treaty countries. Acknowledging at least that right of entitlement for Mainland visitors prepares Isles for EAC better.

Arguments by people like CUF top organisation official Salum Bimani that the problem with the union is that the Union government has been breaching accords reached in 1964 are not worth the ink printing them in newspapers. It goes back to what Mwalimu said in 1983 that ‘lawyers are saying that one plus one equals three,’ and at present one hears of the need for a union structure where Zanzibar has full powers, or full autonomy – which strictly speaking means breaking up the union. Even if Zanzibar delegates who can’t see beyond the legendary nose of Europeans lead to the Constituent Assembly to break up, Mainlanders would still go there when the Isles implement a wider EAC common market protocol, even if at that time it is an independent country. Come what may, integration, not insularity, is the way forward, as no islander will lose land but sell or hold it in a partnership.

Ideas that Zanzibar is happiest when Mainlanders are not purchasing land there are misguided at best, for they are based on a clan idea of country, instead of a market idea. People who object to other people purchasing land can’t explain wealth and how poverty is eradicated, thinking it is a matter of raising taxes and using it in appropriate ways, transparently, and the rest of it. As a matter of fact one sleeps poor and wakes up rich when someone from the big city arrives at his suburban place – and soon, village – and says he wants a house, a half acre of farm, at the going rate or a bit higher. Poverty is eradicated by foreigners bringing capital with them, not when councilors or MPs plan budget use; there, they reproduce poverty.