Tanzania's President John Magufuli’s decision to appoint to key posts two major members of the defunct Constitution Review Commission (CRC) who supported a controversial three-tier government model has been seen as a move to gather forces to resume the process of writing a new constitution.
The proposed constitution was shelved by the Jakaya Kikwete administration after disagreements on the model of the Union.
Sources told The EastAfrican that President Magufuli is keen to push for a new constitution based on the recommendations of the Constituent Assembly and the CRC, but there are concerns among his key advisors that involving politicians could derail the process again.
President Magufuli appointed former CRC members Humphrey Polepole and Prof Palamagamba Kabudi as the ruling party CCM publicity secretary and Constitution and Justice Minister respectively. Both have openly supported a three-tier government arrangement despite CCM’s opposition to the idea, which it fears could lead to the breakup of the Union.
Catholic bishops and opposition parties rejected the proposed constitution and called on people to vote against it during the referendum.
Despite the Tanzania Constitution Forum (TCF) being concerned that the government hadn’t allocated funds for the revival of the constitution writing process in the 2017/2018 financial year, they praised the appointment of Prof Kabudi to rescue the process.
“The appointment of Prof Kabudi brings fresh hope of a revival of the constitution review process. We believe in his confidence, knowledge and experience as an academic and a former member of the Constitution Review Commission,” said TCF executive director Hebron Mwakagenda.
Opposition parties, under the umbrella of the Union for the People’s Constitution, said they would boycott the referendum citing irregularities and that it disregarded the opinions of the people.
While CCM prefers the current two-tier government, Zanzibaris are demanding more autonomy for their archipelago. Financing the Union government became an issue of contention as mainlanders maintained that Zanzibar does not contribute to the cost of running the government even though it benefits from it.
However, sources privy to the constitution review process told The EastAfrican that President Magufuli’s focus was to try to merge the draft that the Warioba Commission proposed and the one that the Constituent Assembly had passed.
This week in parliament Prof Kabudi said that the government was currently reviewing all the laws in relation to the new constitution before restarting the review process.
“I am new to the ministry, but the government had other priorities when it came into power. The process will now resume from where it ended,” Prof Kabudi said.
While the people’s opinion was that the power of the president, like the appointment of senior government officials, be reduced, the new document that came out of the Constituent Assembly neither reduced the powers of nor subjected the presidency to checks and balances.
Another issue that was also rejected, is interference between the three pillars of the state — the legislature, executive and judiciary, specifically allowing members of parliament to become ministers.
The people had proposed that the constitution allow them to fire non-performing MPs before the end of their term; this was thrown out.