26 January 2013

Tanzania: New Constitution - Executive President or Titular One?


OUR long journey towards realization of a new constitution is very much on track. It has of now reached a very interesting stage where we are hearing from the elderly statesmen. It all started with a hitch when the much talked transparency was sidelined affording some Party officials to brief the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) on their proposals.

The press was barred from covering particularly when Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) officials submitted their recommendations and the reasoning was more bizarre when the explanation to this secrecy had two different diametric versions.

One being that the room was too small to accommodate the press whilst the other one which seemed more convincing was the prior arrangement agreed that press should not be allowed in. Notwithstanding that confusion which started to these special groups, it was very clear by nature of their selectivity and exclusivity, something debatable would ensue from their proposals.

Unlike the earlier gathering of views from other groups around the country by the CRC, this time around the views were coming from the elite groups, the former prime ministers, permanent secretaries, retired officials and those still in active services. This is a group that has a taste of leadership and knows how sweet the power is.

According to the Chairman of the CRC Judge Joseph Sinde Warioba, they have already interviewed about eighty different groups, but I am sure those were very much different from the current exercise they are engaged in now.

The earlier groups appeared to have been emotionally charged; people from Zanzibar Island to the far interior of the Mainland had a common agenda and in unison stood for pruning the presidential powers and the question of the Union.

The three tier government was the most advocated option of the union by those groups and others calling for dissolution of the very Union! The situation got tense with the emergence of Uamsho that had a religious recipe. It was indeed worrisome that the exercise would degenerate into a political fiasco.

Yes, with the current group, there seems to be a reconciliatory mood trying to repair the damages. The Chief Secretary, Ambassador Ombeni Sefue is on record to have spoken out his mind on retention of presidential powers as an Executive President rather than a titular one.

Similar sentiments were echoed by the former Prime Minister John Malecela when it was his turn to share his feelings with CRC. He broke his silence and just went to the press to declare what he had revealed to the CRC. He queried as to who should be given those presidential powers, 'judiciary?'

On my own survey, I have tried to seek opinion from the most senior people who have retired from government services on this question of limiting the presidential powers and they tend to disagree on this. Like Malecela they all questioned who should be given these prerogatives?

Could their feelings be attributed to their nostalgic hangover that president to them was everything in their era? With due respect to the former Prime Minister Malecela, who had insisted that presidential powers should remain intact as the country is still young!

But my interjection here is that, Kenya has done it; we saw how the Chief Justice was appointed so as recently the appointment of Inspector-General of Police (IGP). This is also being done in South Africa so as in Namibia; are these countries older than Tanzania?

I remember an incidence in Namibia where the Ombudsman was unconstitutionally appointed, it was crisis and the decision had to be rescinded! Also the Army Chief was fired through the same process. I think we are mature enough for this. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) was loud and clear on their proposal of being free and the mode of their appointments which is a complete departure from the current practice.

The President should make the final appointment after the names have passed through a prescribed process. The issue here is not really to disarm the president of his/her prerogatives but is to work out mechanism that would help him to get the right person in the right job for the good of the country.

Representative of the Press also came up with a proposal that president should not have a prerogative of reprieving convicts. This is a constitutional obligation and is a common practice in many countries. The problem here is lack of credible mechanism of identifying the rehabilitated prisoners who deserves the pardon.

I remember once upon a time in this country, one famous prisoner was pardoned in a dubious way and caused mayhem. How do we get the deserving rehabilitated offenders for the presidential amnesty? This should be a joint work done by prisons and parole board having satisfied the risk free of those convicts and their adaptability to rehabilitation programmes.

It should be absolutely clear that the pardoned prisoners would not cause embarrassment and abuse the presidential amnesty. And this is possible through the new Offender Risk Case Management Strategy. Probably this proposal was raised because of the recidivism of the reprieved prisoners. Presidential reprieve is supposed to be sacred and prisoners or their relatives should not plan for that.

We do not want to reach a point where prisoners are committing crimes knowing beforehand that presidential amnesty is in the offing. The prison's rehabilitation process together with the parole system should be given proper mandate to effectively manage their missions in the wake of this new Constitution upholding the modern global correctional philosophy.

This also calls for the new Constitution to review the working modalities of the country's criminal justice system in the quest of combating crime and managing recidivism. The effectiveness of criminal justice system is gauged from both the crime and recidivism rates.

A holistic approach is required for an effective and responsive criminal justice system. We need to have an integrated criminal justice system that can sit and plan together. The Scandinavian countries criminal justice systems work in this way and have managed to tame crime. Apparently these countries are known for having the lowest incarceration rates.

mgosiwasui87@gmail. com +255754342711 Senior Citizen

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