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Shivji: No need for hurry about Constitution Bill

13th November 2011
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Professor Issa Shivji

The opposing voices against planned tabling the Bill of Constitution for a second mention deem to be getting impetus as the government is urged to table it for first mention in the National Assembly in Dodoma.

This would provide enough room for the majority of citizens to share views on the subject and enable the Constitutional Commission to carry out a thorough review of the bill.

Speaking at the forum prepared in Dar es Salaam on Saturday by Tanzania Centre for Democracy Professor Issa Shivji, who was the main forum facilitator, said there was no point to hurry as the Bill for New Constitution is a serious matter, which defines the fate of the nation.

“Withdrawing the Bill from being discussed as the second mention will provide for the second opportunity of the citizen to continue sharing their opinion, grievances, and even their hopes on what really they want included in the prospect constitution, something which is every citizen’s basic right,” he said.

Professor Shivji used the forum to give what he believed personally to be three key organs in coordinating the process of airing, collecting and reviewing citizens’ opinions over the Bill for the new constitution.

He listed them as Constitutional Commission, Constituent Assembly and Citizens’ opinion vote, saying they should be the ideal organs..

“The Constitutional Commission is an organ for facilitation and reviewing. The organ will facilitate citizens to give out their opinion and after that it will organise and scientifically review them regardless of any basis of the opinion,” explained Prof. Shivji

He insisted the Constitutional Commission would not be representing any political affiliation; rather it will be of expertise in nature. This will allow the organ to perform its duties without interference from any external forces.

In regard to Constituent Assembly, Professor Shivji clarified that; this is what will be a representative organ set by the citizen themselves regardless of their political background, educational merits or any other individual interest.

“Members of this organ will be elected just like the general election by the citizens themselves except here individual interests will not be a factor.

The role and appointment of these members grants no special status to any member, thus there won’t be any minister and they will not be referred to members of parliament, but simply delegates,” clarified Shivji.

Citizens’ Opinion Vote on the other hand, is neither representative nor participatory organ, rather a direct democracy organ. However, he warned that despite its direct democracy status, “this organ maybe abused if not well involved.”

“This is the all-citizen organ where every citizen has the right to say whatever opinion deem appropriate for inclusion within the prospect of new constitution. But collection of these opinions must allow enough time first, for the citizens to make informed decision,” alerted Professor Shivji.

Contrasting the current organs, Professor Shivji points they are questionable if they can really perform their duties unfavorably. He reasoned the basis for formulation of organs provides narrow if not none room for freedom of their performance.

“Imagine, the presidents (of the United Republic of Tanzania and Zanzibar) are two individuals who appoint members of the Constitutional Committee and apart from the few qualities of the members mentioned, the presidents are free to choose in accordance to their own qualities,” criticised Professor Shivji.

In addition to the appointment measures, members of the committee are to be paid by the Minister of Constitutional and Legal Affairs. This will also jeopardize the committee’s integrity in their performance.

Apart from the organs, Shivji suggested that the number of members in the constitutional committee be reduced to not more than 20. He said the current number is too big and certainly doesn’t guarantee effective performance.

Furthermore, he suggested that universities and professional organisations are to be the major bodies to appoint committee members and that the President is to choose from the appointed list and not from his own choice.

Regarding paying the committee, Shivji was of the view that the proper way is to be directed by the law itself and that the collected report sent to the president should be made public, so that the citizen would also be well informed about the report.

Advocate Sam Mapande, who represented Chama Cha Mapinduzi at the forum, defended article 9(2) of the Bill of the new constitution, saying it regards Tanzania is a nation. He said altering that would mean a change of that current status.

Representative from Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo, Fred Hatari and those from other political parties, concur with Shivji - that tabling of the Bill should not be as per second mention.

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY
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