Tanzania to delay constitutional review
Tanzanians will have to wait until the year 2027 to taste the new constitution after the government said there is a need for at least three years of civic education.
The move effectively means Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu will face re-election in 2025 under the existing constitution which opposition groups have criticised for providing unequalled playing field.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Damas Ndumbaro said that the government’s priority is to conduct a nationwide dialogue and civic education to inculcate knowledge amongst the citizenry of the contents of the present Constitution written initially in 1977 but amended several times and its complex matters therewith.
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“We need a fifth constitution which is proper in order not to be compelled within a short time thereafter to draft a sixth one,” Ndumbaro said.
Incidentally, 2027 will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the birth of the country’s existing constitution of 1977.
But campaigners cried foul over the Ndumbaro’s decision saying it is a delaying tactic they argue is politically motivated to assist the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi(CCM, and to win the forthcoming general elections.
They also questioned the prudent utilisation of a budgetary allocation worth Tanzanian shillings 9 billion ($3,583,701 set aside for this financial year’s activities on constitutional reforms and democratic values improvements in the country in the absence of a public consensus on what a priority should be the draft new constitution or the suggested “wasteful”civic education.
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“Three extra years? Are we taking and talking of a degree course or what?” Anna Henga the Executive Director of the Legal and Human Rights Commission (LHRC posed.
Henga called for immediate launch of a new constitution process campaign and pass of a Bill for Constitutional Reforms and a Bill for National Referendum to pave way for the process to take off.
A government-sponsored taskforce on political reform in the country late last year recommended the establishment of an independent electoral commission and the contesting in High Court of the presidential election results unlike before.
The task force led by Prof Rwekaza Mukandala however overruled the idea of rushing in re-writing the constitution suggesting that the process could take longer than thought.
Mukandala’s team learnt from its intervieweescitizens that while a section of them think it is time to have a Katiba Mpya others think that the process is expensive and costlier.
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“A good number of interviewees highlighted the costs involved in preparing a fresh Katiba Mpya (new constitution draft, and others said previous drafts could be used as a starting point even though the last one is already eight years old and was prepared two elections ago,” Mukandala said during presentation of the taskforce findings.
The team proposed that all future and independent National Electoral Commission (NEC’s decisions, including presidential election results, be allowed to be disputed or questioned in the highest court of the land. This is significant because Tanzania’s presidential election results are legally not challengeable in court once the electoral commission declares them.