CONSTITUTION REVIEW GENERATES MORE HEAT THAN LIGHT

by Enos Bukuku

A couple of years ago President Kikwete may have thought that as his presidential tenure draws to a close, he would like to leave a befitting legacy behind. His thought process may have gone something like this:
“I’ll spearhead a movement to give Tanzanians a new constitution which will involve the entire nation’s participation. First, we’ll create a Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), headed by a very intelligent and well respected former judge. The CRC will collect the views of Tanzanians from all walks and ensure their participation, which will result in the preparation of a draft bill. That draft will be passed to a Constituent Assembly (CA) who will prepare a final draft, to be presented to the nation for a referendum. This should be a good way for me to finish my two terms as President and be remembered as the man who ushered Tanzania into a new, fairer and more hopeful era”.

If only it was that simple…..

Constitutional change has been welcomed by most in Tanzania, but understandably there has been much debate as to what changes need to be made. Whilst CCM and the President were never really for the idea of a three government solution (with separate governments for Zanzibar, mainland Tanzania and the Union) this has dominated all other proposed changes.

The CRC were very much in favour of a three government system, and when they handed over the reins to the CA, they may have been expecting that the subsequent procedure of finalising the draft would be a mere formality. Judge Warioba announced at the end of December that 61% of the mainland and 60% of Zanzibaris were in favour of the controversial three government system.

An independent opinion poll on the subject found that a large majority on Zanzibar (80%) support the three government proposal, while mainland Tanzania is split on the issue (43% in support) – see next article.

In the last issue of Tanzanian Affairs we documented the problems and delays experienced by the CRC. There were anti-reform rallies against CCM and the CRC, a fight in the National Assembly and Chadema walk outs. Unfortunately the delays and debacles were not restricted to the CRC.

The scheduled deadline for the CA to finalise the draft was 26 April 2014. Although the CA was sworn in on 18 February there was a month delay before any agenda matters could be kicked off, while the rules to govern the CA debates were discussed – including a lengthy debate as to whether clauses should be approved by open or closed ballot.

An interim chairman, Mr Pandu Ameir Kificho, was appointed to chair the CA whilst they decided on who would be the permanent chairperson. According to Mr Kificho, the CRC misrepresented the nation by suggesting that Zanzibar was for a three government system, adding that the draft Constitution causes more problems than it solves regarding strengthening the Union.

Parliament eventually appointed veteran legislator Samuel Sitta to chair the CA. In the two months since then, Mr Sitta has had his work cut out to quell various disputes which continue to plague the Assembly.

After the delay, the question was raised as to whether the CA had the full 70 days to sit or 47 remaining days. Mr Sitta had to take some time to find the answer.

An internal dispute then broke out in the CA over an alleged discrepancy in vote counting, followed by an argument over how much daily allowance committee members would receive. On one day members put aside the agenda of the day to demand increased pay, arguing that the Tsh 300,000 (£110) daily allowance was insufficient.

Then, in mid-April, members of coalition group UKAWA, comprising assembly members from the main opposition parties and some members from independent groups, walked out of the assembly and threatened a series of protests against the draft, criticising the process. Insults and “discriminative sentiments” were exchanged among fac­tions within the assembly.

In an attempt to bring order to the proceedings in their Easter address, Tanzanian clerics proposed that they would form a group of at least 20 to help bring unity. Bishop Mdoe said “Unfortunately, we do not see the wisdom expected to be seen among some faces in Dodoma. The Assembly should not drag itself into the trap of this bad devil.”

At the time of writing, only a few sections of the second draft constitution have been debated. These sections deal with the structure of the government and the implementation of a three government system. It must be remembered that the CA must have a two-thirds majority for a chapter or the entire draft constitution to be approved and then presented to the nation for the referendum. At the moment, this does not appear likely.

To the lay citizen this must be confusing and frustrating, given that many will not understand the need for such a change, which is dominating the agenda of proposed reform, putting aside important issues such as women’s rights, health, education and human rights.

The sensitive subject of dual citizenship has also received little attention so far. One CA member has very recently called for the government to allow dual citizenship, but whether he can persuade his colleagues to include it in the final draft remains to be seen.

The CA, not unexpectedly, requested an extension of the period during which it sits. It is now due to reconvene in August, to give time for parliament to convene for the budget session. The likelihood is that the assembly will request further extensions of time given that the other chapters of the draft constitution have not yet been debated.

One certainty is that a new constitution is still a long way off, with political partisanship being an issue which needs to be deal with. There is clearly a lot of passion and interest from all sides regarding the constitution. It is hoped that such passion can be harnessed to finalise what has been a massive undertaking. President Kikwete may still leave a glorious legacy behind, but at the moment it looks as if a new and improved constitution may not form part of that legacy.

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