6 June 2013

Tanzania's New Constitution - Not Yet a Done Deal

THE euphoria with which the draft of Tanzania's new constitution was received on Monday after it was unveiled by the constitutional body's chairman, Mr Joseph Warioba, seems to have led many a Tanzanian to believe that the work to formulate a new constitution is now over.

It is important to point out at the outset that the country's new constitution is far from being a done deal.

For starters, the draft will have to go through two crucial stages for fine-tuning before it is put to the litmus test in a referendum in which the people will be the final arbiters.

The first stage is for ward, district and regional constitutional councils to debate the draft, after which a special Constitutional Parliament will come up with the final version, whose fate will then be put in the people's hands.

So, there is still some arduous way to go before the country finally has a constitution. The euphoria can most certainly be ascribed to how the Constitutional Review Commission has been very meticulous in its job - crossing the t's and dotting the i's - such that it has confounded even its harshest critics.

It will be recalled that after members of the team were announced by the government last year there was hullabaloo over its composition, with some accusing the government of a hidden agenda to derail or frustrate the people's burning desire to get a new constitution reflecting and embodying their aspirations.

Warioba's draft constitution has put to shame the doubting Thomases because it appears to be free of ideological overtones as earlier feared that it would. The CRC has come up with daring recommendations which, if finally approved by the people, will change Tanzania's political and administrative structure as we have hitherto known it.

The recommendations are so far-reaching that even the optimists must now be left agape with wonderment. An example that stands out among the rest is the recommendation for Tanzania to have a three-tier government, i.e. a union government and a government each for Tanzania (I hope that is what it will be unashamedly called because it happens to be its real name) and Zanzibar.

The two-government structure has been dogging the union for decades despite recommendations by a number of past commissions to the contrary.

Indeed, the issue almost brought down the second phase government under President Ali Hassan Mwinyi when Zanzibar's attempt to join the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), prompting Tanganyikan MPs, led by Mr Mwakasaka, to demand formation of a government for the Mainland (read Tanganyika).

The matter culminated in then Prime Minister and First Vice-President, Mr John Malecela, losing his job. Now the matter can finally, and hopefully, be put to rest. In fact the euphoria reflects the people's satisfaction with what the draft constitutions embodies - their aspirations, ideals and values.

That being the case, there is need therefore for them to ensure that what they hold so near and dear is not watered down, or even reversed, by forces with ulterior motives during the remaining two stages before the final draft is put to the test before the people.

For sure, the draft constitution is not definitive in its coverage of issues which the people would wish to see embodied in their new constitution. There is, for instance, the question of three central banks in one country and the issue of ownership.

That is why the two remaining stages should be a platform for fine-tuning the final version of the country's constitution so that, at the end of the day, Tanzania will have a constitution to see it through the next half a century.

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