…Hails President Samia’s zeal

…Recalls how he became UDSM’s first Vice Chancellor, Speaker

FORMER Speaker of the Parliament, Mzee Pius Msekwa has hailed President Samia Suluhu Hassan for reviving the constitutional review process, saying every Tanzanian now has a civic duty to support the president’s zeal.

The former CCM Vice-Chairman (Mainland) made the comments during a special interview with Tanzania Standard Newspapers (TSN) reporters at his home in Ukerewe District, Mwanza Region, recently, in which he opened up on a number of historical and contemporary issues.

The soft-spoken political veteran called upon the public to take note that what President Samia is doing is to revive the process which had started during the fourth-phase government and since then it stalled.

“President Samia is neither starting from scratch in this constitutional review process, nor she is starting something new. She is simply reviving the process so that it can be concluded,” he said.

He added, “Whether this process will start from scratch or will proceed from where it had stalled, it will be something else. But, the major issue here is that President Samia is currently carrying on with the process that was initiated by President Jakaya Kikwete.”

He recalled that former President Kikwete managed the constitutional review process up to the stage of Constituent Assembly, saying what Mr Kikwete added to the review process was the stage of referendum, something that the general public was not accustomed to.

“The stage of referendum where the public is given an opportunity to vote for or against the draft passed by the Constituent Assembly is a new arrangement simply because all previous constitutional review processes, including the process of writing the current Mother Law, did not reach the stage of referendum. The processes ended with the Constituent Assembly passing the document,” he said.

On May 6, President Samia formally re-introduced the constitutional review after issuing the go-ahead for an all-inclusive political parties meeting to get the constitution-writing process underway based on the recommendations of a government-backed taskforce on democratic reforms.

Presidential request is order

Mzee Msekwa said when the president makes a request to any public servant or any individual it becomes an order that needs to be implemented.

Mzee Msekwa touched on the code of conduct when he recounted how Mwalimu Julius Nyerere appointed him to become the first University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) Vice Chancellor after its establishment in 1970.

According to Mzee Msekwa, until June 1970, East African Community (EAC) member states (Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya) were being served by a single University of Makerere that was by then known as the University of East Africa, where he also pursued and successfully completed his studies in 1960.

He said by then each EAC member state had a specific number of students into the university(quota), recalling that during the academic year when he was admitted to the higher learning institution, Tanzania had a total of 25 students only. “It was difficult to get an opportunity to study at Makerere University by then.”

However, he said, in 1970 the Heads of EAC Member States made a decision for each country to have its own university. It should be remembered that by then Mwalimu Nyerere was still serving as the Chancellor of Makerere University (University of East Africa).

But, it should also be noted that the University of Dar es Salaam that started in 1961 as a college of the University of London became the Constituent College of the University of East Africa in 1963. Other tertiary learning institutions that became the colleges of the University of East Africa were Nairobi University and Makerere University itself.

“During the meeting of Heads of State held in June 1970, the leaders reached the decision for each EAC member state to establish its own full-fledged university. They further agreed that each state should inaugurate its higher learning institution on July 1, 1970,” he recalled.

According to Mzee Msekwa, Tanzania prepared its Bill for the establishment of the full-fledged University of Dar es Salaam.

“Since I was still serving as the Clerk of the National Assembly, the Bill was brought to me, and the document clearly stated that the Chancellor of the University of Dar es Salaam would be President Julius Nyerere, also charged with the duty of appointing the university’s Vice-Chancellor,” he said.

So, the University of Dar es Salaam was officially established through Act No. 12 of 1970.

He recalled that, as the Parliamentary budget meeting was still holding its sessions, with him serving as the Clerk of the National Assembly, he was one day informed that Mwalimu Nyerere was in need of him at his Msasani residence in Dar es Salaam.

“I was forced to temporarily handover activities to my subordinates and rush to Msasani to heed Mwalimu’s call,” he said.

Having arrived at Msasani, Msekwa said, Mwalimu Nyerere engaged him in   an informal conversation (chat), as a tactic to let him settle his mind and get relaxed, before disclosing what prompted him to summon the Clerk of the National Assembly.

“He simply inquired on how we were faring in our parliamentary sessions, including wanting to know the next ministry whose budget had lined up for tabling the following day. I replied that everything was under control, and I also told him about the ministry whose budget was next. He did so to alleviate anxiety that I had at that moment,” Msekwa said with a light touch.

“I have called you here because I want you to help me with another important and huge task.  You have helped us a lot in the post where you are now,” added Msekwa, quoting what Mwalimu told him during their talks.

Mzee Msekwa simply asked, “Which task, Your Excellency?” Mwalimu then responded; “I want to transfer you to the University of Dar es Salaam to become its Vice-Chancellor.”

Mwalimu Nyerere immediately studied Msekwa, before learning that he was a bit shocked. However, Mwalimu told Mzee Msekwa to go back home and think on the request advanced to him, asking him to return the next morning for an answer.

“The President does not request, he simply appoints an individual as he may wish depending on the task that an appointee is required to carry out. So, since I knew that that was not a request, refusing it would be the highest level of insubordination to the Head of State, an appointing authority. So, when I returned to Msasani the next morning I told Mwalimu that I had agreed to the appointment,” he recalled.

