- In fact, for Tanzania, the formation of presidential commissions or committees has been a habit of each phase of government. The first phase under Mwalimu Julius Nyerere did form a few commissions to tackle various issues when need arose.
Dar es Salaam. Social change is inevitable and indispensable for Tanzania, just like it is for any other society out there. This is why since independence we have had countless policy changes, most of which were preceded by the formation of presidential commissions or committees to first identify societal or economic problems that needed formal solutions.
In fact, for Tanzania, the formation of presidential commissions or committees has been a habit of each phase of government. The first phase under Mwalimu Julius Nyerere did form a few commissions to tackle various issues when need arose.
The Nyerere and Mwinyi commissions
Mwalimu Nyerere formed commissions to inquire among other things, the one party system and constitutional issues. President Mwinyi too, formed several presidential commissions during his ten years (1985 -1995). In 1991, he formed two powered presidential commissions to inquire on the one party system and land issues. The first commission was led by then-Chief Justice, the late Francis Nyalali (Nyalali Commission). The commission was tasked to find out the people’s views on the one party system, whether or not to dump it for multiparty democracy. The commission collected people’s views and recommended several radical changes, including adopting multiparty democracy, the writing of a new constitution, civic education over three years prior to a general election in 1996, and reviewing of 40 legislations to align them with multiparty democracy.
Unfortunately, much of what the Nyalali Commission recommended was largely ignored, except recommendation number one to adopt multiparty democracy. The Mwinyi administration went on to amend or repeal some legislations that were irrelevant for a multiparty democracy, but still rejected crucial recommendations, including the writing of a new constitution, an issue that has remained unresolved issue to date. It’s almost 30 years later, Tanzanians are still yearning for a new constitution.
Another presidential commission by Mwinyi’s government was the one chaired by Prof Issa Shivji in 1991. The commission was tasked to inquire on problems pertaining to land issues in the country. Through the Shivji Land Commission, the government formulated the Land Policy of 1995, and two Land Acts of 1999. But just like in the Nyalali Commission case, the government implemented just a small part of the recommendations forwarded to it by the Shivji Commission.
The Mkapa and Kikwete commissions
President Benjamin Mkapa began his first term with the formation of a commission to inquire on corruption in the country. The Warioba Commission’s recommendations were used by both the third and fourth phase governments of Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete to formulate new policies and enact many new legislations as a means to prevent and combat corruption and improve good governance.
The implementation of recommendations in the report on corruption helped to reform the governance system in many areas, for example, restructuring of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) and Legal Sector Reform. There were also noticeable civil service reforms in general.
The Mkapa administration also formed the Constitutional Review Committee, which was chaired by Judge Robert Kisanga (Kisanga committee). The Committee went around the country using White Paper as a guide to collect people’s view on constitutional amendments. However, the Kisanga committee was a waste of public funds considering that it had an almost similar mission as that of the Nyalali Commission, which had already recommended the writing of a new constitution.
Apparently, President Mkapa was annoyed by the Kisanga committee’s recommendations, in particular, for a three-tier government system. Sincerely, the Mkapa government was supposed to go ahead with delivering on the new constitution as was recommended by the Nyalali Commission, not just to amend the Constitution of 1977, which was already considered past its prime.
His successor, President Jakaya Kikwete set up the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) in 2013, which was chaired by retired Judge Joseph Sinde Warioba. However, the CRC work only ended with a draft of a proposed Constitution. But President Kikwete also formed many other ‘teams’ to inquire into different important issues, which at one time or another ‘troubled’ the nation. One of those was the Judge Musa Kipenka Committee, which inquired into the death of mining dealers who were allegedly murdered by some policemen in Dar es Salaam.
Some of the commissions, admittedly, did help in solving some controversial matters. However, the findings of many of the commissions never led to or resulted in the anticipated solutions or benefits. This was usually either because their recommendations were never implemented by the government, or the establishment of the commissions was motivated by political interests or some such narrower selfish interests in the first place.
President Magufuli’s mining concerns
Among controversial issues that have been behind the formation of Special Commissions are in Tanzania’s mining sector. Since enactment of major mining legislation in 1979, several Commissions have been formed – especially beginning in the late 1990s – to look into problematic issues engulfing the nation’s mining industry.
However, not much in the way of workable or lasting solutions have been found, despite – or, perhaps, because of – the 1997 Mining Policy and 1998 Mining Legislation, both of which were indecently lopsided in favour of major mining conglomerates, usually foreign-based!
From 2005 until 2010, several Commissions were formed to look into the mining sector. So, it was from Commissions such as those of Laurence Masha, Judge Mark Bomani, etc, that Tanzania ended up getting a new Mining Policy in 2009 – and a new Mining Act in 2010!
