Monday, September 11, 2017

FROM THE PUBLIC EDITOR'S DESK : When the unthinkable becomes thinkable

Ndimara Tegambwage is Public Editor with

Ndimara Tegambwage is Public Editor with Mwananchi Communications Limited. 

By Ndimara Tegambwage

Our teacher used to tell us in the early years at primary school level, “Think before you leap!” It was both a warning and advice meaning something close to “engage your mind on any issue and make judgment before you act.”

When I look at Kenya today and, especially what happened earlier this month, I see our teacher, Mr Festo Mutarubukwa at Kashumbililo Primary School; and hear his loud voice telling me exactly the same words.

That is why I am afraid of saying “The Supreme Court in Kenya has caught the thief.” Even as I write, I keep telling myself that that is not ok. This is because there is no thief – perhaps a mere fomenter of discord.

The court has not held any of the contenders for the presidency as responsible for what happened; leading to the annulment of election results. It has concerned itself purely with the “doing” and “not-doing” of the electoral commission; and come out with a reverberating verdict.

The message we get is that there were irregularities in the general election whose results saw Uhuru Kenyatta of Alliance party beat close rival Raila Odinga of the opposition Nasa alliance.

It is the petition by Odinga, claiming that the electronic voting results were “hacked into and manipulated in favour of Kenyatta” which the Supreme Court has awarded with annulment of election results.

Four out of six judges found that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission “had committed irregularities” and thereby annulled election results and sent the East African nation into a presidential re-election sixty (60) days ahead.

Now, applying the principle of “Think before you leap;” I begin to see that the court has not done the police work of arresting the thief. It has confined itself within the commission and omission sphere; and through evidence on the table, has delivered judgment. Now I know irregularities can be that costly.

Social media is alive with discussion. One question is being asked a million times: Can this work in Tanzania? To be frank, this question is not clear. What is it that can or cannot work in the country? Let’s find out:

Do we conduct elections in Tanzania? Yes! Do all contenders win? No. Do losers complain about modalities? Yes. Do losers go to court? Yes, those who can afford. Do presidential aspirants who lose go to court? No. Why? Let’s wait and see! The presidential aspirant who loses; whether a wife or husband; or simply woman or man; carries home her/his grief to the other half. The only solace is that they had been presidential aspirants; with those in joking relationship continually addressing them: Mheshimiwa Rais! (Honourable President). But why this?

One of the messages on twitter and blogs answers this question. It says: Both the spirit and the letter of Article 74 (12) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania put it clearly that what happened in Kenya cannot happen on the land of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

The debate is gaining momentum. Contributors say the above cited Article speaks louder, “No court shall have power to inquire into anything done by the Electoral Commission in the discharge of its functions in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”

Here you cannot complain, and there is no one to complain to about two things: a wrong done and the way that wrong was committed; because “no court shall have power to inquire into anything done by the Electoral Commission in the discharge of its functions…”

Here is a shut-up Article in the Constitution which limits your desires, rights and freedoms; and renders you – the citizen – a mere object of census.

However, it is not true that what happened in Kenya cannot happen here. It can because it is desirable. Peace loving people, including journalists who have grasped that journalism is for “public happiness,” are working towards that end.