THE ruling party, CCM, has declared a war against corruption as it bolsters democracy in the country.
While the recent CCM national conference in Dodoma set up its new line-up led by National Chairman Dr. Jakaya Kikwete, with Dr. Ali Mohamed Shein and Philip Mangula as vice-chairman for Zanzibar and Tanzania mainland respectively, come to grips with the results, all are tasked with one mission of promotion and anti-corruption roadmap down 2015 and beyond.
In a democratic society, the people participate in the governance of their country through voting for persons among contestants for public posts. They consider people best suited to perform the functions of the offices for which they are contesting. The decision to vote for a person to occupy a public office is based, or better still, should be based on the past record of that person.
This is the first way in which people participate in their own governance. The second way is by advocating for what is good for their country. These two ways seem to be complementary. If the people vote for leaders based on their past records of saying and doing what the people consider to be in the interest of the public good, then chances are that the people will spend less time advocating for the public good.
On the other hand, if the people elect persons to public offices who have no record of commitment to what the people consider to be in the interest of the public good, or for the party vision and mission, then the chances are that they, the people, will spend more time advocating for the public good. In Tanzania, today, the fight against corruption is considered by both the government and the people to be the most important task in the transformation of Tanzania to become a peaceful, just, humane, progressive, productive and prosperous nation.
Our President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete has frequently identified corruption as the number one enemy of Tanzania. There is nobody in Tanzania that has disagreed or will disagree with our president that corruption is our number one enemy. The people are the ones that feel the pain inflicted by corruption, as corruption prevents them from having basic necessities of life such as, food, good health, sound education, safe drinking water, electricity, communication, good and affordable public transport system, housing, amongst others. In his recent speech in 2012 while addressing CCM youth in Dodoma ahead their election of national leaders, the president assured us that he would lead by example in his effort to change Tanzania for the better, including his fight against corruption.
This for me should be the focus of all advocates against corruption in Tanzania, today. We should help President Jakaya Kikwete in his remaining term in the office to be an excellent example in the fight against corruption. We should help him to be a respected general in our national battle against corruption.
In a battle, the army can have the best plan, strategy and tactics to win a war, but if the general shows any form of weakness, the army loses its morale and becomes a weak force against the enemy. The best army can fail in its mission, if it is not properly commanded.
Those of us who have patriotic thinking will agree with effort being put in place by President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, although in any live society there are those who will always try to tear down his image, arguing he is not doing enough or he should be a diplomatic authoritarian.
Of course, in terms of plans and strategies for combating corruption, many good initiatives have been undertaken by the government of President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete such as the Anti-Corruption Strategy produced by the PCCB led by my comrade Dr. Hosea who happens to be my director of operation those days, the establishment and empowerment of CAG office to audit misuse of funds in all public related office championed by Mr Ludovick S. L. Utouh and advocating with partners for strengthening its capacity and independence, the establishment of the PCCB from PCB, the passage of the Freedom of Information, the tolerance of press freedom, amongst others.
However, if the President, members of his cabinet, his family members, confidants, best friends and close associates conduct themselves in manners that have the potential of undermining the fight against corruption, the soldiers in this battle, such as law enforcement officers, auditors, prosecutors, anti corruption investigators will lose their morale. In the end, the people of Tanzania will be defeated in the war against their number one enemy, corruption.
The role of advocates is not to let this happen to Tanzania. It is the role of supporters to use the enabling laws to keep constantly reminding the President and his cabinet about what needs to be done and suggesting ways to do the things that need to be done. For example, not much is heard anymore about the colossal public mismanagement scandal(s). Yet these were the first major test to the President's commitment to the fight against corruption, given that some of his close confidant and associates were involved directly or indirectly.
The press does not say anything about certain things anymore such as Deep Green, Meremeta, radar and of late allegation of those said to have swindled proceeds from major contract deposited in accounts elsewhere as reported in the House in Dodoma recently. A number of reports of the CAG have detail account of how public money has been misused, others have alleged bribe behaviour to members of the Legislature where a strong warning was issued in the House recently.
And many allegations that have turned down the image of our beloved nation look. If the battle against corruption must be won then the fighters including the press, the civil society and functionaries of government with assignments at the battlefront must be persistent, consistent and insistent in not only identifying the enemy but in their battle against the enemy until final victory is achieved.
The Freedom of Information is a major weapon in the fight against corruption. The President of the Press Union of Tanzania, other civil society organizations, our international partners and the members of the Parliament deserve the unending gratitude of the Tanzanian people for great achievement in the search for the truth and accountability in Tanzania. Legitimacy, patriotic and accountability in my view are necessary condition for an effective war against corruption.
To know the truth that corruption exists in a public office, to know the truth that corruption exists in political parties or in the use of a public resource by a private entity; to know the truth of the nature of the corrupt act; to know the truth of the degree of corruption that is taking place; to know the truth of how corruption is invading a public institution and to know the truth of who is engaged in corruption are all important steps in the war against bribery.
Yet since the passage of the freedom of information there have been complaints by some members of the civil society and the press that some public officials to whom requests have been made for the disclosure of information not exempted, have either outrightly refused to disclose the required information or have been evasive and baffling in their disposition. If this kind of attitude persists, then the freedom of information to declare one's wealth particularly to those looking for higher public office will be meaningless.
But the press and advocates must not let this happen to Tanzania. The more resistant public officials become to obeying the freedom of information, the more determined the press and civil society advocates should be in getting the information that they want.
One way of getting information that is not exempted by law is to petition the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to compel public officials to disclose information, if they refuse to do so upon request. Let me offer my free legal service in this regard although I am not a lawyer, but happen to rub shoulders by lawyers.
Dr. Hildebrand Shayo, is a senior lecturer in economics at the Open University of Tanzania.