Dar es Salaam. The surprise decision by the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Job Ndugai, to strip Singida East MP Tundu Lissu of his parliamentary seat has sparked a backlash from various quarters.
Opposition politicians and activists took to various platforms, including social media, to share their views on the move announced by the Speaker on Friday.
That was shortly after Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa adjourned the House, which had been in session for the last two months debating the 2019/2020 government budget.
Mr Ndugai told Parliament that the august House came to its decision after the outspoken Chadema legislator failed to officially communicate, for two years, his whereabouts and the progress of his treatment.
He also noted that Mr Lissu had violated the laws of the land by not filing the wealth declaration forms with the National Assembly.
The Speaker told Parliament that he had already informed the National Electoral Commission (NEC) that the Chadema MP’s seat was now vacant, triggering the process for a by-election.
Since the announcement, social has been abuzz with comments from various leaders and opinion makers. The Chadema legislator himself has since indicated that he would fight the decision in the courts of law, while his party has said its top organs would meet to chart the way forward, dismissing as “insincere” claims by the Speaker that he was not aware of the whereabouts of Mr Lissu.
Not being sincere
Ms Anna Henga, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) executive director, concurred with the opposition that Mr Ndugai was not being sincere to say he did not know where Mr Lissu was. She described the move as “injustice”.
“I doubt it is true that the Speaker was not aware of Lissu’s whereabouts. In my opinion, the move is aimed at ruining Lissu’s political career, considering the huge influence he has in the Tanzanian society,” said Ms Henga in a telephone interview with The Citizen.
“Inhumane and unjust”
Opposition ACT-Wazalendo issued a statement yesterday also condemning the Speaker’s decision as “inhumane and unjust”. The statement was issued and released to media outlets by the party’s secretary for Ideology, Public Communications and Publicity, Mr Ado Shaibu.
“The move by the Speaker to strip Lissu of his seat is an episode in a series of deliberate attempts by the Fifth Phase Government to undermine democracy in the country,” reads part of the statement.
Chadema national chairman Freeman Mbowe also addressed the issue during the party’s internal meeting at the weekend: He said: “After the Speaker made the announcement in Parliament, we told him to oust all of us (opposition MPs). Such mistreatment doesn’t discourage us, but it gives us more strength and inspiration to keep delivering.”
Tarime Rural MP John Heche (Chadema) described the Speaker’s decision as “cruelty”. He made the remarks on Twitter (@Heche John) saying: “In my whole life, I have never witnessed such cruelty.”
Explaining, he noted: “Lissu was shot at noon during parliamentary meetings. Until now, there is no one who has been arrested in connection with the assassination attempt. Also none of them, including the Speaker himself, paid Lissu a visit while he was in hospital. Today, they strip him of his seat?”
Outspoken Arusha Urban (Chadema) legislator Godbless Lema on Twitter (@godbless_lema) also wrote, “You (Speaker) have stripped Lissu’ of his parliamentary seat? My heart is bleeding. God help me.”
“Message to the world”
Iringa Urban MP Peter Msigwa (Chadema) also wrote on Twitter (@MsigwaPeter): “The move by Parliament to strip Lissu of his parliamentary seat conveys a message to the world... The move neither benefits the Fifth Phase Government nor the ruling CCM. This is the downfall of the ruling party.”
Reached for comment, CCM secretary general Bashiru Ally dismissed accusations that the ruling party was behind the ousting of Lissu as MP.
“It is common to hear such different views and accusations in politics, and I don’t want to be associated with such debates,” he said, adding, “There are specific reasons why an MP would lose a parliamentary seat, such as death, resignation and violation of law. To me, Lissu’s issue is not new.”
He also said that CCM was prepared to participate in the by-election for Singida East constituency once NEC announces the process.
Former minister Lazaro Nyalandu wrote on Twitter Saturday: “We continue to pray for you (Lissu). We love you so much. We pray to God to protect you. Welcome home, we are waiting for you to come home in September.”
Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) president Rugemeleza Nshala said: “It is a sad decision.” He declined to say more.
Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) national coordinator Onesmo ole Ngurumwa described the ousted opposition MP as “hardworking politician” and said the Speaker’s decision was against humankind.
Bishop of the ELCT Karagwe Diocese, Dr Benson Bagonza, said: “God bless Tanzania, bless our Parliament and save it from being tested. A parliament works on standing orders, the constitution, traditions and wisdom.”