Expulsion of Chadema MPs: Why new constitution is crucial

Friday May 13 2022
Mdee and co

Former 19 members of Chadema come out of a hall at Mlimani City after the party’s Central Council endorsed the decision of the Central Committee to expel them on Wednesday night. Read stoy on Page 2. PHOTO | ERICKY BONIPHACE

By The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam. The expelling of Chadema’s 19 special seats lawmakers from the party, and therefore from Parliament, reveals just why Tanzania needs an improved constitution, some analysts said yesterday.

Immediately after the decision, Ms Halima Mdee, who appeared to be the de facto leader of group, publicly declared that she still considered herself a Chadema member with respect to her leaders. However, some law experts see the decision as a bottleneck to Tanzania’s democracy.

Also Read: Chadema strips 19 rebel MPs of party membership

“I don’t have any legal counsel to the MPs but my opinion is that our constitution contains unconventional provisions including the fact that to be an MP, one need to be sponsored by a political party,” said media guru and advocate Jenerali Ulimwengu.

This, he argued, was unhealthy. “This was why during my time as MP and with my colleagues, we rejected and opposed the said provision. However, those on the government side won. Of course, we wanted a person with a Tanzanian nationality, to vie for political posts in the country. This eliminates party sponsorship.”

He recalled Mwalimu Nyerere’s (Julius) view after Tanu lost Mbulu constituency in the 1960s to an independent candidate Hermangild Sarwatt. The Tanu National Executive Committee had retracted his name in favour of a local chief, Amri Dodo. Sarwatt then decided to run as an independent and won the election.

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“After that incident, and when you hear Mwalimu’s speech, then you realise that he supported a constitution change to allows independent candidates. If the constitution had allowed such, then I am sure we wouldn’t have lost these brave women,” he insisted.

Ulimwengu sympathized with Ms Mdee and Co saying: “Honestly, I respect these women. They have done a lot and brought a huge impact to the country and the people. In fact they are the role model to so many. Having them out of Parliament is a big blow. But again, they went against their party.” Adding that: “…and according to the constitution, if someone is expelled from his/her party then he/she will no longer be a Member of Parliament. But due to political expediency, the former Speaker (Ndugai) allowed them to serve, simply, because the authority wanted to weaken not only Chadema as a party, but the opposition in general.”

Mr Boniface Mwabukusi, a lawyer cum politician, saw the expelled members to have no way of retaining their seats as lawmakers.

According to him, once one is ejected from a political party, then he automatically loses his/her seat in Parliament. Mr Mwabukusi was of the view that when the party notifies Parliament, it is just a matter of procedure.

“By the way, no one is forbidden to seek his/her rights from court, they are allowed to go if they think the process was invalid. The court will examine the process, mind you, the party has laws [sic], regulations and procedures when it comes to such matters, so if Halima and Co think there wasn’t a fair hearing then they can challenge that in the court of law.”

Mr Mwabukusi added: “But if they are to go to court, they will be challenging the procedure in which they were expelled and not their lost seats in Parliament. And if the idea was to retain their seats then they should have sought a court order to stop Wednesday meeting. He said, there wasn’t any court decree that was to be issued saying Halima and Co were members of a certain political party. The court will always examine the procedures if it was valid or not.

Nevertheless, Mr Mwabukusi attributed the saga to a bad constitution and legislations that prohibit a lawmaker from switching parties while retaining their seat.

“In Tanzania, an MP is a party ‘property’. Once you go against them, then they will kick you out. Once you are out; you lose your seat. It is high time we changed our laws.”

Chadema’s protocol and communications director John Mrema told The Citizen that the party had done what it was supposed to do and that within the party, the expelled 19 members had exhausted all means to retain their membership.

He added that the general assembly has directed Secretary-General John Mnyika to write to Parliament Speaker, Dr Tulia Ackson, on the matter.

Since November 2020, Chadema’s Central Committee had stripped the 19 members of their membership shortly after they had been sworn in as Special Seat MPs against party wishes and not following the Party’s constitutional process.

The then Speaker, Mr Job Ndugai, defended the said members saying he was not obliged by any law to expel 19 MPs from the House. He urged them to continue with their work. The move caused endless debates among the people.

The said members are: Halima Mdee, Ester Bulaya, Ester Matiko, Asia Mohamed, Agnester Lambert, Cecilia Pareso, Conchester Rwamlaza, and Hawa Mwaifunga. Others are Felister Njau, Grace Tendega, Jesca Kishoa, Kunti Majala, Naghenjwa Kaboyoka na Nustrat Hanje, Salome Makamba, Stela Fiao and Sophia Mwakagenda.