This time we appeal to the international community not to allow them to steal the election again. We do not seek any favours, we merely ask for a level playing field and that the will of the people be respected. Not only is this is an historic election in our country. Our electorate is very young and many of our supporters will be voting for the first time. We say: do not disappoint them. Do not let their faith in the democratic process be destroyed. Nor can we ask them to remain patient forever.
Statement by Zanzibar’s Presidential Candidate, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, at a Press Conference held at The Rosebank, Johannesburg, on 13 October, 2015
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, I would like to thank you for joining us here today. I am very happy to be here in South Africa – the most important country and the largest economy in our region – and an old friend of the people of Tanzania and Zanzibar.
I would like to take this opportunity to tell you more about our country, our struggle, and our vision for a new and prosperous Zanzibar and all her people.
But first I must inform you about a dangerous situation that seems to be emerging.
Many of you know Zanzibar as an idyllic archipelago and a haven for tourists, but we have a long and turbulent history that stretches back many centuries. We have lived through Portuguese occupation, colonialism under the Sultanate of Oman, a British protectorate, a bloody revolution and finally a treaty between Zanzibar and the mainland, Tanganyika, in April 1964, to establish what is now the United Republic of Tanzania.
This new union was supposed to allow for Zanzibar to be semi-autonomous with its own government and President. But after more than fifty years we must admit to ourselves that the current arrangement is no longer working.
For Zanzibar, with its young and dynamic population, the treaty is seen as unfair, heavily dominated by the powerful mainland Tanganyika, and hindering the islands’ economic prosperity, social, political and international development.
After 50 years of one party rule, we now have the chance to make history. In less than two weeks we are going to the polls again where we have a chance not only to elect a new government, but to move democratically towards a future that will ensure more autonomy for Zanzibar and all its people.
At the same time we are part of an opposition coalition in Tanzania as a whole, known as UKAWA, that is mounting the most effective challenge in its history to the governing CCM, which has had the longest unbroken rule of any party in Africa.
Our fear is that once again there are signs that the ruling party, the CCM, is planning to cheat in Zanzibar through a combination of rigging, violence and intimidation.
We have won this election in Zanzibar several times since multiparty elections came to Zanzibar in 1995, but in each instance the democratic wishes of our people have been denied.
Intimidation and violence directed by the governing CCM has been a characteristic of all elections in Zanzibar since 1995. The exception was the 2010 elections, which took place after a peace and reconciliation agreement was reached between myself, as the head of the opposition, and former president Dr. Amani Karume.
In 1995 there was a massive rigging to ensure that the CCM came to power.
In 2000 more than 2,000 CUF supporters fled to Kenya after deadly clashes with police in which 35 people were killed and another 600 were injured. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned the excessive use of force by security personnel.
In 2005, widespread violence and human rights violations were reported throughout the campaign period, on the polling day and the aftermath. In that year, international observer teams again found instances of massive rigging including illegal voting and an overwhelming presence of security forces.
Even the last election, in 2010, which was peaceful, was stolen from us. The Zanzibar Electoral Commission, structured to favor the status quo, went on to declare Ali Mohamed Shein, the presidential candidate for CCM, the winner by less than 4,000 votes, ignoring our complaints of massive voting irregularities.
This time, Zanzibar has started to witness a return to the old days with election violence and intimidation resurfacing again on a big scale.
During June and July, police and paramilitary units unleashed a systematic campaign of violence and intimidation against CUF supporters who were presenting themselves for voter registration, and CUF registration agents who were questioning illegal voters brought in on trucks loads by CCM. Incidents of beatings, kidnappings and rape were reported.
The Revolutionary Government’s Special Forces, under the order of the Minister of State in the President’s Office, Haji Omar Kheri, used live ammunition and arrested over 100 people without legal grounds, other than that they supported the CUF.
Most of the human rights violations occurred in and around the various designated registration centres. However, anyone associated with the opposition was a potential target for harassment.
The majority of those who were illegally arrested have since been released, but only following intense intimidation and torture. Four cases have faced closed hearings in court. Out of those, two have been convicted and two are still pending.
In recent weeks, as the poll approaches, things have been relatively quiet. And we would dearly hope that this remains the case. But there have been several instances of CUF members being attacked and beaten while putting up posters and, as we approach the home strait, we are concerned that elements of the ruling party will attempt to foment violence to blame it on CUF, and then use it as a justification for attacking CUF supporters.
This time we appeal to the international community not to allow them to steal the election again. We do not seek any favours, we merely ask for a level playing field and that the will of the people be respected.
Not only is this is an historic election in our country. Our electorate is very young and many of our supporters will be voting for the first time. We say: do not disappoint them. Do not let their faith in the democratic process be destroyed. Nor can we ask them to remain patient forever.
There is much at stake. Zanzibar is rich. If only we unleash the potential of our people and make use of their energy, talents, and entrepreneurial nature, our rich cultural and ethnic diversity.
Zanzibar has so much promise – potentially vast oil and gas resources, a rich history of trade and commerce, a skilled population, and a strategic location as the gateway into a rising continent.
Zanzibar represents an important part of the East African landscape and a gateway into the continent. After 50 years of one-party rule, we need true unity and reconciliation. We need an agenda to take Zanzibar Forward.
Zanzibar could become the Singapore, Hong Kong, or Dubai of East Africa. An offshore island nation serving as a regional business hub, attracting investors and enterprise from around the world. This economic boom would create thousands of good jobs and new industries, lifting thousands of Zanzibaris out of poverty, and catalysing development in the continent as a whole.
This isn’t a fantasy. We have a vision and a plan for Zanzibar that we aim to implement from Day One to make this dream a reality.
– Zanzibar is “offshore” and can operate as an autonomous state in a way that Kenya and South Africa could not. Issues of privacy, taxation, regulation and political stability – all favour Zanzibar.
– Zanzibar has the “offshore” advantages without being remote from continental Africa – like, say, Mauritius. Zanzibar is a 15min flight from Dar – an hour from Nairobi – and within hours from numerous Middle East business destinations and corporate headquarters.
– And Zanzibar is beautiful – it’s already a world-class vacation destination. Businesspeople want to be in Zanzibar.
But this transformation must begin with political change!
CUF will provide the infrastructure and climate for foreign investment and business growth. This includes investing in our infrastructure: IT, transportation, airports, seaports, and hotels; lowering corporate and registration taxes; the development of new banking regulations for ease of offshore operations; a new Free Trade Zone; and low administrative costs of setting up and running businesses.
All of this will be possible under an open, fair and transparent CUF government. The ending of corruption will increase foreign investment and make business easier to conduct.
This is our opportunity to not just turn the page on CCM’s one-party rule. It’s an opportunity to build a completely new future for Zanzibar – a future filled with hope and promise.
The time has come for change.
That is why we now plead with the international community not to allow them to steal our votes again.