Most women are inexplicably reluctant to give their views on the kind of Constitution they would like Tanzania to have, Constitutional Review Commission chairman Joseph Sinde Warioba told journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday.
He made remarks to that effect when presenting the first monthly report on the progress the team has made since it started work on June 19, this year.
“The general trend has been for women to turn up (before the commission) in massive numbers but, surprisingly, most are often scared to air their views,” he said, mainly citing the challenges the team was facing.
“The other challenge the commission has had to contend with repeatedly relates to interference by political parties that usually results in preventing people from enjoying their freedom of expression, thus ending up airing the views of their respective parties instead,” added the retired judge and former prime minister.
He explained that political parties have been giving statements and sometimes instructions they demand that their members observe as proof that they toe the party line, “while this clearly denies these people their freedom to air their own views”.
Judge Warioba demanded that political parties refrain from such interference, adding: “Citizens across the country, even in the remotest of areas, have a lot to say on what the new Constitution should contain. All deserve the opportunity to make their voices heard without let or hindrance.”
He meanwhile also cited shortage of time as a serious constraint the commission was facing, elaborating: “The set three-hour time for the commission to meet with the citizens on any given day is far from enough. But we have no option but to abide by the condition and ensure Tanzania gets a new Constitution for the benefit of our people.”
The other challenge, according to Judge Warioba, is that some people have been depending on only one way to present their views – speaking at sessions of the commission – “while there is a whole range of ways to do so, such as through email and post offices”.
He added that the commission was at times forced to move more slowly that planned, and therefore falling behind schedule, because its duties coincided with community issues such as prayers, business and domestic chores.
“Despite the challenges, though, Tanzanians are assured of a new constitution that will guide them into free, fair and peaceful elections come 2015,” said an upbeat Judge Warioba.
He added that in order to make people more aware of the Constitution Review Act of 2011, under which his commission was constituted, they usually spend the first three hours at every session clarify to the people various issues of national interest and how they relate to the team’s work.
The issues include nationality and patriotism, the rights and responsibilities of the citizenry, the government’s duties and responsibilities, state authority and its organisation, land and allied resources, importance of unity in the country, democracy and political parties.
Among the others are Tanzania’s relations with other African countries and the international community, representation and law enactment systems, the systems of granting constitutional rights, as well as defence and security matters. According to Judge Warioba, the commission will embark on the second phase of its work by touring Mbeya, Morogoro, Lindi, Ruvuma, Kigoma, Katavi and Mwanza regions from August 27 to September 28. The commission, which has 15 members from mainland Tanzania and as many from Zanzibar, is charged with the collection of public opinion on the review of the Tanzania and its validation via a referendum. It has a budget of 40bn/- in financial year 2012/2013 and is expected to complete its task by October 2013. President Jakaya Kikwete Judge Warioba and former Chief Justice Augustino Ramadhani as its chairman and vice chairman, respectively, on April 6.