OPINION: Delicate nature of constitution

Sunday April 14 2019

Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Prof Mussa

Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Prof Mussa Assad 

By Erick Mwakibete

We are a country of fast moving events. Headlines after headlines. Sometimes these headlines overlap and sometimes there is no enough time to overlap as one event is buried deep within a cycle of a day as other events, fast moving come to claim their place as far as headlines are concerned.

For now, the country has been gripped with the developing story of what some commentators have referred to as a “constitutional crisis” as Parliament resolved to not work with the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) even though the constitution requires the House to do just that. Realizing the delicate nature of that constitutional framework, the Parliament Speaker clarified that Parliament had resolved not to work with Prof Mussa Assad-the man-not the CAG as an institution.

Do you feel confused? Good! So is everyone else.

This story has returned to our headlines at a time when we thought it has passed. We were moving onto the next colorful thing.

We are still stuck where we were when the story made headlines after a passing remark by an auditor expressing weakness in the institutions tasked with making sure the holes identified in his reports are plugged and the taxpayers of this country save their money.

As we were busy “talking” about it, another story from Dodoma did not make the headlines but was heard nonetheless.

Livingstone Lusinde, CCM MP for Mtera constituency, to borrow from his phrase, told his fellow parliamentarians that he was “speaking to the country” about not holding presidential elections in 2020 and instead the current president continue in his mandate, that the constitution can be amended to allow for such eventuality.

He based his argument on what he claimed was saving the taxpayers of this country from financing a political contest whose outcome, in his view, is all but certain.

That there is no opposition party that can mount a realistic political challenge for the presidency given the remaining time to the general election in 2020.

The irony in all this! The reports from the CAG are replete with areas where taxpayers’ money is lost each year.

Feeling more confused? Good! Get in line.

On the face of it, these two stories are completely unrelated. However, both have to do with the constitutional arrangements we seem to take for granted even though the institutions to protect and guarantee that such constitutional arrangement are respected are….hmm, what is the word again?

Yes! Yes! That one…

That we can easily choose to ignore or interpret some of the articles of our constitution in ways we like or at least in ways we think our purposes will be better served.

The debate about getting a new constitution is stuck in the midst of nowhere. But in any case, if politicians wanted to serve our taxes, there are many places they could start with. Like the endless rounds of by-elections which are costing taxpayers a fortune. In justifying such expenses, one politician who switched his political allegiances, was quoted as saying it is none of his business if the by-elections are expensive, that democracy is expensive!

It sure is. Of the many problems of our version of democracy is that such expenses are incurred by the taxpayers while those elected to different political posts do not do the rest of us any justice or service. We end up hearing a long list of excuses from these politicians as to why this or that promise of theirs did not work.

And when it is another election, you hear another long list of promises and a renewed vows to make sure what could not work since the last election will work this time if the individual is re-elected.

Such political developments reinforce the need to find a proper balance between the institutions of the state and the other constitutional arrangements we have put in place. We need strong, thick-skinned individuals to breathe life into such arrangements to guarantee they are observed and respected.

Politicians are tricksters. Each time we get lost in their tricks, and right now it feels like we are on another wild ride where the faint hearted will give up following all the twists and turns even though it is their taxes sustaining all the madness and the chaos around them.

Mr Mwakibete is a socio-political commentator and analyst based in Dar es Salaam