by Enos Bukuku
Opposition challenge to proposed new constitution
The Constitutional Assembly (CA) was disbanded in October 2014 after delivering the final draft of the proposed Constitution to the President, who has invited the public to endorse the document in a referendum to be held in April 2015.
Despite the heated disputes which have taken place among the political factions within the CA, the government announced that the required two-thirds majority for approval of the draft by the CA had been met. However, many members of the opposition have disputed this. A CA member from Zanzibar, Haji Ambar Khamis, claimed that even though his name was listed as approving the draft, he had not done so, and he reportedly collapsed whilst explaining himself. Four opposition parties (Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA), the Civic United Front, the National League for Democracy and the National Convention for Construction and Reform) have decided to join forces against the government and mount a joint challenge to the draft constitution on the grounds that the government failed to follow the legal procedures during the vote in parliament.
There is still some debate as to whether the new constitution can be considered a success even if it survives this possible legal challenge and is adopted after the referendum.
Those in one camp will say that this draft improves upon the current constitution by addressing the needs of all Tanzanians by including the nation’s children, women, the disabled and other minority groups. Changes to the constitution have been warmly welcomed by Tanzania’s Gender Coalition Group who have stated that approximately 90% of their proposals for reform to women’s rights have been adopted by the CA. One of the proposals which has received praise is for women to have equal land ownership rights which “gives every woman the right to obtain, own, use, develop and manage land under the same rules which are applicable to men”; the ability to confer citizenship to their children; better employment rights; and more advantageous representation in parliament.
The draft also seeks to redress the issue of exploitation of children by clarifying the definition of child as being a person under 18 years of age, which is relevant in combating child marriages. It also guarantees a right to primary education to every Tanzanian child. Minority ethnic groups, such as the Hadzabe and Akiye, are given further protection by the draft.
However, the proposed constitution has removed notable sections from the previous draft, including new checks and balances on presidential power, and has watered down sections proposed by Warioba’s Constitutional Review Commission (CRC). In particular, the proposal to establish a three-government structure – Zanzibar, Mainland, Union – is replaced with a two government structure that closely resembles the current system.
Whilst there was an attempt to include a provision for dual nationality in the final draft, unfortunately for many of the Tanzanian diaspora overseas, this was eventually omitted. Instead, by way of a compromise, a “special status” will be given to former Tanzanian citizens.
Those of the “this-new-constitution-won’t-change-a-thing” camp argue that the whole lengthy process has been a monumental waste of time, money and ultimately, dominated by the government. CCM has been accused of bullying and “hi-jacking” the process.
The drafting of a new constitution was supposed to be a civilised exercise in cross-party consultation, and all parties were supposed to set aside their differences for the greater good and for the benefit of generations of Tanzanians to come. This ideal was once again challenged on 2 November 2014, when a youth group of CCM supporters disrupted a meeting convened by the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation to hear the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) members, and in particular CRC chairman, retired Judge Warioba. An eagerly anticipated speech by a well-respected politician, quickly turned into an ugly scene more suited to a Hollywood action film. It was reported that “fists and chairs were flung into the air, camera equipment destroyed and journalists beaten up”.
It now remains for the public to voice its opinion as to whether the Constitution should be adopted. For the new constitution to pass, majorities are needed in both parts of the union. CCM should have no trouble winning a majority on the mainland, but whether they can deliver the same on Zanzibar is more questionable.