Tanzania election: Pre and election day developments October 27 – 28

A Tanzania National Electoral Commission official prepares ballot boxes as early morning queues of voters start to form at Wazo Hill polling station in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on October 28, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

Polling Stations

  • Polling stations opened on 28 October at 07:00 and voters will have until 16:00 to cast their ballots. The results are expected to be released one week from today.
  • The opposition has raised claims that their party agents have been denied entry into some polling stations – Civic United Front (CUF), the National Convention for Construction and Reform – Mageuzi (NCCR) and ACT-Wazalendo agents in Ngamiani South, Zanzibar were taken into police custody after they reportedly blocked voters from entering the polling station because they had been denied access.

Election Campaign Concerns

  • On the eve of election day opposition candidate, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, of ACT-Wazalendo in Zanzibar, was arrested as he attempted to cast his ballot early. He was later released from police custody.
  • Deogratias Munishi (Head of Foreign Affairs of CHADEMA) tweeted on 27 October that “Tundu Lissu is supposed to address his final Presidential Campaign Rally in Dar es Salaam today. #TCAA have rejected issuing permit for his chopper to land in Dar es Salaam from Kilimanjaro. He’ll now fly without landing permit to teach authorities a lesson!”
  • CHADEMA officials on 28 October claimed on that its parliamentary candidate for Kawe in Dar es Salaam, Kalima Mdee was under police custody just hours after the polling stations opened.

Election Violence

  • Voters clashed with security forces on Monday 26 October in an attempt to stop them from distributing ballot boxes. Reports allege that the boxes contained pre-ticket ballots. Since Monday, 11 people have died due to clashes with Tanzanian security forces. The police are disputing that any deaths occurred due to these clashes.
  • Deogratias Munishi (Head of Foreign Affairs of CHADEMA) tweeted on 27 October that “Chacha Ngabia & Chacha Nyaitoti (CHADEMA’s polling agents) were shot dead this afternoon while attending the final councillorship campaign rally for Matongo Ward in Tarime Rural. The killers (CCM’s Cadres) invaded the rally & started shooting.”



Tanzanian police officers patrol outside Garagara Playground polling station in Mtoni, Zanzibar, on October 28, 2020. PHOTO: PATRICK MEINHARDT/AFP

Internet Shutdown

  • The communications authority in Tanzania ordered telecom companies to suspend bulk short messaging and bulk short calling services over the election period. This included access to social media sites like Twitter and WhatsApp. Opposition parties have relied heavily on these sites to rally against the CCM due to their limited coverage on local news stations and coupled with the restrictions on political gatherings – there is limited freedom of association in a political sense.
  • Internet users across Tanzania have reported that some sites, including WhatsApp and Twitter, are being restricted as millions of people vote in the general election.

International Election Observers

  • The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, on 27 October called for peaceful, inclusive and credible polls. The Chairperson called on all stakeholders, political parties and their supporters to participate in the voting process peacefully and to refrain from any acts of violence. He further urged the authorities to ensure a conducive environment to enable citizens to cast their votes in a safe and peaceful manner.
  • President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation issued a statement on 27 October regarding the general elections in Tanzania:

“In view of the challenges brought about the COVID-19 pandemic, the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) could not be physically deployed to the United Republic of Tanzania. Instead, SADC adopted a virtual approach of consultation with electoral stakeholders in the furtherance of the consolidation of democracy in the region, in accordance with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015).

I wish to commend the people of the United Republic of Tanzania for the peaceful and exemplary manner in which they have conducted themselves during the election campaign period, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, I urge all citizens to maintain the same spirit as they cast their ballots.”

  • Tanzania Elections Watch – The Panel of Eminent Persons, drawn from East and Southern Africa, continues to monitor developments in Tanzania leading up to the general election and released a statement differing in tone and substance from both that of the AU and the SADC. They condemned the violence that has reportedly escalated in Zanzibar leading up to voting day. They have also raised concerns over the heavy-handed force shown by security forces and the restriction of communication services ahead of the election.


Tanzania – pre-election developments: October 23-26

Election Campaign Concerns

  • Deputy Secretary General for ACT-Wazalendo for Zanzibar, Nassor Ahmed, reportedly went missing for 5 hours on Sunday (25th October) after his vehicle was hit by an unmarked car which then took him away.
  • Leaders of ACT-Wazalendo in Zanzibar led by their Islands’ presidential candidate, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, warned that they will only accept defeat if Wednesday’s polls are transparent, without any element of rigging. Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police (CP) Zanzibar Mohamed Haji warned that stability and peace will not be compromised, adding that any violator would meet the full wrath of the police.

