THE government has maintained that it will not bow to a recent demand and pressure from the opposition to withdraw the Constitutional Review (Amendment) Bill 2013.
However, the Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Mr Mathias Chikawe, told the 'Daily News' in an exclusive interview that there was still room for negotiations on concrete issues arising in the Bill which was recently passed by the Parliament in Dodoma.
The minister said since the Bill was now waiting for the President to assent to, a room might be provided for someone with a very serious point, but insisting that the government will not do that in response to the pressure from anybody or any political party.
He refuted allegations from opposition parties that the process towards the new constitution has been "hijacked" by CCM and its government. Leaders of CHADEMA, CUF and NCCR-MAGEUZI told journalists in Dar es Salaam that they were not ready to see the process continue as it had been hijacked by the ruling party and the government. "CCM and its government have not hijacked the process.
The amendment of the Constitutional Bill was brought to Parliament and the opposition instead of giving out ideas to improve the document, it chose to walk out.
Now how can they say we have hijacked it," he questioned. On allegations that six new sections have been included in the Bill apart from those presented to the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government in May this year, Mr Chikawe said the Minister had a legal right to include new sections (in the Bill) without consulting anybody.
The Minister said the opposition should cultivate a culture of tolerance while in Parliament and learn to fully participate in serious debates, adding that marching out was simply denying them of a rare opportunity to be part of the crucial law making process.
The three parties used the occasion to mark the International Day of Democracy yesterday to air their grievances on the new Bill.
They said in a joint statement read by CUF National Chairman Prof Ibrahim Lipumba, that the matter would now be presented to wananchi on 21 September this year at public rally to be held at Jangwani grounds in Dar es Salaam.
"We have decided to bury our ideological differences and unite to fight for the new constitution. We will go to wananchi to persuade them to rescue the new constitution process which appears to have been hijacked by CCM," said Prof Lipumba.
Minister Chikawe however, maintained that since the matter was now in the president's hands, it was his (president's) discretion to accommodate the opposition's demands or not. "We appeal to President Kikwete to conclude this matter amicably....he shouldn't sign the Bill in question otherwise he will plunge the nation in social and political crisis," he said.