Dar es Salaam. President Jakaya Kikwete’s list of appointees to the 201-member Constituent Assembly was greeted yesterday with hope, disappointment and even disbelief in some instances.
In another development, Attorney General Frederick Werema defended the nomination of Prof Costa Ricky Mahalu, which has been in question--given last year’s High Court case in which the State opposed his acquittal on corruption charges by a lower court.
When asked if it was wise of the President to include a candidate facing corruption charges, Mr Werema retorted: “Where is the problem in that? A suspect in court still retains his or her rights as a citizen. He is still innocent.”
Prof Mahalu was a surprise candidate on the list released on Friday and came in under the umbrella of religious organisations.
Mr Onesmo Olengurumwa, the executive director of the Tanzania Human Rights Defencers Coalition (THRDC) said most of the appointees had their roots in the government or CCM, which he accused of vowing to make sure the two-tier system of government stays.
Mr Olengurumwa argues that the composition of the team is testimony that the government and the ruling party are determined to maintain the status quo at the expense of the wider national interests. According to him, the views and wishes of the majority of Tanzanians are reflected in the second draft constitution. “Dashing people’s hopes, which are set out in the second draft constitution, will be a grave mistake and waste of taxpayers’ money,” he added.
Mr Olengurumwa claimed that names sent to President Kikwete by human rights defenders had been left out. There were also views that President Kikwete left out most of the critical minds that have shaped the debate from the beginning and whose input would have helped drive the process forward in an independent manner. “This country will not get the desired constitution…not quite,” said Mr Irenei Kiria, the executive director of Sikika, a health advocacy organisation. He also holds the view that those seen as “virulently” critical of the government were kept at arms length.
But Dr Francis Michael of the University of Dar es Salaam’s Staff Assembly (Udasa) took a more positive approach, saying he was going to Dodoma to represent the interests of academics and Tanzanians in general. “I will go there not as Dr Michael but as a representative of fellow academic staff and other Tanzanians as well,” he said. “I thank the President for appointing me.”
Ms Teddy Ladislaus, perhaps the youngest of the 201 members, was excited when reached on phone. The appointment was an honour and a challenge, she said. “I won’t let Tanzanians down,” the 22-year-old third year student at Mzumbe University told The Citizen on Sunday. Ms Ladislaus, who is studying for a bachelor of science in information and communications technology, said she would represent the interests of all students and Tanzanians in general.
“Tanzanians need to be heard,” she added. “We will make sure the interests and the voices of Tanzanian youth are heard and included in the new constitution.”
Another youthful member, Ms Maria Sarungi Tshehai, promised to work with others in the assembly to ensure Tanzanians had the constitution they want. “I’m truly humbled to be part of the Constituent Assembly and to take part in this historic process of writing a new constitution for Tanzania,” she said. “So help me God.”
Ms Sarungi has been advocating change in different areas through an online campaign called Change Tanzania.
Civic United Front’s deputy secretary general (Mainland), Mr Julius Mtatiro, who also got the nod, dedicated his appointment to all Tanzanians. “I thank the president for giving me a chance…my voice will be that of the people,” he said. “I will always advocate what Tanzanians want included.”
He was concerned, though, that the views of the party with numerical strength in parliament would prevail if the members stick to their party’s position instead of reason. “Those with few members will fail,” he added.
Mr John Heche, who is the Chadema youth national chairman, said the composition of the team was testimony that CCM and the president did not want the country to get the document it wants. “I ask Tanzanians to get ready to demand a worthy law…how do you distinguish between the position of Kingunge (Ngombale-Mwilu), Mr Kimiti and Sixtus Mapunda from that of the ruling party?” he wondered.
Mr Joram Makula said the Hadzabe community had been denied an opportunity to have a representative in the Katiba making process. “We sent names through Pingos Forum but none of our choices was picked,” he said. “We ask other members of the assembly to speak on our behalf about land ownership, protection of our culture and other issues.”