The Tanzania Constitutional Forum and the Zanzibar Constitutional Council have expressed their concern and disappointment over threats being issues by both the Union and Zanzibar governments to individuals or groups giving their views regarding the process of writing a new constitution.
The two non-governmental organizations said giving of opinion by wananchi shall not be conducted freely as long as some contentious sections in the Constitutional Review Act, 2011 as amended early this year remain unchanged.
The leaders of the two entities said they received information via the media of people being discouraged to discuss certain matters and sometimes being barred by officials of the two governments to touch on certain issues, even before the exercise of collecting views officially kicks off.
Tanzania Constitutional Forum chairman Deus Kibamba told a press conference at the forum premises yesterday that threats on how people air their views, whether before the constitutional commission or elsewhere cannot be tolerated as they scare the people and reduce their enthusiasm to participate in the whole process.
He said that frightening, arresting and filing cases against individuals for their views on the constitution would only sow disaffection and discord in the society, endangering the peace.
Citing a few incidents, Kibamba said on April 13 when he was swearing in members to the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) President Jakaya Kikwete said that the review process would not aim to determine the existence of the United Republic of Tanzania as the document itself already belonged to the United Republic of Tanzania.
The president said people should concentrate on giving views on how to improve activities of the Union. Kibamba said such a statement already chooses for Tanzanians what and what not to discuss.
“This is not the way a new constitution should be made,” he ventured to suggest, noting that people should be left to choose what and how the constitution should be designed or contain.
Kibamba cited similar remarks by former Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Celina Kombani who was quoted as saying that people should not discuss the Union. “A good Constitution for the people comes from discussions and debates that are open and free and not from fear and obstacles,” the forum chairman reiterated.
CRC chairman Judge Joseph Warioba had also made remarks that the Commission should be left to exercise its duties without pressure or interference, as that would disorient the public in trusting it to take account of their views.
Kibamba said Judge Warioba’s statement could also mean the commission should be left to whatever it wishes to do in the making of the constitution, which diminishes the role of the people in the constitution-making process.
Isles Second Vice President Seif Ali Iddi was also mentioned by the two forums as having given a negative statement by banning all kinds of gatherings discussing the Constitution. Pemba North Regional Commissioner Dadi Faki Dadi went on record as banning all meetings or gatherings for debates on the constitution.
Kibamba said they were aggrieved by the actions of the police who are all out to frighten those who had diverse and different opinions about the structure of the Union. He said those actions involved arresting and charging 12 people who were exercising their constitutional right to air their views.
The structure of Union, on the basis of the Constitutional Review Bill 2011, is not likely to be altered if the Bill’s sections remain intact..
“As it is clearly known, the structure of the government has recently attracted public debate. Section 9 (2-1) of the Bill lays boundaries to the matter.
The section states that: “The commission shall adhere to the national values and ethos and shall, in that respect safeguard and promote the following matters:- the existence of the United Republic, the existence of Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary, the republican nature of governance, the existence of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, national unity, cohesion and peace.”