Dodoma. Parliament has passed a law through the government Miscellaneous Amendments Act, which among other things, ‘curtails’ Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) autonomy.
Under the Bill, which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday evening by Attorney General Prof Adelardus Kilangi, the government will have a mandate to appoint its representatives to the TLS annual general meeting, where important issues about the Bar including the election of the association president, are made.
If the Bill is assented to by President John Magufuli, then Constitution and Legal Affairs minister will also have powers to appoint government representatives in TLS meetings.
The Bill drew strong reactions from Opposition lawmakers, who argued that the Bill was passed in order to restrict TLS and lawyers’ powers.
Some of the MPs, who spoke during the debate, claimed that the Bill was tabled in order to impose the Executive powers on the Judiciary.
Parliament also turned down some of the recommendations from TLS, which included extension of president’s tenure to three years. Currently, TLS president’s tenure expires after a year.
Debating the Bill, Iringa Urban MP Rev Peter Msigwa (Chadema) urged the government not to amend law, which established TLS because it contained no any shortcomings. Special Seats MP Upendo Peneza (Chadema) supported Rev Msigwa. “The government is trying to impose laws, which will restrict lawyers from practicing their profession fairly,” said Rev Msigwa.
“By imposing the new law the executive is interfering with the Judiciary, something which isn’t proper,” said Ms Peneza.
Ms Pendeza was also critical of a provision which will compel TLS members to hold their meetings at zonal levels unlike the current practice, where meeting are held at the national level. She said even Nigeria, which has over 1.5 million lawyers hold AGM at national level.
Responding, Prof Kilangi said the government was entitled to present the Bill to amend some of the sections in the Act that established TLS given the fact that it observed due process.
He insisted that TLS was not a private entity.
Reached for his comments, TLS president Rugemeleza Nshala expressed his disappointments. According to him if the Bill will be assented to, then it would deprive lawyers off their right to practice in a fair environment.
The Written Laws Miscellaneous Amendments (No. 8) Act, 2019 proposes changes to the TLS Act as well as amendments to the Local Government (District Authorities) Act and the Local Government (Urban Authorities) Act.
The changes proposed a range of restrictions from eligibility for membership to the TLS Council, the introduction of the term limits on Council members -- which will be two terms of one year each – and the introduction of new accounting and reporting requirements on the TLS where audited accounts, annual reports and minutes of all General Meetings will have to be delivered to the minister responsible for Legal Affairs.
Other proposed changes to the Act include the introduction of rules governing the functions of TLS Annual General Meetings (AGMs) where it will no longer comprise all members of the society, but attendance would be on a representative basis.
It also requires that AGMs must be held in the second week of April and where under the current arrangement any fifteen society members could demand a General Meeting, the amendments now require that at least one-third of members of good standing consisting of equal percentage representation from each chapter can make such a demand.