New Bill gives Registrar of Political Parties more powers than President: forum

Saturday January 12 2019

Advocate Harold Sungusia

Advocate Harold Sungusia 

By Khalifa Said @RealKhalifax

Dar es Salaam. A new Bill grants the Registrar of Political Parties more powers than the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, a gathering has been told.

Speaking during an event organised by the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) yesterday, they questioned the intention of giving the Registrar of Political Parties the immunity against prosecution in  proposed amendments of the Political Parties Act.

Advocate Harold Sungusia wondered that the Bill intended to give the registrar the power to decide who could be a member of a particular political party and who could not.

“The registrar can decide whether one should be registered as a party member or not, expelled from the party or spared, eligible to contest for a particular position or not.”

He said that kind of power was so enormous that it could even threaten the Constitution itself. “Imagine if [the registrar uses this power] to say that the President is no longer a member of his political party? This is what we mean when we say that the registrar might be more powerful than his appointing authority.”

 He was speaking yesterday during an extraordinary session organised by TLS to soliciting views from stakeholders on the Bill as it prepares to submit its recommendations to a parliamentary committee which receives public opinions about it.

 Lawyers, clerics, lawmakers, political party leaders and members of the public attended the forum.

Apart from the unlimited power that the Bill gives to the registrar, participants also criticised other sections of the Bill that they think are unconstitutional and irrelevant under multipartyism.

The sections include those that give the registrar an impunity that would protect him from litigation for actions taken including on how he deals with the opposition, sections that ban political parties from operating as pressure groups, sections that proposed jail terms of up to 20 years and hefty fines for parties members involved in militia-type activities and those that regulate political coalitions.  

“Suppose that the registrar goes to his birthplace in Muleba and while there issues a statement saying that the President has been removed from his party [CCM] and then crosses the border to Burundi or Rwanda, what will we, as a country, do?”  asked UPDP president Fahmy Dovutwa.  “This Bill doesn’t even need to be improved but rather totally abandoned and the registrar should come up with a totally different one.”

The secretary of the Council of Islamic Organisations in Tanzania, Sheikh Issa Ponda, urged lawmakers to reject the Bill.

He warned that passing it Parliament would amount to betrayal. “Political issues tend to be very sensitive. Extra care is needed in handling issues of that nature.A slight mistake can lead to disasters.”  

Bishop Benson Bagonza of Karagwe Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania said: “The bill minimises the value of having political parties in our country by giving excessive powers to the registrar.”

According to Dr Bagonza, the Bill forces the registrar to be neither a human being nor an angel because it removes from him any possibility of making mistakes that would lead to him from being held accountable for misdeeds that may arise.

Dr Azaveli Lwaitama, a Josia Kibira University College lecturer, said the Bill exposed the registrar’s desires to be a ruler of political parties and not an advisor as it was supposed to be. “This bill must be thrown away.”