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The aftermath of Speaker Ndugai’s  resignation: The misguided opinions  that need clarification

The aftermath of Speaker Ndugai’s resignation: The misguided opinions that need clarification

UNDERSTANDABLY, former Speaker Job Ndugai’s sudden announcement of his voluntarily resignation last week on 6th January 2022, quickly became the greatest ‘hot news’ of the week; and the mass and social media were awash with observers’ comments and opinions regarding this matter.

Speaker of the National Assembly; Hon Job Ndugai (November 2015 - January 2022); suddenly tendered his letter of resignation to the CCM Secretary General, the political party that had nominated him for election to that high constitutional position.

“Constitutional position” simply means “a leadership position which is established by the country’s Constitution”. The Speaker’s position is established by article 84(1) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977. Most of the opinions expressed stated that his resignation was tendered under great pressure, that was piled on him from a variety of sources; particularly from his fellow members of Parliament (MPs), the persons who elected him to that office; some of whom, including Hon Livingstone Lusinde, and Hon Msukuma; even called special press conferences separately; at which they strongly urged him to “step down immediately”.

This pressure was a result of his unprecedented public criticism of President Samia Suluhu Hassan, and her government; published through his statement posted on social media; in which he said: “Is there any pride in carrying a begging bowel around? We have resorted to borrowing every day.

There will come a day when this country will be auctioned off to repay these huge debts” His remarks prompted a furore among seasoned economists , producing a barrage of statements from different sources, including the Governor of the Bank of Tanzania (BOT); and the Minister of Finance. In such circumstances, his resignation was indeed inevitable; for two simple reasons: -

(a) Had he attempted to ignore such pressure; he would obviously have been expelled from that position by the National Assembly, in exercise of the powers granted to it by the Standing Orders and Rules of the House.

(b) His continuation as head of the Legislative Branch of the Government, had clearly become untenable when President Samia severely censured him ; saying that Ndugai’s remarks were part of an orchestrated campaign to destabilize the government ahead of the 2025 general election when she said: “It is inconceivable that the head of one of the ‘pillars of the State’ can stand up and say what he said.

It all has everything to do with the 2025 general election”. His resignation was therefore unavoidable.. As the Kiswahili proverb says: Mwanakuvitafuta, mwana kuvipata”!

The aftermath of his resignation

But there are certain issues which have arisen in the aftermath of his resignation, which need clarification; specifically the following:-

(i) The misguided comments and opinions that “it was the first time in the country’s history that the Speaker of the National Assembly has tendered his resignation”, expressed in bold print in a front page story of DAILY NEWS of Friday, January 7th, 2022:-

“ Ndugai throws in towel : first time in history for the Speaker to resign” In fact, this was just not true! The first Speaker to resign, was Speaker Adam Sapi Mkwawa; who voluntarily resigned from that post (on health grounds) in April 1994, due to his deteriorating health, to the point that he could no longer manage to guide the proceedings of the House from the Speaker’s Chair; and was thus obliged to stay away, leaving to me (the Deputy Speaker at the time) the task of presiding over the House proceedings, up to April 1994; when he decided to tender his resignation from the Speakership.

(ii) The other issue which has been the subject of misinformation, is the procedure adopted by former Speaker Job Ndugai , of addressing his resignation letter to the CCM Secretary General, instead of to the Clerk of the National Assembly. This was, indeed, contrary to the requirements of the country’s Constitution; which requires, in its article 149 (1) (c); that a Speaker who resigns “shall send his resignation letter to the National Assembly (Bunge)”. It is this inconsequential little mistake, that led Mr. James Mbatia, the Chairman of NCCR-MAGEUZI, to assert that Ndugai’s resignation “was invalid; and that his party was making arrangements to challenge the matter in court.

There is basically no problem with that intention of going to court; because article 26 (2) of our Constitution, allows any aggrieved person “ to take legal steps to prevent any breaches of the Constitution, or of the other laws of the land”.

However, as any seasoned lawyer will testify; the legal system recognizes two types of such mistakes: there are those that are described as “fatal mistakes”, which could indeed render the relevant action invalid. But there also the “nonfatal” mistakes which can be cured, in order to achieve the ends of proper justice.

In the instant case, Ndugai’s little mistake of sending his resignation letter to the CCM Secretary General, was quickly cured by the said Secretary General, who promptly sent the same letter to the Clerk of the National Assembly; and who acknowledged its receipt, in a published statement to the mass media. The said letter will now be read in the House on the day of its first sitting, upon its resumption of business after the current adjournment.

That is precisely what was done in the case of the resignation of the late Chief Adam Sapi Mkwawa in 1994. Because he had been properly advised, he correctly addressed his resignation letter to the Clerk of the National Assembly.

The business item that is regularly placed on the Order Paper of the Assembly’s first sitting after every adjournment, is titled “Communication from the Speaker”; and is normally called immediately after prayers.

Thus, in Speaker Chief Adam Sapi’s case, upon the Assembly’s resumption of business on its first its sitting day after it had been adjourned in February, 1994; the “Communication from the Speaker” was the reading of his resignation letter. Being the Deputy Speaker myself, I was the person presiding over those proceedings.

