Stop intimidating parties, civil society tells registrar

Tuesday April 2 2019

The registrar, Mr Francis Mutungi

The registrar, Mr Francis Mutungi 

By Mosenda Jacob TheCitizenTZ

Dar es Salaam. Civil society organisations (CSOs) yesterday demanded that the registrar of political parties stop intimidating political parties and interfering in their internal affairs.

But in a swift rejoinder, the registrar, Mr Francis Mutungi, told the CSOs to communicate with his office in writing instead of holding press conferences.

“We are handling the ACT-Wazalendo issue in line with the laid down procedures, but they are interfering even before the process has been completed. If they are really intent on helping ACT-Wazalendo, they should ask the party to respond to our letter,” he said, referring to his office’s letter to the opposition party in which it was directed to explain why it should not be struck off the register for allegedly violating some provisions of the Political Parties Act.

But the CSOs said that the letter had only sowed further confusion.

Reading out a statement signed by the CSOs’ directors, the director of human rights, monitoring and accountability with the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), Ms Felista Mauya, said the threat of deregistration was “extreme”.

“In a democratic country that follows the principles of justice and transparency, we did not expect the registrar to issue such a strong statement on allegations that have not yet been proven,” she said, adding that the letter was issued prematurely and contained many allegations that could be have been discussed between the party and the registrar’s office.

Ms Mauya said opposition parties were operating in a climate of fear where internal meetings were being violently broken up or expressly banned.

“It was only a few days ago that an internal meeting organised by ACT-Wazalendo was stopped by police without considering the fact that political parties have a right to conduct meetings,” she said.

For his part, Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) national coordinator Onesmo Olengurumwa urged the registrar to consult various stakeholders in the course of addressing various challenges in the operations of political parties.

“Instead of striking ACT-Wazalendo off the register within the next 14 days, the registrar should appoint an independent committee comprising independent groups, including CSOs, to assess the validity of allegations against ACT-Wazalendo so that justice can be done. The objective should be to safeguard peace, not stoke tensions and hostilities,” he said.