Tuesday, 7 January 2014


This year dawns with many people unsure of how it may end and how they may fare, either as individuals or as members of recognisable groups. There are just too many questions left unanswered from last year and the years before it for anyone to claim they have peered into the crystal ball.

This may not amount to anything to write home about, for who has ever been able to foretell — Nostradamus apart — what the future holds? Of course, people will surmise, guesstimate, postulate and conjecture. All these suppose incomplete, or absent, scientific givens for divining the future.

Yet we can all be certain, almost, that if it rises it shall set, and if it’s born it shall die. That the river will not flow uphill, and that if the village dogs start crowing and the cats take to barking, there is something very seriously wrong.

For the time being, however, we do not have to deal with the more surreal and the outlandish because we have enough material to play with that is more mundane than that, more down to earth.

Take the proposed new constitution, for instance. No magical realism there. The chair of the constitutional review commission, Joseph Warioba, said the other day that the proposed three-tier government came from the views collected during the public hearing conducted by his team; he and his commission were not inventing anything new.

Still, certain people in his own party incline to the view that notwithstanding the views expressed by the public, Warioba should have been able to craft a proposal that rejected the idea of three governments within the Union.

I have failed to make head or tail of the arguments advanced by ruling party in this area, and I admit bafflement.

So, when the constituent assembly is convened, I expect the ruling party, which will be in a sizeable majority, to shoot this proposal down. If this happens, it will open up a new Pandora’s Box that may lead to an impasse and a possible constitutional crisis.

President Jakaya Kikwete said the other day — and it’s the law — that if there is no agreement on a new constitution, the 1977 Constitution will remain in force. That is to say, after all the expense in money, time and emotions, the nation will be told, very simply, hey, guys, too bad it didn’t work, so we go back to our old ways... until the next time!

Of course, there are better ways to provoke the ire of the populace, but this one could be a true shocker. Even a lame-duck presidency should shudder to think of such an eventuality, which would make people feel they have been had.

Lame duck, did I say? Next year, we have presidential elections and the current incumbent is literally accounted for; he cannot run, and this has meant that his wannabe successors have been jostling across the land, preening themselves and doing a very poor job of masking their presidential ambitions.

And all along, they have been exhibiting the very bankruptcy of the political system that allows their mediocrity to even be considered for high office, let alone the highest office in the land.

They started in churches and mosques, where they have been doing their best to bribe God with contributions to this or that charitable cause. But I suspect the Great Wizard has not been listening, or if he has, he is not impressed.

For, it seems to me that our next chief will be determined by boda-boda riders, who seem to have become a popular constituency with these “:presidentials,” who tell the ill-disciplined bikers that they will be a priority in the coming administration.

In all this, Kikwete looks pretty much a spectator, the quintessential lame duck whose mantle his squabbling juniors would happily tear from his back were the rules to be more relaxed than they already are. Which means, in turn, that when it comes to finally determining the country’s constitution, the duck could be even lamer.

That’s only from my crystal ball, so kindly ignore it, and have a Happy New Year!

Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail:ulimwengu@jenerali.com

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