The latest constitutional reforms in Tanzania, which were adopted by the National Assembly in Dodoma in October, 1984, have been seen as a step towards the consolidation of democracy and the building of socialism in Tanzania.
In order to appreciate the various major changes which have been introduced, it is proper to look at the political and legal background of this constitutional process, which marks a big historical milestone in the history of Tanzania. Post-independence constitutional structures have largely responded to the political evolution which the nation has gone through since 1961. These are best illustrated by the 1962 Republic of Tanzania Constitution and the 1965 Interim Constitution, which formalised the United Republic of Tanzania following the 1964 Act of Union with Zanzibar. In the aftermath of the merger of the political parties in Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar, which led eventually to the formation of Chama cha Mapinduzi in 1977, the political structure was again reflected in the 1977 Constitution of the United Republic. This Constitution was further amended in 1980 to take account of a significant evolutionary process in Zanzaibar, where the government had introduced a more representative government structure by the adoption of the 1979 Zanzibar Constitution, whose positive contribution was the introduction of a House of Representatives. This House took over the legislative powers hitherto exercised by the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council, which had ruled by decree since the 1964 revolution. The Council has, however, remained until now the executive organ of the Zanzibar government.
1984 Fourth Amendment
The amendments which were adopted by the National Assembly were known as the Fourth Constitutional Amendment Act, 1984. This constitutional measure replaces the 1977 Constitution subject to the retention of some of its provisions and others carried forward from previous Constitutions. The present amendments were based on the 1983 proposals drawn up by the Executive Committee of Chama cha Mapinduzi in order to correct certain anomalies, and shortcomings highlighted in the Party’s 1981 guidelines.
The National Executive Committee looked at the political situation in Tanzania and the need to provide for democratic safeguards within the context of a one-party democracy and also to guarantee the socialist goals to which Tanzania is committed. There were three main areas which were pointed out for analysis and possible reform, namely:
- The powers of the Presidency
- The supremacy of Parliament
- A participatory democracy
When these proposals were eventually released to the public, the National Executive Committee had also considered it appropriate to find ways of consolidating the Union in view of certain areas which needed greater clarity, such as the unique structure of government, which was neither federal, nor completely united. Also, Significantly, the question of sharing and dividing national resources and responsibilities needed also to be clarified, so that future governments would have clear guidelines in running Union affairs.
Following the release of the Party’s proposals there ensued widespread public debate and it was a result of this debate that two major political and constitutional achievements have become well established and reflect the political maturity of Tanzania.
First, the free and widespread public debate, which preceded and influenced these constitutional changes did much to arouse constitutional and political awareness in many spheres of life in Tanzania. The second major achievement in the new Constitution was the inclusion of a chapter on human rights. A major criticism of Tanzania had formerly been the lack of a legal basis for its respect of human rights. The Fourth Amendment brings these out in full in Chapter 3, which defines the rights and duties of individuals, provides safeguards against the abuse of state power and outlines the limitations on individual rights when they infringe the rights of others. It may rightly be said that the public debates convinced the Party and Government that the constitutional exercise would be incomplete without a Bill of Rights in the Constitution.
As any other constitution, the 1984 Act has provided for the division of power within the state and has defined the powers of the Party, the Presidency, the Executive, the Parliament and the Judiciary. The Constitution also clearly defines the areas which apply to the Union Government and those which apply to the Zanzibar Government. It underscores the political fact of having two governments in Tanzania, in which the Union Government covers concurrently the union and mainland jurisdictions. Article 4 of the Constitution establishes a structure consisting of two governments and forms the basis of the 1st. Schedule, which enumerates the matters subject to Union jurisdiction. There are 21 items which now appear on the list of Union matters. There were 17 items in the 1977 Constitution and therefore it is worth noting that the following have been added as new Union subjects:
1. Communications and Civil Aviation
4. Central Statistical Data Collection
5. the Court of Appeal
One provision, relating to East African Community affairs, was of course dropped. All non-Union matters relating to the mainland fall under the Union Government, while non-Union matters relating to the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba come under the Zanzibar Government.
The Constitution provides for the office of President, who is to be elected for a maximum period of two terms. This is a new provision, but it does not preclude a person who has served as President of Zanzibar being elected as President of the United Republic (Article 40(2) and (3)). For the Vice-Presidency, the Constitution has introduced a system of two Vice-Presidents, whereby at any time one shall be the President of Zanzibar and the other the Prime Minister of the Union. Their order of seniority is determined by Article 47 so as to ensure that the President and the First Vice-President come from the Islands and the Mainland respectively, or vice versa.
The office of Prime Minister again appears in the Constitution and while, as indicated above, he will be one of the Vice-Presidents, he will first and foremost be the leader of government business in the National Assembly (Article 52) and also be responsible for the day to day government business of the United Republic. Therefore the office of the Prime Minister is also a Union office.
As for Parliament, this has been endowed with powers under Article 63 whereby its primary responsibility is to ensure the accountability of the Government for its activities. Parliament has also the responsibility for legislation in Union matters and for Tanzania mainland, while the primary legislative function for all Zanzibar affairs is vested in the Zanzibar House of Representatives.
Article 63(e) gives as one of the functions of Parliament the duty to prepare, or direct the preparation, of reports on any of its functions for submission to the Party. This is a fundamental provision, for it recognises the concept of the supremacy of the Party, which has also been enshrined in Article 10 of the Constitution. The Constitution provides in Article 97 for the privileges and freedoms of Parliament.
As regards Zanzibar, the House of Representatives has met and adopted amendments to the 1979 Zanzibar Constitution. These amendments have also had a far-reaching impact in view of the constitutional process which has taken root there. It is imperative to note that for the first time Zanzibar will have an elected House of Representatives. The House will also have the supervisory and legislative role over the Zanzibar Government, which has already been described in the case of the Union Government. There are other significant changes which the House adopted, such as the introduction of a legal system, which finds its source both in legislation and in the adversary legal system common also to the mainland.
This brief summary does not exhaust the changes brought about in the new Constitutions of the Union and of Zanzibar. There is, for example, a severe restriction on the number of nominated members of Parliament as compared with the 1977 Constitution, ensuring that a substantial majority are elected constituency members. It is hoped in a future issue of The Bulletin to give some further details of the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Union Constitution. Both of these new Constitutions are due to come into force in January, 1985.
Note: The views expressed in the above article are those of the author and do not in any way represent the official views of the Tanzania High Commission, or of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania.