New constitution: CCM risks being swept by events

Sunday March 20 2022
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By Erick Mwakibete

CCM announced plans for amending its constitution before the year is out. This will be the third amendment in a decade, and each of these changes came during an election year within the party to reflect the desires and aspirations of the chairperson at the time. All these three changes have been, broadly speaking, about a party in search of control and cutting wasteful spending. No changes were about the drive for new members, especially the youths who have been mostly left on the sidelines.

CCM’s constitution was enacted the same year the country’s constitution came into force. In fact those who wrote the party’s constitution drafted the country’s constitution.

CCM’s constitution has been amended more times than the country’s constitution which could point out to several reasons for this including the fact that it is far easier to amend a political party’s constitution or even to write a completely new one compared to undertaking the same task for the country where even which process best represents the majority of the people can be a matter of bitter disagreements.

The scope of such constitutions is different as well. However, in both cases, what cannot be disputed is that with the passage of time, the orthodox of one generation may not be the case to another generation.

CCM has been quick to amend its constitution to make it more relevant to the times but has not had the same mindset when it comes to the country’s constitution.

CCM has proven to be a shrewd political party, capable of adapting to some changes or stage-managing them to its advantage like the return of multipartism in the country, where independent candidates were barred, among other things, for fear that they will weaken the ruling party.

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CCM has rarely championed any major political changes in the country or spearheaded changes towards an outcome that favorably works for them. This has resulted into several misconceptions about the reasons why the country needs a new constitution or an amended version of the current one which better reflects the needs of the people.

There are those who think a new document equals to CCM being removed from power. It is a fact that some undue advantages to CCM ingrained in the current constitution might be gone but incumbency will always have certain advantages in a political landscape like ours. Opposition politicians have been most vocal about this, arguing that for this country to change, a new constitution is the only solution. This makes it sound like opposition parties have no agenda of their own in the whole process minus the noble cause of granting the country a new constitution.

However, constitutions alone, especially those spearheaded by politicians, do not change countries but the people who breathe life into these documents. After all, even the current constitution with all its imperfections has never been fully implemented.

The latest efforts for a new constitution were hijacked by politicians from the outset leading to an inconclusive process with an outcome no one wants. It is tempting to think that this was a conclusion some had in mind because it adds another layer of complications to an already complicated process.

While CCM has been adept at reading the political mood around the country better than its opponents often times, it does not appear to be the case with the calls for a new constitution, risking a process that will entirely spiral out of their control.

CCM has been quick to usher in changes to its own constitution even when they are poorly understood by its own members or the implications for such changes are difficult to gauge in a short period of time but the same pace has not been witnessed on changing the country’s constitution for the better.

After all, it is not one of the political parties which promised a new constitution to the country, and they have not shied away from saying the same several times.

They could be buying time, after all those agitating for a new constitution are not demanding the same things.

However, one thing is in no doubt from all the fog of the current efforts, when it is cleared a new or extensively revised country’s constitution is inevitable, and CCM with their stalling tactics, risk being swept along by events.