Wednesday, 7 October 2009


Former Cabinet minister says the Speaker shouldn't be an MP as calls are made at a workshop for the participation of private candidates

The wind of change is blowing in the country, with the mounting calls in various quarters for the enactment of constitutional changes to create a clear demarcation between the roles of the Executive and the Legislature.

The latest agitation is by a former Cabinet minister and some political analysts and academics, who would like to see the operations of the law making body clearly separated from those of the Executive.

During a workshop on politics and governance held in Dar es Salaam yesterday, the participants unanimously endorsed calls for the participation of private candidates in elections, as a means to further enhance democracy.

The current push for such comprehensive political reforms is emerging in the run-up to next General Election, to be held in October next year, and the local government elections later this month.

Former Cabinet minister Ibrahim Kaduma, who served in various portfolios during the first phase government under the founding President, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, told The Citizen in an exclusive interview that the Speaker of the National Assembly should not be an elected or nominated MP.

He also said that Cabinet ministers should be picked from outside Parliament.

The choice of an independent person as the Speaker, Mr Kaduna said, would not only enhance parliamentary independence, but also its effectiveness in supervising government operations, as stipulated in the Constitution.

"This will increase freedom and require leaders to perform better than being strung to their parties' obligations, which impedes performance."

The former Foreign Affairs Minister said that as the country marks a decade since Mwalimu Nyerere's death, the time was ripe for a comprehensive review of the Constitution.

He said there must be separation of powers among the pillars of the State in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

Mr Kaduma, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), who at one time was also the minister for Trade, proposed that an MP elected Speaker of the National Assembly, should immediately resign to fully assume his responsibilities of guiding the august House, without any alignment to a political party. Mr Kaduna is also a former Chancellor of Mzumbe University,

�The Speaker must be very neutral and should not be afraid of any threats from anybody or a group of people so that he or she can effectively lead that important organ,� he said.

He joined former Prime Minister Salim Ahmed Salim and other prominent personalities, who have recently praised the current Speaker, Mr Samwel Sitta, the CCM representative for Urambo East, for doing a good job.

"To my opinion he (Mr Sitta) has managed to achieve a Parliament of standards and speed, as he promised when he took the office," he said.

Mr Kaduma said the problems facing Mr Sitta as the Speaker stemmed from his own party.

He was alluding to recent move by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of Chama Cha Mapinduzi to censure Mr Sitta, with some pressing for his expulsion, accusing him of undermining the Government and the ruling party, in his handling of parliamentary issues.

Had he been thrown out, he would have lost both his parliamentary seat and the Speaker's position.

"Parliament has been fighting for the interests of the poor. We have witnessed for the first time that when it comes to the interests of the common wananchi, some MPs have been forgetting their party interests," he said.

To solidify what the MPs and the Speaker had initiated, Mr Kaduna proposed that ministers should be appointed from among the public, based on merit instead of political connections.

"We are not making progress because ministers have been thinking about two masters at the same time, their party and the Government," said the long serving public servant, who also was the Permanent Secretary in six different ministries.

A retired UDSM law lecturer, Prof Issa Shivji, echoed the call, saying though the idea was not new, it was good.

"We should amend the Constitution to allow for an independent Speaker, who doesn�t have to be an MP or a member of a political party," he said.

�But then the question would arise: How should a speaker be appointed? Should an interested person apply? Should he be nominated by the party with the majority seats?� he asked.

Prof Shivji also said the Judge Robert Kisanga Commission had also suggested that ministers should not be MPs, "and they should be put in office on merit."

Generally, Prof Shivji added, there were many issues in the Constitution, which should be reviewed and the issue of an independent National Assembly and its Speaker and the appointment of ministers, should be looked into.

"What is needed is taking stock of what has happened to this country over the last 20 years and asking ourselves whether the policies adopted by the second and third phase governments and continued by the fourth phase government are correct," he said.

The head the Political Science Department at UDSM, Dr Benson Bana, said though the idea was good, there was no need to introduce the changes now, as the system had not failed.

"The idea is desirable but not feasible because we use the Commonwealth parliamentary system, which is different from that of the US," said Dr Bana said.

A senior UDSM lecturer, Dr Azaveli Lwaitama, welcomed the idea, but also cautioned that there was need for clear criteria of who qualifies to be a minister. He also said that those appointed must be endorsed by Parliament.

"This way, the ministers will be free to advise the President and act on issues on their merit rather than thinking politically," said Dr Lwaitama.

Delegates to the two-day Research and Education for Democracy in Tanzania (REDET) conference said it was time the Government allowed independent candidates in elections. They said it was unconstitutional to deny private candidates a chance to exercise their democratic right.

This, according to Dr Bana, was among several resolutions reached yesterday by representatives of political parties, academia, civil society and the donor community (attending as observers) at the end of a conference held at UDSM.

Dr Bana, who is also the vice-chairman of REDET, said the delegates had also recommended that elections of councillors be held alongside those of local government leaders. "There is no logical explanation for the government to oppose the private candidates," he said.

The delegates also proposed that voters should use the same identity cards in the local government elections and in the General Election to avoid bureaucracy and cut unnecessary costs.

The meeting welcomed the decentralisation by devolution (D by D) move by the Government, citing it as a major tool to boost grassroots participation in governance.

Earlier, a member of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Prof Amon Chaligha, supported calls to amend the Constitution to allow independent candidates to run for elections. Prof Chaligha said the time was ripe for Tanzania to embrace private candidates to entrench democracy.

"Having candidates only from political parties is against the constitutional right of one to vote or be voted in as a leader. It is also an open secret that not all citizens like to be members of political parties or are, indeed, not members," he said.

The delegates warmly received Prof Chaligha's remarks on the second day of the conference.

Only CCM representatives opposed the suggestion to have independent candidates run for civic, parliamentary and presidential elections.

The independent candidates issue is the subject of court battle, which the Government lost. However, it is planning to appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal that threw out its case.

The Government had gone to the Court of Appeal to challenge a High Court's ruling acknowledging the right of private candidates to participate in elections. The Government has twice lost the case filed by the maverick Democratic Party national chairman, the Rev Christopher Mtikila.

Yesterday, a workshop participant from the opposition said the ruling party feared losing its independent-minded members, should the system be allowed.

A participant from Lindi Region, Mr Fatma Abdallah, who is a CCM official, opposed the suggestion. She said: "A leader must be accountable and responsible to a party after he or she is elected. This ensures no one worked for own interests at the expense of those who voted for them."

High Court judges Ameir Manento, Salum Massati and Thomas Mihayo in 2006, gave a resounding ruling, allowing private candidates to vie for political posts. The judges agreed that citizens, irrespective of their status, should be allowed to contest elections.

Kigoma North MP Zitto Kabwe (Chadema) said he would table a private member�s motion in Parliament so that the Government is compelled to allow private candidates.

No comments: