Banning of Tanganyika Law Society may not be an empty threat

18Feb 2017
The Guardian
Banning of Tanganyika Law Society may not be an empty threat

JUSTICE and Constitutional Affairs minister Dr Harrison Mwakyembe is on record as signalling government intent to ban the Tanganyika Law Society in case it elects outspoken veteran advocate and environmentalist-turned-politician Tundu Antipus Lissu as its president.

The minister did not quite show that the lawyer is not a qualified member of TLS to contest for the post, but that it would be an affiliation of TLS with the political party in which he is an active member and senior official, CHADEMA.

Nor did the minister say TLS statutes forbid or otherwise frown at political activity, or that members who lead parties are disqualified.

The minister doesn’t obviously want to institute a rule that politician-members of TLS be barred, but politicians-members of CHADEMA singularly ought to be sidelined from elections, as that would make the civic association a political platform.

Not by what the aspirant TLS president would say or do as that would be judged on merit when it takes place, but merely by his presence, that it is inconsistent with a civic association seeking public functions, like registering lawyers for law practice.

Again he didn’t say just why that should be the case, and didn’t state it as a fear but rather as a dictum, matter of fact.

What the minister is saying is that as TLS is charged with registration of lawyers for purposes of independent work as advocates, like representing clients in the High Court or in resident magistrates’ courts.

As several commentators have pointed out, deregistering TLS means crippling the courts, the way the media aspect of the National Assembly largely been crippled as the media tended to show the likes of Tundu Lissu speaking, or walking out.

The minister is reiterating the one party ethos of the fifth phase leadership. University of Dar es Salaam don Professor Kitila Mkumbo is quoted as having stated that the threat to ban TLS showed ‘precisely why TLS members ought to elect Tundu Lissu their president’ because he is an effective voice against erosion of the rule law.

The minister wants law practitioners sensitive to current views of law enforcement where opposition is sedition, contrary to the constitution.

The point we may wish to underline is that, contrary to logic, both sides are right on this issue – that TLS will be right to elect Tundu Lissu and the minister is rightly pointing out that he will be tempted to strike off TLS, then.

What would follow is similar to what has taken place in relation to the media, under the watch of Dr Mwakyembe and his colleague Nape Nnauye, where free press bodies face the wrath of the state, eager to create its own censorship unit it may call a pres watchdog.

If the state or rather the minister moves to ban TLS as the minister intimated, that will bring the fifth phase into conflict with administration of the law as a whole.

The state shall form a body to register lawyers and perhaps such a body will support statements that anyone defending suspects of peddling cannabis, etc ought to be arrested as well.

There is something a bit exciting about that prospect as it would require the Court of Appeal to rule whether relevant law provisions have been suspended owing to a speech or remark from the president or the minister.

At that time it would be interesting to see if the minister overrules the Court of Appeal if it reaffirms the law. So, TLS, elect Lissu and let’s see.

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