CONSTITUTION

by Enos Bukuku

Two tiers or not two tiers? Will it all end in tears?
It was in 2011 when President Kikwete initiated the process of reviewing the current constitution with a view to ensuring that Tanzania would be equipped with a new constitution which would be fit for modern day Tanzania. That was of course five years ago.

“Why is this taking so long?”, you may ask. I feel you will not get a straight answer to that question through official channels. If you do manage to get any kind of response, depending on whom you ask, it is likely that either the government or the opposition will be blamed. The former will be blamed for hijacking the process, ignoring the so called “people’s draft constitution” produced by the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) led by retired Judge Warioba. The opposition, and in particular, UKAWA, are accused of trying to frustrate the whole process for political gain.

This is not an argument over proposals in the draft over education, health, gender equality, children’s rights etc. Sadly, those issues have been paid little attention by those responsible for debating and approving the final draft. The big bone of contention in the proposed constitution has always been the structure of the Union: whether there should be a two-tier government as there currently is, or a new three-tier government which, amongst other things, gives more autonomy to Zanzibar. Warioba’s CRC included a three-tier government because their consultations indicated that the majority of both mainland Tanzanians and Zanzibaris were in favour of it.

On the other hand, CCM were always against a three-tier government and managed to controversially push a final draft through the Constituent Assembly which kept the current structure. This led to the formation of the opposition UKAWA coalition. The Civic United Front (CUF) boycotted the re-run elections in Zanzibar in March and has made it clear that it does not recognise the new Zanzibari government; they are likely to fight CCM on most issues.

The political unrest in Zanzibar has always been a source of frustration for the government. The constitution review process has not helped in bringing calm. If anything, it has reopened old, deep wounds – the type which leave permanent scars. In simple terms, the balance of power distributed between the mainland and Zanzibar is seen as very unsatisfactory by many Zanzibaris. In the eyes of politicians, this has become much more than ensuring that basic and fundamental rights are enshrined in a new legal document. This is a power struggle.

A national referendum on the constitution was due in April last year, but was postponed indefinitely. There had been suggestions that the referendum would take place at the same time as the elections last October, but this did not happen.There has been a deafening silence from the current government regarding a new constitution.

CHADEMA’s new Secretary-General, Dr Vincent Mashinji, in his first speech as leader, has already called for a fight for the new constitution. Whilst he was of course referring to a metaphorical fight, it is possible that actual fighting over this issue could be in store over the coming months. “From now on, all MPs will have to embrace an agenda for the new constitution while in the House. The rest of us will do so outside the House by exercising all our civic and constitutional rights and, if need be, staging demonstrations in demand for the same,” he passionately demanded.

The nation awaits a response from President Magufuli or CCM.

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