Lack of civic education and government failure to sensitise the public on the importance of involvement in ongoing constitutional review process are two major shortcomings in the exercise to gather public views.
The Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) and the Constitutional Forum noted that the pitfalls in a survey they conducted last month. In several areas a section of the public upcountry was unaware of the presence of team members, they said.
When briefing reporters in Dar s Salaam yesterday, the two organisations noted that this contributed to a poor turn out of citizens in the respective areas.
LHRC Executive Director Helen Kijo-Bisimba said while it was imperative for the public to be sensitised ahead of planed meetings, instead the public were asked to give their views and they did not know what to say.
She said during the tracking the made they noted some of the meetings between commission members and citizens were held in the morning when the latter were required to be engaged in income generating activities.
In some instances members issued threats prompting some people to refrain from giving out their views.
Other shortcomings include deliberately ignoring the disabled and lack of serious of commission members.
She said the information about the presence of the commission in the wards for gathering views was not effectively provided to the public. “In certain areas some of the commission members were seen standing, a scenario that creates fear to the public.”
It was observed that the process was not free and fair because some respondents provided specific views for the benefits of some people.
The Chairman of Tanzania Constitutional review forum Deus Kibamba said although the commission had a lot of money it generally ignored the issue of the disabled.
He noted that there are few collection centres in the district and that there are long distances from one centre to another.
“In most districts, only six to eight wards were reached by the commission; this number is very low considering that the districts have more than 20 wards,” Kibamba explained
The chairman elaborated that the commission also observed to misuse money by publishing the document of poor quality, which does not provide clear information to the people.
He is explained that the tendency of political parties interfering in constitutional review processes is destroying the process because the parties’ idea would only be presented.
Kibamba added that there was a problem for a commission member to continue with their business. “Although members are supposed to work for full time they did not do so but continue to be given all allowance as if he or she is at work all the time,” Kibamba elaborated
The organisations suggested that the commission should collaborate with other institutions providing clear education to the public, through community radios and television so as to reach many people.
The commission should use other constitutional documents which are already published by scholars, which are more useful rhan their edition.
The commission should reconsider the time for gathering views, stating that mornings are not proper and that there should be one meeting per day.
They proposed that the commission should stop threatening the public. Instead, they should assist them and the members should use their full time as required.
However, Principal Information Officer with the Constitutional Review Commission Omega Ngole, reacting on the report, said: "We have not seen their (LHRC) report. Moreover, as we speak, members of the Commission are returning from the field; we will do a thorough evaluation and come up with a report that will be shared with you.”