Dar es Salaam. A threat by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, to propose in Parliament the banning of the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), has attracted the attention of legal experts and activists on social media.
Dr Mwakyembe sounded the warning on Wednesday during an interview with a local TV station, saying the government would never entertain TLS activities he linked to politics.
The minister said the TLS should cease operating as a legal organisation and instead be registered as a political party if it is keen on engaging in politics.
A lawyer identified as Roman Lamwai said on Facebook that it would be difficult for the TLS to be banned because it was established as a statutory body with perpetual succession. He said, this means the organisation would survive even if all members die.
However, the attempt to revoke the law establishing TLS should wait until the next parliamentary sitting, if the intention of tabling such a motion will still be there.
Singida East Member of Parliament Tundu Lissu posted on his Facebook page that such threats weren’t new, as similar attempts were made previously on different occasions in the 1960s and 1990s.
According to him, the common denominator in all attempts was the timing. He said threats have been issued each time the TLS and its private bar tried to assert their independence to advocate the rule of law.
“Lawyers become a darling to the government when they avoid challenging abuse of power. But, all their efforts haven’t and will never bear fruit. The ban was also to be applied in Zanzibar after the 1964s revolution. We shall never accept that,” said Mr Lissu, who is a lawyer seeking the presidency of the TLS in the group’s upcoming election.
“The country’s judicial system depends on lawyers, who in fact are under the same organisation; there is also the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the Law Reform Commission (LRC), which become properly constituted if there is a representative from the TLS,” he explained.
A senior lecture at the University of Dar es Salaam, Prof Kitila Mkumbo said the minister’s reaction showed that the government feared a new TLS leadership to be elected next month.
He said for the past two years, the lawyers’ association was so ineffective and toothless to the extent of failing to challenge the government on on issues of democracy and good governance. “They refrained from engaging in critical issues, but this year’s candidates (including Mr Lissu) bring in new taste, and lawyers have the option to make changes for the betterment of the profession and the legal system at large,” he stated.
However, Prof Mkumbo was optimistic that MPs wouldn’t bless the ban