Arusha. Newly elected Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) President Tundu Lissu yesterday said he would work to restore the lost glory of the bar association.
He pledged to separate politics from the body’s professional role.
Mr Lissu said his victory had nothing to do with his political party, Chadema, and promised to serve all lawyers impartially.
“Yes, I am a senior leader in Chadema but I am here with you because I’m a lawyer and a TLS member,” he said in his acceptance speech after he was declared the winner in the TLS elections. “I’ll dedicate myself to the protection of constitutionalism, rule of law and democracy, which have come under threat in recent days.”
The Singida East MP said the association was apolitical and would remain so under his leadership.
He succeeds Mr John Seka.
Mr Lissu said he would unite lawyers and protect their interests. “We are facing a dire situation which calls for a strong and bold leadership which I a promise to offer.”
He also promised to prioritise the needs of the young- and-coming professionals to gain a foothold.
He decried emerging trend of harassment of lawyers by state agents as they went about their work.
Mr Lissu bagged a landslide victory to become the TLS president.
Out of 1,678 vote cast, Mr Lissu who is also the Chief Whip of the Official Opposition Camp in Parliament scooped 1,411 votes.
Former Home Affairs minister Lau Masha withdrew his name in favour of Mr Lissu on Friday, and out of the remaining three contestants Ms Victoria Mandari came in a distant second place with 176 votes, former TLS president Francis Stolla got 64 votes and Mr Godwin Mwasonga 24.
Mr Godwin Ngwilimi has become the vice president, bagging 1,266 votes against 414 of his only opponent Mr Godwin Mwasongwe.
Seven lawyers were also elected as council members. They are Jeremiah Mtobesya, Gida Lambaji, Hussein Mtembwa, Aisha Sinda, Steven Axweso, David Shilatu and Daniel Bushele.
Mr Lissu was a clear favourite to win the race from the word go, with his campaign of rallying advocates to invigorate the bar association of Tanzanian Mainland .
Campaigning at the TLS general meeting on Friday evening, he said: “Advocates have been deeply oppressed recently and unfortunately we are not united to fight the oppression. Give me your votes and I will be in the frontline to ensure we regain our lost glory.”
While other candidates received minimal or no attention from delegates, Mr Lissu was at all times mobbed by young advocates who lined up to take a selfie with him. He was jubilantly welcomed to the meeting after regaining his freedom from police in Dar es Salaam.
The voting process started as early as 6am yesterday and by 11am it was over and the results were officiallymade public in the evening. However, by 1pm the results were already trending on social media platforms.
Mr Lissu had a rough week in which he was arrested twice. He was charged with sedition at a Dar es Salaam court before he was released on bail and was able to fly to Arusha for the TLS meeting.
President John Magufuli and Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Harrison Mwakyembe had sternly warned lawyers against electing politicians into the TLS leadership.
The minister even threatened to deregister the association over the Lissu campaign.
The threats, according to advocates Onesmo Olengurumwa and Edward Porokwa, played a key role in Mr Lissu’s favour.
“TLS was at war. Lissu being a warrior who is no stranger to fighting against those in power was needed to lead lawyers. Who else other than him can lead TLS?” said Mr Olengurumwa.
Mr Porokwa said the moment the government told lawyers what to do then they realised they should do the opposite if they are to retain their professional independence.
Zanzibar Law Society (ZLS) president Omar Said noted that anti-government sentiments were evident at the TLS meeting and the government was to blame for that.
According to Mr Omar, it was wrong for the government to blatantly threatened against TLS just because one or two people were vying for the association’s leadership.
“TLS is established by an Act of Parliament, and responsibilities and targets are stipulated therein. So I was really shocked to hear that the government was thinking of deregistering the association just like that,” he said.
He commended advocates for turning up in big numbers and said that was a clear sign that they were concerned about the wellbeing of their association.