New constitution a lingering legacy for President Samia!

What you need to know:

  • The demand for the new constitution is many people’s demand and Samia chance to change the 1977 one

Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan could be on the cusp of making history as the leader who delivered the new constitution for Tanzania, should current efforts to revive the stalled process succeed.

That reality may have taken a significant political step after the ruling party, CCM, gave the green light for the government to once again revive the process of writing a new constitution.

This is because apart from restoring public trust of getting the document that has been demanded throughout the 30 years of pluralism, Samia’s apparent win of CCM’s endorsement and her personal effort on political reconciliation gives the brightest hope yet. By delivering the new mother law, Samia will be viewed as the Head of State who successfully baby sat the dream hitherto considered a hard bone to crack by all her predecessors; Ali Hassan Mwinyi (1985-1995), Benjamin Mkapa (1995-2005), Jakaya Kikwete (2005-2015) and John Magufuli (2015-2021).

Former President Kikwete was in the throes of delivering the new constitution and bag what would have been a befitting legacy but his personal conviction in the process was not bought by his party.

He left office before a draft law could be subjected to a public referendum in 2014.

President Kikwete’s successor, Dr Magufuli, was disinterested and declared calls to revive the stalled process none of his priorities, dampening any little hope left. Whether he would have changed his position for good in his second term in office would never be known as he died in 2021, just a year after his re-election.

But, President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s decision to form a task force under former University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) vice chancellor, Prof Rwekaza Mukandala, provides light at the end of the tunnel.

The task force is entrusted to collect proposals and ideas on the best way of doing the country’s politics especially after the political stakeholders meeting that was officiated by the Head of State held in Dodoma December 15, last year.

Even after the CCM National Executive Council (NEC’s) advice on the new constitution writing process, the same task force is being used in collecting stakeholders’ proposals.

Those who have appeared in person or submitted their proposals in writing include political parties, members of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), retired government and political leaders and individual Tanzanians.

The ongoing process keeps Tanzanians ears and eyes wide open expecting great and good news on the process revival, progression and conclusion by President Samia’s administration.

Having served as the defunct Constituent Assembly (CA) Vice Chairperson, President Samia understands the significance of the process and how her decisions would give her political credits, mileage and legacy. The concept was seconded by ACT-Wazalendo secretary general Ado Shaibu who said President Hassan can perform better in building a vibrant economy, improving social services etc.

“But, She will be well celebrated as the Head of State after successfully providing citizens the document of their dream because that is the area her predecessors have failed,” he said over the phone.

The Tanzania Constitution Forum (TCF) executive director, Mr Bob Wangwe said the constitution isn’t easily forgotten by citizens as compared to infrastructures and salary increments.

“There are two rooms for her to be remembered, first as the Head of State who provided the worst document. Or the President who has given the country the people’s centred constitution capable of addressing present and future challenges,” he said.

But Mr Benson Kigaila, Chadema’s deputy secretary general (Mainland) said the president’s success in the area would be determined by her readiness to distance herself from conservatives in the party and the government.

“Despite the directive of the ruling party’s NEC, there are contradictory statements from senior government officials in the Constitutional and Legal Affairs ministry. The president should stand by her own feet on the matter,” he said.

He, however, commended the Head of State for dropping the previous position that the process would be considered after the 2025 General Election. For his part, a senior political science lecturer from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Prof Bakari Mohamed said major founding fathers of the nation are the ones who will remain with the major legacy after building the present Tanzania. He said the Second Phase President Ali Hassan Mwinyi would be remembered for the resumption of the pluralism in 1992, while Dr John Magufuli will remain in citizens’ hearts for relocating the country’s capital to Dodoma though the arrangement was there. “However, no constitution or laws have been formulated reflecting the multiparty democracy since its re-introduction in 1992. This is despite the formation of Judge Robert Kisanga and Francis Nyalali commissions,” said the UDSM don.

“The President can achieve in the areas of economy. But even those nominating retired presidents for global or outstanding leadership awards focus on political achievements and legacies,” he added.

He said success on the matter will not only place her in the position of being considered for such nominations, but also will be remembered by citizens over the years.

Why the new constitution

There are many reasons behind demand for the new constitution including the view that the United Republic of Tanzania Constitution 1977 which is 45 years old is outdated. Also, the 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965 and even the 1977 including its amendments excluded the participation of citizens, despite being documents touching their lives.

There is also the concept that the 1977 Constitution was enacted and has remained to reflect the single party system, therefore, the new document was required to accommodate the present changes.

The new constitution advocates however have been downplaying reasons that government leaders should be left to build and strengthen the economy first, instead the time to provide citizens with the people’s centred constitution was now because the document was the one building a strong foundation for sustainable development.

But, the process has spent billions of shillings in taxpayers’ money making, hence the process conclusion will definitely realise the value for money.

However, stakeholders have been demanding the independent electoral commission in order to end complaints and make elections credible.

But, the United Republic of Tanzania Constitution also needs to be reviewed to align with changes made in the Zanzibar Constitution, which has introduced the Government of National Unity (GNU) among others.

How the stalled process started?

The process was officially declared in 2010 by the then President Kikwete, the announcement that was followed by enactment of the Constitution Review Act No. 83/2011 and the Referendum Act No. 11/2013.

The Constitution Review Act 2011 introduced the defunct Constitution Review Commission (CRC) under Judge (rtd) Joseph Warioba’s chairmanship that coordinated public opinions that led to the First and Second Draft Constitutions.

It is the Second Draft Constitution that was tabled before the Constitution Assembly (CA) under former National Assembly Speaker, the late Samuel Sitta’s chairmanship and President Hassan as vice chairperson.

Heated debate during the Constitution Assembly (CA) divided members leading to the opposition boycott and rejection of the Proposed Constitution that was drafted by pro CCM members.

The Opposition walkout

Boycotted opposition members walked out of the CA debate chamber protesting the dropping of issues such as the structure of the union, reducing powers of the president, decreasing the size of the Parliament and representative’s term limits.

Therefore, the drafted PC that was scheduled for the referendum lacked national reconciliation.

Boycotted political parties, Chadema, CUF, NCCR-Mageuzi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) formed what was the Coalition of Defenders of the People’s Constitution popularly known as Ukawa.

They jointly supported Chadema presidential candidate Edward Lowassa during the 2015 General Election who garnered 6,072,848 votes equivalent to 39.97 percent against the CCM candidate John Magufuli who collected 8,882,935 ballots equal to 58.46 percent.

Proposed starting point?

According to some stakeholders, a prepared PC should proceed for a referendum, something that is strongly opposed by others who want all contentious issues resolved first.

Others including political parties suggest that a committee of experts should be formed and combine the best contents of the Second Draft and the PC for the document that will be taken for the next stages.