- The contentious matter came back to the fore last week after Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa ruled out the possibility of continuing with the new constitution- writing process in the near future.
Dar es Salaam. Constitutional experts and lobbyists have dismissed the government’s excuse for shelving the writing of the new Constitution accusing the fifth phase administration of turning a deaf ear to the voice of the majority.
The contentious matter came back to the fore last week after Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa ruled out the possibility of continuing with the new constitution- writing process in the near future.
Dampening any hope that might have been still there that the government could reconsider its position, the Prime Minister reiterated that the main focus for now was the provision of social services, creation of jobs and revamping the country’s economy through industrialisation.
Mr Majaliwa also noted that the process to have a new constitution in Tanzania was too costly, and the government would rather divert those funds to more pressing development issues.
But in several telephone interviews with Political Platform, following the PM’s remarks, those who have been at the forefront in lobbying for the new constitution warned the government that it was instead making a costly mistake in pushing out the agenda that the majority Tanzanians agreed on.
Mr Onesmo Olengurumwa, national coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC, said: “It is a first degree mistake to have leaders who always think about today and forget about tomorrow.”
Example of good leadership
“Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the father of the nation, is a good example of good leadership, he was always thinking about the future.”
Describing the constitution as “not just a paper”, Mr Olenguruma urged the government to reconsider its position and embrace the new constitution-writing process to ensure that the next generation also benefitted.
He said non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations and ordinary citizens should continue advising the government on the importance of having the new Constitution.
In Parliament last week, opposition legislator Abdallah Mtolea (CUF-Temeke) asked the Prime Minister to explain why the government was “dilly-dallying” on the resumption of the process that has divided the nation with one side arguing that the process is irreversible, while the pro-government side insists that pushing the agenda is an unnecessary distraction from more pressing demands the fifth phase administration is seeking to address.
“It doesn’t mean that we don’t understand the importance of having a good constitution, but our priority is to improve the welfare of Tanzanians through the provision of quality social services, including health, education and water, just to mention a few,”the PM told Parliament.
Mr Majaliwa said the government would only resume the process once it was sure that the people, especially in rural areas, are fully engaged in income-generating activities and are contributing more to the building of the national economy.
“After satisfying ourselves that the economy has stabilised and the provision of social services reached ideal standards, especially in the rural areas, only then can we resume the new constitution-writing process.”
The PM argued that the current constitution is good enough to run the country.
Tanzania Constitution Forum executive director Hebron Mwakagenda says demands for a new constitution are coming from the majority of the people, but suggested that little should be expected from those who stand to benefit more from the existing constitution.
He said the ruling party CCM manifesto promises to revive the new constitution-writing process: “My question is, why can’t they fulfil their promise in accordance with the party’s manifesto?”
Mr Mwakagenda questions the logic of not completing the process for which billions of shillings have been spent.
“What should be done is to minimise the cost. It is less expensive to have the new constitution than not to have one,” he said.
Alliance for Democratic Change (ADC) secretary general Doyo Hassan says the government’s dismissal of the new constitution-writing process is an “unlawful”act.
He accuses the fifth phase government of failing to implement projects, which were started by its predecessors.
“Finances are a non-issue here; the government recently bought aircraft, where did it get the money from?” he said.
A survey by non-governmental organisation Twaweza last month, titled: Unfinished Business: Tanzanians views on the stalled constitutional review process, revealed that two out of three Tanzanians think that it is important for the country to get a new constitution.
The findings were based on data collected from 1, 745 respondents across Tanzania Mainland held in June-July, 2017.
Just over half of the citizens (56 per cent) think that the final draft constitution should be voted in a public referendum, according to the Twaweza research.
However, the survey further showed that half of citizens (48 percent) believe that the process to write a new mother law will not happen within the next three years.
Yet, citizens expressed support towards having a constitution that emphasizes accountability.
Eight out of ten want ministerial appointments to be confirmed by Parliament (79 per cent), and six out of ten want to be able to remove MPs between elections (64 per cent).
Twaweza’s executive director Aidan Eyakuze said citizens want a new constitution.
“Many want to start with a new commission and a clean sheet of paper. But others are willing to go forward with the draft from the last commission,” he said.
“They also support the accountability orientation of the original draft constitution and they are clear that they want a new, more inclusive process to move forward with,” he observed.
Debating the findings, CCM’s Ideology and Publicity secretary Humphrey Polepole said CCM’s priority was to instil the concept of constitutionalism in the minds of Tanzanians.
“Constitutionalism should sink deep in the minds of the people, especially political leaders in order to smoothen its implementation; this is why CCM is reforming its institutions in order to achieve the goal,” he argued.
According to him reviving the Katiba re-writing process without the aforementioned reforms would have no benefit to the people and the country.
However, Mr Deogratius Bwire, from the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), disagreed with Mr Polepole. According to him President John Magufuli needs a legal framework in which he can undertake the reforms.
“We are all impressed by reforms undertaken by the president, especially in fighting corruption and protecting natural resources but he needs a proper legal framework to guide him,” said Mr Bwire.