Tanzania: Towards the 2020 General Elections

A tribute to the late Former President Mkapa.

AS we continue paying tribute to the departed former President Benjamin Mkapa, whose sudden death last month shocked the entire nation; and as part of that tribute, it is worthwhile to remember some of his views and major statements, which constitute a valuable guide on the required, proper behaviour, of elected leadership in a multi-party democratic dispensation.

In his inauguration speech on the occasion of his installation as President of the United Republic for his second term on 9th November, 2000, he said the following:- "What is important for our people, is that their leaders should not aspire for leadership in pursuit of personal glorification, or personal gain. Instead, they should strive for the glory of the nation, and the gain of the people. In this country of Mwalimu Nyerere, you are elected to serve, not to be served.

This is the political culture of our country which we inherited from Mwalimu Nyerere, and this is what constitutes the foundation upon which our nationhood, and our unity, firmly stand".

He continued as follows: "The attitudes of political leaders, and those of our people, have to evolve to a point where politics need not be a dirty game, or a game of chicanery, deception, and mudslinging; but an activity that can be pursued in dignity and decency. Political opposition need not evoke enmity, what is important is that all players shall put the community and national interests first".

Thus, as we approach this year's general election, both the aspirants, and the voters, are strongly advised and encouraged, to observe these guidelines; as in doing so, they will have paid proper and deserved tribute to our fallen leader, former President Benjamin Mkapa.

I may as well disclose here, that it was former President Mkapa who actually asked me, when we met in Dodoma on 12th July, 2020, to write this series of articles as a 'warm up' for the forthcoming general elections. He was himself an avid reader of my weekly articles.

Tribute paid, we will now proceed with today's discussions.

The imperative need for free and fair elections

President Magufuli has faithfully promised that the forthcoming general elections will be free and fair. Indeed, historically, the need to ensure that all our State elections are free and fair elections, has always been given the necessary attention by all our Governments, starting with the first phase government of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, notwithstanding the fact that his was a 'one-party state' political dispensation.

This is evidenced by the legal provisions that were put in place. The relevant provisions of the Elections Act (no. 46 of 1965) provided for the appointment by the National Electoral Commission, of 'supervisory delegates', whose duty was, in the words of that statute, "to supervise the election campaign in the constituency assigned to them, and to report to the Electoral Commission on any failure to accord a fair and equal opportunity to the competing candidates, and any non-compliance with the requirements of the elections law".

And on election day, these supervisory delegates were entitled "to visit any polling station, In order to satisfy themselves that the arrangements that had been made for voting, were proper and adequate for that purpose.

Plus they were also entitled to be present at the counting of the votes and the declaration of results by the Returning Officer". And there were also other provisions providing for the nullification of unfair elections by the High court.

These were not just idle provisions of the law; for they were actively implemented throughout the relevant period. In the case of the ruling party, those who were convincingly shown to have committed the specified offences were invariably denied "primary nomination" by the National Executive Committee.

Similarly, as a result of successful election petitions, many of the constituency elections were nullified on the basis of these provisions.

These arrangements worked very well until the introduction of multi-party politics in 1992, when the provisions for the appointment of such supervisory delegates were removed from the Elections law.

The impediments to free and fair elections

But there were, and still are, certain incurable impediments to free elections. The first is the scourge of corruption in elections, which appears to have completely defied all the efforts to combat, as it has continued to rear its ugly head in every election that has been held, throughout the country's election history; including the CCM 'primary nomination' process that was held in preparation for 2020 general elections.

For, very soon after the completion of the preferential voting within CCM, many complaints were raised regarding the prevalence of corrupt practices that were committed during that process. It therefore seems to be a problem that has completely eluded solution.

It may be helpful to refresh our mind about Mwalimu Nyerere's supreme efforts in combating corruption, when he introduced the "stiff-punishment" policy strategy by enacting a law which provided for a two-year imprisonment ( without the alternative of a fine), plus twenty four strokes of the cane.

This law was primarily intended to act as a deterrent, that would scare people away from committing that crime. But it does not appear to have had any significant effect in reducing this problem, which has continued unabated.

President John Pombe Magufuli vigorously returned to the "stiff-punishment" strategy. In May 2016, the Minister of State in the President's Office responsible for the Public Service, Ms Angela Kairuki, said the following in her address to members of the African Parliamentarians Network against Corruption (APNAC) meeting in Dodoma: "The light punishments seem to fuel corruption, which is still a serious problem in our country. Until now, convicted culprits have been given light punishments that do not match the gravity of their offences. Tougher punishments will help reduce this problem."

