The National Assembly yesterday endorsed the Constitutional Review Amendment Bill after a two-day tug of war between the ruling (CCM) and opposition legislators over controversial and contentious sections in the document.
The latest development sets “a smooth ground” for the constitutional review process since it had before attracted fierce criticism and antagonism amongst legislators, activists and other social groups countrywide.
But the endorsement of the Bill yesterday was not smooth, as ruling and opposition MPs engaged in extensive debates over contentious issues - chiefly inclusion of district commissioners and district executive directors in the amendments proposal tabled by the Attorney General Frederick Werema on Thursday.
Led by Same-East MP Anne Kilango Malecela, CCM legislators pushed for inclusion of a section in the Bill which allows district commissioners to convene public meetings in the course of the constitution review process.
Their main argument was that the section was wrongly omitted in the first draft Bill, describing DCs as key instruments in the entire constitution process who should not be ignored.
But opposition legislators, led by Chadema’s outspoken—Tundu Lissu (Singida-East) and Freeman Mbowe, rejected inclusion of DCs as conveners of meetings for airing of public views on the subject.
The Opposition camp said instead of giving such role to the DCs, who are cadres of the ruling party (CCM), that duty should be executed by the district directors, who they believe would be impartial.
However, following heated and prolonged discussions, which went up to around 9pm on Thursday, Speaker of the National Assembly Anna Makinda, decided to shelve the Bill to provide room for Attorney General, ruling and opposition MPs, Parliamentary Steering Committee, Constitution, Legal Affairs and Public Administration Parliamentary Committee to consult and reach a consensus.
Speaking yesterday, the Speaker said the discussions went up to midnight before Anne Kilango, AG, parliamentary committees and CCM MPs and opposition reached a consensus.
In his submission, AG told the House yesterday that, “After a long discussion, we agreed to reshape Section 17 (a)—in order to include other executives at the local government levels.
Following these changes, this section will now have several people who may be used to convene public meetings during views-collection process - DCs, District Executive Directors (DEDs), local government directors, ward and village executive officers.”
Still disappointed by the changes, outspoken MP Tindu Lissu rose and criticized the changes made, saying “Giving responsibilities to DCs and DEDs creates confusion…total confusion, which will make us come up with a bad constitutional law.”
Lissu’ argument triggered a fresh hot debate similar to the one which ensued on Thursday night, forcing government chief whip William Lukuvi, leader of Opposition in Parliament Freeman Mbowe, Speaker and AG, to intervene in order to cool the tempers.
“Lissu is taking us back to Thursday’s debate. I am surprised that Lissu was there at the consensus-seeking meeting which approved these changes…amicably. I don’t understand why he is raising issues which we had amicably agreed together,” said AG.
To rescue the situation, Chadema national chairman Mbowe chipped in, saying, “Let’s agree for the sake of agreeing…I am calling my fellow opposition MPs to agree…but this is a very bad approach of making sensitive laws such as this one.”