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Reorganising Parliament to reflect the multiparty environment

LAST week’s installment closed at the point when I was describing my good luck of being the leader of Parliament, at the time and period of great transformation and reconstruction; when that Institution was called upon to make history in terms of enacting new Constitutions to accommodate the rapidly changing political circumstances.

Today’s article will first complete that story, and then move on to other issues in the same category of creating history; and, specifically, the fundamental transformation that was required in order to change the Institution of Parliament itself, from its 30-years operations while basking in the glory of a ‘single-party’ Parliament; to a fundamentally new, properly functioning ‘multi-party’ Parliament .

We will return to the story of Parliament’s fundamental transformation a little later, after we have completed the Constitution-making aspect.

The making of the current Constitution of the United Republic, 1977

The 1965 One-party Constitution was designated as an ‘Interim Constitution’; simply because it was not enacted in accordance with the procedures prescribed by the ‘Articles of Union’; which had directed, in article (vii), that: “The President of the United Republic, in agreement with the Vice President who is Head of the Executive in Zanzibar shall:-

(a) Appoint a Commission to make proposals for a Constitution of the United Republic.

(b) Summon a Constituent Assembly composed of representatives from Tanganyika and from Zanzibar to meet for the purpose of considering the proposals of the Commission aforesaid, and to adopt a Constitution for the United Republic”.

However, the 1977 was enacted strictly in accordance with those directives. A Commission of 20 members, 10 from Tanzania Mainland and 10 from Zanzibar, had earlier been appointed for the task of preparing proposals for the merger of TANU and ASP.

This assignment had apparently been accomplished to the complete satisfaction of the two Principals.; because they decided to give it the additional task of making proposals for a permanent Constitution of the United Republic.

And since I was the Secretary of that Commission, it became my responsibility to draft proposal for discussion by the Commission, as I had been doing during the justended exercise.

Eventually, our final proposals were submitted to the CCM National Executive Committee for endorsement; and, being a member of that Committee myself, I was mandated by the Commission to be prepared to make any clarifications that might be required by NEC.

It was only at the end of this process, that the proposals were handed over to the Government, for the Parliamentary legislative process to take place. My contribution in the making of this Constitution was therefore quite substantial.

The Constitutional amendments

The Tanganyika Independence Constitution, as well as the Tanganyika Republican Constitution, were so short-lived that they attracted no amendments whatsoever. But two amendments were made to the Interim Constitution of the United Republic of 1965; and a total of fourteen amendments have been made to the current Constitution, since its enactment on 25th April, 1977.

Amendments to the Interim Constitution The two amendments to the 1965 Interim Constitution, were made to “Union Matters” listed in the First Schedule of the Constitution.

The first such amendment was caused by the break-up of the East African Currency Board in 1965, which necessitated the transfer of all matters that had been the responsibility of that Board to the respective partner states.

The said matters were those concerning “coinage, currency, banks and all banking business, foreign exchange and exchange control”, It was therefore necessary to make amendments to the Constitution, in order to add these matters to the list of “Union Matters” which is provided in the First Schedule.

That was done by Parliament on 10th June, 1965. Similarly, as a result of the break-up of the former East African Community in 1967, it became necessary to transfer all matters that had been the responsibility of that Institution to the respective partner states.

This necessitated the making of appropriate amendments to the Constitution, in order to add them to the list of “Union Matters”. There have been people who have raised queries regarding why the list of “Union Matters” was increased from the original eleven items, to the current twenty-two.

The reasons stated above may help to provide part of the answer. Amendments to the current Constitution We will deal with only three major amendments, which are directly related to the major transformations that were taking place.

These were (a) the Fifth Amendment (1984); (b) the Eighth amendment (1992); and (c) the Thirteenth amendment (2000). The Fifth Amendment, 1984 The 1984 amendments introduced very profound changes relating to the governance system, including:-

(i) Providing for the proper distribution of powers between the Executive; the Parliament; and the Ruling party. (ii) Enhancing the authority of Parliament, and emphasizing its representative character.

(iii) Enhancing ‘Peoples’ power at the grassroots. (iv) Consolidating the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. (specifically, through the introduction of the Joint Finance Commission).

(vii) the introduction of a Bill of Rights in our Constitution. These amendments were a direct result of new policies, which were announced by the Ruling party in its 1981 Guidelines, which included specific directives for the reform of the country’s Constitution.

Hence for that purpose, the CCM National Executive Committee appointed a small Task Force, which was given the task of initiating and coordinating public discussions, with a view to making appropriate proposals for the amendment of the Union Constitution in order to realign it with the new party guidelines.

I was lucky to be appointed member of that Task Force. We adopted the now established procedure of preparing the equivalent of the previous Government “White Papers” for discussion by the general public throughout the country; which were coordinated at every level by the party’s Branch, District and Regional Political Committees.