The Minister was basically talking about corruption in the Public Service; but, her remarks are equally applicable to the similar problem of electoral corruption. But are such stiff punishments really the solution?

The difficulties of fighting corruption through the Courts.

The anti-corruption legal regime has been in place right from the very beginning, in response to Mwalimu Nyerere's categorisation of corruption as "an enemy of the people", when he said the following in his Legislative Council speech on 17th May, 1960:- "Mr. Speaker, there is one other enemy which must be added to the three already declared enemies, of poverty, ignorance, and disease, and that is corruption. I think corruption must be treated with ruthlessness because, in my opinion, corruption and bribery are greater enemies to the welfare of the people during peace time, than war is during war time.

I believe that corruption in a country should be treated in almost the same way as treason" Furthermore, the Ruling party's constitution spells out clearly "corruption is an enemy of justice"; and enjoins every party member to promise, on oath, the he or she "will never give, or receive bribes".

And, according to the country's laws, corruption is a criminal offence. The prevalence of corruption is roundly condemned in our society, as an unmitigated evil; But still, despite all these efforts, plus the "stiff-punishments" strategy; corruption continues to prosper in this country.

Why? Any amount of brain-racking about a way out of this problem has always ended up in frustrating futility. Although everyone seems to wax lyrically on the evils of corruption, but when it comes to the point of suggesting a solution, they all tend to run out of ideas, and quickly resort to saying that "the Government must do something about it".

The government, of course, has a binding obligation 'to do something about it'; However, under the 'rule of law' principle, the government can only fight corruption through the courts of law.

But even that route has its problems, which are caused by certain difficulties that are inherent in the court procedures, that tend to effectively create obstacles on the road to achieving a successful prosecution in corruption or bribery cases.

One such difficulty is the provisions that allow reliance on procedural technicalities, which are often relied upon by the defence counsel to save their clients from conviction; and even the courts themselves have often relied on such technical provisions to free an accused person; as happened in the 1963 case which utterly frustrated President Nyerere, which he himself narrated in the following words:- "Siku moja tulipata habari kwamba waziri wetu wa sheria, amehongwa, na tukampata mtu aliyemhonga. Mtu huyo akashitakiwa, na akakiri mwenyewe kuwa kweli alimhonga waziri huyo. Kwa hiyo akahukumiwa kwenda jela, na akapata viboko vyake. Lakini kwa upande wa mshitakiwa mwenzake yule waziri, Mahakimu wale walitafuta tafuta njia ya kumwachia huru, na wakaipata. Wakaamua kwamba yeye hakuwa na kosa, pamoja na kwamba walimfunga yule mshtakiwa aliyemhonga. Kumbe sheria, na haki, ni vitu viwili mbali mbali!"

That was how Mwalimu Nyerere expressed his indignant frustration over that matter. But there is yet another impediment, which is the requirement to produce evidence that will satisfy the court " beyond reasonable doubt, in order to prove that the accused has, indeed, committed the offence with which he is charged.

In most electoral corruption cases, this is a major impediment, because of: (a) the secrecy normally surrounding such corrupt transactions, and (b) the mutual willingness by the parties involved in the relevant transaction; which is akin to the "willing seller/willing buyer principle which is applicable in lawful commercial transactions; whereby the seller of a given product is willing and happy to sell his product, and the buyer is equally willing and happy to buy that product. Thus, in such circumstances of secrecy plus mutual willingness, it becomes extremely difficult to find witnesses who will provide credible evidence that will convince the court beyond reasonable doubt, that the alleged offence was in fact committed.

However, this is not to say that we should give up and surrender. The books of authority on this subject have proposed that " corruption is like a virus, which is always around to infect a political system and make it sick, anywhere in the world.

And, very much like the human body, political systems are also capable of developing their own immune systems that can automatically fight, and resist, the corruption virus".

And further "the degree of corruption prevailing in any one political society, largely depends on either the strength, or the deficiency, of its immune system. In a democratic polity, a strong and vigilant public opinion is the built-in immune system which resists and restricts the onslaught of viruses like corruption".

This contention, in essence, enjoins every leader, in their respective areas of responsibility, to become that 'public opinion leader', in order to help create the desired "strong and sustainable public opinion that will resist the continued onslaught of the virus of corruption".

Indeed, as Emund Burke (1729 - 1797), is reputed to have said, "for any evil to triumph, it is only necessary for the good man to do nothing about it". Therefore, let every leader in our society be that "good man" who undertakes 'to do something', in order to curb corruption in his or her allotted area of responsibility.

(will continue next week) piomsekwa@gmail.com / 0754767576.

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