Sorry to be so straitlaced, but this new political promiscuity makes me squirm

Yes, it is deeply persnickety and lacking in the wildly questionable quality of political “savvy” but I don’t like it when politicians change lanes.

Especially if they haven’t been indicating for the correct length of time before making a switch. We have enough bad drivers in Dar without this business going on.

At least if there were some kind of dramatic epiphany involved in crossing from one party to the other, maybe the endeavour would be more palatable.

When Zitto Kabwe moved from Chadema after falling out with the leadership, he went straight to the Alliance for Change and Transparency, a party that is ideologically close in flavour to the ruling party, which is worth at least a few years of teasing.

This lateral move effectively offers a home to lefty-ish types who simply cannot bear the thought of actually having to join the Grand Old Party if they want to do the politics thing. Quite the athletic leap from Chadema’s conservative politics on Mr Kabwe’s part.

When the neatly spoken Hamad Rashid Mohamed left CUF to join the Alliance for Democratic Change… well, actually, it looks like that break-up had been coming for a while. Still, another significant defection, late in the game, Alliance-flavoured.

The biggest and juiciest story of course is Edward Lowassa’s move from CCM, which he has been a member of since his distant youth, to Chadema.

The rivalry between his former and current political parties is what provides the two poles of our current system, and a switch between the two is arguably the most dramatic move a politician can make.

What these men have in common is that all of them were apparently hard done by by their former parties. Victims of unfair practices and who knows what else who are in need of refuge and a fresh start to lead us in combating poverty, or realising the journey of dreams or heading to the land of milk and honey.

And it rings untrue because effectively they ask us to trust them in spite of an apparent inability to commit to a political belief system.

Where was the public ideological soul-searching? Couldn’t the votership have benefited from some faux-sincere statements about coming to the realisation that social democracy isn’t as good as liberal conservatism or whatever? Maybe even a whisper of mea culpa, I have seen the light and it points in the direction of this whole new thing I have just invented?

It’s true that political parties in and of themselves are dreadful things. It is one thing to get together with like-minded people and effect some change, but to actually sustain that relationship over a long period of time is just unnatural and best left to people who consider that a career choice.

The only folks who seem truly trustworthy are the kind who freely admit that they wouldn’t join any party or club that would be willing to have them.

Terrible as they are, parties are useful for grouping things — ideas, generally people — according to type, which can also be very liberating for the voter come voting time.

There is clarity, consistency, structure the product is expected do what it says on the label. At least that’s the convention and it does give the votership something to brandish at elected officials when the inevitable disappointment comes along. They offer some small level of security, a layer of much-needed formality in the relationship with power.

But when the party-jumping starts, well. This ideological indistinctness and the political promiscuity it engenders supports the individualisation of power.

This is how big-manism sticks its foot in the democratic door and oozes into everything. It weakens the party system significantly and takes us all back to more primal times.

Times when you have to choose between belief in a system, fealty to an overlord, or simply a preference for an individual’s approach to the life public.

And isn’t that just the last thing that any African country needs? It is indeed the right of politicians, as individuals, to change over time and be complex or angry or pioneers and change their political allegiance. But surely ideology shouldn’t be orphaned so publicly, so often, not if we’re to mature this democracy.

Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report, E-mail: