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.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

In this I support Lowassa

The election mood is heating up in Tanzania. Candidates and political parties are slowly but steadily shaping up and readying themselves for 2015 elections. The ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) is doing all sorts of political readjustments like celebrating 37 years of its existence just to sell itself to the people. The main opposition party Chama cha Demokrasia

na Maendeleo (Chadema) is grappling with in-party wrangling and recently it has embarked on a meet-the-people nationwide tour dubbed as Operation Movement for Change (M4C) - Pamoja Daima. Clearly, these two political outfits are shaping up in readiness for the elections. Despite the outward people centric portrayal of these two main parties, there exists internal fault lines. Whereas Chadema is trying to 'discipline' party dissidents and the so-called 'betrayers', CCM is grappling with internal rivalries born out of the quest for the top seat for some of its members. There seems to be similarities and parallelism between these two parties at the moment. Previously, the opposition took swipe at the ruling party blaming it for the endemic, cataclysmic and virulent corruption and lack of party transparency. Tides are shifting, with Chadema being accused of similar practices. the President, speaking at the 37th anniversary of CCM in Mbeya took a hyperbolic swipe at Chadema saying "CCM remains strong, whereas the other parties (Chadema) seem not to find their feet at the moment:". Chadema is now trying to save face by carrying out nationwide tours.

CCM greatest concern has been the former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa who has silently declared his desire for the presidency come 2015. In a new year's party hosted at his home constituency, Mr. Lowassa said that he has embarked on a "dream to see a Tanzania with proper sanitation, good education and equality." This statement, though passive, was interpreted to mean he was declaring his candidacy for the top post in Tanzania. CCM luminaries have come out strong and condemned Lowassa for this saying that it is too early to declare his intention for the top job. Former Prime Minister and veteran politician John Malecela has strongly criticized Lowassa for this. Others have included, CCM Secretary Phillip Mangula and the likes of Nape Nnauye the vibrant Secretary in charge of Politics and Ideology. The party is summoning a mini-convention in either Dodoma or Dar es Salaam which will be attended by former Tanzania Presidents Benjamin Mkapa and Ali Hassan Mwinyi and former Zanzibar President Amani Karume to discuss the brewing discomfort brought about by Lowassa's possible candidacy.

I am dismayed at the level of criticism leveled on Lowassa who is imbuing his democratic right to put his name forward for possible selection for the top job. It is quite astonishing and perplexing to say the least, why his candidacy is causing jitters among members of his party. We learn from comparative politics that all politics is local. Take the rise to prominence of Barack Obama. It was during the 2004 National Democratic Convention that he gave the keynote address which made him a national star and set stage for his subsequent election in 2008 as the first Black  American President in US. Political strategists will tell you that his election campaign began that night in Boston, Massachusetts.

Sun Tzu, the renowned Chinese military general and strategist says that "The art of war is of vital importance to the State" and in this case the statesman or politician. Mr Lowassa, may have his own share of political baggage that led to his resignation as Prime Minister but his ambition to lead should not be rubbished. Drawing from Sun Tzu, the commander needs to stand for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness. This is summed up in the first tactic of laying out the plans. Mr. Lowassa seems to have already laid out his plans. He is building a vibrant network of professionals, youth, veteran politicians, businessmen and the church which is his foundation. This seems not to go well with a crossection of CCM bigwigs who in my opinion feel threatened.

The year 2014, from the onset seems its going to be a crucial political year for Tanzania. With the constitution process still on and the forth coming election, it promises to be a bumper year, and one with a lot of political and economic significance. I am pleased that political parties are now avenues of political contests which in turn will be vital for nationwide pluralism as is been envisioned by the proposed new constitution. This is what we need in Tanzania anyway. Political pluralism, in-party democracy and government transparency will definitely steer economic development and growth.