TANZANIA is on the verge of a constitutional war for want of a new constitution. This is a result of glaring repugnant provisions of the present constitution, in a situation where the tough roots of democratization dig deep into the ground, 18 years since their offshoot in 1992.
She searches in vain for signs of hope in the horizon, for solutions to her ever-rising mountain of problems: The Union issue is on the fore, Zanzibar has amended its constitution to enhance greater autonomy previously not thought of, creating surprises and disappointments to many as to what type of a Union was envisaged by its authors in 1964.
Again, as a surprise to everyone, Zanzibar now has its own national flag, a coat of arms and a national anthem; while the Court of Appeal which was a Union matter has been scrapped off in Zanzibar, and some powers of the Union President over Isles dropped.
The economy has failed to stir, national unity is in shambles, as patriotism reels down to the lowest ebb, while corruption continues to choke society.
For a proud nation, the endless groping in darkness is particularly depressing; all her seemingly enormous human and material resources prove to be of no avail as the nation continues her downward trend, decaying inexorably while plunder of natural resources takes its toll.
With debt heaping on debt, and standard of living crashing at a threatening speed, the realization has finally, but painfully, come: here is another Brazil in the making! Has the nation already been mortgaged, her future effectively sealed?
The picture on the political and social front is even more disheartening. There is an undeniable collapse of moral responsibility, as the nation is being continuously ravaged from all sides by vultures, her resources subjected to unyielding, massive plunder, lacking thought for the welfare of the people, nor a merciful concession to the generations to come.
One word describes the political scene: impasse. Is there a future? The country now turns her attention by a louder outcry to a review of its constitution, in the hope that a ray of light can yet be found to a bright future.
Constitutional review, it is thought, offers an opportunity for an orderly, measured approach to nation building, for a way out of the impasse.
The sad part of this task is that the present review put before us is a guided one, very much transfixed on specific provisions of the constitution, leaving no room for one to travel on other equally teething provisions of the constitution. Why can’t we allow free people’s opinions on the entire constitution for amendment?
Under such a corrugated landscape of view, we don’t expect major or meaningful amendments worth the name; what will come out will be mere cosmetic changes.
A meaningful constitutional order shall come about if only a number of conditions, by no means easy conditions, have to be fulfilled.
The nation, first of all, must resolve to take the ultimate decision as to what constitution she needs on her own, without the involvement of external forces or interests. It should address itself to home grown solutions to its problems.
We must resolve never to imitate or copy wholesale the constitutions of Europe or America, with which she shares very little, in terms of culture, values and history.
All men of insight know that no nation can rely on facsimiles, especially in matters having a direct bearing on human destiny. As a rule, facsimiles rarely work.
The new constitution must put the nation’s interests above others, and user surrender to the whims of party politics, under whose shadow they are operating. Such interests are above all to the nation as a whole, at whose feet they place their individual honour and integrity.
The constitutional order comes at a propitious time, when events of historic nature are taking place at both national and global levels, from which good and lasting lessons can be learnt.
The world is faced with a renewed drive by imperialism to consolidate its hold on smaller nations, through the operation of a lopsided and iniquitous monetary system, using the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other global financial institutions, and where these fail, through political destabilization or even outright invasion. The debt-trap, of which Tanzania is herself a victim, is just one manifestation of the designs of imperialism.
At the same time, some of the weak nations, as we are, are fighting back to retrieve their honour, and wrestle control of their destiny from the oppressor-nations by fortifying in their constitutions the basic wants and needs of their peoples.
The result in some cases has been astounding, raising hope world-wide for all those who care for their sovereignty and freedom, and serving as a warning to imperialism.
On the economic front, the vigorous revival of Capitalism in the West has had mixed results, but for the majority of the people it has only exposed the weaknesses inherent in the system: its lack of compassion for the poor and the oppressed; its appealing disregard for human suffering; its subordination of human wellbeing to the odious greed and hedonism the inhuman methods it applies in securing the primacy of industries even at the expense of lives of millions, at the expense of whole continents.
A constitution is at its best if it is a product of a social change, ushering in for the people a fresh breath of life, fresh ideals, a sense of destiny: and if it is inspired by intelligent, conscientious, far-sighted leaders-visionaries of the highest order.
The constitution, when made under such favourable conditions, when the nation is in confident, triumphant mood, becomes an embodiment of the natural will of the people, the consensus of the nation, and acquires an enduring value.
