Vested interests behind Tanzania law change push

Wednesday February 17 2021
Jakaya Kikwete.

Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete started the constitutional review process. PHOTO | AFP


There are two groups behind the growing calls for constitutional change in Tanzania. One is campaigning for changes that will bring equity to the political scene while the other is seeking an extension of President John Magufuli’s tenure.

The first group, made up of activists, is campaigning for constitutional reform that would enable the formation of an Independent Electoral Commission, the other group is made up of several ruling party legislators.

Parliament recently resumed amid renewed calls for an extension of tenure for the president led by two MPs who argue that President Magufuli “is too good to go.”

Last year, the Speaker of the National Assembly expressed similar sentiments, vowing “to force’’ President Magufuli to accept extension of tenure.

The group seeking electoral reforms is led by clerics, politicians, members of the civil societies and elite citizens, who are now considering streets protests to push their agenda. Long-time opposition figure Ibrahim Lipumba promised to pursue the matter started by former president Jakaya Kikwete. He was speaking at a gathering commemorating 100 years of the country’s judicial work last week, where President Magufuli was the guest of honour,

Prof Lipumba has been calling for the establishment of an independent national electoral commission to replace the current one, which is deemed biased.



Back in 2012, former president Kikwete appointed Joseph Warioba president of the Constitutional Review Commission. Mr Warioba said then that a new constitution was inevitable.

The issue of constitutional change is expected to be discussed in parliament, but already pro-Magufuli MPs have come out fighting.

Speaking in parliament last Wednesday, Humphrey Polepole said that President Magufuli, who doubles as the chairperson of the ruling CCM party, does not wish to run for another term after the expiry of his constitutional two terms in 2025.

Mr Polepole was responding to criticism from Khatibu Said Haji of the Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT-Wazalendo) who accused CCM MPs of toying with the idea of extending the presidential tenure.

However, political analysts say since CCM has the parliamentary majority, it is only a matter of time before the push to amend the Constitution gets to the House where it could probably pass.

Opposition politicians have pledged to support demands for a new constitution, maintenance of democratic values, rule of law and an independent electoral commission as soon as possible.

“We declare 2021 as the year to revive the new constitution writing process that will enable us to cure past and present wounds,” the chairman of the main opposition Chadema party Freeman Mbowe said in a recorded New Year video message.

He echoed statements made earlier by the leaders of the ACT-Wazalendo and Civic United Front (CUF) parties.