Tanzanian President's hand-picked candidate is cut out of the same mold
Ali Hassan Mwinyi will stand for election as president of Tanzania in October. Not only is he the hand-picked candidate of President Julius Nyerere, who plans to step down from office in November, but he is also the only presidential candidate on the ballot in one-party Tanzania.
Mr. Mwinyi is a leader in the mold of President Nyerere. Like Nyerere, he brings to politics the qualities of his profession as a teacher. Though born on the mainland, Mwinyi was raised on the island of Zanzibar. After training as a teacher there, he studied in England.
After Zanzibar's revolution in 1964, he was given a senior post in the state trading corporation. Nyerere spotted his ability and brought him into his office as a minister of state in 1970. The two men became close friends. After a stint as a junior minister, Mwinyi became health minister, then went as ambassador to Cairo. Subsequently he was appointed a minister of state in the vice-president's office.
During the 1984 agitation over continued union of Zanzibar with the mainland, the island's leader, Aboud Jumbe, lost control. Mwinyi, chosen to replace him, showed skill in repairing relations with the mainland. At the same time, he liberalized political and economic policies, making progress toward uncluttering the bureaucracy and granting citizens increased freedom.
Like Nyerere, Mwinyi is a conciliator who believes in consensus as the best way of governing and of generating support for his policies. Also like Nyerere, he is religious, although he is Muslim, whereas Nyerere is a Roman Catholic.
Religion has not proved to be a divisive factor in Tanzania in the past, and is unlikely to become so under Mwinyi. More uncertain is whether the mainlanders will take to a Zanzibari.
What matters right now is the fact that Mwinyi is little known in the mainland, except among the urban elites. He will undoubtedly use the period between now and October to make himself known to mainland peasants, who make up more than 80 percent of the population.
Mwinyi is unlikely to move Tanzania in a new direction. But he could prove to be less committed to Nyerere's ideas of egalitarianism. He is likely to try to reduce the state's bureaucracy and continue the process of liberalizing the economy.