President’s move on bad cases will strengthen the rule of law

31Mar 2021
The Guardian
President’s move on bad cases will strengthen the rule of law

PRESIDENT Samia Suluhu Hassan has made initial steps to strengthen the rule of law over excitement on suspicions in tax related areas in particular, with a demand on the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) and prosecuting agencies to drop cases that are clearly can’t be prosecuted in court.

There are cases there  people have remained in remand prison for several years, and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) fails to bring a sufficient case before the High Court (as in many cases this is economic sabotage crimes), but the suspects remain in prison. There is clear political will that this situation ought to change at present.

As a matter of fact the directive by the president has been in the air over the past month, as during the last week of February, Chief Justice Prof. Ibrahim Juma sent a reminder to the DPP on the issue, more or less citing exactly those same terms. He demanded that the prosecuting agency take the various suspects to court within the space of one month from the date of notification, or failing to do they should release the suspects, rather than continuing to keep quiet while people languish in prison for offences that simply can\’t be prosecuted. Failing to prosecute is a prior admission of not guilty, and it is what must be entered.

Since this directive has come from the highest possible quarters in the governing of the state, and it was made in public and thus the wider impact of what this portends has already been created, the DPP and other authorities will not have a fallback lever to obviate from what has been demanded. The directive amplifies and puts in what some literary circles would say ‘in gold letters’ what the CJ had earlier observed, since the difficulty would remain as to whether such a purely juridical measure had the support of top state authorities. Now this aspect has been clarified so we can expect that the matter is speeded up.

President Samia was emphatic in her appeal to judicial and prosecuting authorities to embrace strict fairness in those issues, admitting pointedly that some of these cases had just been fabricated – without going further to say why that was the case. Many people would have grasped that cases are fabricated for purposes of extortion, but in good measure, let it be said that some of those cases are too  far flung and of cardinal importance to the nation’s image and expectations to be fabricated by police or prosecutors, etc. In that case we might be talking about a certain order of priorities and image, with its cortege of suspects, now proving to be false in what we were assuming took place in this or that case, even embarrassingly so.

It is not surprising either that this reflection and position taking on the part of the president is happening on the edge of the mourning period and reconstitution of government authority following the death of the first fifth phase president, Dr John Magufuli. The stream of reminiscences and reflection devoted to the mourning and funeral proceedings has a way of rekindling faith where it was lacking, for instance this moment has created a new sense of assertiveness and candor on the constitutional process, which so many people – of different political persuasions – were fond of attacking, lately. So let it be for the rule of law.

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