TANZANIA is heading towards coming up with a new constitution which presents an opportunity to enshrine popular opinions.
Indeed, constitution-making has become a cornerstone of peace building efforts in many countries around the world.
However, that does not mean that Tanzania has shortfall for peace, not at all. Significantly, the revival of the new constitutional-writing process is meant to ensure that the document is updated and bring on board the current needs as well as widen the scope of democracy.
Already, a Presidential Task Force has been formed to reconsider people’s views when it comes to the country’s new constitution.
As the process to revive the new constitutional-writing process continues, Ambassador Marten Lumbanga, who is credited for transforming various government systems, has supported the idea, saying it’s time to take a look at the current document.
The current constitution was written four and half decades ago during a single party rule and was amended several times to patch some new articles to serve the multiparty governance, but experts say we need a fresh drafted document.
He said re-writing the constitution does not imply that people are fed up with the political status quo, but means they want to make their living standard even better in accordance with the current globalised world of science and technology.
“Our constitution has lived its time since it was written but there are various articles that have been overtaken by current needs,” Mr Lumbanga told ‘Daily News’ in a special interview recently at his Masaki residency in Dar es Salaam.
The ‘Daily News’ sought an audience with Amb Lumbanga, being a retired Chief Secretary, diplomat and industrial economist, to get details of his unmatched leadership experience, untold stories, what he sees and what he would love to see attained by the country.
“Time has changed since the current constitution was written (in 1977) and we must now agree to come up with the new constitution.
“Let people punch holes in the current constitution and authorities to filter their opinions; work on the best ones and drop the weak points,” Amb Lumbanga, an economist who rose through the ranks from a Planning Officer to Chief Secretary and later ambassador, suggested.
Lumbanga was Chief Secretary of the Union government of Tanzania from 1995 to 2006. The man had also served in distinguished positions at home and abroad during his public service from 1972 to 2012.
These included – but were not limited to – permanent secretary of several different ministries, and board chairman of assorted public institutions, as well as Tanzania’s envoy abroad, including at some United Nations’ institutions.
And, he (Lumbanga) feels no reason to be left behind in giving his opinion on the kind of constitution that will befit the country.
Why new constitution is vital
The recent calls for constitutional change in the country began in 2010. A Constitutional Review Commission was set up in 2012, headed by former Prime Minister Joseph Warioba. The commission drafted a report, and a Constituent Assembly was set up to debate it.
The new constitutional-revitalisation process stalled in 2014 to pave the way for the 2015 General Election, but political stakeholders have been pressing for it to be restarted, particularly since President Samia Suluhu Hassan took office on March 2021.
The process had been initiated by fourth phase President Jakaya Kikwete with the hope that it would be continued by his successor, the late, John Magufuli, who insisted that the implementation of development projects was his top priority, not the new constitution, thus putting to bed the process of writing a new constitution.
However, new push by President Samia rejuvenated the process and the Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs in its endorsed 383.6bn/- budget for the 2023/2024 financial year, has placed top priority to revive the new constitutional-writing process.
Other priority will also be in the implementation of a strategy to provide civic education to the public on matters pertaining to constitution as well as utilising funds for the amendment of election laws and for the reforms of the National Electoral Commission (NEC). It will also focus on implementation of Mama Samia Legal Aid Campaign countrywide.
The new development aims at implementing President Samia’s directives following concerns from political stakeholders and the public in general demanding for the necessity to write a new constitution.
Last year, President Samia formed a taskforce to review the country’s political system, which came with the proposal that the process be restarted after the 2025 General Election.
The CCM Central Committee (CC) that sat last June in 2022 had directed the government to see better ways of reviving the process.
“I’m very pleased by President Samia’s initiative to revive the process of writing a new constitution. It is not that our current constitution has been bad, but there are things that need to be changed. We need changes that will lessen concerns of the people,” said Amb Lumbanga.
He said that Tanzania will not be the first country to write a new constitution, saying President Samia new push to allow the process of changing and bettering the law of the motherland was a commended move.
“We must now agree (as a nation) to accommodate some necessary changes to match with time… we must incorporate all important matters that address concerns of the people and leave behind those that are not needed to improve the constitution,” said Amb Lumbanga, adding “The bad experience of a certain period should not be a passport to obstruct new changes.”
