The proposed constitutional review bill will be tabled in the National Assembly this week despite pressure by academicians, politicians and stakeholders to stop it until major changes are made.
National Assembly Clerk, Dr Thomas Kashililah told this paper in an exclusive interview yesterday that the stakeholders’ concerns cannot stop the House from implementing its duties, though some of their opinions will be taken on board.
He said the presidential constitution commission will go through all the stakeholders’ recommendations in an effort to improve the bill.
“We welcome suggestions from different people since they are part and parcel of the constitution review process. We are going to consider their opinions to improve the bill”, said Dr Kashililah.
The House Clerk said there was nothing wrong with people giving their opinions, noting that it is their constitutional right. “It’s a good thing for people to give their opinions. Our constitution guarantees freedom of expression”, he said.
He said before it is tabled in parliament, the proposed constitution bill will be reviewed by the Parliamentary Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee which will make all the necessary changes.
The proposed Bill for the Constitutional Review Act of 2011 is set to be tabled in the National Assembly in Dodoma next week.
The Bill has already come under attack due to the powers bestowed upon the president who will be mandated to read the final copy before its enactment.
Meanwhile, Tanzanians have been called upon to start the process of demanding for an independent electoral commission to avoid disappointment in the coming elections should the country fail to come up with a new constitution before then.
Julius Mtatiro, from the Civic United Front Party made the call at the weekend during a forum on the Constitutional Review Bill held at the University of Dar es Salaam.
Mtatiro said the Bill raised a lot of concerns regarding the presidential powers, saying the country may end up with no new constitution in place in the year 2015.
“This looks like a president’s Bill. We need to involve all stakeholders in the process. We need to have a constitution that will allow for private candidates. If we are not careful, we will fail to have free and fair elections as the current NEC will still be there. While calling for a new constitution, let us start to push for an independent Electoral Commission,” said Mtatiro.
Retired Judge Thomas Mihayo said having read the Bill, he felt that some of the sections were directed at certain people. Mihayo said the new constitution should stress the need to value the right to life, saying Tanzania has lost it on the way.
“Tanzania does not value the right to life as we still condone extrajudicial killings. A nation which respects the right to life would never do such a thing. We ought to improve the respect towards the right to life,” stressed Mihayo.
He also cautioned that the process belonged to neither CCM nor Chadema, but rather, to all Tanzanians.
“If we incorporate political ideologies in the process we won’t make it,” cautioned Mihayo.
Francis Kiwanga, Executive Director for the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) and one of the key speakers at the forum called for the establishment of a conciliatory committee to deal with unforeseen conflicts that may arise during the process.
He called for a Bill that reflects the real situation of Tanzania.
During the constitutional forum, stakeholders accused the government of threatening political party leaders and activists from engaging in the process.
Mabere Marando, a member of Chadema executive committee said, Section 20(3) of the bill bars any member of the public from questioning the duties of the presidential constitution commission or challenging it in court, branding such an act as a criminal offence.
Dr Sengondo Mvungi, NCCR Mageuzi representative said, since 1992, the opposition has been campaigning for the new constitution and not a review or amendments.
Chadema Secretary General Dr Wilbroad Slaa said stakeholders should launch a national campaign against the bill and its enactment.