Dar es Salaam. The High Court has given the Attorney General seven days to submit government defence over a petition filed by opposition parties to block the government from tabling the Political Parties Bill in the National Assembly.
The case was filed against the AG by ACT Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe and two other politicians, Salim Bimani and Joran Nshange, both from the Civic United Front (CUF) on behalf of at least 10 opposition parties.
The petitioners want to stop the government from tabling the Political Parties Bill which they claim violates the political rights and gives too much powers to the Registrar of Political Parties to interfere with their administrative and operational issues.
The proposed law is also said to enable the Registrar of Political Parties to block disbursement of grants to parties for up to six months and the authority to deregister them and supervise their internal affairs.
The law also gives the Registrar powers to suspend politicians from being members of particular parties and to request the Controller and Auditor General to carry out special audit of the accounts of any political party.
When the case was mentioned on Friday, State Attorney Mark Mulwambo requested the High Court to extend the time for submitting government defence from 14 days to 21 days.
Mr Mulwambo said he needed more time to consult authorities and other government institutions to get enough details that will enable the court to come up with a fair decision.
However, this request was contested by the opposition lawyers led by advocate Mpare Mpoki who said the state attorney did not cite any legal clause which gives judges the power to extend time granted by law.
Mr Mpoki asked the High Court to reduce the time from the granted 14 days considering that the Parliamentary Committees are expected to start convening on January 15 and the bill might be presented for deliberations during the meeting of House teams.
He also asked the court to block the Attorney General, Parliament and its committees from tabling the bill or debating it until the court rules on the matter.
Following the legal exchanges between the two sides, the panel of judges led by Barke Sahel postponed the hearing until 2pm when they granted the AG only seven days.
The bill introduced in Parliament for the first reading in late November was scheduled for a second reading this month.
If allowed to proceed, the Parliament controlled by the ruling CCM party will most likely adopt the bill, the parties said.