Tanzania’s opposition leader Tundu Lissu of Chadema party has been banned from campaigning for seven days by the national elections body, with only 26 days to the much-awaited presidential elections.
Lissu is facing off with the incumbent, John Pombe Magufuli of Chama Cha Mageuzi (CCM).
According to a statement released yesterday, the electoral body accused the opposition leader of making incitement remarks by claiming President Magufuli had planned a meeting with poll officials so as to rig the October 28 General Election.
However, a defiant Lissu declared he would go on with his scheduled rallies on Sunday.
“I will go on with my plans on Sunday. I will campaign as earlier planned the day after tomorrow,” he told supporters in an international press conference televised by Dar TV online via YouTube.
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He also accused Magufuli and CCM of repeatedly breaking election laws with impunity, adding that they had been using state resources, provincial administration and government vehicles to campaign all over the country.
“We have complained three times against CCM, especially on bribery and giving voters promises of development projects. Has any of you ever heard the electoral commission saying it has received any complaints from us and especially on issues of corruption?” posed Lissu.
According to the elections commission, complaints had been filed by Chama Cha NRA and Chama Cha Mapinduzi that Lissu had made inciting remarks in Mara district.
The remarks were to the effect that “the president of the union of Tanzania had called a meeting with all election officials so as to compromise the elections”.
He also reportedly made remarks trivialising elections during a rally in Geita.
According to the commission, when they wrote to Chadema to respond to the complaints, the opposition party brushed off the letter explaining that this was an individual issue, supposed to be responded to by the candidate.
But the committee composed by the electoral body found that the complaints had been properly referred to Chadema as provided for by regulations governing the behaviour of a candidate during elections.
The verdict, the statement explained, had been arrived at after 11 out of 15 delegates hearing the petition agreed that the matter had been rightfully referred to the party.
“After lengthy deliberations in which Chadema officials actively participated, and after referring to the relevant laws, the committee on ethics has devised, invoking the powers vested on it by the constitution, to stop Chadema presidential candidate Tundu Lissu for seven days with effect from October 3 from campaigning.”
According to the ban signed by the secretary of the national ethics committee Emanuel Kakwishe, Lissu is not supposed to hold rallies until expiry of the ban.
On Monday, Lissu found himself in the eye of a storm when he was confronted by the police in Nyamongo while on his way for a rally in Tarime where his convoy was dispersed with teargas canisters for holding an illegal meeting.
Chadema protested what it termed as brutalising of its supporters, insisting that the crowds had spontaneously come out to greet their candidate and should not be punished.
In 2017, Lissu survived by the skin of his teeth after two men sprayed his car with 48 bullets out of which 16 were left lodged in his body. He received medical attention in Nairobi and Belgium.
He limped back to Tanzania in July, this year, and plunged into presidential campaigns.
Tanzania has been placed in total media lockdown as no foreign media organisations are supposed to cover the polls while local organisations are supposed to get government permission before they can relay news to foreign outlets.