Standoff looms over Tanzania’s political parties law

Saturday January 05 2019

Opposition supporters in Tanzania. Opposition parties claim the proposed law will reduce an already shrinking political space. PHOTO | AFP


Tanzania faces a stalemate between the government and the opposition as party leaders seek to prevent parliament from making a law they consider unconstitutional.

Parliament, which is dominated by Chama cha Mapinduzi members, is expected to debate and very likely pass a controversial Bill that seeks to repeal the Political Parties Act (1992), which the opposition says is aimed at suppressing pluralist politics in the country.

A coalition of 10 opposition parties went to the High Court in December seeking orders to stop debate over the law, which they say will paralyse political activity in the country, to their detriment.

Last week, on Friday, the court dismissed State Attorney Mark Mulwambo’s plea for 21 days to file a response and ordered it to file in nine days. The hearing will be held on January 11, before the Bill is tabled in parliament on January 15.

While the opposition has been fighting against a 2016 directive by President John Magufuli that sought to prevent political parties from holding rallies, they fear that the Political Parties Bill will formalise a crackdown on opposition parties.

The 10 opposition parties have fronted three applicants — Joran Bashange, Salim Bimani and Zitto Kabwe — to challenge the Bill as contravening the Constitution, interfering with the freedoms of expression, privacy and the right for parties to manage their affairs. The respondent is the Attorney-General.


The Bill, if passed, will shield the Registrar of Political Parties from legal challenges. It was drafted in 2017 and assistant Registrar of Political Parties Sisty Nyahoza said they gave political parties, civil society and other stakeholders two weeks to submit their proposals.

Among the major changes proposed are term limits for political parties’ leadership and punishment for party leaders who violate party laws.

It also seeks to bar political parties from forming defence and security groups, while seeking to enforce peaceful and orderly meetings. The Registrar will have powers to demand any information from any political party.