On Thursday this week, Members of Parliament made a second visit at a bill they passed into law in April, this year. During this session some of our MPs were heard expressing “dismay” at amendments to the country’s various pension funds. The MPs were particularly ‘angry’ that contributors to those pension funds aren’t allowed to claim their benefits until they reach the statutory retirement age.
To worsen an already bad situation, the new law also bars all members of the pension funds from collecting their pension benefits even when they lose their jobs under any circumstances. We can now understand why our legislators were so angry; what we fail to grasp, however, is what has so suddenly agitated our MPs. In the first place, they are the very people who debated and passed that bill – just three short months ago!
We would like to believe that the MPs who are said to have been so worked up may have been misquoted somehow, but the government, which backs the amendments, claims that the Social Security Laws Bill was introduced in order to harmonise various Acts, which established the country’s pension schemes and their regulator, the Social Security Regulatory Authority (SSRA).
Now three months after those amendments were endorsed by the Parliament, contributors through their trade unions, have threatened to challenge the move in court, which they termed unfair and draconian to all workers in the country.
Some workers have even threatened to strike to show their dismay about the newly introduced Pension Funds Act. Almost all social media networks are currently awash with heated debate about the flawed and draconian law, most questioning the wisdom of the MPs who passed this law.
It’s against this up welling of public concerns that some of our MPs seem to have ‘seen the light’ and, seeking to make quick political gains, have made a surprising disclaimer of their own words -- made into law at the same august House only last April (read this year!). To say the least, such rancour is misplaced.
We, at The Guardian are just as shocked and baffled as the rest of Tanzanians who now question this sudden turn of events in Parliament because, we repeat, those amendments were tabled and debated in Parliament by the very same legislators who now pretend to be angered by the new changes -- just three months hence.
We doubt if this country has reached a point at which our legislators can pass a controversial law, go back and question the same piece of legislation they themselves passed in the first, then throw back such ironical questions as to “who” passed the law and “when” that law was passed. What does this mean?
We dare say that we have a weak Parliament; some of our MPs either don’t read what they pass or don’t understand thoroughly the language used in drafting the bills tabled before them in the House.
It also means that we have a Parliament mired by partisanship, whereby anything tabled by the government may pass without thorough debate and scrutiny – as if that’s all it takes to earn taxpayers’ money. What a letdown!
What we hear from Parliament also demonstrates a dying culture of reading across the nation for years now -- thanks to our seriously flawed education system. Small wonder our detractors once said something to the effect that, to hide anything in Africa, just put it in writing; you guessed right: very few people would read it.
We now doubt if our MPs have the time to read the various Bills tabled in Parliament, a shocking phenomenon, indeed, as exemplified by the latest debate on pension funds. And, we agree with Mwibara MP, Kangi Lugola, who was quick to blame his colleagues for not being careful when debating various Bills tabled in the Parliament.
Not surprisingly, we have had precedence. During the reign of Pius Msekwa as Speaker, Parliament once passed a law which required anyone who wanted to go to court to oppose election results for a Parliamentary seat to pay Sh5 million. When some brave lawyers and activists went to court, the law was declared ‘null and void’ because it pegged justice on money – and hence inherently unconstitutional as well.
We may still have examples of flawed laws, passed in Parliament; our prayer is that such ‘bad’ laws should provide an opportunity for our MPs to rise above self-interest and treat them with the seriousness they deserve. That’s the reason we the electorate put our legislators in the House.