Zim’s vote on new constitution a lesson on what not to do for Tanzania?

April 15, 2013 at 9:21 am Leave a comment

By Fidelis Butahe
The Citizen Correspondent

Dar es Salaam. As Tanzanians are eagerly waiting for the draft Constitution,
which will be released by the Constitutional Review Commission soon (CRC),
their counterparts in Zimbabwe have overwhelmingly voted in their draft
Constitution.

Zimbabwe’s draft Constitution which limits the presidential term and
protects a wide range of human rights needs only the endorsement of the
Parliament to become the fundamental law.

The new Constitution draft seeks to replace the current one written at
Lancaster House, London, before Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in
1980.

The Constitution is expected to be a guiding force for the general election
scheduled for late this year. It, for the first time, limits the president
to two five-year term.

However, it is not ex post facto, thus, President Mugabe, already the eldest
African leader at the age of 89, could continue to rule Zimbabwe until he
turns 99 in 2023 if he will win in the forthcoming general election.

The constitutional making process started after the violence-marred
presidential election in 2008 which resulted in a power-sharing government
between President Mugabe’s ZANU PF and Premier Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T.

Unlike the case of Zimbabwe and Kenya, the ongoing process in Tanzania was
not triggered by political unrests or turmoil. This places Tanzania in a
better position to write a Constitution which can be the ultimate solution
to Tanzania’s problems.

The Citizen on Sunday Correspondent Fidelis Butahe met with Tanzania
Constitutional Forum (TCF)chairman Deus Kibamba who went to observe the
referendum in Zimbabwe and shared the Zimbabwe experience which could be
employed in Tanzania to strengthen the constitution making process.

According to Mr Kibamba, civic education on the referendum was given only
four days before the voting day and that was largely associated with a
shortage of funds after the money which Zimbabwe asked for from donor
countries came in late.

Out of 6 million eligible voters across Zimbabwe, only over 3 million voters
participated in the referendum and above 3 million passed the draft while
only less than 180,000 people voted against it. Mr Kibamba believes voter
apathy was a result of poor civic education.

“The people of Zimbabwe casted their votes without understanding the draft
Constitution that much, they were only mobilised to vote. To avoid this in
Tanzania, the draft Constitution should be disseminated to people as soon as
possible so they can informed decisions,” he said.

Mr Kibamba also suggests civic education over the constitution making should
not left to the CRC alone, other key players such as civil society
organisations should participate and contribute to the process by educating
Tanzanians.

Absence of civil society and political party agents at polling stations was
another problem experienced in Zimbabwe. The process was only witnessed by
the staff from Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Special Committee (COPAC) and
international observers.

“To avoid any foul play in Tanzania, political parties and civil society
organisations should enlist their agents to observe the voting process until
the results are made public. The agents should be allowed to participate
fully without any obstacles,” he said.

Campaigns for or against the referendum ought to be free and fair, and the
commission entrusted to supervise the process is not supposed to lean on any
side of the campaigns. That, however, was not the case in Zimbabwe whereby
COPAC travelled across the country campaigning for the draft Constitution.

“The CRC should not repeat the mistakes of COPAC, campaigns should be left
to parties and pressure groups who will debate the draft Constitution and
convince Tanzanians why they should vote for or against it,” said Mr
Kibamba.

Once the Parliament in Zimbabwe adopts the draft Constitution, which is
likely it will be done since there will be no one to scrutinise its
implementation: “That is very tricky… they failed to learn from Kenya, to
have new and good Constitution is one thing and implementation is another
thing.”

“You need a independent commission which will ensure the Constitution is
fully applied. Tanzania should go the way of Kenya and not Zimbabwe,” he
said.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: .

Failure to abide by the constitution, the bane of Zim politics Independent but not free

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