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60 years of independence: (3): The  most significant Political Achievements

60 years of independence: (3): The most significant Political Achievements

IN last week’s article, we commenced discussion on ‘the two most significant political achievements’ that were secured during this 60 years post-independence period, namely,

(I) the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar in April 1964; and

(ii) the ‘transition to multi-party politics’ in July 1992; and took a closer look at the 1964 Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. In today’s article, we will focus on the second of those events, that of ‘the transition to multiparty politics’ in 1992. The transition to multiparty politics was, no doubt, a major and fundamental political development. 

I was an eyewitness to this transition, and my description of this event is as shown in the paragraphs which follow below.

The motivating factors

This event was motivated primarily by the political events which occurred in the countries of Eastern Europe during the year 1989; where, quite unexpectedly, great and fundamental changes suddenly took place leading to the downfall of nearly all of the communist parties, in those countries.

This was accompanied by loud demands for the introduction of ‘democracy based on multi-party politics’; and other basic rights which were, apparently, previously denied to the majority of their people. The demands for the introduction of multi-party politics quickly spread to several African countries, causing violence; and, in some cases, even the loss of life.

This is precisely what made it necessary for those African countries that were operating the ‘one party’ political system, including Tanzania; to start giving serious consideration to the possibility of abandoning that system, and transferring to the multi-party system.

In Tanzania’s case, this was the agenda set for consideration at a regular meeting of the CCM National Executive Committee, which was held in mid-February, 1991. This meeting made a careful review of the state of politics in the world generally that had been created by the events taking place in Eastern Europe, and ultimately resolved as follows:-

(a) That considering the circumstances then obtaining in the global political environment; a national debate be initiated which will take place through the country, to discuss whether, or not, our country should change to the multi-party political system; and

(b) It authorized the President to appoint a Presidential Commission, which will coordinate the said discussions; and, in due course, present a report of its findings.

The Commission was established, without delay, on 27th February 1991President Mwinyi appointed me to be a member of that Commission., which was established , without delay, on 27th February, 1991, and was given one year within which to complete its assignment.

I had the good fortune of being appointed a member of that Commission; which completed its work within the specified period and submitted its Report to President Mwinyi; who, in turn, submitted it the party decision making organs for consideration. It showed that 80% of all the people who had expressed their views had said “no” to such change, with only 20% being in favour.

However, despite this overwhelming rejection, the Commission unanimously recommended that the change to multi-party politics should nevertheless be implemented. And the top organs of the Ruling party accepted this recommendation; and, consequently, directed the Union and Zanzibar Governments to take the necessary Legislative measures to effect this fundamental change.

And on 30th April, 1992, the Government duly introduced in the National Assembly “ A Bill for the 8th amendment of the Constitution”; which was debated for a whole week, and passed on 7th May, 1992. The 8th Constitutional Amendment took effect from 1st July, 1992.

Defining “ democracy”

The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Dictionary defines the word “Democracy” as follows:-

*government by the people, or by their elected representatives.

* a country governed by its people or their elected representatives.

* Social equality and the right to take part in decision making”. This definition gives us two types of democracy, namely:

(a) Direct democracy; and

(b) Representative democracy. Under the system of direct democracy, the business of government is carried out directly by the people themselves.

Indeed, this is what is currently being practiced in Tanzania at the Local Authority Village level; where in every registered village has a statutory organ known the ‘ Village Assembly’, which consists of all adult residents of the relevant village.

The duties and functions of the Village Assembly are provided as follows in the relevant law : “A Village Assembly is the supreme authority on all matters of general policy in relation to the affairs of the village as such; and shall be responsible for the election of the Village Council, and for the performance of any other functions conferred upon it by or under this Act, or any other written law”. (The Village Council is defined therein as “the government of the village; which is vested with all executive power in respect of all the affairs and business of the village”).

Representative democracy is practiced at the national level; whereby all the adult citizens of Tanzania are entitled to elect their representatives to Parliament (Wabunge), and to their respective Local Council Authorities (Madiwani). These elected representatives are mandated by law to make the relevant decisions on the peoples’ behalf.

An overview of Tanzania’s democracy performance.

The form of democracy that a country will operate, is usually given expression in that country’s Constitution.

In the case of Tanzania, the Constitution that was in operation during the early post-independence years ( 1961 – 1965) was a multiparry constitution.

This was followed by the “One-party” Constitution (1965 – 1992); and then back again to the multi-party Constitution (1992 - date).

Thus, we have witnessed both types of democracy at work. It has been said that the good fortune of a nation depends on how its Constitution is made to work”. In the context of this article, this statement actually draws attention to the relevance of the human factor involved in the business of governance.

