The best way for an electorate to gauge the usefulness of their would-be or former Member of Parliament (“MP”) would be to hold a question and answer session between both sides.
At the session, the MP, male or female, may be asked the following questions: what appeals to you most about being an MP; would you still be interested in being an MP if an MP’s salary was reduced to that, say, of the Chief Surgeon; in view of the fact that the Presidential term is a maximum of 10 years, would you accept the tenure of the post of MP to be limited to a maximum of, say, 10 or 15 years only; what has been your greatest achievement in political life; what is the role of an MP; what is the better term, “Bunge” or “House of Representatives”; what is the maximum number of MPs required for constituting Parliament?
What are the different types of MPs required for Parliament; for yourself and the electorate, would you establish an office and library in your constituency; does an MP have legal power over the President, the Prime Minister, and Government Ministers; what legal power does an MP have concerning Tanzania declaring war; does Tanzania have a legal constitution; does Tanzania Zanzibar have a constitution; what is the relationship between Tanzania’s constitution and the constitution of Tanzania Zanzibar; are the laws of Tanzania written in English or Kiswahili; do you know sufficient English to understand legal language?
Do you intend to be in Parliament for five years and, if so, what are your short-term, medium-term plans regarding these years, in other words, what will you do in your constituency every succeeding year; what is the cardinal importance of Tanzania’s Constitution; do you plan to have copies of Tanzania’s Constitution distributed in your constituency; what are your plans for the disadvantaged sections of your constituency- the incapacitated; the aged, the widowed, etc.; as a former MP, how many questions did you ask in Parliament throughout your term; what plans did you achieve in the short-term; what did you do to empower members of your constituency to stand on their own instead of running to you for money; when I am making my choice as to which person I should choose to be MP, what is the single thing I should remember about you?
All answers to the above questions are found in the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977 (“Union Constitution”) should reach a stage that a would-be MP or former MP who has never fully read and studied the Union Constitution, should not be elected MP.
In fact, the provisions of Article 26 impose on every person the duty to observe and abide by the Union Constitution and the laws of the United Republic. Perhaps, Article 26 should be amended to impose a special duty in that regard on an MP. The Union Constitution is a small document of only 152 Articles entirely written in Kiswahili.
To start with, the Bunge is a statutory creature of the Union Constitution, as amended. Article 62 of that Union Constitution provides as follows:
“62(1) There shall be a Parliament of the United Republic which shall consist of two parts, that is to say, the President and the National Assembly.
(2) The National Assembly shall consist of all categories of members in Article 66 of the Constitution, who shall be designated as Members of Parliament.
And Article 64 (1) vests the Bunge with legislative power as follows:
“(1) legislative power in relation to all Union Matters and also in relation to all other matters concerning Mainland Tanzania is hereby vested in Parliament.”
The supremacy of the Union Constitution resides in Article 64(5).
“(5) Without prejudice to the application of the constitution of Zanzibar in accordance with this Constitution concerning all matters pertaining to Tanzania Zanzibar which are not Union Matters, this Constitution shall have the force of law in the whole of the United Republic, and in the event any other law conflicts with the provisions contained into this Constitution, the Constitution shall prevail and that other law, to the extent of the inconsistency with the Constitution, shall be void.
Then Article I, clarifies the positions by providing that Tanzania is one state and is a sovereign United Republic and Article 2 (1) cements the position:
“(1) The territory of the United Republic consists of the whole of the area of Mainland Tanzania and the whole of the area of Tanzania Zanzibar, and includes the territorial water.,”
The supremacy of the people is established by Article of 8:
“8-(1) The United Republic of Tanzania is a state which adheres to the principles of democracy and social justice and accordingly-
(a) sovereignty resides in the people and it is from the people that the Government through this Constitution shall derive all its power and authority;
(b) the primary objective of the Government shall be the welfare of the people;
(c) the Government shall be accountable to the people; and
the people shall participate in the affairs of their Government in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”
Article 6 defines, “the Government” as including the Government of the United Republic, the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, local government authorities and any person who exercises power or authority on behalf of either Government.
The Union Constitution contains many provisions under many headings: the United Republic, Political Parties, the People and the Policy of Socialism and Self Reliance; the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council and the House of Representatives of Zanzibar; the High Court of the United Republic, the Judicial Service Commission for Mainland Tanzania, the High Court of Zanzibar, the Court of Appeal of the United Republic and the Special Constitutional Court of the United Republic; the Permanent Commission of Enquiry and the Ethics Secretarial; the Provisions regarding the Finances of the United Republic; Local Government Authorities; the Armed Forces; and Miscellaneous Provisions.
The Articles relating to Parliament are 4; those relating to Members of the National Assembly are 10. Those relating to Election and Appointment of Members of Parliament are 7; and those relating to the Procedure in the National Assembly, Legislative Procedure and Powers and Privileges of Parliament are 13.
Article 67 of the Union Constitution lays down the qualifications for an MP including, in sub article (1) (a) the ability to read and write in Kiswahili or English. Since it appears from Article 64 (5) that the Union Constitution is the mother of all laws, perhaps Article 64 should contain an additional qualification requiring full acquaintance with the provisions of the Union Constitution.
So, every would-be MP, please, don’t sit and wait, look for the next opportunity of reading and studying the Union Constitution. You cannot do anything about the length of your life but you can do something about your life‘s width and depth.
The writer is a senior advocate who can be reached at mob: 0784-312 623