Election Observers Participation

  • Tanzania’s opposition parties claim the government has made it difficult to accredit thousands of opposition electoral observers who want to ensure the vote is fair. The ACT-Wazalendo warned that the issue could lead to violence, as polling stations won’t be allowed to operate without the observers.

National Electoral Commission Partiality

  • The leader of Tanzania’s main opposition party accused the electoral commission of tampering with voter lists ahead of Wednesday’s general elections. “There’s massive (biometric voter registration) manipulation. Millions of ghost voters and polling stations,” Freeman Mbowe, chairman of the CHADEMA party, wrote on Twitter.

Voter’s Roll Abuse

  • Zitto Kabwe, leader of ACT-Wazalendo, claimed voters had been added to his constituency in the western city of Kigoma. “In my constituency, some 13,830 ghost voters have been added in the list. Some national service soldiers and students have been prepared to vote through these names,” he claimed on Twitter.

Supporters of the Tanzanian opposition political party The Alliance for Change and Transparency (Wazalendo) demonstrate at the end of the last campaign rally in Stone Town, on October 25, 2020, ahead of the national elections. PHOTO MARCO LONGARI/AFP

Security Concerns

  • Islamist State militants attacked a Tanzanian village on the border of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. The raid was in the village of Kitaya, in Mtwara province of Tanzania. 20 people were allegedly beheaded, houses were razed, an armoured vehicle was destroyed, and cash and military equipment was stolen. Three Tanzanian soldiers were also killed. Local news agencies did not report on the attack and President Magufuli is yet to acknowledge the attack on his home soil. Initial media reports claimed it was a case of electoral violence.

International Stakeholders

  • Since 13th October 2020, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has undertaken a series of virtual engagements with key electoral stakeholders in preparation for the General Elections in the United Republic of Tanzania to be held on 28 October 2020. These engagements, in this Member State, follow the decision taken during the Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, held on 15 September 2020, not to deploy a physical SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to the United Republic of Tanzania due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • US Congress Resolution has urged the government of Tanzania to respect human rights and constitutional rights and ensure free and fair elections in the Wednesday 28th October 2020 poll. The resolution acknowledged that the government has interfered with political campaigning, restricted media freedoms, undermined the collection and dissemination of national statistics, limited civil society involvement and placed the citizens at risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the denial by the state of its existence.
  • The European Union reiterated its support of the development and prosperity of the people of Tanzania and, in line with Article 4 of the Southern Africa Development Community treaty establishing the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, reaffirmed its attachment to the process towards the consolidation of democratic institutions. Reports of incidents and limitations in the run-up to the elections are of concern. The EU encourages all parties to work together diligently to enable inclusive, transparent, peaceful and credible elections.
Dr Craig Moffat is Head of Programme: Governance Delivery and Impact at Good Governance Africa.
Monique Bennet is a senior researcher at Good Governance Africa. She has a keen interest in data science, data visualisation and statistics using the R programming language. Throughout her studies, research topics such as development, democracy and the environment within the context of developing countries have been her focus areas.
SIXOLILE NGQWALA holds a Masters of Commerce (MCom) in economics from the University of Fort Hare, where he was involved with the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) in econometric research (econometric modelling, data coding, data mining, data analysis and interpretation). He has a BCom Hon in economics, and an undergraduate degree in Business Management and Industrial Psychology.


Tanzania Election Tracker 2020


Tanzanians are heading to the polls on the 28th October. The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party has governed Tanzania since independence in 1961, and is the second longest-ruling party in Africa. President John Magufuli swept into power in 2015 with a promise to end corruption and expand infrastructure. However, his strong-handed governing style has been strongly criticised, with human rights groups and opposition parties accusing Magufuli of increasing repression ahead of the polls, intimidating political rivals and restricting the press.

Campaign rallies are in full swing, with early signs of tension between opposition groups and the ruling party. Tundu Lissu, the presidential candidate from the main opposition Chadema party, has publicly stated he believes the elections will not be free, fair or transparent.  Fears have been raised by citizens about the potential outbreak of violence if the election is not held in a transparent manner and the outcome delayed.

