by Enos Bukuku

The cost of a new Constitution
It may seem odd to many people that a document as important and as sacred as a constitution can be valued in monetary terms. The importance of such a document must surely outweigh the time, effort and costs involved in bringing it into existence.

Tanzania already has a constitution but it is clear that it is no longer fit for purpose and that is why former President Kikwete kickstarted the process of creating a new constitution which would better serve Tanzanians.

However, his successor President Magufuli is not convinced that it is so important to rekindle the dying embers of the proposed katiba that his predecessor had ignited with such fanfare. During the very early stages of his presidency he informed the nation that a new constitution is not a priority. It is now just over 3 years since he took office and until recently it was not clear how far up his priority list this issue had moved.

He recently spoke at a symposium at the University of Dar es Salaam during which he maintained that a new constitution is not a priority, is an expensive task, and that he would rather spend the money on national development projects.

As has been the case since he took office, there have been several politicians, interest groups and individuals who have called for the government to proceed with the rewriting of the constitution. Former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa and Joseph Butiku, the Executive Director of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, have called for the draft constitution prepared by the Constitutional Review Committee, to be adopted.

The Council of Islamic Organisations has also called for a new constitution ahead of the 2020 elections. Sheikh Issa Ponda, the Council’s secretary, voiced his concerns by saying; “There is no way we can register big achievements without a new constitution before the 2020 polls. People are tired of the current situation and under this constitution, we don’t believe that there will be a free and fair election. There is a need to have an independent electoral commission.”

Getting to this stage of rewriting the constitution has cost over TSh 116 billion so far. It would be a dreadful waste of public money if the quest for a new katiba is abandoned and those costs written off. No one seems to talk about, or even know, how much more funds are likely to be needed to complete the process.

It does make one think that it is a price worth paying.

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