The Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Job Ndugai, has overseen the House business through both interesting and testing times since he was elected to the position, in November 2015 following that year’s General Election. Mr Ndugai was easily picked by newly elected members of parliament after showing impressive performance as deputy speaker to, Ms Anne Makinda, in the preceding five years. It was expected that he would steer the House steadily in the new dispensation after change of guard at the State House, with President John Magufuli succeeding Jakaya Kikwete.
As an independent arm of the Government, Parliament occupies a critical space in the structure of public governance. Together with the executive and judiciary, the three arms are what constitutes the pillars of running a functioning State of the United Republic of Tanzania.
The Parliament is the supreme organ representing citizen’s interests in the management of the affairs of the State. The House is guided by the Constitution as the ultimate law of the land, and is thereafter governed through Standing Orders, which are a set of dos and don’ts for dispensing one’s duties or roles as MP or an officer of the National Assembly.
The Speaker, assisted by the deputy and alternate chairs guides this process on the floor of the debating chamber. The Speaker also communicates decisions of the organ after they have been taken through the House Committee system and represents the Institution in other national events or agenda.
As would be expected of any political setting, Mr Ndugai’s reign has seen a fair share of melodrama thus far, some of which has brought his leadership style into question and also left the public wondering about his real intention in some of the decisions he has taken as the Speaker. Without any order of merit, Ndugai’s standoff with the former Controller and Auditor General, Prof Mussa Assad, the handling of the matter of dethroned Singida East MP Tundu Lissu who escaped an assassination attempt while attending House business in 2017 and the short-lived tiff with Shinyanga Urban MP and Tanzania’s representative to the Pan-African Parliament, Mr Stephen Masele comes into mind.
But it is Mr Ndugai’s latest and attempt to have an opposition MP who resigned his seat and defected to the ruling party, CCM, come back to the Parliament which is threatening to take his controversial decisions to another level. Given, the Speaker has from the onset demonstrated in action that he would brook no dissent, especially by the opposition side, riding roughshod over them most of the time. It would perhaps go down on record that it was during his tenure that members of the opposition faced unprecedented crackdown.
In seeking to extend the apparent antipathy of the opposition, Mr Ndugai last week rejected to acknowledge a letter by the secretary general of the official opposition, Chadema, asking Parliament to cease any benefits and privileges to its former MP for Ndanda, Cecil Mwambe, who had publicly announced his resignation from the party to rejoin CCM. The Speaker summoned the MP to Dodoma, ostensibly to continue with his work.
It thus baffles on what Constitutional provision or Parliamentary Standing Order Mr Ndugai was making his call. It would indeed be a tragedy, a mockery of the rule of law and impunity at its ugliest should Mr Mwambe be allowed as the Speaker wishes.