Whereas an ethical ruler will always observe the intention of the Constitutional provisions; an unethical ruler will tend to ignore, or disregard, or even to misconstrue this intention, merely in order to suit his selfish purposes. And there is abundant evidence of such unethical rulers, both past and present, in different parts of the world.

The operation of the oneparty constitution

It was our great good fortune that the foundations for operating the ‘One-party’ constitution were firmly laid by President Nyerere; who made sure that this constitution was implemented strictly in accordance with its original intention and its underlying spirit.

In such circumstances, the country encountered no serious political problems in that respect. This is because Mwalimu Nyerere was “ a man of principle, intelligence, and integrity”. He always insisted on the need for leaders to observe the prescribed ‘leadership ethics’, which he himself observed very strictly.

Thus, in view of these personal qualities, President Nyerere was demonstrably able to operate the ‘one-party’ constitution strictly in accordance with the established ‘principles of democracy’; which he himself had ensured that they were enshrined in the said constitution.

(as detailed in my book titled “Fifty Years of Independence : A Concise Political History of Tanzania” (Nyambari Nyangwine Publishers, Dar es Salaam, 2013; pp,48 - 50).

The pre-independence multi-party constitution

The operation of the multi-party constitution prior to the attainment of independence turned out to be problematic; in the sense that (in the peculiar circumstances of that period), it unexpectedly created a serious ‘democracy deficit’ ; whereby the ‘freedom of the people to choose their representative to the Legislature’ was inadvertently curtailed; due to the voters being disenfranchised as a result of TANU parliamentary candidates being ‘returned unopposed’ in the majority of constituencies. This is precisely what prompted Mwalimu Nyerere to decide on the fundamental change of the constitution to the ‘one-party’ system; and which he implemented very soon after independence.

The new constitution was enacted in July 1965; and lasted until 1992, when the return to multi-party politics was effected.

The operation of the ‘ second phase’ multi-party constitution

on Looking at strictly from the point of view of the Dictionary definition of “democracy” quoted above; the operation of the ‘second phase’ multi-party constitution has also been totally successful, more specifically, in respect of electoral democracy; due to the fact that our country is, indeed, “governed by the people (at the Local Authority level), or by its elected representatives (at the national level); and the opportunity for the people to elect their representatives has always been granted to them, without fail, every five years throughout the period under discussion.

However, there have been other factors which have proved to be obstacles to the smooth operation of this system, not only in Tanzania, but in practically all other nonWestern countries around the world; and this factor is the lack of the requisite multiparty political culture.

I have discussed this factor at greater length in my other book titled “Reflections on the First Decade of Multiparty Politics in Tanzania” (Nyambari Nyangwine Publishers, Dar es Salaam, 2012, pp 86 – 88). But briefly, it is that ‘multi-party electoral democracy is, essentially, the product of a culture that belongs to, and is deeply rooted in, the Western countries of Europe, and North America’.

Thus in those countries which do not have this kind of culture, the implementation of multi-party electoral democracy has been truly problematic. Electoral violence is another factor which has afflicted the smooth operation of electoral democracy in a number of jurisdictions; normally initiated by the losers, based on complaints that the relevant election was ‘doctored’ by the electoral commission in favour of the winning party.

This mischief (allegedly committed by some irresponsible electoral commissions) has indeed been witnessed in several cases in African elections.

This was recently manifested in the first round of the bye-election in Konde constituency, Pemba; where the declared CCM winner quickly resigned, even before he had taken the oath of office; presumably because his ‘guilty’ conscience had urged him to do so, in honest acknowledgement of the fact that he had been awarded victory which he did not actually deserve.

But the lack of the requisite multi-party political culture, has been the most significant factor which obstructs the smooth operation of the multi-party democracy, that has emerged in many Commonwealth countries around the whole world; ranging from the Caribbean countries in the South Atlantic Ocean; to Africa; and to Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean. Let us take the example of Lesotho, where it was reported as follows in the Journal of Commonwealth Parliaments , titled THE PARLIAMENTARIAN:- “Ever since the independence of Lesotho, political activity in this country has been partisan in form, and exclusionary in character. Society has been balkanized into new groupings which call themselves political parties, dedicated to vying for, and excluding one another from, control of power. Political parties in Lesotho are the antitheses of nation building.

There is mutual disdain and repugnance that members of different political parties feel for each other, and this attitude has produced a basis for political instability , that has become a permanent feature of politics in the country”.

A similar state of affairs can also be observed in many other Commonwealth African countries; and that can only be attributed to this factor o f “lack the requisite multi-party political culture”.

piomsekwa@gmail.com / 0754767576

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