by Enos Bukuku
New constitution low on the priority list
In the last issue I wrote about the delay in the government arranging for a national referendum on whether Tanzanian voters should adopt a new constitution which was presented to it when the Constitutional Assembly completed their task of finalising a draft constitution in October last year. The referendum was scheduled to take place in April this year but was postponed indefinitely.
One reason given for the April postponement was that the National Election Committee (NEC) were not satisfied that there was enough preparation and education given to the public about the proposed constitution, and also the fact that new Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) equipment had not been implemented. From the 22nd July voters were being registered through the new BVR system. This should mean one less obstacle to overcome.
However, with the general elections now close at hand, it does seem as though the referendum has been pushed further down the government’s list of priorities. There has been talk of the referendum taking place at the same time as the general elections but there has been no confirmation that this will be the case.
Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda and other Members of the Constituent Assembly recently implied that they might be able to sway President Kikwete into ensuring that the referendum take place before the elections. There are many who are of the view that an agreement took place last September in which the parties agreed that the referendum would take place after the general elections.
It is not possible to say with any certainty when such referendum will take place, if indeed it does. There is no clarity on this issue and it does seem as if politicians are in no hurry to push this agenda through only months before the election. The danger is that whoever is voted as our next president, will be reluctant to force such a controversial process at such an early stage of a new presidency. As the silence continues and the closer we get to the general election, the chances of a new constitution grow slimmer and slimmer.
We can but hope that over 3 years and a considerable amount of money spent on finalising a new constitution does not go to waste.