Stage set for legal battle over TLS polls

Boniface Mwabukusi

What you need to know:

  • Vice-Chairman of the TLS Election Committee Francis Stolla said that Lawyer Mwabukusi had been found guilty of misconduct and had received a warning and followed professional conditions.

Dar es Salaam. A day after Boniface Mwabukusi emerged and strongly condemned his removal from the candidacy for the presidency of the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), his fellow lawyers have come out to defend him, saying he was treated unfairly and demanding his reinstatement.

They have emphasized that it is crucial for lawyers who uphold justice to protect their association by refusing to participate in the TLS election until their colleague's rights are restored, hinting that current events within TLS are casting doubt on the defense of justice.

The lawyers argued that the punishment previously given to Lawyer Mwabukusi, a warning he had already served, was unjust and unacceptable for the election appeals committee to disqualify him for an offense he had already been punished for.

However, they pointed out flaws in his disqualification, stating that the individual who lodged the objection against Mr Mwabukusi did not meet the qualifications according to the TLS Election Rules of 2022, which specify the qualifications for those who can object to a candidate.

The disqualification of Lawyer Mwabukusi leaves five candidates for the TLS presidency: Ibrahim Bendera, Emmanuel Muga, Revocatus Kuuli, Paul Kaunda, and Sweetbert Nkuba. While these candidates prepare for the election scheduled for August 2, 2024, Mr Mwabukusi has already taken the matter to court.

He told The Citizen’s sister paper, Mwananchi via phone yesterday that he had completed the court process and was awaiting a decision. "We have gone to court and are waiting for a decision; tomorrow (today) we will submit all documents to the court," he said.

The Attorney General and Member of the National Lawyers' Ethics Committee, Dr Eliezer Feleshi, said yesterday that Mr it was Mr Mwabukusi's right to appeal to the court if he feels he has been treated unfairly.

"These matters are within the election process and the rights of a member. When a member is denied their rights within the association, they have the right to take further action through legal channels," he said.

But commenting on the matter, Advocate Jebra Kambole, said TLS should appear and act independently. "As an institution relied upon in matters of justice, it should uphold free and fair elections. If someone is disqualified, it should be based on legal grounds; otherwise, members should have the freedom to decide in the ballot box," he said.

This argument is supported by former TLS President Lawyer Godwin Gwilimi, who stated that TLS is an academic institution and its affairs are conducted according to the law.

He mentioned Section 4 of the Lawyers Act within TLS, where one of the roles of the organization is to defend and protect the interests of lawyers, advise the government and other stakeholders on legal matters, and protect society.

Lawyer Hekima Mwasapu, speaking to Mwananchi, said that despite the appeals committee disqualifying Mr Mwabukusi, they should have given him a chance to be heard before taking action.

Lawyer Mwasapu said the person who objected to Lawyer Mwabukusi being removed from the list of candidates did not meet the qualifications according to Section 50 of the TLS Election Rules of 2022, which states that those qualified to lodge objections are 'Candidates' and 'Nominees.'

Following this, former TLS President Dr Rugemeleza Nshala said that what the appeals committee had done was a violation of procedures. "It is important for Lawyer Mwabukusi to go to court because the committee has exceeded its authority, which gives a wrong impression that they had other intentions; this committee can review its decision and correct it," he said.

Highlighting the issue, Lawyer Peter Madeleka said it shows how TLS is losing its direction. "TLS was established according to the law to advise the government; now it has become mute on matters requiring justice. Removing Lawyer Mwabukusi from running without reason shows TLS is serving the interests of a few," he said.

This argument is also supported by Lawyer Peter Kibatala, who said if the TLS election were free and fair, he would choose his candidate, but he cannot agree with what is happening in the current election. "Lawyers, our election should be upright. Anything that makes the election appear biased makes us look foolish; therefore, I do not agree with that decision," he said.

Lawyer Kibatala said he would stand shoulder to shoulder with Lawyer Mwabukusi to ensure no election takes place under unfair circumstances.

Mwabukusi's case

Vice-Chairman of the TLS Election Committee Francis Stolla said that Lawyer Mwabukusi had been found guilty of misconduct and had received a warning and followed professional conditions. "The election committee saw he was objected to as a candidate, but he had already served his punishment; therefore, we dismissed that objection. We saw punishing him a second time was not legally correct," he said.

Stolla said that after the committee's decision, the same person went to the appeals committee to disqualify Lawyer Mwabukusi. After reviewing the objection, the appeals committee removed Lawyer Mwabukusi from the list of candidates, stating that the election committee was wrong not to remove him from the list due to his lack of qualifications.

"The committee that annulled the election committee's decision is the election appeals committee whose members are all TLS members. For Lawyer Mwabukusi to get justice, he will have to appeal to the High Court," he said.

Lawyer Gwilimi said the information provided by the appeals committee admitted that the person who objected did not have the necessary qualifications, but his information was taken and acted upon. Lawyer Gwilimi said taking information from someone who was found unqualified is against the procedure.

"The issue of Lawyer Mwabukusi being accused of misconduct and serving his warning does not justify another punishment. When someone is punished and serves their punishment, it does not mean they are guilty forever; how do you deny someone their fundamental right to run for office, meaning you deny them even the right to vote because they have been punished," he said.