THE chairman of the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC), Judge Joseph Warioba has hailed the over one million Tanzanians who participated in the process of view collections so far, for having presented critical issues touching different aspects of life.
Addressing a press conference in Dar es Salaam, Judge Warioba said that the commission has finalised the process of collecting views from the citizens and would, beginning next week, start meeting institutional stakeholders.
"All the meetings of collecting views have been conducted as planned by the commission in four phases which were conducted throughout the country from July to November, last year. A total of 1,776 meetings were held and 1,365,337 citizens have attended," he said.
Judge Warioba said as the exercise was in progress, the number of people attending the meetings increased, adding that 64,737 people have given their views verbally and 253,486 people presented their views in writing. "The number of people who have been airing their views through mobile phones, facebook, website and postal services have kept on increasing.
For example, 2,587 have given their views through our facebook page and 16,261 through text messages," he said. He commended 'wananchi' for coming up with critical issues of national interest, saying that the views have touched almost all the crucial areas.
"People have touched on crucial issues such as their sovereignty, the extent at which the constitution will allow them hold accountable their leaders, governance, agriculture, powers of Members of Parliament and how long they should serve, judiciary and national security, among others," he said.
Judge Warioba noted that the exercise has not been easy as there were many challenges, mostly due to politicians who had influenced people by telling them what to speak, thus, denied them their rights to give their views independently. According to Judge Warioba, the commission will, beginning tomorrow (Monday) start to collect views from institutional stakeholders, starting with political parties and that the exercise will be completed by the end of the month.
"In meeting institutional stakeholders we will be meeting political parties, NGOs, government leaders, professional bodies and all other groups," he said. He added that in March, this year, a first draft will be written and be published in various newspapers for the people to read and give their comments.
It will be followed by the formation of Constitution Councils which will be made up by ordinary citizens from the grassroots. "Constitution Councils meetings will be held in June, this year and will be attended by members who will be elected by citizens from the village level.
These will be presenting people's views in the councils," he said. He added that the mode of forming constitution councils will be made public prior to formation and be advertised through media for people to understand. Judge Warioba cautioned that constitution council meetings will not involve a referendum, but rather the referendum will come after the views from the councils have been put down in a second draft and be discussed by the Constitution Assembly.
The new constitution is expected to be in place by next year and if all goes well, the forthcoming general election in 2015 will be held under a new constitution. The Constitution Review Bill was moved in the National Assembly in April, 2011 and after spirited debate in the House and outside, it was endorsed in November, 2011.
President Jakaya Kikwete signed it into law. Addressing the nation on New Year's Eve, (December 31, 2011), the president promised to appoint members of the commission during the first quarter of 2012. He said that the commission is expected to start collecting people's views throughout the country during the last quarter of 2012 and conclude the process late this year.
"The goal is to have a new constitution by April, 2014, at the time when Tanzania will be marking the 50th anniversary of the Union," he noted. This will be the fourth constitution since independence from Britain in December, 1961.
In 1962, the then Tanganyika promulgated Republican Constitution, followed by the Interim Constitution of 1965, after the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, as well as adoption of the one-party democracy. The country finally enacted the Constitution of the United Republic in 1977.