Watching the parliamentary debate about the Constitution Review Bill, this week, dominated mainly by the ruling party’s legislators, it was obvious that the debate has been flawed and hijacked by cheap politics trading more in party’s interests than the nation’s interests.
Instead of showing political maturity and braveness by sticking to key issues before them, almost majority of legislators from the ruling party turned the whole debate into a political campaign rally, spending more time attacking the opposition party, Chadema.
The debate was marred by chest thumping politics; partisan, mudslinging and above all, emotion overruled the ability to reason thoroughly about the Constitutional Review Bill, tabled for the second time in Parliament, early this week.
This debate has exposed the serious weaknesses facing this country when it comes to debating matters of national interests.
It proved beyond reasonable doubt that our lawmakers represent the interests of their political parties instead of people’s interests. While CCM sees any attempt to have a new constitution as a move to remove it from power, the opposition too, especially Chadema, falls into the trap of demanding the new law because it believes that to defeat the ruling party, it needs a new constitution.
This is a very wrong move and surely it can’t give us a new constitution. We at The Guardian on Sunday are also appalled by the main opposition’s move to boycott the debate on Constitutional Review Bill, because it was ill-timed move.
By boycotting the debate about the agenda, which they initiated and marketed during the last year’s election, the just paved the way for their rivals to have a free time to ‘hijack’ the constitutional review agenda.
We understand Chadema’s concern, but, it doesn’t warrant a boycott at the time when many expected candid and meaningful contributions from the original authors of the constitutional review process.
Chadema’s absence created a vacuum, which was then used by their counterparts from the ruling party and their allies, Civic United Front, to nail them during the constitutional review debate in Parliament, early, this week.
Chadema’s approach of refraining from debating national issues in the Parliament can only give the party a political mileage at the short-run, but in the long-run; it’s an old approach, which can’t help the future of this country. Though we understand the importance of the so called people’s power in the democratic society, sometimes, our politicians may abuse the process.
We at The Guardian on Sunday expected Chadema, which is currently, the country’s biggest opposition party to face their rivals, CCM, during the debate in Parliament by giving candid, well researched and meaningful contributions on which kind of the constitution Tanzanians need.
But, above all, some CCM lawmakers have exposed themselves before the public raising a concern on how they were elected or selected to join the most crucial organ, the Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania.
For instance some CCM legislators accused the foreign diplomats, saying the latter were interfering with the ongoing constitutional review process. However, these honourable MPs couldn’t give any concrete proof to prove their allegations, casting doubt about the legitimacy of their claims.
It’s the same old and outdated mentality among some African leaders who, when confronted with challenges from their own people, instead of facing the reality, decide purposely to shift the blame to the foreign powers. What these CCM lawmakers mean is that Tanzanians, after fifty years of independence, can’t reason logically without being pushed or funded by foreign powers.
This is an insult to the people of Tanzania especially those who have voiced their concern about the ‘flawed constitution review process’. The very same foreign donors accused of funding, and influencing the opposition against the constitution review process, are the ones who have been funding about 48 percent of the government budget for decades now.
Paradoxically, when these donors fund our local Non Governmental Organisations, they became intruders to our domestic affairs, but, when they dole out billions to the government formed by the ruling party, they change from prowlers to development partners. What a wonderful shame!
Who is a patriotic? Those who ‘hijack’ a public agenda and make it a political agenda, or those who want the hijacked agenda to remain the people’s property, controlled, and decided by the people? So we have reached at the situation whereby when you differ with the legislators from the ruling party, you are simply a saboteur.
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organisation is governed.
These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is. A constitution is about the people, for the people and therefore the process to re-write or review it shouldn’t be ‘hijacked’ by a group of politicians.
A constitution is a document that manages and guards the theory of social contract. We, as the people, forfeit some of our rights to the so called government or State, and in return, we expect the same government to fulfill our social, political and economic needs according to the constitution.
The social contract is an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept corresponding duties to protect themselves and one another from violence and other kinds of harm.
According to Thomas Hobbes, human life would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" in the absence of political order and law.
In its absence, we would live in a state of nature, where each person has unlimited natural freedoms, including the "right to all things" and thus the freedom to plunder, rape, and murder; there would be an endless "war of all against all" (bellum omnium contra omnes).
To avoid this, free men establish political community i.e. civil society through a social contract in which each gains security in return for subjecting himself absolutely to an absolute sovereign, preferably (for Hobbes) a monarch.
Though the sovereign's edicts may well be arbitrary and tyrannical, Hobbes saw the only alternative as the terrifying anarchy of the state of nature.
Alternatively, some, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, have argued that we gain civil rights in return for accepting the obligation to respect and defend the rights of others, giving up some freedom to do so; this alternative formulation of the duty arising from the social contract is often identified with arguments about military service.
The central assertion of social contract approaches is that law and political order are not natural, but are instead human creations. The social contract and the political order it creates are simply the means towards an end the benefit of the individuals involved and (according to some philosophers such as Rousseau), legitimate only to the extent that they meet the general interest ("general will" in Rousseau). For many social contract theorists, this implies that failings discovered in laws or political structures can be changed by the citizens through elections or other means, including, if necessary, violence.
It’s therefore ridiculous to see that a certain group of people want to own the entire process, excluding the majority whom that process holds their future politically, socially and economically. We can’t expect the best constitution from the process that was technically flawed from the very first day.
We are all aware that the writing of a new constitution wasn’t the agenda of the ruling party during last year’s election. This was the agenda preached and championed by the opposition, Chadema, which promised to deliver a new constitution within a hundred days after being elected. Though the 100-days time was questionable, bearing in mind the resources required to write a new constitution, still it was Chadema’s agenda.
However in an expected move, the idea was accepted by President Jakaya Kikwete, even at the time when his own party was against it. On Friday, the President made it clear that he would ensure that we, the people, have a new constitution before the 2015 general election, and appealed for wisdom, unity and peace to prevail above all in the process to achieve the new Law.
We therefore appeal to all political leaders and the general public to put petty issues and personal interests aside, and come out in multitude to give their opinions on how they would like this country to be governed in future.
They should own this process by giving their meaningful contributions during the process to gather the people’s views on the proposed new constitution.
Mudslinging politics shown by some CCM lawmakers as well as the so called countrywide demonstration planned by Chadema, will not at all, take this country anywhere except plunging us into political chaos at the time when we are required to own the constitution review process by telling the State what we want.