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Tanzania Opposition Party to Take Ruling Party to Court

A man holds up a painted portrait of Edward Lowassa, former prime minister of Tanzania and presidential candidate for UKAWA, a coalition of four main opposition parties, during a political rally in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Aug. 29, 2015.

Tanzania’s main opposition party, Chadema, says it will file a lawsuit Monday against the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and its presidential candidate John Magufuli after accusing them of “stealing” the party’s symbols, logo and manifesto.

This, the opposition party contends contravenes the country’s Copy Rights Law, Election Act as well as both local and international Intellectual Property Rights.

Political parties are required by the Electoral Act to register their campaign slogans, or messages, logos and signs and get them approved by the National Electoral Commission ahead of elections.

John Mallya, Chadema’s head of the legal and elections department, told VOA that it appears the ruling party aims to confuse prospective voters because of the crowds the opposition party campaigns have been attracting ahead of the elections.

He says the CCM fears its dominance over the years is threatened and is now willing to do anything to confuse voters by using “dirty tactics” to win the election.

“CCM has illegally and unlawfully grabbed our message and our signs contrary to the provisions of the law. So, on Monday we are filing a lawsuit and Magufuli he has infringed on our rights and sign of Movement for Change [M4C]. It is our sign that we registered and patented and trademarked to do our business and in politics, but Magufuli has infringed on that right,” said Mallya.

He says the M4C and other signs, being used by the ruling CCM, are legally owned by Chadema under the Trade and Service Mark Act 1986 and World Intellectual Property Organization Convection 1963.

Supporters of the CCM have rejected the accusations as being without merit, saying they will continue to embrace the party’s Magufuli for Change [M4C] slogan. They vowed to meet the opposition party in court, contending that the ruling party has every right to use the word change in its campaign.

They said Magufuli represents change as well, despite the fact he belongs to the CCM. The supporters also dismissed criticisms that Magufuli is simply a continuation of policies of the outgoing President Jakaya Kikwete, also of the CCM.

“It is not true that Magufuli represents change in the CCM. Magufuli comes from the same regime and he is a continuation of the regime. But the case here is whichever message the party has decided to use in the campaign has to be registered and approved by the electoral commission, which Chadema went and registered that it’s time for change and movement for change. All these messages were registered as Chadema messages. CCM registered their messages but it is not change,” said Mallya.

He says because Chadema registered the slogan, Magufuli and CCM have no right to use the same slogan, since the law prevents them from doing so. Mallya says the only way under the law that CCM could use the opposition’s slogan is if Chadema approves a CCM request, which he says the ruling party has so far failed to submit.

“Magufuli is doing this deliberately to confuse the voters because everybody is supporting Chadema and the change that it is preaching and Magufuli is trying to steal, copy and paste our message to confuse the voters by introducing himself as the person who looks like a Chadema candidate,” said Mallya.

“What Magufuli is doing here is actually violating ethical code and conduct that the parties have agreed abide with in this election. So, we are taking him to court not because he used the word change but because he infringed on the Copy Rights Law.”