By Elias Mhegera – PRESSURE from the civil society in Tanzania, activists and many commentators have proved to be productive after the Government eventually decided to withdraw the much disputed Bill for the Constitutional Review.
This measure following the statement by the Attorney General Judge Frederick Werema is a sign of victory on both the two sides which were entangled in a tug of war of actually what is needed in Tanzania, review of the existing constitution or a completely new one? The indication from the multitude of the debates is that the demand for the new constitution is surmount.
But this then does not mean that Tanzanians have now stopped to collect views after this dramatic turn of event, but it is just an indication that the wave will not subside although it might take a new shape from time to time.
Commenting in Dodoma during the just recently ended parliamentary session the Prime Minister Peter Pinda who is a lawyer commended the way people had contributed to the Bill which was an indication that the level of civic awareness is increasing steadfastly.
On her part the Speaker of the National Assembly Ms Anna Makinda warned that the constitutional debate is a property of all Tanzanians at large and it does not belong to any party, while many in the opposition see this as victory in their part due to what is taking place in regard to the constitution making process.
On Saturday last week it was the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD) which had convened stakeholders at the Karimjee Hall, but the cry was the same as to what had happened prior to that meeting.
The main speaker this time was retired Premier Joseph Warioba who is a well a lawyer and former attorney general before he ascended to the premiership, he warned of excessive powers that are granted to the president of the United Republic of Tanzania in many political endeavours including this matter of enacting a new constitution.
The main concern was the Bill was harsh in its tone, and that it should have been written in Kiswahili in order to make understandable to all people. While collecting views it was revealed that many people were casting doubt whether the amended changes will suffice the expected aspirations.
In a meeting at the Dar es Salaam International Conference Centre on Tuesday last week was a convention of NGOs dealing with civic education, human rights and the media. The conference was organized by the Tanzania Development Initiative Programme (TADIP), in collaboration with the Konrad Adenaeur Stiftung (KAS). A range of issues were discussed on the efficacy of the amendments to be done.
The main presenters were Prof Chris Maina and Bashiru Ally from the University of Dar es Salaam, Steven Mmbogo programme manager TADIP, while the chairperson of the event was Ms Rose Mwakitwange for CEO of the New Habari Corporation one of the leading media houses in Tanzania.
The theme of the discussion was “Will the Constitution Review Reflect and Deliver up to the Will of the People?” the general consensus was that the process had started with a wrong approach hence wrong conclusion.
Presenting his paper Prof Maina said it was true that there is a need to enact a new Constitution but the way the Bill had been presented reflected that the Government is ushering for constitutional amendments rather than a new one.
Elaborating further he said calls for a new Constitution have been taking new turns from time to time. For instance it was more pronounced in 1965 after this country was turned into a single party state under the leadership of the founding father Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.
He further reminds that the call subsided for sometime just to resurface in 1984 but the whole movement collapsed after it was again quashed. This wave was to resurface from early 90s after the collapse of the former USSR and its satellite states.
Prof Maina says the global transition to multiparty politics swept Tanzania as well, to the extent that it reintroduced political pluralism in 1992 but retaining the Government machinery and Constitution that made the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi to enjoy supremacy above all other institutions.
He therefore challenges that such a political legacy cannot be left to go on unchanged in the current situation. He also mentions that the fact that Zanzibar has a new Constitution under the structure of a Government of National Unity (GNU), which has automatically ousted the Revolutionary Governemnt of Zanzibar which is recognized in the Union Constitution.
On his part Mmbogo said the Bill is unfriendly and could spell doom the fate of constitutional formation taking into consideration that it has been challenged almost everywhere when people discussed it.
Contributing to the debate the Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) Secretary General, Dr Willibrod Slaa said due to the sensitivity of the debate public hearings could have been extended in many other parts of Tanzania than conducting it in three stations of Dar es Salaam, Dodoma and Zanzibar.
This view was shared by the opposition National Convention for Construction and Reforms (NCCR), Secretary General Sam Ruhuza who warned that the Bill would not have delivered according to what people were expecting therefore it should be returned to the people.