According to Mzee Msekwa, he asked Mwalimu Nyerere to help him in the new task, should any need arise. Given the fact he (Mwalimu Nyerere) was the UDSM Chancellor, he asked Mr Msekwa not to be worried as he would be available for help in case he was needed. Radio Tanzania, announced Msekwa’s appointment later in the evening.

“That’s how I moved from the post of Clerk of the National Assembly to the post of UDSM Vice Chancellor, a position I served for seven consecutive years. Serving the post all this time meant that I performed to the expectations of Mwalimu Nyerere,” he said.

Publish or Perish

Having been appointed as UDSM Vice Chancellor, Mzee Msekwa said, his academic life now had started, requiring him to start writing papers, manual books and other publications.

“Professors have their saying that states that ‘Publish or perish’, meaning that if one does not publish books they can’t be promoted.  So, I, too, had to adapt to this kind of life so that I could match with my colleagues I found at the tertiary education institution,” he said.

According to Mzee Msekwa, each university in the EAC member country was dedicated to specialise in a certain field of study. Under the arrangement, the University of Dar es Salaam specialised in law while Nairobi University offered engineering courses. Makerere University, on its part, specialised in medicine.

“This kind of arrangement enabled students from across   the region to be allocated to the tertiary educational institutions depending on the field of study,” he said.

He said the major focus of the university education was to prepare the country’s workforce. He said after independence, the nation was facing a serious shortage of educated manpower, especially following the establishment of public corporations and the withdrawal of British nationals who were serving in various posts before independence.

However, he said as time passed on, the country changed the education policy, making university education the right of every Tanzanian, instead of focusing only on producing the manpower to be absorbed in the government.

Later, further changes to the education policy saw the government opening doors to the private sector to establish universities, widening the scope of provision of tertiary education to students who completed advanced secondary education.

How he became Speaker 

Having served in various posts in public service, Mzee Msekwa retired  aged 55 years in 1990, turning his attention to politics by vying for the Ukerewe parliamentary seat.

This was the year when Tanzania held its general elections, with Mzee Ali Hassan Mwinyi vying for the presidential seat for the second and final term.

“I won the Ukerewe seat during the election, and after entering the Parliament, this time as an MP, my colleagues elected me to the post of Deputy Speaker of Parliament, assisting Speaker Chief Adam Sapi Mkwawa,” he said.

However, he said, in 1994 Speaker Sapi’s health deteriorated, and that his age had advanced, a factor that forced him (Sapi) to resign from the post.

“This prompted an election, with some MPs filling in forms to vie for the top job in the House. I, too, entered the race,” he recalled, remembering his opponent’s single name as Mr Haule.

The veteran politician won the race, becoming Speaker of Parliament.

“When I was elected Speaker of Parliament, Tanzania was preparing itself to have a multiparty Parliament simply because the first multiparty general election was just a year ahead (1995). So, I fully participated in making preparations for the multiparty Parliament,” he said.

According to Mzee Msekwa, some preparations focused on the drafting of Standing Orders and other rules governing the operations of multiparty Parliament, as it was anticipated that the new Parliament could consist of opposition MPs.

He said the task was not complicated as he studied how the UK Parliament that consisted of opposition MPs was conducting its business.

“Through the UK Parliament, I came to learn about the presence and roles of the Opposition Chief Whip and the shadow ministers in the Parliament,” he said.

As it was anticipated, he said, after the general election, at least 46 opposition MPs were elected into the House.

Despite the election of opposition MPs into the House, Mzee Msekwa continued winning the election for the post of Speaker until 2005 when he retired from parliamentary politics.

Mabere Marando shapes oath for MPs

Mzee Msekwa said when lawmakers were taking an oath of office after the 1995 multiparty general election Mr Mabere Marando, who was an opposition MP, protested against the wording of the oath, by asking for speaker’s guidance on the matter.

That was after he heard the words in the oath taken by Former Prime Minister Cleopa Msuya and the then Opposition Chief Whip Fatma Maghimbi.

According to Mzee Msekwa, the framing of the oath contained words that required MPs to be ‘loyal to the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania’, something that Mr Marando said was not right given the fact that opposition lawmakers always wish to defeat the government through elections and form the government.

“I saw logic in his argument, prompting me to direct the Clerk of the National Assembly to remove the word ‘Government’ and remain with the words ‘The United Republic of Tanzania’,” he recalled, meaning that opposition MPs are required to be loyal to the United Republic of Tanzania, and not the government.

Moral decay

Speaking on moral decay in the society, Mzee Msekwa said the nation (leadership) cannot be blamed for having made any mistake somewhere, saying the problem has been occurring just like any other offences committed by human beings.

“Can someone say that when individuals steal other people’s property, then the country’s leadership must have made a mistake somewhere?” he queried. He said there are human beings born with such behaviour.

He again gave an example of murder, saying since God created the world the offence has always been committed. He said nations in the world enacted punitive laws for the offenders because they knew that some individuals would be committing the offence, as it is human nature.

Speaking on the kind of nation that he would like to see, Mzee Msekwa said he would like to see peace, unity and tranquility continue to flourish.

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