- I, like the rest of my colleagues in the delegation, was astonished by the level of engagement demonstrated by the committee. Although not for the first time, this meeting had its uniqueness.
I led a delegation of the Tanzania Constitution Forum (TCF) a fortnight ago to Dodoma for meetings with members of Parliament. We also had a session with Parliament’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee and what ensued at the meeting cannot pass without my analysis.
I, like the rest of my colleagues in the delegation, was astonished by the level of engagement demonstrated by the committee. Although not for the first time, this meeting had its uniqueness.
First, it was held a few weeks after President John Magifuli made changes in the Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs. Dr Harrison Mwakyembe was replaced in the docket by another law guru, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi. It was great conversing with lawmakers after the mini-reshuffle.
However, upon arrival, it came to our attention that Prof Kabudi had actually travelled out of Dodoma to attend the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation meeting in Nairobi along with the newly appointed Tanzanian High Commissioner to India, Mr Baraka Luvanda. Although this was unfortunate, the Dodoma meetings proceeded without him.
Our mission in Dodoma was partly to pay the minister a courtesy call for a tête-à-tête regarding his plans on the stalled constitutional process. Tied with it was a congratulatory gift on his appointment as minister in charge of our sector. Sadly, a new decision was made – that the minister should be left alone until the process was in motion again.
Overall, the meeting with the legislators was successful in two respects. First, in taking stock of the constitution review process from 2010 to where it stands today. In this regard, the parliamentarians were dismayed by the snail’s pace at which efforts to revive the process is progressing after the review suddenly stalled towards the end of 2014.
The meeting was told that the process ought to have been officially postponed by way of a notice in the Government Gazette to avoid confusion on when it was supposed to start again after the 2015 elections. Further, it emerged that the two laws that should be guiding the constitution-making process were both outdated and needed to be amended before they could be used again.
These are the Constitutional Review Act, No. 8 of 2011 [as amended] and the Referendum Act, 2013 [as revised]. MPs resolved to direct the minister to table the relevant bills for consideration by the august House. This was a great outcome.
The session also arrived at a landmark conclusion that the process could not be restarted and successfully concluded without the support and goodwill of President Magufuli, who was asked to declare the date on which the stalled review would start again.
His recent pronouncements distancing him from the process were especially intriguing. Legislators advised TCF to lead a delegation to seek audience with President Magufuli in an attempt to convince him on the need for the process to be revived and guided to its conclusion.
If convinced, President Magufuli would open the door for the process to begin and all the other relevant institutions in and outside government would respond. Accordingly, the delegation should be as broad-based as possible to include religious leaders, the business community, farmers and pastoralists as well as civil society under the coordination of TCF.
It is worth noting that it was not the first time a proposal was made to seek audience with the presidency. At a national constitutional conference in March, participants resolved that a team be constituted to request for a meeting with President Magufuli as part of efforts to search for clarity on whether there was still a possibility to complete the constitutional review during his first term in office.
For their part, MPs promised three things: Lobbying the government, mobilising the broader Parliament and supporting TCF in the course. Hence, a decision was made on the need to convene a meeting of all MPs in Dodoma to discuss the fate of the process.
Also, a number of MPs pledged raise this issue during the Prime Minister’s questions-and-answers sessions in Parliament on Thursdays. This would help Tanzanians to know the government’s official position on the process.
Finally, TCF and the House committee agreed to enhance cooperation with a view to ensuring that the constitution review process would resume sooner rather than later.