Friday, 7 February 2014

Katiba Watch: Understanding the Constituent Assembly

President Jakaya Kikwete will release the names of the members to the Constituent Assembly today. The sittings are expected to begin in 18 February 2014 in Dodoma.  The Constitution Review Act gives the President power to appoint 201 members of the Constituent Assembly drawn from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), faith-based organisations and all registered political parties. Others include institutions of higher learning, groups of people with special needs, workers’ associations, associations representing farmers, associations representing pastoralists and any other group of persons having common interest. Further to these, it is also be made up of all members of the National Assembly of Tanzania (358) and all members of the House of Representatives of Zanzibar (76) bringing a total 635 members.
 
Pursuant to the Constitution Review Act, Part V on the Convening of a Constituent Assembly, Article 22(3) the President shall publish the names of the members of the Constituent Assembly in the proclamation published in the gazette. Upon the first convening of the Assembly, a chairman and vice-chairman will be elected through a secret ballot by the members. Further to the spirit of the Union, if the chairman is from Mainland Tanzania, the vice shall come from Tanzania Zanzibar. The winner is determined by a simple majority. Standing Orders shall forthwith be established and adopted before members subscribing to an oath or affirmation.
 
Article 25 (1) in part states that the Constituent Assembly shall have and exercise powers to make provisions for the new constitution of Tanzania. It has been rumored that the ruling party CCM will come with an alternative draft constitution.Article 25 (2) states succinctly that the powers of the Constituent Assembly to make provisions for the proposed Constitution shall be be exercised by a Draft Constitution tabled by the Chairman of the Commission and passed by the Constituent Assembly.
 
This indeed, is a crucial step in the constitutional process in Tanzania. Much has been said about the powers bestowed by the president to appoint the members of the assembly, but it is time to accept and move on with the process. With a proposed lifespan of 70 working days, the Assembly ought to utilize this period effectively and efficiently.

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