Dar es Salaam. Democracy in Tanzania has been through ups and downs in recent years, but there is a glimmer of hope.
Recently, the National Electoral Council (NEC) came up with recommendations meant to reform the electoral system, which has been blamed for outcomes of different polls.
Speaking during a recent interview, former secretary general of the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (Tucta), Mr Nicholas Mgaya, showered praise on Nec for identifying things that bog down democracy and recommending reforms of electoral system.
The recommendations that were submitted by NEC chairman judge (rtd) Semistocles Kaijage to President Samia Suluhu Hassan include the need to enact a new law in order to increase the commission’s efficiency in implementation of its duties and recruitment of election officials to the council’s level.
Others are merging electoral laws (the National Election Act Cap 343 and the Local Government Election Act Cap 292) as well as enabling the general and local government elections to be supervised by a single entity.
Other recommendations are financially empowering institutions and civil society organisations permitted to provide civic education during the process as well as candidates considered to have won without opposition to be voted.
The recommendations were submitted on August 21, 2021 when Judge Kaijage was handing over the 2020 General Election report to the Head of State.
Speaking after receiving the report, President Hassan said recommendations should be debated by stakeholders and that her office should be left to work on the opinions.
“Recruitment of election officials to the council level and empowering CSOs financially could be challenging as they will adversely affect elections budget,” she said, adding.
“However, let us leave the matter to stakeholders and see what best could be done because almost all the recommendations are genuine.”
But, Mr Mgaya told The Citizen that the recommendation to recruit election officers to the council’s level was exactly what Tanzanians demanded.
“It is true that democracy is expensive as the President said, but Tanzania should be prepared for it if we actually want to build a democratic country,” he said.
He said the document is important for the country, noting that countries like South Africa, citizens and the parliament are free because of the type of constitution they have.
Mr Mgaya, who was responding to a question on the new constitution writing process and the country’s current political climate, said failure to get neutral representatives during the Constitutional Assembly (CA) in 2017 was the cause of what transpired.
“Members of Parliaments (MPs), nominated MPs from both the Mainland and Zanzibar, were not supposed to be the CA representatives. Rather neutral members and leaders had to be picked,” he said.
He said being among the direct beneficiaries of the document, MPs could not support the document consisting of articles that would exclude them from being appointed to ministerial roles.
According to him, most MPs contest with hopes that they will be picked as ministers or deputies, therefore such articles threaten their future.
He said that was unlike the US and Kenya where ministers are not appointed from among the members of the congress, House of Representatives or lawmakers.
“Proposing for an independent candidate is another reason because the country’s history shows that in 1965, a member of the Tanganyika African National Union (Tanu) was stripped of party’s membership, but won election after standing as an independent candidate, something the current leaders are threatened with,” he said.
He said most CCM cadres, who were axed during the 2020 General Election, had all capabilities to win elections and return to Parliament if independent candidature was allowed.
According to him, economic revival that is not supported by presence of a strong constitution cannot bear fruit, saying it was the document that oversees politics, economy, education and many others.
“Recently, the President instructed the police force to amend sections of the law that leave suspects in remand prisons for many days. But, this is a matter related to the new constitution,” he said.
Furthermore, he said powers of the President in the country were excessively huge, saying the new document would increase independence of other pillars; Judiciary and Parliament.
He said pre-domination of CCM MPs in Parliament was unlike our South Africa and Kenyan counterparts where the pillar is more independent.
The opposition voices have been significantly paralysed leading to endorsement of taxes and levies like those charged through mobile money transfers that have led to serious citizen’s outcry.
“Three African countries; Kenya, Ghana and South Africa are the ones with progressive constitutions. However, the problem with many countries is that they can’t enact good documents without passing certain situations,” he said.
He said Zambia was among such countries, noting however that the country’s document wasn’t decent because of massive powers given to the President.
According to him, a democratic Constitution would not allow the just sworn in Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema to be arraigned seven times.
The Tanzania Constitution has also vested more powers to the President who appoints the District Executive Directors (DEDs) charged with the role to oversee elections.
“How can we get free and fair elections in such situations. The NEC chairman and director of Elections are also presidential appointees who will definitely execute their duties to protect their positions,” he said.
He said instead of amending election laws, the government should strive at providing the nation with a new constitution that would ultimately guarantee a free, fair and credible elections.
According to him, the independent Judiciary in Kenya has dropped the BBI, but President Uhuru Kenyatta has been left with nothing to do, noting that the same should be the Tanzania focus.
“Through the South Africa and Kenya constitutions, a president could be impeached by own political party or the Parliament. This cannot happen with CCM, leave alone the Parliament,” he said.
Regarding the current political climate, he said he was concerned with the victimization of the opposition and crackdown on freedom of the press whose quality of the content has been adversely affected.
He said journalists are now making shallow reporting with poor quality of television reporting.
“Off course, I’m against issues that contravene the country’s culture such as lesbian and homosexuality. I also oppose dual citizenship because under the looming terrorism, the move could leave the country in trouble,” he said.
According to him, people given dual citizenship from countries that have no agreement of criminal extradition with Tanzania may cause problems in the country and flee to the other countries.
Furthermore, he said time has come for the country to ensure people with a minimum Form Four education are nominated for councillors, while a minimum of a diploma should be set for MPs