On the mainland things have been relatively quiet politically in recent months. But, as this issue of Tanzanian Affairs went to press, there were heated debates in parliament as the opposition parties tried to exercise their limited muscle.
National Assembly Speaker Samuel Sitta prevented the tabling of a private member’s motion by Dr Wilbroad Slaa, opposition CHADEMA MP over an alleged scam at the Bank of Tanzania – Mtanzania.
Then the outspoken CHADEMA MP Zitto Kabwe was suspended under House Standing Orders until January 2008 after the House voted against him, midst acclamation from ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) MP’s. He was accused of humiliating Energy and Minerals Minister Nazir Karamagi. He had claimed that the Minister had lied about a controversial gold mining contract which he had signed in London. Kabwe had tried to table a private members motion requiring the formation of a committee to investigate the contract.
During the next few days there was a huge public outcry fanned by headlines in the media. The opposition parties joined together with lawyers and other public figures to condemn the length of Kabwe’s suspension. The MP was greeted, midst heavy rain, by large crowds when he came back to Dar from the parliamentary session in Dodoma and CHADEMA announced plans for him to go on a nationwide tour by helicopter so that ‘the people could be the final judges.’ House Deputy Speaker Anne Makinda said that the suspension was not because Kabwe had presented a motion for an enquiry but for the language he had used against the Minister.
Tanzazania Daima reported on August 14 that some major changes may be made in the way Parliament works. If agreed there would be in future a Prime Minister’s question time every Thursday to answer direct questions from MP’s as is done in the House of Commons. Another possible change would be that the chairmen of Parliamentary Accounting Committees (PAC) and Local Authority Accounting Committees (LAAC) would be elected from the opposition.
One CCM MP was quoted in Tanzania Daima as complaining about restrictions on his freedom of expression by senior party members whenever MP’s became over critical of the government. He said that MP’s were becoming toothless bulldogs.
Meanwhile National Parliament Speaker, Samuel Sitta said he was concerned that CCM was being ‘hijacked by tycoons’.
In the Zanzibar House of Assembly the Speaker blocked a private member’s motion on the importation of expired rice. He said that the matter should not be debated in the House since government was already investigating and a report would be submitted to the House. He and several other MP’s were not happy with this answer.
Then there was a tightening up in the National Assembly. The Assembly’s Clerk, Damian Foka, announced that, in future, meetings of House committees would be held behind closed doors, out of reach of the media, until they had been officially tabled in parliament for discussion. He said that this was ‘in partial implementation of House Standing Orders’ that prohibit the release of information on the activities of the committees before they are tabled in the House. The media were not happy.
According to Mwananchi the CCM victory in the March 18 Tunduru by-election (see ‘CCM Still Popular’ in Tanzanian Affairs No 87) was due to its long experience, incumbency and financial clout. Even before the by-election was announced several party leaders had headed towards the constituency for what they described as official business. They were concerned that CCM might lose votes on two counts – lack of a market for cashew nuts and bad roads. First to visit the area was the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Co-operatives, Stephen Wassira. Then came party Vice Chairman John Malecela, Secretary General Yusuf Makamba and Minister Mohammed Khatib, followed by a solid campaign team of 28. They included Deputy Minister Emmanuel Nchimbi, Vita Kawawa (MP) and former opposition leaders Thomas Ngawaiya (TLP) and Richard Hiza (CUF).
CUF on the other hand thought their runner, Mazee Rajab, was popular enough to win and the Democratic party candidate was left on his own while his party chairman, Christopher Mtikila, was busy knocking at the High Court doors in Dar es Salaam.
Some people claimed that CCM poured lots of money into the campaign, especially for the buying of voting cards from opposition supporters. The heavy presence of security forces might also have played a role in intimidating voters, many of whom were said to have stayed away on polling day.
Four of Tanzania’s innumerable opposition parties made another effort on May 10 towards establishing a united front against the virtually impregnable CCM ruling party. The Civic United Front CUF, Tanzania Labour Party (TLP), National Convention for Construction and Reform (NCCR-Mageuzi), and Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) signed the pact. The agreement was said to be the beginning of a process that would lead to the formation of a single political party that would front a common presidential candidate in the next presidential elections in 2010 – Guardian. According to Mwananchi the Deputy Secretary General of Chadema has defected to the CCM.
A new constitution?
Former Prime Minister Joseph Warioba has joined others in asking the Government to prepare for the enactment of a new constitution – something to which it is strongly opposed. He said that what was needed was a comprehensive document without the deficiencies that have made the present one “face a barrage of scathing attacks from academics, legal experts, opposition politicians and various other Tanzanians.” “So far” he was quoted in the Guardian as saying, “fourteen amendments have been made to the Constitution, with none involving the direct participation of the people.” He proposed that the Assembly be given constitutional powers to run its affairs independently and that cabinet ministers and their deputies cease to be drawn from outside the House.