Since 1995, Seif Sharif Hamad has come extremely close to winning Zanzibar’s often disputed elections. In October, he’ll run for a sixth time.

On 25 October 2020, Zanzibaris will have an opportunity to elect the President of Zanzibar, Members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives and local councilors. They will join their Tanzanian brothers and sisters on the mainland in electing the President of the United Republic of Tanzania and Members of the Union Parliament of Tanzania.

Every election is important, but this year’s is critical. For too long, our people have suffered under misrule characterised by corruption, maladministration and sheer incompetence. Over the past five years, a worrying level of repression has crept into politics, eroding our civil and political rights on a steady, day-by-day basis.

25 October represents a potential turning point. Either we choose change and embrace a future of hope and opportunity; or we settle for the status quo and accept a future of autocratic rule with no respect for basic human rights and which condemns our people and their children to a perpetual cycle of poverty.

Many are aware that I have contested the Zanzibar Presidency for the past five elections since the multi-party system was established in 1992. Many ask why I am contesting a sixth election and why I think I will be successful this time round.

This has not been an easy decision. I have reflected deeply on this matter and consulted extensively with the leadership of my party, my family and wise elders whom I greatly respect. I am both confident and happy in my decision to seek my party’s nomination for the Zanzibar Presidency. Here are my reasons for the decision to contest.

Protecting our democracy

The first reason is to protect out multi-party democracy. My colleagues and I in our KAMAHURU movement joined forces with like-minded groups on the mainland and fought incredibly hard to move the country into a multi-party system in 1992. But it now faces its greatest threat. The ruling CCM regime is deliberately violating the principles of democracy and destroying the foundations of our modern state. Given this clear and present danger, I believe I have a responsibility not to step back from the struggle but help our nation navigate this difficult time and protect our hard-won democracy.

Another reason is that I believe we need an experienced captain at this particularly uncertain time. In 1992, my colleagues and I decided to form the Civic United Front (CUF). Its goal was to restore justice to all citizens in Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania. CUF spoke for the people and became a thorn in the flesh of the CCM.

After the 2015 elections, when the CCM realised that the change in Zanzibar was unstoppable, they used the state and its institutions to destabilise and eventually hijack the party. It weakened it by handing it over to their puppets who were directed to dismiss me and my colleagues contrary to the wishes of party members.

Following this, the legitimate leadership of CUF decided to join Zitto Kabwe and ACT Wazalendo. CUF supporters on Zanzibar and the mainland backed this decision wholeheartedly, excited by the potential of being part of the United Republic’s fastest growing political movement. Given this new arrangement, however, our supporters in Zanzibar have indicated that it would be unwise for me to lead people into a new dhow and then abandon them. I have accepted the advice that I should lead a joint effort to bring about change in Zanzibar through ACT Wazalendo. The new dhow requires an experienced captain to navigate Zanzibar through the fierce storms and heavy waves that face it.

Making 2015’s outcome a reality

Over the past five elections, I have had the privilege of carrying the faith of the majority of Zanzibaris despite the CCM disregarding the will of the people and claiming victory. Given the huge turning point we face on 25 October, I cannot abandon the thousands who have entrusted me with their hopes and aspirations. I will honour the faith of our people by leading Zanzibaris to achieve and realise the vision of the Zanzibar they want. It is time for the CCM to realise that nothing can stop the power of the people. The majority’s will must be realised and I am determined to enable that this election.

In 2015, the CCM’s deep state used the Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces (TPDF), other security organs of states, and then Chair of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) Jecha Salim Jecha to annul the election results in Zanzibar. 2020 is our opportunity to right the wrong of 2015 and to ensure that the actual winner of the election becomes the legitimate President of Zanzibar.