After what was officially described as six days of heated debate in the National Assembly, in early December 1992, amendments to Tanzania’s constitution were agreed. The Ninth Constitutional Amendment Bill which was eventually passed has cleared the way for a separation of powers between the Executive, the Judiciary and the Parliament. The Legislature was given power to impeach the President of the United Republic but came under considerable pressure from MP’s on two points.
Firstly, many members opposed a provision which gave the President the right to dismiss the National Assembly at any point – something they regarded as undemocratic. They suggested that this should only happen when elections were due.
Even more controversial was the decision by the Government to shelve a provision on the election of a Vice-President of Tanzania. The Prime Minister insisted on what was described as this ‘sensitive issue’ being postponed for 24 months because wore time was needed for study.
Former Prime Minister Joseph Warioba warned that failure to see the Union (of Tanganyika and Zanzibar) in the context of the historical relations between the two sides could destroy the Union. He said that historical relations between the people of the two sides should be central when amendments to the Constitution were being considered. Some MP’s had wanted the President to have a sunning mate Vice-President but the Prime Minister pointed out that the President would be directly elected by the people. Under the present system, if the President is a citizen of Zanzibar then the First Vice president must come from the mainland.
Referring to a number of inconsistencies in the Constitution the Prime Minister said that an expert team had been appointed to look into these. Once its report was ready it would be fully discussed.
HIGH COMMISSIONER REVIEWS THE BACKGROUND
At the Annual General meeting of the Britain – Tanzania Society on October 15 l992 Tanzanian High Commissioner in London, Ali Mchumo, explained comprehensively the background to what he described as the momentous changes taking place in Tanzania:
An Island of Peace
– Tanzania had remained an enviable island of peace and stability in a troubled continent, he said. Thanks to the good political leadership which had always been guided by a sense of social justice and thanks also to the sense of political maturity and tolerance of the Tanzanian people. “We have had incidents of ‘industrial unrest’ by doctors and nurses but this was under control”.
On the Political Front
“Our move from a one party to a multiparty system was not due to pressure from outside as is reportedly the case elsewhere. I do not need to go into the theoretical arguments about democracy, but I believe we were spared such external pressure for two reasons – one: our one party system was fairly democratic and very different from the East European model as we had free elections regularly; and two: our human rights record is comparable to that of any other democratic state. Of course we were also influenced by events else where, but that is different from pressure.
We believe the essentials of democracy are universal, free elections, accountability of the government to the people, freedom of expression, respect for the Rule of Law etc. but that the format under which such democratic essentials are implemented can vary from country to country depending on the history and culture of the country concerned. – As you know, we became a one Party System as a historical consequence of our political development and not as a result of an ideological commitment to the one party system.
Society Has Changed
But our Society has changed from what it was in 1965 to the present. We have more people now than in 1965 and the level of exposure to education among the people has increased. We have more complex social and economic problems and naturally therefore you may not have the same level of consensus that obtained 30 years ago on how such problems ought to be solved. Events happening in Eastern Europe and elsewhere in Africa also had an impact on our people.
It was with such a background that Mwalimu and the Party in February 1990 encouraged the debate on a multiparty system and in February 1991 President Mwinyi appointed the Nyalali Commission to coordinate the debate and collate people’s views on whether to remain one party or to go multiparty. The Commission found out that, of 36 000 people they heard from, 80% preferred a continuation of the one party system and only 25% wanted a multiparty system. Because this was not a referendum, Nyalali recommended a move to a multiparty system, and the Party and Government accepted this recommendation.
Why the Change to Multipartyism?
Why did the Party and Government accept this recommendation for a multiparty system despite the fact that it had only 20% support? The answer is that reality had to be accepted, that society had changed, that there were people, though a minority, who wanted a change and that to deny the demand of such a minority might be a cause of instability because that minority would continue to agitate for change and the state would have to use force to suppress them.
CCM itself has been based on a democratic tradition and has always responded to demands for greater democracy (in 1981 and 1984) and since the demand for multiparty was for greater democracy, it was in order to accept it.
It was felt that this was the opportune time to initiate such a change when the Party still commanded the respect of the majority of the people so that the changes could be properly managed otherwise chaos would dominate the political scene as had happened elsewhere.
So the Nyalali Report was presented in December 1991 and endorsed by a Party Congress in February P992 but it was emphasized that the political pasties had to fulfil certain conditions that would ensure the preservation of peace, stability and unity in the country. In April 1992 Parliament met to give legislative force to the political changes accepted by the Party :
(i) The Constitution was amended to remove the articles which declared Tanzania a one Party State and which gave CCM a monopoly of political power and supremacy.
(ii) The Registration of Political Parties Act was enacted – it provided conditions by which Political parties could be registered; parties had to be national in scope and to cover h t h mainland and Zanzibar – they should not be based on tribal, regional ethnic, religious or gender ideologies – they should have at least 200 members from each of at least 10 regions (8 mainland, 1 Pemba and 1 Zanzibar) It provides for a Registrar of Political Parties under the Prime Minister’s Office; for a two-stage registration process (provisional registration where a name, manifesto and provisional leadership is required; final registration after 6 months when the required number of members have been achieved). Parties can address rallies after provisional registration but can only participate in elections after final registration.
(iii) Amendment to the Elections Act to provide for new election procedures and the appointment, composition and powers of a new Electoral Commission
(iv) Transitional legislation to validate the existing political structure; the CCH government duly elected in 1990 to remain until the next general election.
The Registration of Political Parties Act came into effect on 1 July 1992 and since then nearly 20 political groups have acquired provisional registration.
Prospects for the Future
The multiplicity of small parties may be a cause for instability, not necessarily violent but it could bring about unstable coalition governments – the “Italian Syndrome”. We have to be aware that having many parties by itself is not a guarantee of democracy. Zaire has over 60 parties but it may not be more democratic than the UK with few parties. What matters is how people are involved in freely taking decisions on matters affecting their lives. Thus, in addition to allowing the formation of political parties, we have to emphasize the existence of free and viable civic organisations like local governments, Trade Unions and other mass organisations.
We need to consolidate a new political culture of tolerance among differing political ideologies so that people may differ without resorting to physical street fighting. You take such a culture here in the U.K. for granted but we have to make special efforts to inculcate it into people’s thinking and behaviour. The concept of a “loyal opposition” is still a distant idea.
There is a challenge to prevent parties from sliding into ethnic, religious or tribal orientation in practice even if in theory they appear national.
We have to remind ourselves that having a multiparty system by itself is not a panacea for our economic and other problems and that we still have to work harder and better to make the economy deliver. By the same token, those of our overseas friends who wish Tanzania democracy well, have to assist us economically so that our people can see that the new political system can meet their expectations.
Finally, there is understandable international concern for there to be democracy in all countries. Indeed, in the aid policy of many developed countries, democracy and human rights have become essential prerequisites, if not conditionalities, for a country to qualify for assistance. The time has now come when the need for democracy and social justice within countries must be matched by the pressure for democracy and social justice between countries.
Answering questions, the High Commissioner said that Tanzania would be using the ‘first past the post’ system in its elections. So far not many differences had been revealed between the policies of the CCM and those of the other parties although none of the new parties were to the left of the CCM in ideology.