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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

To whom is an MP accountable?

25th December 2011
Kigoma South MP David Kafulila

The recent political incident whereby the National Executive Committee (NEC) of NCCR-Mageuzi purportedly stripped Kigoma South MP David Kafulila of party membership, hence disqualifying him as MP sends a signal that an MP is not accountable to the electorate.

Whereas in countries such as the United States, Canada, Switzerland, the Philippines, Venezuela and the Canadian state of British Columbia a representative is totally accountable to the electorate the case appears to be different in Tanzania and in Africa generally.

In the above mentioned countries the voters have powers to remove public officials from office by popular vote before their tenure of office expires, under what is known as the recall system.

The recent political development in NCCR- Mageuzi in which the MP was stripped of party membership is sufficient evidence that MPs are not safe, especially when they rise up and question matters in their parties.

The power of political parties over their MPs is enormous, as whenever a lawmaker criticizes his bosses he or she may face the wrath of the respective party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), the top disciplinary authority.

Common sense would have provided for an MP to be accountable to his electorate, his political party and ultimately to Parliament or the nation but now MPs are required to be loyal to the parties, first.

After the 1995 general elections, United Democratic Party (UDP) chairman John Cheyo stripped Danhi Makanga, MP for Bariadi East and Erasto Tumbo ( Meatu) of party membership but the then Speaker, Pius Msekwa quashed the UDP decision, hence reinstating them after it was realized that the grounds for expelling the duo did not hold water.

A similar scenario was in 1996 when Augustine Mrema, in his capacity as chairman of the NCCR –Mageuzi convened a meeting and expelled Mabere Marando, then MP for Rorya, and Chiku Abwao (Special Seats).

Speaker Msekwa again rejected the decision, citing the consideration that their purging did not follow proper procedures.

CCM Secretary for Ideology and Publicity Nape Nnauye was of the view that Tanzania’s law gives the powers to voters within the village or ward to recall their local leaders upon being dissatisfied with their performance. However, he said such an arrangement (recall system) does not apply to councilors and members of Parliament.

He said it was up to wananchi to decide whether such an arrangement should be stipulated in the new Constitution, as the recall system is practiced in West Africa, for instance in Ghana.

He said a recall system for MPs or councilors, if accepted, would push political parties to get good performers as opposed to the current situation where a party is compelled to retain non performing MPs and councilors until their tenure of office expires.

“When you have a non-delivering MP in the constituency voters don’t just blame such individual. Rather it is the party to which such an MP belongs that suffers,” he stated.

CCM in collaboration with its MPs has drafted guidelines to help gauge the performance of each lawmaker, he pointed out

Arguing on the question ‘To whom is the MP accountable,’ Nnauye said basically the MP is accountable to his political party, considering the fact that until now the country has not legalized private candidates.

“If you want the MP to be first accountable to the electorate you are definitely arguing in the perspective of private candidates but until now we have not allowed such category of aspirants,’ he said.

Earlier this year, the registrar of political parties, John Tendwa, said in a TV interview that there is no law that clearly gives an answer with regard to whom the MP is accountable.

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