If an important element of a flourishing democracy is the existence of an outspoken elected parliament not afraid to take a country’s administration to task when it fails to satisfy the aspirations of the people, Tanzania now has a flourishing democracy. The parliament of 2009 is hardly recognisable when compared with the performance of earlier parliaments which either didn’t want to or were afraid to tackle the government head on.
On the issue of corruption above all, MP’s are making themselves heard, especially now that they have been allowed to expose it, investigate it, insist on punishment of the guilty parties and propose measures to stop it.
Armed with new powers and donor funding (see TA 93), Tanzania’s National Assembly is nowadays really exercising its authority. Among the many cases where questions have been asked or the Assembly has brought its influence to bear are the following (details in other articles below):
– the Richmond electricity and Bank of Tanzania scandals;
– the controversial sale (and recent reversal of the move) of the Kiwira coal mine;
– the allocation of hunting blocks and trophy fees;
– the performance of Tanzania International Container Terminal Services (TICTS), the Tanzania Ports Authority and Tanzania Railways Limited (TRL);
– the Buzwagi gold development agreement; other gold-related deals involving the central bank;
– the DECI pyramid scheme; MP’s wanted to know why no steps were taken in time before people were swindled;
– the national ID project;
– complaints from 12 civil servants who served for over 10 years without being put on the permanent payroll;
– smuggling of ivory to Vietnam;
– seizing and destroying small fishing nets banned by the government; the Minister pointed out that he was only implementing the law the MP’s had themselves passed:
– the failure of TANESCO to submit its master plan; and,
– the sale of Williamson Diamond Mine to Petra Diamonds of South Africa.
MP’s pay and allowances
In August, as in the UK, the salaries and allowances of MP’s themselves came under the spotlight when details were revealed by leading anti-corruption crusader CHADEMA’s Dr Wilbroad Slaa. Just as in UK this was not a popular move as far as some MP’s were concerned. He began to be booed by his colleagues when he advocated salary cuts. He said that their salaries should be made proportional to the salaries of public employees. “Let them jeer me. It will wash off my back, for the final decision will come from my voters next year” he declared.
As in the UK, the Speaker’s sympathies seemed to be with the MP’s who were protesting. In an interview with the Guardian on Sunday the Speaker said it was not true that legislators were earning a huge income. MP’s taxable base stood at Shs 1.8million (£ 840); the rest of the money paid to them was shared with their aides. Critics were wrongly including their allowances and other charges in their monthly salaries. “Is it fair to include a sitting allowance, per diem and other charges in an MP’s monthly pay? Is it also justifiable to include the salary of an assistant to an MP’s monthly pay? ” he asked. He said the allowances paid to the MPs were just the same as the allowances paid to all other public servants of the same rank, adding that all senior officers were paid per diems and sitting allowances.
At the height of this row in July, the Speaker said that a group of people were putting his life in serious danger. This followed alleged reports circulated on the internet that he was plotting to torch parliamentary offices to destroy sensitive files containing negative information about him. Two tabloid newspapers were said to have been running fabricated stories meant to undermine him in his personal and official capacity. He asked the government to strengthen his security.
The Assembly gained praise when the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority stated that it had achieved 92% in levels of procurement compliance – the highest figure in the country.
As this issue of TA went to press, there was further drama surrounding parliament. At a meeting of the CCM National Executive Committee (NEC) a group of MP’s expressed their anger at the way in which Speaker Samuel Sitta had allowed CCM MP’s to be critical of the government. They demanded his resignation. President Kikwete allowed them all to express their opinions – for 17 hours – before a compromise was reached. The Speaker apologised and an ad hoc committee was set up, under former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, to come up with guidelines for the conduct of the party’s MP’s. This decision, which many thought was designed to ‘gag’ CCM MP’s who were not toeing the government line, brought all kinds of criticism from personalities outside parliament. The leader of the official opposition in parliament, Mr Hamad Rashid, said the move by the ruling party was “proof that it does not respect democracy and good governance”. Other opposition leaders suggested that CCM MP’s who were not happy should think about joining the opposition!