The Executive Director of Disabled Organisation for Legal Affairs and Social Economic Development (Dolased) Mr Gideon Mandesi said in Dar es Salaam on Thursday that the committee would ensure that disabled issues are accomodated in the new constitution.
"We have too many issues that we believe will be well presented by no one else but us. Therefore a committee that we are going to form is crucial and will make a follow up through to the final stages in ensuring that our interests are safeguarded in the new constitution," he said.
Mr Mandesi, who is blind, was speaking on the sidelines of a workshop for the disabled which brought together over 200 disabled persons from around the country. "We want our group to be recognized as a special one, a group which deserves privileges," said the first blind person in Tanzania to qualify as a lawyer.
Mr Mandesi noted that just like Kenya did in their new constitution, Tanzanian disabled citizens also want to be exempted from various taxes. He added that the constitution must specifically state that the disabled should be supported and get protection from other members of the society.
"I wonder why special seats in the National Assembly, for example, are for women only. We want the seats to be divided and ensure that disabled people get a meaningful representation in the august House," he said. He noted that some disabled have been denied their rights such as the right to vote and be voted for, citing people with mental disability as example.
"Mental challenged individuals are not useless, some mental cases are not very serious to the extent of denying them the right to vote. Therefore priority should be directed towards this group and the constitution must say something about it," he said. Ms Paskazia Yahya who is an albino from Morogoro Region noted that albinos want the new constitution to state clearly that albinos are endangered and the society should provide security.
"The incidents of albino killings that took place in the country in the past years have left behind a lesson and now that we are moving towards writing a new constitution, albinos should be treated as a special group among the disabled," she said. The Chairman of the Tanzania Constitution Forum, Mr Deus Kibamba, emphasized on the importance of disabled to present and defend their issues in the process of new constitution, adding that no one would be in a position to defend them better than themselves.
Mr Kibamba who presented a paper-"Constitutional Process: Where we come from, where we are and where we are going" noted that a level playing field in politics was vital in increasing participation of special groups. "Most of the disabled people are poor and in some cases they are not preferably nominated at political party level to engage in active politics. There should be a kind of favour given to this group in this area," he noted.
Meanwhile, Meddy Mulisa reports from Bukoba that the National Constitutional Review Committee has commended residents in Biharamulo district for responding positively. They turned up during the public meetings to air their views freely. A Committee Member who is leading the Kagera team, Ms Mwatumu Malale, told the 'Daily News' in an exclusive interview that the turn out in Biharamulo district was almost 90 per cent.
She has urged residents in other districts of Ngara, Karagwe, Kyerwa, Misenyi, Bukoba Urban, Muleba and Bukoba Rural to utilize the opportunity by giving their views on what they want to be included in the new constitution. The National Constitutional Review Committee will visit all eight districts and meet people during public meetings.
According to Ms Malale, among pressing issues raised by people in Biharamulo district include powers of the Union President, which they said, should be reduced. Also, the people want abolition of special seats and nominated MPs, saying all positions should be contested in free elections.
They also suggested land rights should be protected by the new constitution, saying investors should negotiate and share with the locals. Ms Malale said people had also advised the government to give free education and health services to all its citizens.
She further disclosed that after collecting views from people in all regions, The National Constitutional Review Committee will submit a Memorandum for establishment of special Tribunals (Mabaraza) at village, district and regional levels. She urged leaders to sensitize the people on how to establish the tribunals and their importance in enhancing democracy.
She advised the people who would not get a chance to meet the Committee to send their views to the Chairman, The National Constitutional Review Committee, P.O. Box 1681, Dar es Salaam or phone directly through number 0222133425.
The National Constitutional Review Committee yesterday began collecting views from wananchi in Ngara district.