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From Arusha: Dancing with the winds of change

Only last Sunday, Chadema were reveling in hard won victory in the Arumeru East parliamentary by-election in which their candidate, Joshua Nassari defeated CCM’s Sioi Sumari, thumping that the ruling party took in with dignified poignancy.

But three days later, the High Court in Arusha unseated their flamboyant MP, Mr Godless over a number of election malpractices in a case that was brought against him by three voters in the constituency.

The CCM candidate he defeated, Dr Batilda Buriani never challenged the results. However, justice and democracy cannot be easily separated. One of the grounds for nullifying the results was that Mr Lema had urged the voters not to elect Dr Buriani because she was a woman.

Presiding Judge, Gabriel Rwakibarila held that the words amounted to gender discrimination, which is unacceptable. A lot will be said about the judgement, including allegations by conspiracy theorists that the state and, in particular, President Jakaya Kikwete had a hand in the court action to unseat Mr Lema.

However, that charge reminded me of the case between Ms Martha Wejja and Kitwana Kondo during the single party era. Mr Kitwana was unseated by the High Court for infusing in the campaigns both tribal and gender sentiments as reasons for not to vote for Ms Wejja. In a subsequent by-election, Ms Wejja went on to win the Ilala seat, which included Ukonga and Kigamboni that are now two separate constituencies. For national cohesion, the courts should not in any way, tolerate all manner of discriminatory statements.

We cannot be a nation in which a few people can be allowed to ascribe unto themselves the misguided sentiments of being more equal than others. It is for the same reason too that parliamentary representation and the demarcation of constituencies should at least follow demographically acceptable reasons. It is unfortunate that in our country, some people are more represented than others.

Arumeru East for instance, has about 120,000 registered voters. However, Kingugi Ward alone in Mbagala, Temeke District, Dar es Salaam has that same number of registered voters. In fact Mbagala alone, which has about four wards, has more than 300,000 voters and, it is not even a constituency but is only part of the Kigamboni constituency.

The best way, is for Kigamboni constituency to be split at least  into two so that the people there also get proportional representation in the national organs of decision-making. Furthermore, Mbagala deserves to be made a district separate from Temeke. Temeke district is home to more than two million people, which is about the total population of at least some four upcountry regions. People  cannot be taken advantage of because of higher density in a relatively compact area.

By comparison, Mwanza region has been carved out into three regions; Mwanza itself, Geita and Simiyu in a fairly compact area save for population density, which is about the highest in rural Tanzania. Similarly, Mbagala has about the highest urban density in Tanzania. The area deserves at least to be just a district. It could be argued why be a district? The answer is administrative zones have a direct bearing and relevance to the level of service delivery to the people.

Whereas in many other places schools have 300 pupils, in Mbagala, Kingugi Primary School alone has more than 3,000 pupils or ten times more. Definitely that has a direct bearing on the quality of education offered, which needless to guess is extremely poor. Without proper education, the people of Mbagala will remain perpetually marginalised. To be marginalised in urban setting like Mbagala is actually more harrowing as cities are meant to be centres of learning.

The result is poverty levels that you cannot find in rural areas such as sparsely populated Arumeru East that steals national attention than Mbagala in the name of a hotly contested by-election. The situation is more confusing in the case of Zanzibar. A friend told me recently that it could take him only an hour to marching through five constituencies there as what goes for demarcated areas of representation in parliament are actually no larger than streets in the case of the Mainland.

I think popular representation should be based on some demographic symmetry (balance). I agree, Zanzibar represents a unique case because if you compared them to the people Mbagala, then the whole of Zanzibar would perhaps end up with only two MPs in the Union parliament. But again, their over representation is again a travesty of justice and democracy; the very ideals the nation seeks to promote and protect.

An MP from Zanzibar represents about 3,000 people to the Union parliament. The same people also have a representative to the Zanzibar House of Representatives. Summed up, the nation has a situation whereby the minority actually legislates for the majority. Likewise, we have witnessed the new Constitution Reform Commission announced by the President yesterday having 50-50  representation despite the fact that the Mainland and Zanzibar have massive demographic disparity. There is need to differentiate between the state and the people. As states, Zanzibar and the Mainland are equal but as numbers of the people they certainly do not carry the same weight!

mmunyaga@gmail.com

LAST week, following the inauguration of the newlyelected ...

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Author: MBONEKO MUNYAGA

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