13 October 2017

Tanzania: Opposition Up in Arms Over Proposed Law

Photo: The Citizen
The leader of opposition party, Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT-Wazalendo) Zitto Kabwe.

Dar es Salaam — Opposition parties say the draft bill aimed at paving the way for a new political parties act will eventually lead to further suppression of democracy in Tanzania.

Several opposition politicians told The Citizen separately yesterday that said the proposed law, if passed by Parliament and enacted, would pose a serious threat to political pluralism in the country.

They particularly took issue with sections 45 (2) and 47 of the draft. Section 45 seeks to make it illegal for politicians and civic leaders to hold public rallies outside their constituencies and wards except during an election year.

Section 47 proposes the outlawing of the formation of security units by political parties.

"No political party shall conduct, coordinate or order to be conducted or coordinated, military style training or any kind of training intended for use of force or any kind of weapon, to its members or any other person," the section says.

NCCR-Mageuzi chairman James Mbatia told The Citizen that the proposals were contrary to democratic principles and the rule of law, adding that they would take the country back 25 years.

Mr Mbatia, who is also chairman of the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD), said any new political parties law should promote democracy, not undermine it.

"In the past people used to come to Tanzania from other countries to learn about democracy, but that is no longer the case. We need to revive the constitution writing process and go back to the Warioba draft," he said.

Chadema's director of foreign affairs, protocol and communication, Mr John Mrema, said the party would in the next few days issue an official statement on the proposals.

He added, however, that the draft bill sought to ban political activities.

"It's unfortunate that the proposed law seeks to criminalise political activities. This is unacceptable," he said, adding that the proposed law, if passed and enacted, would also give the registrar of political parties sweeping powers, some of which were currently the preserve of the courts.

ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe warned that the law would roll back progress made in building multiparty democracy in the country.

He said following the enactment of the Media Services Act, 2016 adopting a "draconian" new political parties law as proposed by the draft bill would add insult to injury.

"The draft seeks to give police powers to deny parties permits to hold rallies. It also seeks to give the registrar unfettered access to any information he or she may want from political parties," said Mr Kabwe, who is also the Kigoma Urban MP.

United People's Democratic Party (UPDP) chairman Fahmi Dovutwa said the proposals sought to emasculate opposition parties.

"They want to render opposition parties powerless, ineffective and irrelevant. Politics is the lifeblood of political parties. If you ban political parties from doing politics then there is no point in having political parties," he said.

Chama cha Kijamii (CCK) chairman Constantine Akitanda said the proposals should be subjected to a national debate because they would have far-reaching implications if they were passed unchanged.

But Registrar of Political Parties Francis Mutungi said the draft was the result of views collected from stakeholders, particularly political parties.

"We collected their views and compiled the draft. However, the door is still open for further proposals aimed at improving the draft," he told The Citizen in a telephone interview.

On August 30 the registrar gave political parties two weeks to submit their views on the draft bill.

Justice Mutungi said a new law to be adopted would replace the Political Parties Act, 1992.

He elaborated that the initial plan when his office began collecting stakeholders' views in 2013 was to amend the law.

However, many of those who gave their views proposed radical changes, which necessitated the drafting of a new law.

"In 2013, we collected views from political stakeholders with a view to amending the Political Parties Act, but since many of them proposed major changes, we decided to come up with a new law."

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