I therefore invoked the provisions of article 84(2) ( c ) of the Constitution of the United Republic (which prescribes that no business can be conducted in the National Assembly when the Speaker’s position is vacant).

I therefore adjourned the House “sine die” (without mentioning the date of its resumption); to enable the process for the election of a new Speaker to commence. That process was commenced immediately there after. I stood as one of two candidates who were nominated by CCM ( under the then One party election rules); and when the election was subsequently held, I emerged the winner. That is how I ‘graduated’ from Deputy Speaker, to Speaker of the National Assembly.

This authentic information hopefully puts to rest, the media speculations that Ndugai’s resignation was “the first in the history of our country”. It was certainly not the first; since there already was the resignation of Speaker Chief Adam Sapi Mkwawa.. The issue of the expelled CHADEMA MPs.

This is the other issue which was ‘ resurrected’ in the aftermath of former Speaker Ndugai’ resignation. I have used the term “resurrected”, simply because it had already been raised; when Speaker Ndugai presided over the swearing-in of 19 CHADEMA MPS, who had been expelled from membership of their party. There is a media outlet, the East Africa Radio/Television; which interviewed me this time, seeking my opinion on Speaker Ndugai’s resignation.

That is when my interviewer “resurrected” the issue of CHADEMA’s expelled MPs. In my responses, I quoted the provisions of article 71 (1) of the Constitution of the United Republic; which specifies the events which, when any of them occurs, leads to an MP losing his membership of Parliament.

These events are listed in article 71 (1); whose subarticle (f) provides that: “if an MP ceases to belong to the political party that sponsored him or her to contest in the relevant parliamentary election”. I told my interviewer, that this clear and unambiguous provision was intended by the constitution makers; that it should apply automatically, upon the relevant political party notifying the Speaker of such action.

I even mentioned the many previous actions of that kind, which have been taken by different political parties at different times in our country’s history; all of which automatically led to the loss of membership of Parliament by the persons concerned.

I mentioned the expulsions of several MPs by TANU, way back in 1969; by a meeting of its National Executive Committee held in Tanga. When the then clerk of the National Assembly, Pius Msekwa, was notified by letter from TANU’s National Executive secretary; that letter was sufficient evidence that the specified MPs had ceased to be Members of Parliament; and the then Speaker Adam Sapi Mkwawa accordingly notified the Electoral Commission of the vacancies that had occurred; and the Electoral Commission dutifully took the necessary action to fill those vacancies.. In fact, this notification was (and still is), a requirement of the National Elections law.

And even after the return to the multiparty system; political parties continued to exercise their power in that respect. For example, I was the Speaker of the National Assembly when the United Democratic Party (UDP) expelled one of its MPs, Mr. Danhi Makanga; from membership of that party. Upon receipt of the letter signed by its Secretary General Kasella-Bantu duly informing the Speaker of that action; and in compliance with Elections law; I Informed the Electoral Commission of the vacancy that had occurred in the membership of the National Assembly; and the Commission dutifully took the requisite steps to fill that vacancy.

There was also the interesting case of Mr. Augustine Mrema, at that time MP for Temeke; who decided to resign from NCCR-MAGEUZI, in order to join the Tanzania Labour Party (TLP). By that seemingly simple action, Mrema had ceased to belong to the party that had sponsored his election to Parliament. He therefore lost his membership of Parliament.

He did not write a letter to the Speaker, probably in the forlorn hope and false expectation that in the absence of his letter, the Speaker will take no action! But I took his own public announcement that he had so resigned and joined another party, as sufficient evidence of his having disqualified himself from membership of Parliament I therefore informed the Electoral Commission, as required by law; that a vacancy had occurred in the membership of the National Assembly., Hence, it was with that rich background knowledge in my mind, that I confidently responded to my interviewer in the way I did, when he resurrected the matter of the expelled CHADEMA MPs.

having been sworn into office as members of Parliament despite their expulsion there from. I simply maintained the position which I have reiterated above.

In other words, I was, practically, saying nothing new; I just maintained my position regarding the unconstitutionality of this matter; although, some arrogant voices rudely told me to “shut up” and mind my own business ! Perhaps CHADEMA , instead of just keeping quiet about it, will one day take the matter to court.; and the holding of the court will hopefully put this matter to a peaceful rest.

piomsekwa@gmail.com / 0754767576.

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Author: PIUS MSEKWA

1 Comments

  • avatar
    Jordan Ernest Nyembe
    28/01/2022

    Dear Editor, Its Jordan Nyembe From National Peace Corps Association and YALI Network Working Here in Tanzania You and I both know there will be challenges to face in the year to come — from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to the growing threat of the climate crisis, and more. But I’m not discouraged; in fact, I’m optimistic. Because I know that there are people like you and also like the dedicated staff, volunteers, and partners at the National Assembly who are working tirelessly to address the biggest issues facing our communities. I’m grateful to you for doing your part to support and uplift people in challenging times, Job Ndugai, and I’m hoping that I can count on you to do a little more before the end of the year while you can make an especially significant impact. Jordan Ernest Nyembe

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