Dar es Salaam. Dr Tulia Ackson might be among one of few lucky Tanzanians in the political arena. In the span of only 67 days the up and coming lawyer has held various posts including the powerful post of deputy Attorney General. She started the unusual ‘race’ when she was appointed by President Jakaya Kikwete as deputy AG on September 9, this year.
She served in that position for about two months, representing the government in various legal issues. But one important issue which she will be remembered for is her representation of the government in a case filed to contend political parties move to require their members to stay 200 metres from polling stations for intention of safeguarding their votes. Amy Kibatala, a voter from Morogoro region, went to court asking it to clarify section 104(1) of Election Act Cap 343, as revised in 2010.
Kibatala went to the court seeking the clarification after authorities banned voters from staying closer to polling stations for intention of guarding their votes.
While many were still talking about the government victory in the case, Dr Tulia made a surprise move when she picked nomination forms seeking to be nominated by Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) as candidate for the post of Speaker of the National Assembly.
On November 13 she picked the nomination forms and two days later she was among three members who were shortlisted by the CCM Central Committee alongside Job Ndugai and Abdulla Mwinyi.
While people were still asking questions over her decision to contest the post through a political party, she was appointed by President John Magufuli as a Member of Parliament. She became the first Tanzanian to be appointed an MP. The appointment was made after President Magufuli had rescinded her appointment as deputy AG.
Within hours of her appointment as an MP, Dr Tulia made another surprising move by dropping from the Speakers race. Mr Mwinyi also withdrew giving CCM MPs an easy task of certifying job Ndugai as their candidate for the post.
But her withdrawal from the Speaker race was an end to her political manoeuvres. Word came out only hours later that Dr Tulia has picked forms seeking the post of Deputy Speaker. Should CCM MPs endorse her as their candidate for Deputy Speaker position, she would be sure of the post as the ruling party has majority in the House. CCM accounts for 252 MPs out of 394 members of the House.
The decision by Dr Tulia to seek nomination as candidate for Speaker position kicked a debate over her loyalty and devotion to serve people without favour as a public servant.
Prof Mohamed Bakari of Political Science Department at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) says however that constitutionally, Dr Tulia was right to contest for the post as the major law dispenses a civic right to every Tanzanians who qualifies to contest for the post regardless of his or her occupation.
“Therefore, one is not barred from contesting for the post simply because he or she serves as Attorney General and he might not come from the ruling party,” he says.
However, he noted that people who are appointed at sensitive posts such as deputy AG, are expected to operate fairly without showing any political bias.
A prominent lawyer in Zanzibar, Prof Abdul Sheriff, said what Dr Tulia had done, and experience, shows that appointments to many sensitive public offices base on safeguarding the interests of the ruling CCM.
Prof Sheriff says there are incidents in the past where Judges, who are supposed to operate above party politics, showed political inclination towards the ruling party.
“Similar situation occurred when the former Chief Justice, Augustino Ramadhani picked presidential nomination forms on CCM ticket. His move made many people question the independence of the judiciary in the country,” he says.