ONE can wonder whether the traditional jingle "on behalf of my people" widely used by legislators really reflects the will of the people in respective constituencies or not.
"My people have sent me... my electorate wants this and that..." are some of the common phrases far and wide used by members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives and MPs during debates in the august houses.
Legislators tend to make the House believe that they are speaking on behalf of their electorates when supporting or opposing an issue raised or when stressing a new point.
However, this sometimes happens when in reality even the said electorate in respective constituencies does not support their representative's stance. Political analysts say that happens because many legislators don't have time for their electorate. There have been complaints from the electorate that their representatives can hardly sit with them to get their views but when they stand in the houses they purport to be representing the voice of the people.
Some officials in the Zanzibar House of Representatives (ZHoR) argue that members of the House role in legislative process has been insufficient that's how they say the house has decided to find ways of reaching out to the electorate to get their views on all future proposed bills to be brought to the legislature for approval.
"We think it is high time now that more people's voice is heard in the law making process. It is obvious that MPs represent people in respective constituencies, but in promoting democracy and good governance it is better to ensure the people have more voice.
Their views may turn to be very constructive," said Mr Amour Mohammed Amour, Acting House Clerk. Launching 'have your say on bills' programme last Friday, Mr Amour said the legislature administration has decided to give people a voice, which will also guide lawmakers when discussing proposed bills and minimize complaints from the electorate.
Although the clerk says that the House was not forced to enhance people's voice in the country's lawmaking process here, it is however, known that some activists on good governance and democracy have for many years been pushing the government to make reforms in the law making process.
Before the recent development which has been made in accordance with the House Regulation number 83 (5-6) amendments, members of the House were given copies of the bill 21 days or less before the House session begins (or before the first reading). The legislators used to complain about inadequate time allocated by the legislature and the executives, for law making process.
"From now on we welcome individuals to contribute fully on the proposed bills. This will enable us have laws which have input from the majority people. One can submit one's ideas and views through post box number 902, Zanzibar, present them physical to the House offices at Chukwani for one in Zanzibar or Wete in Pemba, or by email- zahore@ zanlikn.co.au," said Mr Amour.
The House official said to begin with, the electorate can give their opinions directly on the proposed four bills before they are tabled in the next House session scheduled to start in January 10, 2013. He said that the two weeks collection of the views ends on January 4, 2012, a week before the new proposed bills are tabled for discussion in the House.
He named the proposed bills as 'Bill to amend the Zanzibar Maritime Transport Act No. 5 of 2006'; Bill to establish the Zanzibar Shipping Corporation'; Bill to provide for the establishment of the Zanzibar Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC)' and a 'bill to amend the political parties (Grand of Subvention) Act No. 6 of 1977.'
The objective of the bill to amend the Zanzibar Maritime Transport (ZMT) Act N.5 of 2006 is to provide better condition for administration of maritime transport and to ensure implementation in accordance with relevant powers and functions. "Also the amendment aims at providing coordination between the two institutions such as the Zanzibar government and the Government of Tanzania mainland for the purpose of ensuring safe maritime transport."
The bill to establish the Zanzibar Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) seeks to repeal legal notice No. 111/2011 which established ZBC and to enact new legislation for the establishment of ZBC, its power and functions. The ultimate goal is to have a single corporation which is managed by one Director, one editor, one engineer and director of programmes.
The bill to establish the Zanzibar Shipping Corporation (ZSC) is aimed to provide for the re-establishment of the ZSC and other matters connected there with and incident thereto. Re-establishment of the ZSC under this new proposed Act is being done in order to implement the government transport policy and Zanzibar Transport master plans of 2008 and enable newly established ZSC to be competitive and provide better shipping services in compliance with domestic and international standards.
On the bill to amend the political parties (Grant of subvention) Act No.6 of 1997, the government says since its enactment, the Act has virtually not been implemented for a number of reasons. The first reason relates to the government's financial ability. Under the current law, the government is required to disburse grants to political parties' equivalent to at least one percent of the annual recurrent budget.
"Taking into consideration the prevailing economic state, revenue collection and a number of critical problems which need government intervention in every financial year, the amount is too high and the government has not been able to set aside the required amount for subvention. But another reason concerns the formula used in allocating funds to eligible political parties. The formula seems to be inadequate to address operational realities of the political parties.
The legal advisor of the House, Mr Mussa Kombo, said printed copies of the bills are available at the government press and the House clerk's office and that anyone wishing to have a copy can go and buy one. "We want many people from both Pemba and Unguja to give their views," he emphasized as he asked the media to help encourage people to participate in the process.
Zanzibaris are now asked to read and comment on each and every bill to be table in the forthcoming House session before the January 4th 2013 deadline. The biggest challenge, however, may be on how to access copies of the bills and people's ability to understand them. But the House administration says since this is the first time that people are involved in the law making process, the move should be regarded as a pilot exercise and that the outcome will be used to improve further.
Zanzibar's new law making process resembles the method used in India and other countries with mature democracy. In those countries when the bill is drafted is published in the media (news papers) for the general public to give out their views. The new procedure relating to an ordinary Bill in the House now include First reading (or introduction stage), where a minister or member-in-charge of the bills seeks the leave of the House to introduce a bill.
On the second reading (or discussion stage) legislators consider the bill and its provisions in the form of a debate. Changes or amendments to the bill can be made only in this stage. Amendments become part of a bill if they are accepted by a majority of the members present in the house. After the bill is passed, it is sent to the president for approval. The president can assent, withhold or return it. If the president assents it, the Bill becomes an Act.