CONSTITUTIONALISM AND POLITICAL CHANGE IN TANZANIA: The Union permanent Constitution and the subsequent Zanzibar Constitutions


THIS is the fifth and final installment in my series of articles under the “Constitutionalism and Political change in Tanzania” In the fourth installment which was published last Thursday; we discussed the Union Treaty and the Interim Union Constitution.

This article continues from there and discusses the Union’s permanent Constitution, and the subsequent Zanzibar Constitutions. The Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977 This is the current Constitution of our country. It was enacted on 25th April 1977, by a Constituent Assembly which had been appointed for that purpose, and came into force on 26th April, 1977.

This had to be a new Constitution because it satisfied the requirements for a new Constitution, since it provided for a merger of two sovereign states into one new sovereign state, which therefore required a new Constitution.

The historical circumstances surrounding its adoption The interim period of one year during which the interim was designed to operate, was due to expire on 26th April 1965.

However, it was subsequently decided to extend this interim period. Thus in March 1965 (one month before the expiry of the prescribed year), the Parliament of the United Republic enacted a law to extend the interim period to such future date as shall be determined by the two Principals of the Union, namely the President of the United Republic in consultation with the President of Zanzibar.

With regard to this extension of time, President Nyerere explained that he, and President Karume, had agreed that instead of rushing into enacting a permanent Constitution for the new Union within only one year of its formation, it would be more prudent to allow sufficient time for this Union to operate and get settled properly, in order to enable its people, based on the experience gained from observing its operations, to determine the kind of permanent Constitution which would be most suitable for the new country and nation.

But there is an untold part of that story, which is that President Nyerere (who had initially opposed the introduction of a one-government structure for the Union, because of his fear that the ‘enemies’ of this Union would accuse him of having ‘swallowed’ Zanzibar), was personally expecting that given sufficient time, the fear of Zanzibar being ‘swallowed’ would disappear, which would thus make it possible for the permanent Constitution to make provision for a onegovernment structure of the Union.

However, it took another twelve years before the envisaged Constituent Assembly was eventually appointed for the purpose of making proposals for a permanent Constitution.

The opportunity for the taking of this action was offered by the merger of the two ruling parties (TANU of Tanzania Mainland and ASP of Zanzibar), in February 1977, for it was soon thereafter that the long awaited Constituent Assembly was appointed.

The said Assembly was able to complete its task very quickly, actually in only one short session of three hours; which enabled the new Constitution to come into force on 26 April 1977, the 13th anniversary of the Union.

The speed with which the Constituent Assembly was able to work was facilitated by the one-party system of government, whereby all major issues of governance were discussed and decided by the National Executive Committee of the Party.

This state of affairs was confirmed by Prime Minister Edward Sokoine in his speech introducing the draft Constitution in the Constituent Assembly, who said the following: “This Constituent Assembly is at liberty to either to accept or to reject these proposals. But, Mr Speaker, in exercising that liberty, we ought to be conscious of its limitations.

The proposals we are about to debate are the outcome of the Party’s decisions regarding this matter. We Tanzanians, in our abundant wisdom, have determined without hesitation that the Party shall be the ultimate authority in our country.

It means therefore that the Constituent Assembly is empowered to reject or amend these proposals, only if it feels that they are in contravention of, or in conflict with Party policies If however, these proposals are seen as correctly implementing such policies, as indeed is the case, I humbly beg the Assembly to accept them without even a moment’s hesitation” The Constitution of Zanzibar, 1979.

The 1979 Constitution of Zanzibar was enacted on 12th February, 1979, by a Constituent Assembly which had been appointed specifically for that purpose.

This was a new Constitution because it was enacted in response to a shift of political power from a Revolutionary regime to a new democratic dispensation.

It was in fact the first Constitution of Zanzibar to be enacted after the 1964 Revolution had abrogated the Zanzibar Independence Constitution of 1963. Although Presidential Decree no 5 of 1964 had served well as a basis for the governance of the Zanzibar State, it was really not a Constitution in the conventional sense of that word.

The historical circumstances surrounding its adoption The Zanzibar Constitution of 1979 resulted from the personal efforts and initiatives of the then President of Zanzibar, Mr Aboud Jumbe, who became President of Zanzibar following the assassination of President Abeid Karume in April 1972.

We have already referred to the merger between TANU and ASP, an event which created the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM). President Jumbe had responded positively to President Nyerere’s proposal in 1975 for this merger, and had actively participated in the process of securing the approval of the ASP to the proposed merger with TANU.

When that was achieved in February 1977, President Jumbe redirected his energies to the democratization of Zanzibar’s institutions of government. Under the provisions of the ‘Constitutional Government and Rule of Law Decree’ of 1964, the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council was both the Executive as well as the Legislature for Zanzibar.

President Jumbe seems to have been dissatisfied with this state of affairs, so he stared working on a project to introduce a proper Constitution which makes the traditional provisions for the separation of powers and functions between the two arms of Government, namely the Executive and the Legislature.

The enactment of the Zanzibar Constitution of 1979 was the culmination of his supreme efforts. The most important features of the 1979 Constitution of Zanzibar were that it established the Zanzibar House of Representatives, whose members were to be elected by the people of Zanzibar from constituencies established for that purpose.

It also made provision for the election of the President of Zanzibar by the people of Zanzibar; and it established other relevant institutions required for the democratic governance of Zanzibar.

The Constitution of Zanzibar, 1984 On the basis of the list given above of the circumstances which necessitate the making of a new Constitution, the Constitution of Zanzibar of 1984 does not readily qualify for the designation of a new Constitution.

However, as will be explained below, the Zanzibar Authorities had a good reason for deciding to make it a new Constitution. The historical circumstances surrounding its adoption.

The 1984 Zanzibar Constitution was a product of some major policy review which was undertaken by the National Executive Committee of Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in 1981.

The principal objective of this review was to identify suitable ways and means of consolidating democracy within the OneParty system. which was in operation at that time.

This review exercise inevitably included a review of the 1977 Constitution of the United Republic, as well as the 1979 Constitution of Zanzibar, with a view to identifying areas which needed reform or improvement.

Many important decisions were made in respect of these matters. These included the limiting of the President’s period of service to a maximum of only two five-year terms; the reduction of the President’s powers of appointment of public officers to a much smaller number; the introduction of special seats for women representatives in Parliament and in the House of Representatives, and the introduction of Local Government Authorities at the District and the Village levels.

Consequently, the Constitutions of the United Republic and of Zanzibar were accordingly amended in order to incorporate these major decisions, and to make other consequential amendments in relation thereto.

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