“…[Ndugu Chairman] allow me to relinquish all the responsibilities you have given me. I say this with a clear conscience, without arrogance or humiliation or anger or joy.” These were Aboud Jumbe’s concluding remarks after a three hour-long speech to CCM’s National Executive Committee (NEC) in 1984. Aboud Jumbe served as Zanzibar’s second President after the assassination of Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume in 1972. He also served as Tanzania’s Vice-President under President Julius Nyerere during the time when the Zanzibar’s president by his virtue assumed the number two position in the United Republic of Tanzania. This speech was his last as President of Zanzibar, VP of Tanzania and also the Vice-Chairman of his party CCM.
It was the culmination of what the renowned Tanzanian historian Issa Shivji terms as ‘Jumbe’s trial’. Jumbe was being ‘tried’ for his strong position in support for a three-government Union format. Tanzania and indeed the ruling party CCM faced a difficult period between 1983 and 1984 over the composition and structure of the political union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Termed as the ‘Crisis of the Union’, this period was characterized by strong debates on the Union – with factions within Zanzibar questioning the position of Zanzibar within the Union. Although Issa Shivji pits the struggle as a battle between factions within Zanzibar, there were fuming anecdotes over the Union, which took the form of power struggles in the isles. Central in all this was Aboud Jumbe who had until then taken an aloof position on the matter.
Aboud Jumbe died on 14 August 2016 at his home in Mji Mwema, Kigamboni Dar es Salaam. He was 96. He was educated in Makerere University and was an experienced teacher teaching in several schools in Zanzibar before venturing into politics. He was instrumental in the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution and served in the first Revolutionary Council under Sheikh Abeid Karume. According to Zanzibar lawyer Awadh Said, people should not forget Jumbe’s colored history as a teacher just like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.
Jumbe rise to the presidency was completely off script just like that of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Mubarak. A career soldier, with little political ambition Mubarak succeeded Anwar Al Sadat who was assassinated in 1981. When Karume was assassinated in 1972 Jumbe was quickly confirmed as Chairman of the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) and Nyerere selected him as his First Vice President.
Jumbe and Reforms
One of his biggest legacies was the position he took regarding the structure of the Union. Having consolidated his power after taking over as president Jumbe was quick to bring reforms. He was instrumental in restructuring the ASP and according to lawyer Awadh Said Jumbe opened the democratic space in Zanzibar. “He reduced the powers of the Revolutionary Council and was instrumental in the introduction of the Zanzibari House of Representatives,” Awadh told me. He also did a lot to bring about judicial reforms by bringing in educated people to serve in various positions within the judiciary. Although these reforms were noble, Shivji maintains that the “reforms were carefully crafted to ensure that his own authority and power as the President of the Party would not be affected.” That notwithstanding Jumbe will be greatly remembered for the radical reforms he made.
Jumbe and the Union
Jumbe was at the heart of the merger of Zanzibar’s ASP and the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) in 1977. The merger of the two parties further consolidated the political union between Zanzibar and Tanganyika that formed the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964. A permanent Union constitution was hastily passed in 1977, which made Tanzania a single party state. The merger of the two parties forming CCM and the passage of a permanent constitution in 1977 was the genesis of dissatisfaction among some people in Zanzibar. For Jumbe especially, the merger ate into Zanzibar’s autonomy presented a hurdle in his quest for political control in Zanzibar. He still believed in autonomy for Zanzibar and understandably he created the House of Representatives and a draft of the Zanzibari constitution of 1979.
Jumbe’s downfall in 1984 came at the back of a long letter (waraka mrefu) he had drafted together with Bashir Swanzy, a Ghanaian lawyer who he had hired as Zanzibar’s Attorney General in place of Damian Lubuva. According to my interview with Awadh Said, Damian Lubuva who is currently the Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) was brought to Zanzibar through the recommendation of Mwalimu Nyerere. Bashir Swanzy was well known in Zanzibar, and according to Awadh Said, he even had a Zanzibari wife.
He first came to Zanzibar to present ASP in an election case just before the revolution. President Jumbe asked Swanzy to help him draft a letter, which in the very sense questioned the format of the Union and according to Jumbe himself, a question of interpretation of the Articles of the Union – the principle document of the Union. The letter, was drafted in English by Bashir Swanzy and according to various literature and interviews I made, the letter was supposed to be discussed first at the Revolutionary Council before been taken to the main man – Mwalimu Nyerere. The letter was first to be translated into Swahili – a language common to the Revolutionary Council before been debated. The document/letter was titled “The Case which the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar has against the Executive of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Government of Tanganyika.” Going by the title, this was a grievance letter which Jumbe used to produce the book “The Partner-Ship: Tanganyika Zanzibar Union, 30 Turbulent Years” and translated into Swahili by journalist and now MP for Malindi Ally Saleh.
Shivji observes in his book “Pan-Africanism or Pragmatism: Lessons of Tanganyika-Zanzibar Union” that the document/letter was like a ‘charge sheet’ or ‘demand letter’. In it, Jumbe outlines Zanzibar’s dissatisfaction with the Union. The thrust of his argument is a three-government federal Union, which, according to him was envisaged in the Articles of the Union. The ideas of Jumbe are well captured in his book. In the nine chapters of the book, Jumbe tears into the structure of the Union by questioning the legal interpretations of the Articles of the Union and the effects of the consolidation of the Union through the merger of the two parties. He discusses in Chapter Two the type of government that the Union of 1964 envisaged – two or three government format? He argues conclusively that the Union government that was formed by the governments of Tanganyika and Zanzibar envisaged a three-government Union. He argues that Article 3(b) of the Articles of the Union provides for the appointment of two Vice Presidents, one of which (being the resident of Zanzibar) shall be the leader of the government of Zanzibar and will be the principle assistant of the president of the United Republic in the government functions in Zanzibar. Jumbe argues therewith that this is testament of the presence of three-governments.
Jumbe in his book again poses the geographical question of Tanzania Mainland versus Tanganyika. The 1977 constitution of the United Republic in Article 2(1) on the territory states that ‘the territory of the United Republic consists of the whole of the areas of mainland Tanzania and the whole of the areas of Tanzania Zanzibar, and includes the territorial water.’ In strict terms, as Jumbe argues, the term mainland Tanzania is ambiguous and brings about ‘geographical confusion’ observing that calling Zanzibar, Tanzania Zanzibar or Tanzania Visiwani is a mark of territorial control. Jumbe’s again posits that the Tanganyika leaders have abolished the Tanganyika government replacing it with Tanzania, which in effect is the United Republic
Jumbe paid the price for his beliefs in 1984 after Nyerere accepted his resignation from all party positions. He also left his position as President of Zanzibar. However, Jumbe left behind a trail of questions over the nature of the Union. When Tanzania began the constitutional review process in 2011, the key feature in the constitutional narrative was the question of the nature of the Union. Various commissions such as the Nyalali, Kisanga and Warioba proposed a three-government format of the Union based on people’s views and general historical considerations. The recommendations have however been squashed on all occasions – but the recommendations must have been a solace to Maalim Aboud Jumbe. He goes well.