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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Going tougher for plans on Constitution

18th November 2011
  Parliamentary endorsement expected today amid threat of initiation of parallel process
Kigoma South legislator, David Kafulila

The path towards the writing of a new Constitution for Tanzania could be bumpier than expected should NCCR-Mageuzi initiate a process parallel to the one backed by the government as promised if the deadlock over the one now under dispute is not broken.

David Kafulila, Kigoma South legislator on the opposition party’s ticket, told journalists here yesterday that the decision was reached at a secretariat meeting on Wednesday.

Some NCCR-Mageuzi legislators have joined their Chadema counterparts have abandoned debate on the Constitution Review Bill, 2011 after the rejection of their demand to have the draft re-tabled in the House for the first reading.

Kafulila argued that ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi MPs have hijacked the process by refusing to consider the opposition parties’ demands, adding that his party had no option but to join Chadema in devising alternative modalities of rewriting the Constitution.

“Given the fact that two opposition parties, activists and the public at large have rejected the government-led process at this initial stage, everything including the Bill and the envisaged Constitution will have no public legitimacy,” he said.

“This matter is of national interest, and it cannot be handled ideologically. In that sense, we urge the government to find a common ground on this subject or we will be compelled to seek the consent of other stakeholders so that we initiate a parallel process of writing the new Constitution,” he added.

The legislator said upon the winding up of the Parliamentary meeting today or tomorrow, NCCR-Mageuzi would from this Sunday begin implementing the alternative strategy by consulting stakeholders alongside holding rallies, adding that they would soon issue a timetable to that effect.

Felix Mkosamali (Muhambwe), secretary of NCCR-Mageuzi MPs, said the drafting and floating of the hotly disputed bill did not follow proper procedures after the government withdrew it from the parliamentary process in April.

He said the fact that the government submitted “a practically new bill” to the Parliamentary Constitutional, Legal and Public Administration committee automatically meant that the new version was supposed to be taken back to the House for first reading “to allow room for wider public consultations”.

Mkosamali, who is a member of the committee, suggested that National Assembly Speaker Anne Makinda had interfered with the committee’s activities in part by preventing committee members from reaching the public upcountry despite their having been scheduled to make the “meet the people” tours.

Meanwhile, Mtera MP Livingstone Lusinde (CCM) submitted in the House that Germany had interfered with the constitutional review process “by siding with Chadema on plans to instigate chaos in the constitutional review process in exchange for funds”.

“Germany has promised Chadema funds if the party foments chaos to derail this process, and that is why they (Chadema) want the bill re-tabled for the first reading,” he said.

But Ubungo MP John Mnyika, who doubles as Chadema’s Director of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, simply laughed off the remarks saying it was not the first time legislators representing his party had walked out of the House debating chamber.

“We walked out when President Jakaya Kikwete was inaugurating the 10th Parliament and no one accused us of having been promised money by any country or donor. Why are those claims being brought up today?” he queried.

“The claims levelled against us are just propaganda organised by CCM,” he said, adding that Chadema has called upon the House Speaker not to oversee the passing of the Bill “since the House has lost legitimacy and public trust”.

Mnyika said the Speaker could apply Parliamentary regulations No. 86 (A and B), 87 and 90 to prevent the House from sitting as a committee meant to endorse the bill, adding that said the expected passing of the bill “will create room for the initiation of multiple parallel constitutional processes”. Debate on the bill is scheduled to wind up today.

Meanwhile, correspondents Margreth Itala and Aloyce Mpandana report that Vice President Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal officiated at a workshop on constitutional matters in Dar es Salaam yesterday.

Dr Bilal used the occasion to underscore the need for people “to understand that the Constitution is the most important pillar in the protection of the country’s peace and dignity”.

He made remarks to that effect when responding to a question from a forum participant, saying: “It is important to disregard our differences and look at how best we can build our nation and institutions. It is because of this that it is necessary that the Constitutional review process ought to involve all people, regardless of the political parties they belong to.”

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