Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

12 April 2014

Tanzania: Shall We Cross the Rubicon?

WE have good reasons to pray for our country to be saved from the experience of other countries that went through when attempting to rewrite their constitutions.

I very much agree with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Anne Makinda, in her eulogy to the late Bishop Godfrey Mdimi Mhogolo in Dodoma when she expressed her fears of plunging this country into chaos.

With humility, Madam Speaker appealed to Tanzanians to be extra careful and learn from other countries as the going seems to get rough in getting a compromise in this dialogue of carving our constitution.

It was further echoed by the frantic efforts made by the Speaker of the Constituent Assembly Samuel Sitta when he met the two prominent clerics for consultations. Worrisome as it is, that the once harmonious well-knit nation of Tanzanians is being threatened by divisionism on political and regionalism.

What looked as a historic groundbreaking event is turning to be a sour experience caused by none other than politicians. The debate now has been eclipsed in the two or three tier government's debacle becoming a question of the ruling and the opposition parties.

Even those 201members, our representatives for some of us who do not belong to any party have somersaulted to either ruling or the opposition parties. I have also lost my argument in the legitimacy of these numbers in deciding on democratic issues!

How fair is it for 201 members to represent the rest of us non-party members roughly 30 million people while about 400 members represents only 8million people, members of political parties? In such an arrangement you cannot run away from party interest's infiltration and fall into this deadly ploy!

The clarion was on patriotism on deciding sensitive issues and that general consensus would be taken without being slanted to any political interests! But this appears to be a wishful thinking as it fades away as the days go on.

Probably Chadema had the upper hand in that the First and Second Draft Constitutions upheld their views on the three tier governments. In a sort of euphemism, they sought solace in the peoples' views as collected by the Warioba's Commission and could not hide their happiness.

This was much to the chagrin of the ruling party that has all along declared its unshaken stand on the two tier governments. What should be expected from here? Naturally the ruling party has to use its massive influence and power at any cost to thwart anything which is against its interests as declared recently by President Ali Mohamed Shein of Zanzibar.

The two thirds voting system seems to be unattainable but canvassing has been going on to unlock the deadlock and by yesterday (Friday) efforts were on course to cross the Rubicon.

It is always good for politicians to give hope where there is despair, light where there is darkness, courage where the situation is hopeless. But in this case, may be a miracle may save the day. To say the least, for a couple of months, the road towards carving our new constitution has never been smooth and at times it looked as if we were heading for a deadlock.

Not only history will be made by having a new constitution come 2015 but also the arduous process of writing it could be part of that very interesting history. You may recall the pressure of having a new constitution started long time ago. While others did not see the wisdom of having it but others thought it wise to go for a new constitution.

Thanks for the intervention of President Kikwete who gave the final ruling that the process of charting a new constitution should start. This was after some senior government officials had negated to the idea of writing a new constitution. You may further recall that the road has been very much punctuated by several hiccups both in Zanzibar and the Mainland.

In Zanzibar there were those who tore apart the Constitutional Review Bill and the Mainland National Assembly, the opposition walked away from the Parliament resenting to some of the articles of the draft constitution bill. Again the wisdom of President Kikwete was called upon to cool the tempers and the delicate agreements were reached to pave the way for further progress.

Then this was followed by a very interesting stage of collecting views from the public. The elderly statesmen were afforded an opportunity to give their inputs. Again this too started with a hitch when the much talked transparency was sidelined in preference to some of ruling party officials to brief the Constitutional Review Commission on their proposals.

The press was barred from covering particularly when Chama Cha Mapinduzi 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. It is from this collection of views the CRC is alleged to have misrepresented the views of those who opted for a two-tier government.

However, the CRC was able to cover as many people as possible compared with any other Constitutional Review Commission South of the Sahara. The Commission was able to hold 1,942 meetings that were attended by 1,306,500 people.

There were also face to face meetings in which 395, 000 people were involved. Ironically we are all looking for a national constitution that will take us for another fifty years. It should have no bearing on any political party, a fact which seems to have slipped the mind of our politicians.

They all mistrust one another on the pretext that the emerging winner takes it all. It does not go that way; as is the country which wins. This is yet another cruel test to our unity. God Bless.

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