After the final endorsement by the National Executive Committee, the proposals were submitted to the Government for the normal legislative process to take place; as was done earlier in the Constitution- making processes already discussed above.

The Eighth Amendment (1992) The 1992 amendments were necessitated by the introduction of the multi-party political system; because new provision had to be made for:-

(i) the removal of the prohibition on the registration of other political parties;

(ii) the appointment of a Registrar of Political parties; and

(iii) the introduction of Women’s ‘Special Seats’ in Parliament, starting with a minimum of 15% of all the Parliamentary seats. These women MPs were to be appointed by their respective political parties, on the basis of the proportional representation (PR) system.

The Thirteenth Amendment (2000). The 2000 amendments were the result of the work done by the Presidential Commission (the Kisanga Commission) which was appointed in 1998 by President Mkapa, in response to increasing demands from the Opposition parties for a new Constitution, which would provide changes in the following areas:-

(i) the two-government structure of the Union;

(ii) the extensive powers of the President;

(iii) the “simple majority’ win in Presidential elections;

(iv) the prohibition of private candidates’ participation in elections;

(v) the “first-past-the-post” electoral system; (vi) the need to give powers to the voters to recall their MPs who fail to deliver; and (vii) the need for an independent Electoral Commission.

This Commission, also adopted the methodology which had been used by the previous Nyalali Commission in 1991, of consulting the people in meetings held throughout the country, and eventually producing their Report based on the views of the people; which they submitted to President Mkapa.

The proposals that had been accepted by the Government were subsequently put in a Bill for the consequential amendment of the Constitution, which was submitted to Parliament. The Bill’s salient features were the following:-

(i) It retained the existing provision for the two-government Union structure; as well as that of the President being elected on a simple majority of all the valid votes cast;

(ii) It made provision for a progressive increase in the percentage of the Women’s special seats, starting from 30% of all the available parliamentary seats;

iii) It introduced the ‘Human Rights and Good Governance Commission’; which combined the dual mandates of a ‘Human Rights Commission’, and of an ‘Ombundsman’.

The fundamental transformation of the institution of Parliament

The period that followed after the inauguration of the first multi-party Parliament was a busy period of reconstruction, in terms of reorganizing the institution of Parliament to reflect the new multi-party political environment.

Thus, apart from my presiding over the core function of Constitution- making and Constitution amendments discussed above; I also had to preside over the even more urgent task of transforming the Institution of Parliament itself, in order to change it from its long entrenched habits and practices of over thirty years as a ‘Oneparty’ Parliament; to a new, vibrant, ‘multi-party’ Parliament.

The major areas involved in that transformation were the following:-

(i) the need for a permanent building for the carrying out of the Parliamentary functions;

(ii) the reorganization of Parliament’s internal procedures and processes, including the establishment of new administration structures, which would be suitable and more appropriate for the new political environment, and the vastly changed circumstances.

In addition, the opportunity also arose during that period, purely coincidentally, for the need to form new Pan-African Parliamentary organizations, in the making of which I was very closely involved. These were:

(i) the SADC Parliamentary Forum in 1997; and

(ii) the Pan African Parliament in 2000. We will return to this aspect in the next installment. Parliament’s new home in Dodoma and Zanzibar Parliament formally moved to Dodoma, starting from its first meeting following the 1995 first multi-party general elections.

But it also moved out of the CCM Assembly Hall, and started holding all its sessions in a new conference center owned by the Local Authorities Provident Fund (LAPF); which was bought by the Central Government for use by Parliament. But I still considered it necessary to have Parliament’s own, purpose-built Parliament House.

I therefore initiated and executed plans for its construction in an adjacent plot of land. At the same time, I also executed similar plans for the construction of new Parliament buildings at Tunguu in Zanzibar, and in Dar es Salaam, mainly for Committee meetings.

All this was intended to mark the fundamental change from Parliament’s past of total dependence on the Government.

The reorganization of Parliament’s internal procedures and processes In January 1966, I tasked the Bunge Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Human Rights, to “investigate, consider, and later submit, recommendations for an appropriate structure for the operations of our new multi-party Parliament”.

The Committee duly submitted its Report in April, 1996; and we immediately started working on its recommendations. Their main recommendation was that Parliament should be re-established, in its operations, as an independent Institution whose Administration and Management will be separated from the Government.

This was readily accepted, and was quickly implemented, when the Government presented a ‘Bill for an Act to provide for the Administration of Parliament’ which provided for the establishment of a ‘Parliamentary Service Commission’ that would take care of all matters relating to the employment of the Staff of Parliament (with the exception of the Clerk of the National Assembly, who would continue to be appointed by the President). This legislation came into force on 1st July, 1997. (will be continued next week)

piomsekwa@gmail.com /0754767576

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Author: Pius Msekwa

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