THE GREAT DEBATE INTENSIFIES

The ‘Presidential Commission on Political Change’ has continued its tour of Tanzania during the last three months and more and more people have been expressing views – usually very strongly held views – on whether the country should or should not change from a one-party to a multi-party political system. There has also been vast coverage of the debate in the media.

The main arguments pro and con were summarised in Bulletin No 39.
The following are some of the more recently expressed views quoted in the Daily News:
– ‘the 20-man Commission is an unwelcome expense and unnecessary because the Constitution of the country is explicit on individual freedoms including those of expression and association’ – the MP for Chunya;
– ‘a multi-party system would open the possibility of recolonisation; foreign pressure favouring many parties is intended to exploit the country’s resources’ – Dar es Salaam resident Ali Keto;
– ‘ a multi-party system should be introduced immediately to avert looming civil war’ – Zanzibar resident Juma Othmani Juma’;
– ‘the rich urban centres are the ones financing the pro-multi-party campaign; the downtrodden will fight to sustain the fruits of the 1964 revolution’ – Zanzibar resident Bakari Hassan;
– ‘the government does not have a mandate to enquire from the people if they wish to retain a right annointed to them by God’ – former Minister for Legal Affairs (in 1963) Chief Abdullah Fundikira, Chairman of a ‘Committee for the Preparation of a National Seminar on Multi-Party Democracy’ speaking to 800 people at the seminar’;
– ‘experience has shown that development and democracy has flourished where there are many parties’ – a message said to have come from former Zanzibar Chief Minister Self Shariff Hamad who is facing trial for a number of offences:
– ‘instead of rushing into multi-party politics Tanzania should learn from neighbouring countries which had them’ – a group of Iringa residents;
– ‘under a multi-party system the armed forces would be depoliticised and would therefore not be affiliated to any political party’ – Mwanza resident Robert Silas whose remark was applauded by the crowd.

Many other views have been quoted in the press. Early impressions of the debate suggest a division between the majority of peasants favouring the one-party system and better educated urban residents forcefully demanding a change. But the Commission has a lot more time. It is not due to present its report until March 1992.
David Brewin

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