The Zanzibar High Court dismissed on October 3 a petition from ten Zanzibaris that questioned the legitimacy of the Union between the Republic of Tanganyika and the People’s Republic of Zanzibar which was set up 42 years ago. The claimants said the agreement was invalid because Tanzania’s Attorney-General’s office had failed to produce an official copy of the original agreement and it seemed to have been lost.
During the hearing, the lawyer defending the union, Masumbuko Lamwai, said the claimants in the case were asking the court to commit treason. “Not only does this endanger the union, it incites the population to violence,” Lamwai said.
Judge Mbarouk Salim dismissed the case saying it lacked legal merit and had incurable legal defects. He said that the time for challenging the union had expired. “The proper people to have been sued on this matter were the late Mwalimu Nyerere and the late Abeid Amani Karume because they were the founders” he added – IRIN.
The Daily News wrote that there were lessons to be learnt from this verdict – ‘The biggest lesson is that Tanzanians are freer in their Union. Firstly, before December 10, 1963 no court in Zanzibar would have entertained a petition challenging the legality of the British crown or the sultanate. After the 1964 Revolution, Zanzibar was ruled by decrees of the Revolutionary Council. No such petition could have been accepted. But, as the Union grew, the tree of democracy blossomed and Zanzibar now had its own constitution. The petitioners enjoyed the rights enshrined in the Zanzibar and Union constitutions to question the legality of the Union…. Some find this strange. But we remind those innocents that in real freedom, people use, misuse and sometimes abuse their rights and freedoms! This case is testimony to the real, not perceived, freedom of Tanzanians in a strong Union.
The second lesson: This case exposes the maturity of Tanzanians. We know of countries where people with differing views on issues of this nature would battle each other or clash with the police. It is not the case with Tanzanians.
The third lesson: Good things have to be guarded and guarded wisely. The Union is such a good and central thing to the survival and dignity of ordinary Tanzanians that its problems have to be addressed wisely by the two sides of United Republic in open and sincere discussions.’