by Enos Bukuku
The implementation of a new Tanzanian constitution has been left in limbo since April 2015 when the draft constitution was supposed to be put to a national referendum.
We now have some news which suggests that there is still a possibility that Tanzania will have a new constitution. President Magufuli announced on 23rd June that the government would ensure that the constitution making process would continue where it left off and that the final draft “Katiba” would be presented to the nation in the referendum.
This move has surprised many observers, who thought that the government had given up on passing the largely controversial and divisive draft. There had been suggestions that the government would go back and arrange for a further redraft of the constitution which would look more like the previous draft created by the Warioba-led Constitution Review Commission (CRC).
There has been no date given for the referendum and so it is not yet certain that it will take place this year, if at all. However, the longer the process takes, the more criticism and opposition the current draft constitution will face. This in turn will make it less likely that it will be voted for.
Already Joseph Warioba has warned the government that its attempts to stamp out corruption would be difficult without a supportive constitution, and that some sections of the previous draft, now removed, contained provisions which could be used in Magufuli’s war on corruption.
Regarding democracy, veteran political journalist Jenerali Ulimwengu has been more outspoken and is quoted as saying, “Despite the actions that President Magufuli is taking and has been commended for, if you look at the bigger picture we have now gone back 50 years in democracy issues…..He (Kikwete) should come and explain ….if former ministers were taken to court for causing a loss to the government, Honourable Jakaya Kikwete should also be taken to court to answer charges for occasioning a huge loss to the government and destroying the hopes of citizens…by failure to get a new constitution”.
It is only a matter of time before Chadema and other opposition parties start attacking the government on constitutional matters.
Magufuli is between a rock and a hard place. The current draft constitution has cost over TSh 116 billion (around $50 million) and counting. To go back and make further amendment will only add to the huge cost and will not guarantee a new agreed draft. To do nothing would be to waste the money spent so far. To push ahead with the current draft will antagonise the opposition. It is well known that the President does not like to waste money. We therefore wait for news of a referendum.