23 October 2012

Tanzania: How Powerful Should the President Be?

Photo: Marco Castro/UN Photo
President Jakaya Kikwete (file photo).

AMONG subjects that prominently feature in the on-going exercise by Constitution Review Commission (CRC) in collection of people's views on the constitution is the limit of presidential powers.

There are those who claim that powers vested on the President of the United Republic are manifestly in excessive and there is need to reduce some of his authority, while others prefer the status-quo to be maintained in the interest of the country's stability, unity, peace and concord.

Mr John Chacha, a teacher at Milola Secondary School in Lindi Rural District, said the president wields so much power in running of the state, including appointment of ministers, regional commissioners, senior government and public officials, as well as pardoning of prisoners.

"Pardoning of convicts is in fact in conflict with authority of the other state organ -- the judiciary which is responsible for administration of justice," Mr Chacha contended. "Pardoning prisoners should not be the business of the executive. Let the judiciary enjoy its constitutional freedom," the teacher submitted. He also criticised the current constitution for giving the president powers to appoint so many officials in the government without subjecting them to scrutiny by other organs like Parliament or special committees.

"Let the Parliament appoint and endorse judges, ministers, regional commissioners and other senior officials," Mr Chacha told the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) at Milola village. Mr Chacha also supported those calling for a slim cabinet, saying with a population of hardly 50 million Tanzania does not need more than 70 ministers and deputy ministers.

"This is a very big burden to the people. We need only 20 serious people there and not that crowd," he said. However, Mr Juma Salum Ulaya, a resident of Nyengedi B, was of the view that the president should continue appointing the prime minister, ministers and other senior government officials to maintain loyality to him or her.

"People tend to be loyal to the appointing authority. We must be careful otherwise we may end up with rebels in the cabinet or government offices," Mr Ulaya stressed. He recalled the move by the Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, when he decided that the President should also be the CCM chairman, instead of having two different people.

"Imagine having two people,one being the president and the other one the Commanderin- Chief of Armed Forces and become rivals. It will be a disaster!!," Mr Ulaya pointed out. Mr Said el-Maamry, who was a member of the CRC team that visited Lindi Region said there was nothing wrong for the president to have the prerogative of mercy and pardon convicts.

"This is traditional many heads of state pardons convicts on special occasions or when they find it necessary," he said. Article 33 of the present constitution establishes the office of the United Republic of Tanzania. The President is the head of state, head of government and the commander-in-chief of armed forces. All executive functions of the government of the United Republic discharged by officers of the government shall be so done on behalf of the President.

The officers will be required to implement orders and directives issued by the President in conformity with the provisions of the constitution or any other law of the land. The constitution also gives powers to the President to constitute or abolish any office in the service of the government of the United Republic. Article 2(2) of the Constitution gives powers to the President to divide the country into smaller administrative areas such as regions, districts, divisions and wards.

The Constitution empowers the President, after consultation with the Prime Minister, to appoint regional commissioners and district commissioners in Tanzania mainland. In Zanzibar, regional commissioners and district commissioners are appointed by the Zanzibar President.

"Every regional commissioner shall have the duty to supervise the discharge of all the duties and functions of the government of the United Republic in the region assigned to him and for that purpose, he shall discharge all duties and functions specified by or under the written law as being functions of the regional commissioner," reads the Constitution.

During the meetings, however, some people suggested that the positions of regional and district commissioners should be abolished. They claimed that regional administrative secretaries and district development directors could perform the functions of regional and district commissioners, a move that will save government's funds in millions of shillings.

In execution of his duties the President shall be free and shall not be obliged to take advice given to him by any person, save where he is required by the constitution or any other law to act in accordance with the advice given to him. The constitution gives the President powers to declare the existence of the state of war between the United Republic and any other country.

According to the constitution the Parliament will within 14 days endorse the declaration through a resolution. It also gives the President the prerogative of mercy, under which he can grant pardon to any convict for any offence. He may remit the punishment wholly or partially, with or without any condition. The President also enjoys immunity from criminal and civil proceedings for acts committed while preforming his duties as president of the United Republic.

Some people were also of the views that the Land Law of 1999, should be amended by doing away with some matters of policy and fundamental principles. The national land policy provides that all land in Tanzania is public land vested in the President as trustee on behalf of all citizens. On the other hand they want the principle under which every woman has the right to acquire, hold, use and deal with land like any man to be maintained.

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