- Published on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 03:27
- Written by DEOGRATIAS MUSHI
- Hits: 917
IT is Wednesday afternoon, and I have just disembarked from a bus at Msamvu Bus Station in Morogoro municipality. I am in this township for a two-week trip to cover meetings held by the Tanzanian Constitutional Review Commission in this area.
Some of the commission members are here to collect public opinion on the review of the Constitution of Tanzania, and later on its validation via a referendum. My destination is Kilakala area where the meeting is scheduled to begin at 2.00 p.m, and in order to arrive on time at this place I catch a tax.
I ask the driver to speed up to be punctual. On the way we meet two couples, and we stop the car to ask them whether they were aware of the meeting. “Yes, there is a meeting about the constitution today. In fact we are on our way to the place,” says one of them, Dismas Dimoso.
We decide to give them a ride, and after a few minutes we arrive at Kigurunyembe new market area where the meeting is taking place. The place is teeming with a huge crowd. By quick estimation there are about 1000 people, though some keep on coming and others leave after some time. About 10 members of the commission (three women and seven men) are seated on the front desk led by the chairperson Mr Salim Ahmed Salim.
The Commission’s role here mainly is to ‘listen’ to views of the people and give clarification on different issues that people are either misled or are not aware of in relation to the current constitution. At this particular meeting, majority of the people, who got the chance to air their views on how they would like the new constitution to look like based their points mainly on four things.
The views included reducing administrative power of the president, setting basic education requirement for people wishing to be elected Members of Parliament, right of Tanzanians to own land, Scrapping Regional Commissioner (RC) and District Commissioner (DC) posts, and generally, need for the new constitution to give pension to old people, irrespective of their background.
A retired lecturer Ms Victoria Saduka spoke at length on why she wanted the president’s power to be reduced. Doing so would give the people the right to elect more credible leaders, she said. She illustrated what she meant by invoking the current
constitution which empowers the president to appoint Chief Justice and Attorney General and other top government functionaries. “We need a competent body comprised of knowledgeable lawyers that will be doing this job.
The new constitution should clearly state that minimum qualification for a member of parliament is a diploma and above,” she said. According to Ms Saduka, the new constitution should allow private candidate (not affiliated to any political party) to be elected member of parliament, and the same should apply to counsellors.
The government should set and describe boundaries of Tanzania, whether in the sea, lakes, forests, or in the neighbourhood villages, to avoid unnecessary confrontations with the bordering countries. According to him, the new constitution should prolong presidential tenure of office from five to seven years.
His argument was based on the fact that the government will have time to save a lot of money for development issues if elections are held every seven years. He also recommended that the news constitution should allow persons below 40 years to vie for presidency because experience in other countries worldwide shows that younger presidents could be more committed to fulfilling their responsibilities than the old ones.
Ndungau also calls for the Polling Day to be held on other days than Friday or Sunday. “These are days when the faithful
gather for prayers and are likely to miss their right to vote. Another day will allow more people to vote,” he argues. A 31-year-old Doto Marenda also aired his view. He insisted that the new constitution should give room for religious leaders to be appointed as members of parliament, because they can bring vast experience to the national assembly.
Mr Marenda called for special committee that should look at the modality of appointing reputable religious leaders into the House. According to him, people living with disability should have more representation in the parliament because their rights were often ignored, thus making their lives difficult.
Marenda’s views were different from those of Bahati Ilembo, a 35-year-old resident of Kigurunyembe area, who stated that religions should not have representatives in the parliament. The prospective constitution should continue to insist that ‘Tanzania has no religion, but its people have religions’.
Irembo insists the new constitution should fight for national citizenry. He says that the new constitution should state that Deputy Speaker comes from the opposition party, and according to him, this will create some equality when looking at the interests of political parties. Marenda went further to recommend that ministers shouldn’t necessarily be members of parliament. “We need competent ministers who are well trained in the ministry they lead, and this could create efficiency and credibility,” he argues.
Abdallah Kimbolo is another Kigurunyembe resident who tells members of the Constitution review commission that the new Katiba should clearly state that education from primary to university level become free to lighten the burden for parents. Kimbolo insists that Tanzania has a lot of natural resources including gas, minerals and tourism attractions which, if used well, can generate good income that should be used to improve education system.
“Our land should be owned by Tanzanians and not the government as it is stated in the current constitution. If we use it well it can take us out of poverty, then improve our living conditions” he says. According to Kimbolo, the new constitution should scrap DC and RC posts, then replace such posts with District Administrative Secretaries (DAS) and Regional Administrative Secretaries (RAS) respectively.
If it is necessary that the posts of DC and RC posts be maintained, says Kimbolo, then the president should not appoint them. Instead, a special committee to scrutinize name of eligible candidates who should sail through by using ballot boxes, should be formed, he advises. Kimbolo argues that there should be a rather free electoral commission formed after collecting views from different political parties.
The national assembly should play the role of endorsing the proposed members. Kimbolo says that the new constitution should clearly state that police should not issue permits before political rallies are held. “Parties should only inform the police about the venue of the meeting, to enable them provide the needed security,” he says. Patrick Gumbo’s views were based on the possibility of prosecuting the president once he leaves office.
“This will make the president more accountable and responsible during his term of office,” he says. He advocated for the new constitution to minimize number of constituencies as one of the measures to cut down government’s expenditure. According to him, members of parliament should be more competent, first at looking at their education background and their contribution to the society.
“Chief justice should not be appointed by the president but by a committee of competent judges. This will get rid of doubts that people have with regard to qualification that such a post requires. The constitutional review commission continued to collect opinions from Mzinga and Mazimbu areas. On Saturday the Commission expects to collect opinions from Mlimani and Jamhuri stadium venues before going to Mji Mkuu and Mji Mpya on Sunday for the same purpose.
On April 6 this year, President Jakaya Kikwete appointed the former Attorney General and Prime Minister Joseph Warioba as the commission’s Chairman, and the former Chief Justice Augustino Ramadhani as its Vice Chairman. The Commission is expected to complete its task by October next year in the exercise that is expected to cost 40bn/-.