Pundits fear TLS may lose independence

Sunday January 19 2020
pic pundits

Dr Rugemeleza Nshala,President of Tanganyika Law Society

Dar es Salaam. Parliamentary Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has invited legal stakeholders to contribute to the review of the amendments to the Tanganyika Law Society Act, amendments that legal pundits fear will affect the Bar’s operations as well as impinging on its independence.

The Written Laws Miscellaneous Amendments (No. 8) Act, 2019 proposes changes to the TLS Act as well as amendments to the Local Government (District Authorities) Act and the Local Government (Urban Authorities) Act.

The bill is yet to be uploaded to the website of the Parliament as of yesterday but The Citizen has seen its copy and it appears that the changes proposed, though minor, will have serious implications to the TLS and the entire quest for the rule of law in the country.

The changes proposed range from restrictions on eligibility for membership of the TLS Council, the introduction of the term limits on Council members -- which will be two terms of one year each – and the introduction of new accounting and reporting requirements on the TLS where audited accounts, annual reports and minutes of all General Meetings will have to be delivered to the Minister responsible for Legal Affairs.

Other proposed changes to the Act include the introduction of rules governing the functioning of TLS Annual General Meetings (AGMs) where it will no longer comprise all members of the society, but the attendance will be on a representative basis.

It also requires that AGMs must be held in the second week of April and where under the current arrangement any fifteen society members can demand a General Meeting the amendments now require that at least one-third of members of good standing consisting of equal percentage representation from each chapter can make such a demand.

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In their analysis of the amendments, a regional advocacy group Twaweza said that these and other proposed changes “are neither justified nor minimal” and fears that the changes “are likely to have the unintended consequences of limiting decision-making to fewer members of the Society, diminishing democracy and making decisions easier to be influenced externally.”

Twaweza calls for the replacement of Amendments 52-61 with a single amendment specifying that “the governance and operations of the society are matters for the society itself, and not subject to control or interference by any branch of government.”

Aida Eyakuze, Twaweza’s executive director, told The Citizen yesterday that the proposed changes “worries” him because the government seems to be taking a keen interest in the independence of the institutions which nurture the rule of law and good governance.

“I think by proposing these changes to the Act we impinge on the independence and unity of the Bar and our key message to the committee is to make sure that this independence is being protected,” he said.

The proposed amendments to the TLS Act follow the one made in 2018 which introduced new restrictions on who was allowed to become members of the TLS governing body. Specifically, the amendments required that no public servant or politician was allowed to do so.