As the public anxiously awaits a new draft of the Constitutional Review Bill 2011, it has emerged that the government is likely to bow to public pressure by vesting more powers to Parliament rather than to the President.
In a new development the government is reported to have decided to work in line with the public needs to have the Bill providing for the President’s decisions to be subjected to Parliamentary endorsement, contrary to the previous proposal which suggested the head of state’s decisions would be final and conclusive.
The possibility for a big change in the original Bill was hinted for the first time on Monday, May 16 by the Deputy Attorney General, George Masaju, when addressing the annual general meeting of the Association of Local Authorities (ALAT) on the proposed Bill.
A key area to be affected by such changes is Part iii of the Bill which provides for the establishment of the Constitutional Commission to be tasked with administration of public views on the new national Constitution.
Whereas there is now a likelihood of the names of the members of the Commission to be submitted to the National Assembly for endorsement, the previous Bill rejected by the public during open hearings stipulated that:
The President may upon consultation with the President of Zanzibar and with the advice by the Attorney General and after considering any information or prevailing social, political and economic circumstances within the United Republic at all times and, by order published in the Gazette, establish a Commission to examine, analyse and recommend for enactment of a constitution.
Part iii of the Bill’s details include appointment of Commission members, composition of the Commission, terms of reference, function of the commission including observation to the inviolability and sanctity of sensitive matters and, powers of the commission.
It also includes oath of members and secretary, cessation of membership, expenses of the commission, immunity of the commission and its secretariat as well as submission of the report.
The Deputy Attorney General then told the gathering that the presidential appointees to the constitutional Commission would be submitted to the Parliament seeking for endorsement.
He, however, did not clarify as to whether those were the only changes in the document scheduled to be tabled for the second time in the Parliament sometime later this year.
The Presidential powers on the road map to the enactment of the new national constitution was debated extensively during heated public hearings last month as most contributors called for such powers to be trimmed down to ensure checks and balance for good governance.
The Bill was entirely faulted in an unprecedented way resulting in government withdrawing it from Parliament, three days before being debated.
The Legislature also advised the government to have the Bill drafted in Kiswahili, print it in the local newspapers and provide more time so as to allow many Tanzanians an opportunity to give their views.
Under ordinary procedure of law enactment, the Bill has to be mentioned in the House for the second time before being subjected to Public hearing. After the withdrawal from the Parliament, the Bill was sent back to the Executive, necessitating a repeat of the procedure.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Constitution, Legal and Administration was involved in a lengthy meeting on Saturday when receiving the re-drafted Bill from the Ministry of Constitution and Legal Affairs through the office of the Attorney General.
Under the existing constitution, the only presidential appointment which requires parliamentary endorsement is that of the Prime Minister. The requirement was first exercised in 1995 following the re-introduction of the multi-party system in Tanzania in 1992.
However, various democracy activists and civil society groups are demanding the exercise also cover other presidential key appointments such as cabinet ministers, High Court Judges, Heads of Police, Army and Chief of Intelligence – to be endorsed by the House.