Some observers see the latest developments in the National Assembly, where some opposition MPs are creating something like mayhem at times, as a healthy sign that Tanzanian democracy is now working as it should be, and that an active and lively opposition is an important element of any such democracy. Parliament was no longer a mere rubber stamp. The current vibrancy of the House was similar to that of parliaments in established democracies the world over.
Other observers, quoted in the Citizen, accustomed to the more genteel behaviour of MPs during the period of one-party government, accused some of the new MPs of ‘gross misconduct.’ Chrisant Mzindakaya, who was an MP for 40 years before stepping down in 2010, said booing, heckling and engaging the Speaker in shouting matches were ‘unpatriotic and cheap politics’. Similar concerns were raised by former Prime Ministers Salim Ahmed Salim and Joseph Warioba, who said blatant violation of the rules in Parliament should not be tolerated. Others said that lawmakers might soon be exchanging blows if the situation was not checked. Deputy Speaker Job Ndugai said the chaotic scenes were a sign of declining morals among leaders, who would stop at nothing to make political capital.
Several ministers had a rough time in defending their budget estimates this year. Those for the Ministry of Energy and Minerals had to be withdrawn after Prime Minister Pinda intervened following what the Daily News described as a heated, emotion-charged debate to ask parliamentarians for another chance to work on them. The MPs agreed unanimously that they would be tabled again after three weeks. For further details see ‘Business & the Economy’ section below.
MPs accuse Energy Minister of laxity
Speaking at a seminar for MPs organised by Energy Minister Ngeleja, several MPs accused him of what they termed ‘empty promises and lame excuses’ for the longstanding power problems hitting the country. Attacking TANESCO representatives, one MP said: “We’re not interested in your PowerPoint presentations or grand-sounding plans. What we want is electricity and we want it now! Your expertise or your education is useless to us if you cannot find ways to solve the power problems once and for all.” David Kafulila (Kigoma South-NCCR-Mageuzi) advised the government to revise power purchase agreements. Augustine Mrema (Vunjo-TLP) wanted to know why the government had agreed to buy electricity generated by the Dowans plant which had been bought by Symbion, while the same government refused to allow TANESCO to buy the generators – Mwananchi.
The Minister said that electricity rationing would soon cease when Independent Power Tanzania Limited (IPTL) started supplying an additional 90MW into the national grid. Mr Ngeleja appealed to MPs to forget the Dowans issue, saying it was “mired in politics….”
Permanent Secretary in trouble
A letter addressed to unnamed ministry officials by the Ministry of Energy’s Permanent Secretary, David Jairo, was released in which he had apparently asked for donations of TShs 50,000 each to ‘make the presentation of his budget estimates a success.’ The Prime Minister quickly reacted and said that this was punishable, unbecoming conduct and he was as angry about it as MPs were. The PM was quoted in the Daily News as saying that he felt like sacking the offending Permanent Secretary immediately but could not do so because he had no mandate. It was President Kikwete who could discipline him. A CCM MP said that he would not support the Minister in his budget proposals. “We virtually live in the dark. The officials who cast us into this predicament are well known. Their heads should roll,” he said.
Kigoma-South MP (NCCR-Mageuzi) David Kafulila provoked heated exchanges during the debate on the budget estimates for the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare. The legislator caused confrontations between opposition and ruling party MPs after alleging that the government had spent millions of money for treatments abroad of minister’s family members and that it was sluggish in collection of taxes. This made ruling party (CCM) MPs very annoyed and Kafulila was asked by the Acting Speaker to withdraw his statement. But Kafulila substantiated his claims with a quotation from the late Mwalimu Nyerere, and the atmosphere in the House became so hot that the chairperson had to adjourn the session seven minutes before the official closing time – Mwananchi.
Four MPs ordered out
The atmosphere in the House was not improved when the Speaker ordered four Chadema MPs to leave the chamber for what was described as ‘violating parliamentary standing orders.’ One was charged with failing to sit down when told to do so and the others had apparently switched on their microphones to speak without permission.
Government Chief Whip William Lukuvi said that a speech by Mr Lema, the Chadema Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, aimed at inciting people against their government and was jeopardising the country’s stability. Mr Lukuvi identified the offending words as: “It is better we fight, rather than live peacefully while we are denied our rights. Peace is not the absence of war but the presence of justice”.
Rostam Aziz resigns
Parliament was shaken again when the prominent and influential CCM MP for Igunga, a member of the Party’s Central Committee and head of President Kikwete’s presidential election campaign in 2010, Rostam Aziz, suddenly resigned from his parliamentary seat. In his resignation speech he referred to what he called “gutter politics” as the reason behind his departure. He also indicated that he might not give any support to his party to retain the constituency.
In accepting the resignation, the CCM Ideology and Publicity Secretary, who is bringing considerable energy into his job of ‘cleansing’ the party, said that Aziz had responded to the Party’s plea that some of its members should take such action. “We are grateful that he (Rostam) has responded to the call” – Daily News.
Chadema lost no time in launching a special operation, christened “Operation Chukua Igunga” designed to take the seat from CCM.
This very hot issue in the UK has now arrived in Tanzania’s parliament. Chadema’s Zitto Kabwe has proposed the scrapping of the TShs 70,000 subsistence allowances and TShs 80,000 sitting allowances paid to each MP daily and to use the money saved for the development of MP’s constituencies.
Prime Minister Pinda said that this was a misinterpretation of the law. It was a constitutional matter. “There is no way the government can act without following due procedures … It can take a long time,” he said. In a popular move Kabwe then forfeited his entire allowances for the period of the lengthy budget debate – Mwananchi.