Draft New Constitution:Cautious approach by President Magufuli commendable

Makwaia Wa Kuhenga

IN the intervening period, there has been some grumbling that the process towards a new Constitution as debated by the Constituent Assembly prior to the General Elections last year is no longer on the political agenda to which the President of the day has responded that he has, by far, most urgent issues to address for the good of the country.

And the fact that the writing of a new Constitution was not something to rush about is vindicated by those who will remember the announcement by the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD) that there had been an accord last year, reportedly agreed by the preceding president and the opposition that the process for a new Constitution could continue as long as possible.

This was the best news there was for some of us who have, via this column and elsewhere, argued for more time, and as long as possible, to produce a sustainable Constitution that will outlive the present and future generations.

As we have seen in the intervening period following the assumption of office of President John Magufuli, a “new” Constitution is not on the agenda of most ordinary people. Most people are concerned about making ends meet at the end of the day! So President Magufuli’s priority to address the concerns of the people especially ensuring how their resources are utilised and fighting graft has been most appropriate.

Again, on the other hand, according to one political analyst, those who initiated the need to have in place a new Constitution in place had no vision for this country. “Someone wishing to build a better house needs to know what level the foundation stone of his new house would look like to come up with a better structure,” one analyst commented.

In forming a commission to come up with drafts for a new Constitution, according to this observer, the foundation stone should have been to strengthen a Tanzania that has survived half a century on.

And on this point, the country had the will to fall back to founding President, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who warned most of the time on the dangers and follies inherent in a three-tier government structure for the United Republic of Tanzania.

He warned most of the time that three-tier structure of government was potentially divisive and prone to wreck the whole country altogether. Unfortunately, as it looks like, there was no clear terms of reference from the executive on the foundation stone of a new house; mandated to come up with a draft new Constitution.

Instead, a Commission to come up with a draft constitution was set up and this commission sought the “people’s views” to come up with drafts! Which people were interviewed and by what allinclusive arrangement? Most importantly, what were the terms of reference to the Commission to come up with the drafts?

Were people questioned whether they wanted a two or three-tier structure of government for the United Republic? How did the proposal to have dual citizenship come about in the Commission’s Draft for instance?

Was it a result of a prolonged demand by the people of this country or it was the wish of one or two individuals who have relatives abroad who have opted for alien nationalities and now wish to carry two passports? So, clearly one immediately sees a false start that has been made in the move to have a new Constitution.

Had this idea for a ‘New Constitution’ been floated to the people earlier before enactment of a Commission, and the people urged to debate what they wished for in their Constitution which is missing in the current one, there could then have arisen a good starting point to rewrite the Constitution.

Actually the TCD has recommended two things in preparation for new polls: the country should move on the strength of the current Constitution on hand, making amendments only - allowing for independent or non-partisan candidates to stand for elective office and to have an Independent Electoral Commission in place instead of the one in place which is appointed by the president of the day.

In my thinking, had we had a good start, sounding out to the people whether they wanted a completely new Constitution or only amendments to the current one, we could not have reached where we are when the draft constitution by the Warioba Commission is pushing for a three-tier government - effectively a federal state for two countries!

As stated earlier in this perspective, a three-tier government system for this country as recommended by the Warioba Commission as the “wish for the majority of people interviewed” will only end up wrecking this country and precipitating fratricidal wars as we have seen in the Sudan and now raging in Ukraine.

In Zanzibar before elections last year, I was amused to see a poster on the roadside with these words: KATIBA HII INAYOTENGENEZWA NI YA WA-UNGUJA. WAPEMBA NENDENI PEMBA MKATENGENEZE YA KWENU. MUUNGANO DAIMA.

(This Constitution being written is for Ungujas. Pemba natives - go back to your home, Pemba, to make yours. Union forever!) Two major ethnic groups –Waunguja – natives of Unguja Island and Wapemba – natives of Pemba Island, constitute what we know as Zanzibar, which is part of the United Republic.

It would appear, going by this poster I read in Zanzibar before November 2015, the three-tier government structure authored by the Warioba commission has brought about such a divide as one could read between the lines; glancing at the placard I saw on the roadside!

So, President Magufuli’s cautious approach on the proposed new Constitution is highly commendable because what he is currently embarked upon is in the immediate interest of the people. Should he come back to the issue of a new Constitution, he would be well advised to educate the people on the folly of a three-structure government for the country.

One does not need to be a political scientist to conclude that it is tantamount to wrecking our country, Tanzania, which we have built for over half a century, if we are to opt for a three-tier government.

In the event pressure mounts to adopt the draft constitution as it is today, the president, by mandate of his executive powers, should call a referendum, asking the people a simple question: Do you want two or three governments for your country, the United Republic of Tanzania?

Their response would be, I can write with certitude, a very loud NO to a threetier Government. Any people anywhere know themselves and the terrain they are in!

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