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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Thumbs up to ninth the Parliament

18th July 2010
Editorial Cartoon

Finally, President Kikwete officially dissolved the ninth Parliament on Friday, ending the five year term of perhaps the most historical National Assembly that played its crucial role of serving the public regardless of partisanship politics.

This Parliament will among other things be remembered because of the way it played its watchdog role despite the pressure from some quarters of the ruling party that saw it as ‘an opposition National Assembly’.

‘Good’ is, on balance, how we rate the performance of the ninth Parliament, that officially wound up business on Friday but is due for formal dissolution on August 1.

Upon taking up the Speaker’s chair some five years ago, Samwel Sitta pledged that Speed and Standards would be his buzzwords for leading the august House.

Speed was lacking in some respects, and we didn’t witness standards all-round, but overall, Sitta - the fourth holder of the critical position - injected a dose of dynamism in the debating chamber that is also the nation’s law-making organ.

The seasoned politician and technocrat pushed reforms that made ‘Bunge’ more democratic and assertive. In a bold departure from traditions bred by the long-running single-party era and attendant party supremacy hangover of the pre-1990s, Sitta facilitated fierce, but constructive criticism of the government by Opposition and CCM legislators alike.

The Speaker was indeed a victim of that hangover, some quarters within and outside Parliament accusing him of turning Opposition MPs into heroes, and undermining the government, and, especially, the party on whose ticket he became MP and Speaker !

Either out of sheer ignorance or cynical disregard of multi-party political dynamics, those quarters have to be reminded that Opposition MPs have the right to question and even grill ministers, as well as voice misgivings about faulty policies or incompetence by government organs.

That, also, the majority factor in Parliament does not insulate the government from criticism, and it is ridiculous to brand as traitors or rebels, radical ruling party MPs who take the government to task.

Ultimately, MPs of all shades are supposed to be driven by the promotion of public interests and are warriors against whatever jeopardises those interests, such as grand corruption. That’s what the oversight role is all about.

Which explains why, in an unprecedented move, the outspokenness of MPs on the Richmond scam, party affiliations aside, led to the resignation of former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa and two ministers, prompting the dissolution of, and re-crafting of the Cabinet.

Vibrant debates on the radar, BoT twin towers, presidential jet, Meremeta, Tanzania Container Terminal Services and Tangold scandals, were driven by the oversight obligation.

The outgoing Parliament also deserves kudos for pioneering the Prime Minister’s Question Time system, a challenge that Mizengo Pinda has ably handled, and which promotes accountability as the government is consistently put on its toes.

The Sitta-steered ‘Bunge’ (Legislature) furthermore consolidated the principle of separation of powers between the three pillars of State, the two others being the Executive and the Judiciary.

Side Two of the coin, however, has aspects that cast a dark shadow on the chamber that hosts ladies and gentlemen who are reverentially called ‘honourables’, but some of whom abuse the characterisation.

Its saddening and shocking that constantly, some of the ‘honourables’ dishonourably exchange insults and perpetrate character assassination at individual level, and leaders pour vitriol across different parties.

Saddening and shocking, too, is the tendency to turn Parliament into a livelihood-enhancement centre by persons eyeing fat allowances and pension, who, therefore, use the ‘people’s representative’ mandate as a mere smokescreen.

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