He said Tanzania is not an island; “We must be ready at all times to absorb changes that guide people in the right direction.”
Amb Lumbanga insisted that throughout the process, it must be the people who must have the last word on their destiny.
“For the new constitution, it’s better to pay attention to people’s views if they see it fit to have a new one,” he noted.
The former CS praised President Samia’s openness and boldness in rejuvenating the constitution debate and process saying times change: “Let’s accept changes that aim for improvement”.
The majority of the country’s population is around 30 years or less of age and most were not born when the current constitution was drafted and approved.
“The young population also have new good ideas that must be incorporated in the constitution. It is good that we continue to accommodate some necessary changes to align with the current times,” Mr Lumbanga said, adding “I do not mean that those of us who were there are out of date.”
He said people should not hesitate to change the document since it’s for the good of the country and the future generation.
Mr Lumbanga’s views were seconded by a veteran politician and ex-cabinet minister Gertrude Mongella, who said the current constitution, has laid down a solid foundation but insisted that changes were crucial to match with the present times.
She gave accolades to the country’s fore-leaders who did a wonderful job of writing a quite responsive constitution, which in one way or the other tried to address a wide range of issues in the past four decades.
“As a country, we have come so far and made a lot of progress. It is, therefore, vital we take another look at our constitution…probably what we had believed in our days is no longer applicable in the current globalised world of science and technology,” said Mama Mongella.
In regard to the promotion and strengthening of democracy, Amb Lumbanga hailed President Samia’s bold move to initiate reconciliation.
This has impressed Mzee Lumbanga, who says the president was on the right direction. “She was bold enough to engage the opposition and she is giving us a good lesson…not to fear alternative opinions. In my view, there are many good things coming.”
President Samia has continued to win the hearts of Tanzanians and other political stakeholders for her resolve to bring the nation together through her reconciliation initiative built in 4Rs- Reconciliation, Resiliency, Reforms, and Rebuilding.
Within two years of her leadership President Samia has met leaders of opposition political parties, clerics and other community groups, an initiative that has contributed in bringing the nation together.
President Samia’s reconciliation efforts have also attracted an attention of foreign diplomats serving in the country, most of them saying the country was heading into the right direction.
For Lumbanga, Tanzania’s capability of settling political scores amicably has clearly placed the country on its political map.
Since assuming the presidential office in March 2021 President Samia has embraced 4Rs as a necessary tool in addressing the contemporary issues affecting the country’s social, political, and economic systems.
It will be recalled that in January this year President Samia allowed political parties to hold public rallies in the country, giving opposition political space to continue selling their agenda and policies to their members.
Historically Tanzania has, times without numbers demonstrated to the international community that it can hold its affairs, including resolving its internal issues and differences without external actors.
Long serving civil servant
Dr Lumbanga was a long time civil servant who served as Chief Secretary between 1994 and 2006 and later on as Tanzania’s Ambassador in Geneva before he retired from civil service in 2012.
Mr Lumbanga served in many capacities in the course of his career from junior planning officer, planning commissioner, director of planning. In 1986, he was appointed to the top position including: Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (1992 – 95), Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Trade (1991 – 92), Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (1990 – 91), as well as Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Tourism (1989 – 90).
In this position he was responsible for several reforms in the social, economic and political spheres.
From February 2006, Amb Lumbanga was appointed Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of the country to the permanent mission of Tanzania and other International Organisations in Geneva.
He was also accredited to the United Nations office in Vienna. After returning home in 2012, Amb Lumbanga was appointed by the former President, Kikwete to chair the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA).
“After serving for two terms as the Chairman of PPRA Board, Dr Magufuli reappointed me. I rejected on the ground that it was against the PPRA law. He insisted. I serve for the third term,” Mzee Lumbanga recalled.
Mr Lumbanga a humble but principled retired technocrat likes to talk and listen to everyone. This principle enables him to not only receive respects but also get a lot of useful information.
Mr Lumbanga’s only one wish, throughout his career, is to see civil servants receive higher salaries…, “depending, however, with the government ability to foot the wage bill”.
Mzee Lumbanga holds a degree in Economics, Management and Administration from the University College of Dar es Salaam. He is married and has five children. He also graduated in Masters and PhD in International Relations attained from ‘Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations’, Switzerland.