Dar es Salaam. The Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRGG) today meets with secretaries general of feuding CCM and Chadema in a bid to thaw frosty relations between the country’s main political players.
Inspector General of Police Ernest Mangu, Registrar of Political Parties Judge Francis Mutungi and Attorney General George Massaju will also be part of the first high-profile roundtable bid to end the bitter war of words since a ban on rallies.
The CHRGG has confirmed that CCM’s Abdulrahaman Kinana and Chadema’s Vincent Mashinji have agreed to meet with the three other key players at the centre of the political drama unfolding in the country.
Their meeting comes against a backdrop of escalating political tension with many opposition officials having been warned or dragged to court for various reasons related to the ban on rallies in the past few months.
On Friday, Mr Tundu Lissu, became the latest senior opposition official to appear in court where he faced three charges including sedition. He stands accused of uttering inflammatory remarks at a rally in his Singida East constituency. Prior to that, the police had summoned other senior members of the opposition for interrogating, including Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe. Most have been warned against either issuing seditious statements or holding public rallies which were ‘likely to breach peace’.
President John Magufuli has directed the police to deal with politicians from the back bench who deft the ban. He has only allowed rallies for MPs in their constituencies, to discuss development issues.
His stance has sparked a backlash from mainly activists and the Opposition. But the President has maintained too much of politics is a distraction for him.
He wants to deliver on his campaign pledges. Political activities and demonstrations should wait until the 2020 General Election.
High on the agenda of today’s meeting apparently is the political parties’ right to hold public rallies and demonstrate as stipulated in both the Constitution and political parties’ laws, rules and regulations.
The meeting will also deliberate on interpretations of ‘politics’ and ‘work’ against the development of wananchi, President Magufuli’s directives, which are thought to be violating the rule of law, and the fate of the stalled process of writing a new constitution.
The Chadema deputy national chairman (Mainland), Pro Abdallah Safari, said the main agenda on which the meeting should deliberate were constitutional rights and law, rules and regulations guiding political parties in demonstrating and holding public rallies.
He said the meeting ought to hinge on legal basis for it to resolve the political dilemma facing the country. “The truth is that the Constitution and other laws of the land ought to be respected more than any directive if we’re to avert uncalled for political conflicts. Otherwise, such meetings will be a waste of time,” Prof Safari said.
The chairman of Zanzibar Constitutional Council, Profesa Abdul Sheriff, said if the meeting would not resolve the political stalemate, the performance of President Magufuli would be marred and that his dream of ending poverty would be shattered.
“It will reach a time people will be fed up, some will run away from the country and others will abandon work. We do not like to reach to a state which Somali, Nigeria and Kenya found themselves in, we must have reconciliation.
“Much as political parties know their rights, President Magufuli will not succeed by applying force. The Constitution and other laws are clear, political parties are not required to ask for permission from the Police Force for them to demonstrate, but to inform it for security purpose,” he said.
Basing on the existing laws of the land, Chadema maintains to go ahead with its Operation Ukuta aimed at condemning the fifth phase government’s stand to trample on democratic rights by demonstrating and holding public rallies countrywide on September 1.
The senior lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, Prof Kitila Mkumbo, said for the meeting to get a win-win situation it ought to interpret words ‘politics’, ‘work’ and ‘development of the people’ in a bid to do away with misleading versions.
“The law says, at the first place, that a political party’s role of scouting for members is a full time work. But development also is a wide concept, there is economic, social and political development. And unless the government deregisters them, the primary role of parties is to carry out political activities,” said Prof Mkumbo, adding:
“Politics brings about democracy and through it we get freedom. Restricting this freedom is tantamount to preventing people from thinking, questioning and discussing challenges they face in a bid to get a lasting solution for them. Development is not about dining and sleeping alone,” he said.
Prof Mkumbo proposed that equally important agenda to the meeting should be on the stalled process of writing a new constitution and on powers of the president. The retired President Jakaya Kikwete had not used his powers exhaustively as the incumbent President John Magufuli was doing, he observed.
The Constitution had given the president much powers that it was time the meeting revived a discussion on the process of writing a new constitution in a bid to avert the existing hostile political environment.
“Unlike President Magufuli, who believes a leader is a man with the iron fists, the retired President Kikwete believed leadership was all about inclusiveness of different institutions.
“It seems even the OGP (Open Government Partnership) does not have room in President Magufuli’s leadership, for his government does not want to be criticised,” he said.
Prof Mkumbo said besides President Magufuli’s vision for leading the nation, there had been law enforcement challenges which the meeting involving the key democracy players should discuss.
Dr Bashiru Ali from the Department of Political Science at the University of Dar es Salaam was pessimistic, saying the meeting would not succeed in ending the diseases of politics currently carried out in the country. He attributed what he termed as lopsided politics to the failure of strengthening relevant institutions since the multiparty democracy was reintroduced in the country over 20 years ago.
“As a nation, we’ve not had a consensus on how we should carry out politics in the country. The meeting will just serve as a painkiller instead of a cure because we are often troubled about symptoms instead of root causes,” he explained.
Dr Bashiru said the existing political institutions were carrying out petty politics. “Parties are a small component in the process of building democracy which greatly relies on the people. We need groups of people to table their motions on the type of politics we need, on whose behalf and to whose advantage,” he said, stressing that such a discussion did not an extraordinary meeting like the one held today.