Tanzania’s incumbent President and presidential candidate of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party,John Magufuli speaks during the official launch of the party’s campaign for the October general election at the Jamhuri stadium in Dodoma, Tanzania. PHOTO ERICKY BONIPHACE/ AFP

Election Contenders

Magufuli’s main opponents are likely to be Lissu, who recently returned to Tanzania after spending nearly three years in Belgium for medical treatment after a failed assassination attempt, and former foreign minister Bernard Membe from the ACT-Wazalendo, who was expelled from the CCM in February.

Initially, opposition parties were set to head to the polls without a coalition or alliance in place to unseat the ruling CCM. Recent media reports have indicated that the country’s two leading parties, Chadema and the third biggest party in the country, ACT-Wazalendo, led by Zitto Kabwe, have decided to form what has been dubbed a “loose collaboration”, and endorse a common candidate for the polls in each region. ACT-Wazalendo’s supporters will vote for Lissu while in exchange, Chadema has endorsed ACT-Wazalendo’s candidate in Zanzibar (the island is a semi-autonomous region with the Tanzanian federation).

However, an obstacle to this loose collaboration may lie in Tanzanian law, which requires parties interested in forming an official coalition to sign an agreement at least 90 days before elections are held, and have it approved by the country’s Registrar of Political Parties. While an informal collaboration may not technically break the rules, the Registrar of Political Parties has already issued a warning to party officials against endorsing each other’s candidates.

Outbreaks of Violence

Several instances of violence have been reported in the mainstream media and social media platforms, such as:

  • On 6 October, police reportedly arrested an unspecified number of Chadema opposition supporters in the Coast Region attending an alleged unauthorized rally by Lissu. Police officials claimed to be upholding Lissu’s temporary suspension of his campaign by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
  • On 7 October, Lissu was involved in a stand-off with the police for nine hours on his way to Dar es Salaam to meet with party members.
  • Accusations of hired thugs and police officers led to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Simon Sirro ordering an immediate investigation into the claims that Serengeti Parliamentary candidate for Chadema, Catherine Ruge, was assaulted by the police officers on 14 October 2020.
  • Some video clips have gone viral showing assets belonging to Chadema candidate for Chato constituency and a local party official being torched. Geita Regional Police Commander Sikoki Mwaibambe confirmed the incidents, saying a group of seven to 10 people stormed the home of the Chadema parliamentary candidate for the constituency, destroying a perimeter fence and torching a shed.

Human Rights Abuses

There have been a series of accusations against the CCM regarding human rights abuses stemming from their decision in December 2019 to withdraw its declaration from Article 34(6) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. This declaration allows individuals and NGOs to take their cases directly to the African Court. Human Rights Watch has warned that Tanzanian authorities continue to step up repression of opposition parties, non-governmental organisations and the media, ahead of the elections.

National Electoral Commission Partiality

Tanzanian human rights activist Fatma Karume said in an interview that the National Electoral Commission (NEC) is most likely not an independent entity, and has members of the CCM party appointed as returning officers.

Election Campaign Suspensions

Despite a pledge of fairness, the NEC has suspended the election campaigning of several opposition leaders for allegedly breaching the Ethics Committee regulations by violating section 21(a) and (n) of the code of ethics for presidential, parliamentarian and councillor election elections:

  • Lissu recently had his campaign activities suspended until 10 October after being accused of making seditious statements at one of his rallies. The NEC stated he was suspended from 3 October for breaching the elections code of ethics.
  • ACT-Wazalendo has faulted the five-day campaign suspension slapped on the party’s presidential candidate, Seif Sharif Hamad, saying it shows the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) is not independent. Mr Hamad becomes the second presidential candidate after Mr Lissu to have his campaigns suspended.
  • Chadema’s parliamentary candidate for Kawe Constituency, Halima Mdee, was also handed a seven-day campaign suspension?.
  • Mtwara Urban Constituency’s candidate Maftah Nachuma (on the Civic United Front ticket) suffered a 10-day suspension.

