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When parliament decides to `hide` from the electorate

17th February 2013
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The Clerk of the National Assembly, Honourable Thomas Kashilila was this week quoted by the print media as saying that plans were afoot to stop live transmission of parliamentary session.

He said the objective of the move, which was roundly condemned by all and sundry, was due to what he described as growing indiscipline among a section of members of parliament.

Although honourable Kashilila would not pintpoint the culprits the move was aimed at, but going by what has been going on in the august House coupled with pronouncements often made by the chair in the house, the ruling party’s Mps have been heaping the blame on opposition camp.

What was perhaps quite interesting were whispers that made the rounds outside the august House.

For instance one man whispered that ‘it was just a matter of time before the public is told, in the same manner the honourable Clerk said, that the august House is no more!’

What is interesting about the foregoing comment is that the world is used to such august House being dissolved by the president either before the general election or because the president has differed with members of parliament and therefore goes back to the people for a decisive decision.

“But the way things are going on right now, we should brace ourselves for such eventualities…if a private motion can be killed simply because it has been brought by a member of opposition, what else is left,” asked the man. Live transmission of sessions of the National Assembly of the United Republic of Tanzania is the first in sub-Saharan Africa and was praised by a visiting group of Kenya’s members of parliament.

The move which is not only a mark of transparency in the country’s body politic, has for a long time served as one of the country’s pillars of its growing democracy.

And moving to another issue, but within the realm of the august House, the Deputy Speaker, Honourable Job Ndugai, the mover of the private motion, Ubungo Legislator (Chadema), Honourable John Mnyika, brought the private motion on water because he wanted to be seen to be doing something for his constituents.

He said when he was vying for Ubungo Constituency during the 2010 elections, he had promised his constituents that he would bring them water. “And because the next general election was just around the corner and the honourable MP has failed to deliver, he decided to bring in the private motion on water as an excuse for his failure,” said the controversial deputy speaker.

Commenting on honourable Kashilila’s bombshell, the Chairman of the opposition Civic United Front, CUF, Professor Ibrahim Lipumba said the very act of implementing selective gags was increasingly turning reducing the ruling party into a witch-doctor’s conduct which was very unfortunate.

But rumour mongers were quck to point out that while substantial number of people believed in what witch-doctors said, it was however, quite different when people other than witch-doctors displayed conducts similar to that practiced by the latter!

A number of rumour mongers who spoke to the Whisperer said it was time both the Speaker, Honourable Anne Makinda and her deputy sat up and took notice before it is too late.

Others said the move to do away with live transmission of parliamentary sessions could be likened to what used to happen in the communist block of eastern European countries under the leadership of the then Soviet Union.

One rumour monger reminded the Whisperer what befell the ruling party in the 2010 elections which saw the incumbent, President Jakaya Kikwete losing 20 percent of what he had scooped in the 2005 election.

She cited a variety of factors, that included the ruling party’s refusal to participate in debates in the electronic media with opposition parties’ candidates, finally led to the reduction of CCM’s victory.

“The message that the majority of members of parliament (from the ruling party and speakers) is sending to the rest of Tanzanians through the blocking of live transmission of parliamentary sessions is that the government had something sinister to hide,” said the rumour monger.

She said it was important for both the Mps and the House leaders to bear in mind that whatever they do in the august House would have a bearing in the forthcoming general election slated for 2015.

“What is more, it is the people out there who have been following the august House’s session with gusto who would be voting, come the year 2015, hence the dire need not to send wrong signals (read cowardice) to the electorate,” she said.

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY