Dar es Salaam — The government came under pressure yesterday to make public the revised version of the Constitutional Review Act 2011.Participants at an open forum demanded that the revised bill be made available for popular debate before it is tabled in Parliament.
The bill, first introduced early this year, was overwhelmingly rejected during debates in Dodoma, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, forcing the government to withdraw it for amendments. Participants at the meeting accused the government of being reluctant to issue the document and vowed that they would not relent in their quest to have it released.
The forum organised by civil society organisations and activists came on the heels of unconfirmed reports that the government had already revised the bill, and was intending to table it soon in parliament.
But the chairman of the Constitutional Debate Forum, Mr Deus Kibamba, said the government appeared not to be ready for change, and was trying to delay the process. Mr Kibamba alleged that the government had secretly started amending the current constitution without following the right legal procedures.
The country might experience chaos should the process of writing the new constitution not be transparent, he said.
Calling on the public to stand firm on the matter, Mr Kibamba declared: "We will not accept any more cheating on this. We are fully prepared to be jailed or killed if they do it contrary to the public's expectations." The Reverend Christopher Mtikila expressed the same sentiments and said: "Let us join hands together for the deliverance of Tanganyika that will provide a clear roadmap to the new constitution."
Rev Mtikila also urged the public to "get ready for anything" to ensure their views were incorporated in the envisaged mother law.Land ownership and exploitation of minerals and other natural resources took centrestage as speakers demanded that the new constitution clearly spell out guidelines on such matters.
Dr Bashiru Ally, a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, described the situation in the country as a "grief period" as the nation's resources are allegedly being easily squandered by a small group of people. "The public need to be told who bought the privatised ranches, government houses and other properties,' he said, adding that the new constitution has to consider such key issues.
A participant, Zuwena Kamba, accused politicians of "double standards" in the search for a new constitution. She said they did not practise what they said and deceived the public. Some politicians do not have a firm stand, she added, "as they say one thing during the day and preach another at night".
Tanzania Teachers Union Chairman Gratias Mukoba called on the public to prepare for demonstrations and take risks for the sake of change. He envisaged a new constitution that would overhaul the current education system and create the foundation for a good one that would promise a better life for all.
Dar es Salaam University College of Education student Gwakisa Gwakisa urged youth to forge a new platform free of political affiliation to help push the process forward."Youth should shun party politics and come together to advocate collectively for our affairs," he said. According to Mr Gwakisa, young people have been ignored in the process of drawing a new constitution.
Meanwhile, Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Celina Kombani declined to comment on claims that the government was secretly going on with the amendment of the constitution. Speaking on phone from Dodoma, the minister said she would answer all questions on the constitutional review bill when tabling her budget speech.
"I cannot say anything now," she said. "Wait until I table my budget speech and you will get answers to those questions."