30 July 2012

Tanzania: Input to New Constitution Must Benefit All

WORK to collect views expressed by Tanzanians on the new constitution started well in May this year. This work is being done by the Presidential Constitutional Review Commission which was inaugurated in April this year.

So far the commission has visited various places in the country and is continuing to visit other areas. Someof the places it has visited include Zanzibar, Iringa, Dodoma, Shinyanga, Manyara, Kagera and Coast regions.

I also have my views to advance to the commission through this article which I also want to share with members of the public, they could be completely new or similar opinions to what they have in mind or have already been made public through various vehicles - meetings, forums or the media.

Discussing the new constitutional reform is a new phenomenon among many Tanzanians, this is because it is for the first time they havebeen assigned to do so. Previous constitutional discussions and re-writing were entrusted to a few nominated people or representatives from either side of the United Republic of Tanzania. This time it's a universal assignment.

For an ordinary person a good constitution is the one which cares for social prosperity - availability and affordability of basic products and services - foodstuffs, health, education, transport, electricity and water. For a politician it is the one that paves way for an easy penetration to the White House(Ikulu) or access to the abandoned German castle at Magogoni.

For rural peasants - availability of seeds for planting, water supply, veterinary services and medicines, fertilizers, health centres, cattle dips, extension services, passable roads, good schools, well-stocked shops and a stable market for their crops and livestock that also offers good selling-prices.

And altogether, the population longs for a low cost of living as the current economic trend has made their high blood pressure to remain at alarming levels. The current Sh10,000 note which in the 1990s was equivalent to Sh100,000 in value, today its values has depreciated to Sh1,000.

In 1983, for instance, as an employee of a parastatal organization I was assigned to go to Songea in Ruvuma Region to pursue various work-related issues. I was given a travel allowance of Sh5,000 which had to cover transport, accommodation, meals, incidental and a return ticket expenses.

Then it was a lot of money! Today this sum of money is not sufficient for almost everything - one-way transport, accommodation, and mealson the visit to Songea! I hope all Tanzanians turning out to express their concerns for the new constitution know their burning issues quite well.

It is these very issues which have driven and will drive them to have an audience with the Constitutional Review Commission members. But opinions submitted to the commission should avoid serving self-interests or malice. Opinions should cater for national interests; that is,they should be of benefit to the majority of people or all the people. Besides, should be constructive.

Some of the problems currently facing the Tanzaniansociety include corruption, shoddy services in public offices, abuse of power, falling standard of education, cheating in exams, trade in counterfeit products, maladministration in public offices, rights of the handicapped, and high unemployment.

The other problems are gender inequality, disputable appointments in public offices, neglected rural areas, perennial electricity and water bluesespecially in urban centres, cheap labour in the private sector,and gender-based violence.

Others include term in membership of Parliament as well as in special seats membership in Parliament, religious intolerance, environmental degradation, old-age pension, HIV/Aids, life-style diseases, land ownership, job security, and the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

In addition, I wish to suggest to the commission to also look into the following issues: police posts should be set up in every urban wards to maintain order and to reduce the escalating rate of crime; people nominated to form urban ward dispute resolution committees should be young and dynamic holders of diplomas or certificates in law or social work to handle land-related cases and others.

Currently, many of these committees are composed of very old, jobless, law ignorant and incompetent people who can easily be influenced by corruptionin reaching decisions. The offices of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) should be answerable to Parliament instead of Ikulu to win public trust.

Here I don't mean that the President's Office is not trustworthy nor do I have proof to that effect but there has been public discontent with these offices operating under the President's Office. English, indisputably an international business language, should be taught from Standard One to Seven to facilitate fluent speaking and writing of the language.

Presently, many university, college, secondary and primary school leavers are unable to use the language correctly. And, mark you, we are about to form an East African Federation of states; and in future, perhaps, we shall form the United States of Africa (USA). We also have to travel abroad. How shall we interact with our alien associates?

Training and employment of teachers should favour those who have scored good marks in final exams as was the case in the pre-independence and shortly after the post-independence period. When we embarked on Universal Primary Education (UPE) in the 1970s even failures in Standard Seven and secondary schools were hurriedly recruited to teach in primary schools. This is one of the factors that have led to the falling standard of education in the country.

The president should only be given powers to appoint the prime minister, cabinet ministers and their deputies, personal assistants, permanent secretaries and their deputies, ambassadors and high commissioners as well as heads in the armed forces. But other appointments should be done by the National Assembly and employment committees in work places.

Other jobs including those in parastatal organizations; town, municipal and city councils, government departments and agencies, academic and research institutions, and health facilities should be advertised in the media so that interested people can contest them.

Also there should be elective posts for heads of the regions, districts, commissions, committees, taskforces among others. I have put forward this suggestion because public opinion, especially in my locality and which, perhaps, represents the sentiments of many other Tanzanians,is that some presidential appointments are not done on merit. And it's giving one person too much power to appointment everybody.

The constitutional review commission came into being on April 6, this year, when President Jakaya Kikwete named its mostly credible members at a press conference in Dar es Salaam including Judge Joseph Warioba who became the chairman. Warioba is former attorney general and prime minister.

He also named Mr Augustino Ramadhani, former chief justice,as the commission's vice chairman, as well as 30 other members from both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. The formation of the commission follows the National Assembly's endorsement in December last year of the Constitutional Review Bill.

The commission, expected to complete its work by October 2013,thereafter will prepare a draft document to be tabled in a Constituent Assembly for deliberation before being refereed to the people to take a final decision on it via a referendum.

This will be the fourth constitution for Tanzania mainland. The first constitution, called Independence Constitution, existed between 1961-1962, followed between 1962-1964 by a Republican Constitution, and when Tanganyika and Zanzibar united in 1964 the third constitution known as Interim Constitution was adopted and existed from 1964-1977.

The Interim Constitution was modified several times after its first layout. A major change was made in 1965 to formalize the single-party nature of the Tanzanian government. Coherent to the double government structure defined in 1964, the 1965 Constitution identified two government parties, Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) for Tanzania mainland and Afro-Shirazi (ASP) for Zanzibar.

And when TANU and ASP merged in 1977 to bear CCM,another fourth mother law called Permanent Constitution came into force and has prevailed from 1977-todate. Tanzanians should bear in mind that they have been assigned to prepare a mother law that will be in existence for 50 or plus years - their lifetime and beyond.

Therefore, they should do that assignment painstakingly and with all seriousness so that they come up with a document that will make them and generations to come enjoy their social, political and economic life.

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