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Constitution-making: Viewing CCM’s views

This comes following the session of the party’s supreme organ, the National Executive Committee (NEC), which ended in the nation’s political capital Dodoma on May 17 this year. [Daily News, et al: May 18, 2012].

That development has been received with mixed feelings among stakeholders in the welfare of the country and its people. The stakeholders range from mass media organs and individuals to non-government activist organizations, including civil/society-based organisations.

One school of thought is of the view that, in doing what CCM has done — identifying areas the party considers sensitive and controversial, and virtually cautioning stakeholders on how they should go about arriving at their proposals — CCM is setting the pace and parameters for the constitutional review by trying to influence stakeholders’ thought processes.

For instance, CCM proposes that a political party which loses a legislative representative for any reason should be allowed to select a replacement among its ranks. That is as may be.

But, shouldn’t it be more democratically representative of the electorate’s will if the candidate who received the second highest number of votes at that particular election automatically succeeded to the vacant seat, regardless of party affiliation?

The detractors also cite as examples of that subtle influencing mode CCM’s rigid stand on continuing with the extant system of two governments — the Union and Zanzibar Governments. This is no doubt in response to persistent calls for either a single (Unity) Government, or three Governments, including ‘returning to the Government of Tanganyika!’

On the other hand, another school of thought sees the CCM move as a commendable one. If nothing else, this enables other stakeholders in the Constitution-making arena to know beforehand the ruling party’s position on what are highly sensitive political areas which also have great potential for controversy all round.

Then — but of course! — there would be a third school of thought (?), comprising people and institutions that are, for all practical purposes, indifferent to the Constitution-making exercise which is hotting up with the passage of time! These are the ‘I couldn’t care less’-types who are either too lazy to think for themselves, or just won’t bother!

It will be remembered that President Jakaya Kikwete did set up a Constitutional Review Commission a few weeks ago, giving it 18 months of working life, to April 2014 when it must file a report of its findings. The Commission is charged with garnering views of the Tanzanian people (and other stakeholders) countrywide on the kind of Constitution they wish to have.

Indeed, this does not in any way guarantee new Constitution 18 months or so down the road — or in time for the next presidential, parliamentary and council elections tentatively slated for October 2015. Anything can happen in-between that could derail the otherwise noble exercise.

In any case, if the Commission’s work — and that of the Constituent Assembly which will be formed in due course of time and events — is thrown out through a plebiscite at which voters will be required to answer YES or NO signifying their acceptance or rejection of the proposed ‘Constitution,’ then Tanzanians will perforce fall back on the extant (1977) Constitution, “warts and all!”

This is principally why I stressed (elsewhere) the need for President Kikwete to ensure that Tanzanians get a truly ‘New Constitution’, which satisfies their needs, hopes and aspirations to the greatest degree that is humanly possible. [See ‘Presidential legacy: how will Kikwete be remembered? New Constitution & Kikwete Legacy: Business Times: November 25, 2011].

In viewing and reviewing CCM’s views on the Constitution-making that is currently spearheaded by Kikwete — the party’s national chairman who also doubles as Head of State and Government — I once again call upon the man to do his utmost in ensuring that the exercise does not flop like a damp squib.

He in particular and his government in general, owe it to Tanzanians and other stakeholders for the sake of the country’s welfare and wellbeing. For their part, the stakeholders should at this early stage give the man and his backers enough rope — and the benefit of doubt, in all fairness and without prejudice.

To that end, they should remember that CCM’s views on the constitution-making exercise are just that: raw proposals released for public consumption… Only that they have been made to the wrong audience, instead of being lodged with the Review Commission in due course. After all, if the early bird seeks to catch the worm, by parity of reasoning the worm must be up and about earlier... Right? Cheers!

A  tribute  to  the  late  Former  ...

Author: Karl Lyimo

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