But when a constitution is being made or reviewed at a time a nation suffers from depression, bewilderment bordering on schizophrenia, and overcast by the shadow of foreign pressure and dictatorship, the best that can be done is to improvise.
This raises the question as to the nature of the constitution Tanzania needs at the moment. Firstly, it should be a constitution which acknowledges the irresistible pressure for change inherent in human society. Change is nurtured by ideas, and man’s desire for justice and freedom.
There are forces still advocating Socialism, forces advocating a reformed Capitalism-but both operating within a secular world view. People must have the ultimate say.
There should be a wholehearted recognition of the inevitability of diversity as to political and social thoughts, and that when carefully cultivated, diversity is an asset.
The constitution should honestly define ab initio its own boundaries, implicitly or explicitly as a human document.
It should not repeat the mistake of building castles in the air by arrogating to itself unattainable powers and attributes. Our 1997 constitution has precisely that, falsely assuming the powers as the final arbiter on all moral and political matters, and claiming an authority higher than the sacred scriptures, and six feet above criticism.
A constitution derives solely from its acceptance as a writ of accord as to how people want to be governed, and how they want to co-exist as a multi-religious, multi-national country in the spirit of harmony, cooperation and reciprocal obligations.
Any fresh attempts to impose on the constitution attributes outside its legitimate national mandate will only decaden it in the womb.
The constitution should show and define in black and white, the type of Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar in accordance with the demands and dictates of the Articles of Union, to bring to an end the frequent and several “Polluted political air” incidences in the isles, or “Kero za Muungano” – Union tussles now at the fore. The situation as of now is that “when Zanzibar sneezes, the mainland catches a cold”. We should not be subjected to sleepless nights over manageable Union matters all the time.
Finally, we need a constitution which imposes on the nation and her government some moral responsibilities, which must be discharged.
The state should constitutionally be bound to treat people, high and low, with utmost respect and decency. People are virtually subjected to robbery, insults and at times to physical abuse by security forces during interrogations, in prisons and in police chambers as if they have been proved criminals.
Government must be run on the basis of compassion. This will replace the present culture of primitive cruelty-cruelty symbolized by the current language of government: “We will deal ruthlessly with…..”. Compassion will urge the state to abolish torture and all inhuman treatments meted to people in prison.
We need a state with an acute conscience, not the mindless monster calling themselves as modern states. The state should be compelled to fight the root of moral evils in society and never to succumb to the pressures of multi-nationals who have built their empire on precisely those things that ruin lives and nations.
The state should be committed to a struggle against dependency and subservience, and to securing political and economic sovereignty and self-reliance in every sphere of life.
To this end, the state must take direct control of the mineral resources; economic and trade relations with other countries should be based on the principle of reciprocity – measure for measure. Similarly, everything that touches upon national security must be in absolute control of the state.
Foremost is the principle of trust. The nation herself should be treated as a trust to be managed well with all sense of responsibility, so that she can provide all her people need in terms of happiness, comfort and decent living and at the same time be healthy enough to meet the needs of the generations to come.
The principle of trust encapsulates among other things, some few propositions: One is that, society is the primary owner of all natural resources, in which, consequently, all people have equal right of access. These resources should not be made an exclusive monopoly of some few economically well off to the detriment of others, or used to the disadvantage of the people, or denied to any.
Two, that some of these resources are of strategic nature, in the sense that its exploitation and utilization do have ultimate decisive bearing on the nation’s sovereignty, her place in the world and her future; thus the more abundant and lasting they are, the stronger and secure the nation’s sovereign status, the more fortified her future.
The exploitation, sale and utilization of these resources-gold, diamonds, oil, iron and the fauna, only to name a few, cannot be left to the discretion of the government, but must be defined Constitutionally in very precise terms. The Government must not be allowed to dig out these non-renewable, strategic resources daily at such colossal scale as if there is no tomorrow.
Constitutional provisions are needed to institutionalize a coordinated national strategy to preserve Nature and environment. The quality of water we drink, the food we eat, and air we breathe, the soil from which all nourishment is derived must surely matter to us.
Leadership must be seen as a responsibility, rather than a license. Can we put in the constitution that the president, and therefore, everyone in high office, shall be subject to law, like everyone else in society?
The constitution must go beyond the “Code of Conduct” and its bureau. It should aim at developing into a stronger and more authoritative institution that has the power to summon anyone in the country to account for his conduct of public office, and any infringement of the criteria set for public officers – past and present, in the light of what they were supposed to earn legitimately. There must be accountability, or else the state will fall.