Election Observers Participation

Chadema’s Secretary-General John Mnyika told the media that he is concerned about the lack of permission given to a number of important international observers and local NGOs – namely the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), Tanzania Constitution Forum (TCF), the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) and the Tanzania Election Monitoring Committee (TEMCO) – to monitor the elections and provide voter education prior to the election day. Election observation is important because it provides additional resources in the pre-election preparation and can be an oversight mechanism to safeguard election processes involving voter registers being up-to-date, ballot materials being delivered throughout the country and the appropriate technologies being adopted to avoid election fraud. The government’s actions may result in the election outcome being contested.

In a response measure, on 15 October, the CCM sought to calm diplomats’ concerns about fairness in the run up to the election. The ruling party leadership met with envoys from various countries and assured them of fairness and legality of the polls. The CCM’s Secretary-General Bashiru Ally met with diplomats from Kenya, Mozambique, the USA and seven countries from the European Union.

Tundu Lissu, Tanzania’s former MP with the Chadema main opposition party, who was shot 16 times in a 2017 attack, returned after three years in exile to challenge President John Magufuli in the October elections. PHOTO STR/AFP

Restricting Media Freedoms

The limiting of freedom of expression and media came into effect on August 10th, after Tanzania’s communications authority restricted cooperation between international and local media outlets. Local media outlets must seek permission to broadcast international news content, and will be punished if content is deemed “offensive”. Magufuli has defined “offensive” as anything that is contrary to his views and statements about current affairs within Tanzania. There are many reports of journalists facing harassment and detainment in Tanzania under Magufuli’s leadership.

Tanzania recently passed the Online Content Regulations 2020 that make it an offence for Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp users to post messages which “ridicule, abuse or harm the reputation, prestige or status of the United Republic of Tanzania” ahead of the election.

COVID-19 and the Media

While the world battles with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, this is an opportunity for Tanzania to emulate Malawi’s successful hosting of their election earlier this year under challenging conditions. Unlike Malawi, Magufuli declared the country “coronavirus-free” thanks to prayers by citizens. A recent Al Jazeera interview with Muthoki Mumo from the Committee to Protect Journalists for Sub-Saharan Africa highlighted  that it has become increasingly difficult for journalists to do their job under Magufuli’s presidency. Journalists are restricted from reporting on the coronavirus and its impact on the elections. Magufuli has positioned himself as the gatekeeper of all information related to the coronavirus pandemic in the country.  As a result, the government has not updated its national statistics for the virus since June, and there have been no regulations or restrictions implemented. The citizens are effectively being denied the right to credible information on what’s happening in their country. Political analyst Aikande Kwayu wrote that the Tanzanian government’s response to the pandemic “has revealed, rather than informed, the governance style under the current administration”. Rather than cooperating and engaging with medical experts, Magufuli has cast doubt on their professionalism and taken the science into his own hands.

Incumbency Abuses

In general, an incumbent has a political advantage over challengers during an election period. The incumbent often has more name recognition based on their position of previously holding office. Incumbents also tend to have easier access to campaign finance, as well as the use of government resources that can be directly and indirectly used to boost the incumbent’s re-election campaign. In this case, the CCM and Magufuli appear to have made full use of the advantages of incumbency.

The ruling party’s campaign strategy has seen Magufuli’s face and the party’s signature green-and-yellow colours found on posters, leaflets and billboards across the country, with coverage of his campaign dominating the news. Media freedom remains restricted and is tightly controlled by the government.

As a direct result, Chadema’s blue-and-white signature colours or posters are absent on the streets and their campaign messages are missing from the airwaves. Also, the party has raised concerns about new taxes, making it considerably more expensive to produce electoral materials. In order to counter these government created obstacles,  Lissu and his party have utilised the social media space, which has less government control, to grow its popularity and support.

More recently, ballot papers have been altered from the standard alphabetical order to a supposedly random sequence which sees Magufuli’s and the CCM name appear first and main opposition candidates, Chadema and Lissu, appear last.

Dr Craig Moffat is Head of Programme: Governance Delivery and Impact at Good Governance Africa.
Monique Bennet is a senior researcher at Good Governance Africa. She has a keen interest in data science, data visualisation and statistics using the R programming language. Throughout her studies, research topics such as development, democracy and the environment within the context of developing countries have been her focus areas.
SIXOLILE NGQWALA holds a Masters of Commerce (MCom) in economics from the University of Fort Hare, where he was involved with the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) in econometric research (econometric modelling, data coding, data mining, data analysis and interpretation). He has a BCom Hon in economics, and an undergraduate degree in Business Management and Industrial Psychology.
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