Like his predecessors at State House, President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli (in Office since November 5, 2015—) has not lagged behind at all in forming Special Commissions to undertake different probes! Within the nearly two years he has been in power, Dr Magufuli has already formed two highly-powered Commissions led by veteran academic Professors to inquire into perceived abuse involving Tanzania’s potential mineral wealth allegedly being committed by some foreign investors in the industry!
Unlike most of the commissions whose recommendations didn’t impress past Presidents, President Magufuli has approved all the recommendations made by ‘his’ Commissioners on the spot as they were formally presented to him!
Again unlike his predecessors, Dr Magufuli allowed the reports of two of ‘his’ Commissions to go public through the electronic mass media – stressing that implementation of all the recommendations begins immediately!
Precious minerals are one of the natural resources with which Tanzania is phenomenally endowed. As such, the country should be benefiting from that enormously. Alas, that has not been the case to-date – largely as a result of poor governance, a major problem that has been bedeviling ordinary Tanzanians for far too long!
The two ‘Magufuli Committees’ were formed after the President embargoed the exportation of mineral tailings/gold concentrates which had for many years been exported by mining companies reportedly for further state-of-the-art refining abroad!
The reports of findings by both Presidential committees shocked the nation and the world at large. No wonder, then, that all the people who are implicated in the reports as having been involved in one way or another to the detriment of the country were required to resign from their work stations, while investigations are ongoing.
Some of the relevant mining laws have already been amended or replaced on the back of the Committees’ recommendations!
Thus far, it is still unknown whether the ‘Magufuli Committees’ reports will benefit the country or not. As it is, high-powered teams from the government and the miners involved – in particular the London-based Acacia Mining and its parent firm, the Canada-based Barrick Gold Corporation, are locked in negotiations in Dar es Salaam as they seek a way out of the mess!
House Speaker Ndugai and his committees
Interestingly, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Job Ndugai seems to have personally decided to form similar Committees to look into the tanzanite and diamonds business in Tanzania. Such a measure – establishing a ‘Parliamentary Select Committee’ – is decided by the National Assembly as a whole, and not by the Speaker alone!
Apparently, Speaker Ndugai was so impressed by the President Magufuli’s Committees earlier on that he formed ‘his’ two Committees to work parallel with those of the President, looking into how the diamond and tanzanite Mining sub-sectors were faring. The overall objective was to establish whether or not Tanzanians have been benefiting from the diamond-and-tanzanite business!
Perhaps not unexpected, the two ‘Ndugai Committees’ came up with findings that were more or less in resonance with those of the Magufuli Committees: rampant theft and other fraudulent skullduggery in the mining business! [See ‘Parliament Committee discover massive stealing in gemstones business’ by Deogratius Kamagi: The Citizen: September 6, 2017].
House Speaker Ndugai formally handed the Reports of the two Committees – which mentioned several Ministers and other Senior Government Officials as being implicated in malfeasance and misfeasance within the mining sector – to Prime Minister Majaliwa Kassim Majaliwa who, in his turn, passed them on to President Magufuli! Perhaps not unexpected, the ‘Hapa Kazi TU’ President immediately directed follow-up action in implementing the Committees’ recommendations. From the foregoing, it becomes clear that not all Reports of Findings and Recommendations by/of Special Commissions, Committees and other Task Forces that were formed by successor Governments down the years were implemented in full or at all!
In a sense, it can safely be said that putting such mechanisms in place did not always (if at all) benefit the country and its people – especially when the Commissions, etc, were set up on the back of narrower, selfish reasons, usually intended to take political advantage now and then , here and there!
Indeed, there generally was laxity in implementing some or all of the recommendations by/of Commissions for different reasons in the past… Until President John Pombe Magufuli descended upon the scene nearly two short years ago!
Magufuli already making a difference
Today, President Magufuli acts differently, forcefully overseeing implementation of the recommendations – and more, in some cases – contained in Reports of Findings by the Commissions that he appoints.
Needless to say, special task forces that are set up by the relevant authorities do indeed consume time, money and other precious resources. So, when their findings and recommendations are swept under the carpet or tossed into the trash bin, the country and the people at large gain nothing from what ends up as an exercise in futility.
In that regard, it is everyone’s hope that the President Magufuli administration will continue to make tangible difference in the probe commissions stakes well into the future. Tanzanians’ fervent wish and call is for their leaders to always be serious in facing and addressing the challenges that arise – doing so immediately and efficaciously before they cause untold damage to the country and its people.
Mwassa Jingi is a journalist and lawyer based in Dar es Salaam