THE thirst for a new Constitution in the United Republic of Tanzania emerged after the formal introduction of a multiparty political system in 1992.
Prior to that, the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) and Zanzibar's Afro- Shiraz Party (ASP) were the only political parties that separately governed the two countries after independence.
There were, however, several political parties in existence in Tanganyika and Zanzibar before independence. In Tanganyika, for instance, there were two prominent parties, namely TANU led by Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere and the African National Congress (ANC) led by Mr Zuberi Mtemvu. Mr Mtemvu was a prominent TANU member who quit forming the ANC because he disagreed with TANU's policy adopted in 1958 of embracing non-Africans.
However, when the more popular TANU won independence it outlawed the multi-party political system because it was a threat to national unity. Tanganyika won freedom in 1961 and Zanzibar in 1963 after respectively ejecting the British colonial rule and the Sultanate of Oman. Then the two countries amalgamated in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Thereafter in 1977, in order to maintain a single-party system of government and to harmonize their policies, TANU merged with ASP to form Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
The contemporary multi-party political system in Tanzania replaced the mono-party system from July 1, 1992. The change was influenced by huge external pressure not only on Tanzania but on other developing countries as well, in particular from multi-lateral as well as bilateral aid agencies, especially after the crumble of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in the late 1980s. These agencies took the political democratization issue as a crucial part of the aid conditionalties for every recipient country.
Besides, there were CCM members with progressive views and an elite force who had been yearning for political change. But before embarking on any political reforms, President Ali Hassan Mwinyi on February 27, 1991 appointed a Presidential Commission headed by the late chief justice Francis Nyalali called the Nyalali Commission to, among other things, collect public views on whether to retain the one-party political system or reintroduce the pluralistic political system.
The commission, whose members travelled throughout the country visiting a minimum of eight villages in each administrative district, was given one year within which to complete its assignment. It submitted its provisional report to the President on December 11, 1991 in which it unanimously proposed that the political system in the country should change from the prevailing mono-party system to a pluralistic party system.
Subsequently, the commission recommended that the Constitution be amended so as to incorporate in it the multi-party democratic system. The recommendation was immediately endorsed by the extraordinary national conference of CCM. As a result, the government drafted several necessary legislative amendments to the Constitution and certain written laws to implement the recommendations drawn up by the Nyalali Commission.
In addition to making substantial amendments to the Constitution and other written laws to prepare for the plurality of parties system, the National Assembly also amended its own standing orders and rules of procedure. This was done on July 1, 1992, the very day on which multi-party politics officially went into effect. The Office of the Registrar of Political Parties was also the brainchild of the Nyalali Commission. Under the Political Parties Act, there is a two-stage registration process for parties: provisional registration and final registration. CCM became the first party to register and was followed in by several other parties.
There are now about 20 registered political parties in the country including CCM, CHADEMA, CUF, NCCR-Mageuzi, UNDP, TLP and TADEA. Both Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar have undergone several Constitutional making exercises since attaining their independence. During this period no less than nine successive constitutions have been enacted, namely:
The Tanganyika Independence Constitution of 1961,
• The Tanganyika Republican Constitution of 1962,
• The Zanzibar Independence Constitution of 1963,
• The Zanzibar (Constitutional Government and Rule of Law) Decree of 1964,
• The Interim Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar Constitution of 1964,
• The Interim Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1965,
• The Constitution of Tanzania of 1977,
• The Constitution of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar of 1979, and
• The Constitution of Zanzibar of 1984, amended in 2010.
With the exception of the Tanganyika Independence Constitution of 1961 which was enacted by the colonial power, the government involved mass participation in the making of other Constitutions by allowing public discussions and comments. Likewise, the first two constitutions of Zanzibar were also made without the participation of people. Like the Tanganyika Independence Constitution, the Zanzibar Independence Constitution was modelled on the Westminster pattern and included a provision that recognised the monarchy of Zanzibar.
However, since the introduction of multiparty democracy in Tanzania there have been discussions and debates initiated by opposition political parties on the need to have a completely new constitution to keep abreast of the contemporary political situation. They also feared that the existing Constitution, tailored to the needs of CCM, would deny them chance for free and fair election.
The Constitution is the basic law of a country which, among other things, describes the various functions of the three pillars of state powers, namely the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary branches; and provides for the demarcation of powers amongst them. It also spells out the various basic rights and duties of the citizenry. In addition, the Constitution can provide for an orderly succession in government by peaceful transfer of authority to new rulers in an emergency, election defeat or tenure expiry; and regulate the governance of the United Republic of Tanzania.
How to go about making the new constitution? There had been several schools of thought on this question. Some people called for the convening of an all-party Constitutional conference drawing participation from all registered political parties and civil groups, while other people had proposed for the holding of a referendum to collect people's views on the Constitution. Seemingly, the government has shown preference for the recommendation given by the Nyalali Commission that seeks the appointment of a Presidential Constitutional Review Commission, seen to be a more democratic approach.
The 32-member commission, headed by Judge Joseph Warioba, former attorney general and prime minister, and inaugurated in April this year, subsequently started to travel throughout the country, explaining the contents of the existing Constitution, consulting people and collecting their views on what they think should or shouldn't be included in the new Constitution.
People can present their views in person, by letter or e-mail. Civic education is crucial for the success of this undertaking given that a large section of the population are ignorant of the contents of the existing Constitution and also it will not be possible to provide copies of the document to every member of the public. But the Constitution Tanzanians desire will be of significant benefit if in the process of making it weighty consideration is given to national unity', solidarity and peace, and political tolerance.