Why is Samwel Sitta not interested in the return of UKAWA?

This may appear as a strange allegation against the Constituent Assembly Chairman, Samuel Sitta, who is calling a meeting of its Consultative Committee on 24thJuly, to find a way out of the quagmire over the new constitution. The question is whether he is an honest broker to try to bring the warring parties together so that the CA can complete its work.

I am one of those who were persuaded to vote for Samwel Sitta, as Chairman of the CA, when he was confronted by his arch rival, Andrew Chenge, who was then favoured by the ruling party. Our position was that as a Speaker of the 10th Bunge over which he presided with courage and impartiality, allowing debate which was quite critical and distasteful to the government, and eventually cost him his job. We felt that he was the best choice to guide the CA through this critical stage to the new constitution. We were wrong.

As soon as the ruling party decided to dump his rival for fear of splitting the CCM vote, Sitta no longer felt bound to acknowledge the support of the opposition and maintain his impartiality. It seems that having won the support of his party, he decided to nurture that support for his longer term ambitions about which I do not need to speculate at this time.

More to the point is his interview on his alleged effort to ensure that the CA resumes its work on 5th August, 2014. He has called a meeting of its Consultative Committee, which he will chair himself, consisting of 27 people selected by himself, including two Christian and two Muslim clerics, and other cadres of his choice from among members of the CA, as a lifeboat to rescue the drowning CA. But what he did in the interview was to immediately blow a number of big holes in the lifeboat to make sure that it will sink. Why do I say that?

As an honest broker, he would have been expected to adopt a conciliatory language towards the both sides, and lay a basis for genuine reconciliation(maridhiano). Instead, his interview was full of provocative statements to ensure that the effort will fail. Let me give some of the quotes from your sister newspaper Mwananchi (with my translation):

“Wasiotaka kuhudhuria wananchi watawaelewa na wataamua iwapo nia ni kususa pekee au wenzetu wana ajenda ya siri. … Atakayevimba kichwa na kudharau, wananchi watajua kuwa nia yake ni tofauti na Katiba.” (Those who do not want to attend, the people will understand whether their reason is only to boycott or they have their own secret agenda. … He who will be big-headed and disdainful, the people will know that his intention is other than the Constitution.)

“Yapo mambo muhimu zaidi katika rasimu hii kama vile tume huru ya uchaguzi, orodha ya haki za binadamu, uongozi wa asilimia 50 kwa 50 kijinsia na kuwapa Zanzibar nafasi zaidi katika Serikali ya Muungano, mambo ambayo ni makubwa kuliko muundo…ya nini kuyapiga teke yote haya na kujikita katika muundo pekee?”  (There are many important issues in the draft constitution, e.g. the Independent Electoral Commission, the list of Human Rights, gender equality in the leadership, and to give more places to Zanzibar in the Union Government, matters which are more important than the structure of the Union … to kick all these for the sake of the structure alone?’)

“Iwapo Ikawa watasusia kila kitu, basi wataonyesha kuwa siyo wakomavu wa kisiasa. Inashangaza kuona kuwa kila maoni yao yanaposhindwa wanasusa?” (If Ukawa boycotts everything, they will reveal their immaturity. It is surprising that every time they are defeated on any issue, they boycott.)

And then he admitted the real reason why he was disturbed by the Ukawa walkout, because it deprives the ruling party the two-thirds majority that it needs to do what it wants with the draft constitution, and he offers his habitual solution; change the law and the Standing Orders; and that is precisely one of the reasons why UKAWA walked out. He said:

‘Sitta alisema tatizo kubwa katika Bunge hilo litakalosababishwa na kutokuwapo kwa Ikawa ni namna ya upigaji kura, Iwapo itatokea hali hiyo, Bunge litaangalia upya Sheria ya Mabadiliko ya Katiba ambayo inataka theluthi mbili kufanya uamuzi. …. , iwapo kuna wajumbe hawajatimia, basi wasiokuwapo hawahesabiwi,” alisema. (Sitta said that the big problem in this Bunge caused by the absence of Ukawa is the method of voting. In that case, the Bunge will examine afresh the Constitutional Review law which requires two-thirds majority to take a decision; if there are not enough members, those who are not present will not be counted.

Under these conditions, it seems Sitta wants UKAWA to crawl back into the CA on all fours to give legality as well as legitimacy to what the ruling party wants to do; whether they have two-thirds majority or not. Why should we?

If Samwel Sitta was trying to be an honest broker, he should have realised that the problem was not with the UKAWA walkout, but the reasons that led to the walk-out. It may not be out of place to reiterate these reasons.

The first one was the fact that the ruling party had come to the CA determined to overturn the Draft Constitution which, among other things, proposed, and not for the first time, a three government federal structure, as the only way to end the perennial “Kero za Muungano” (Problems of the Union).

Not only UKAWA, but a majority of Tanzanians believe that the draft constitution tabled at the CA by the Constitutional Review Commission Chairman, Joseph Sinde Warioba, represents the views of the people. Many of the Commissioners initially held different views about the structure of the Union, and our respect for them has risen enormously precisely because they listened to the people, and offered a compromise solution. This is undeniably the heart of the draft constitution around which the whole constitution has been drafted.

The second reason for the UKAWA walkout was the constant changing of the Parliamentary Standing Orders (Kanuni), which were approved unanimously by the CA, every time the ruling party faced a problem; and this has become a habit.

Contrary to the quite unambiguous Kanuni 4(2) that provides that: “kila Mjumbe atatekeleza majukumu yake kwa uhuru, na hatashurutishwa, hatashinikizwa wala kupokea maelekezo kutoka kwa mtu au chombo chochote”  (every member will do his duties with freedom, and will not be forced, or coerced, and will not receive any directives from anybody or any institution), the Publicity Secretary of CCM, Nape Nnauye, said that CCM members were ‘instructed’ to go to the Constituent Assembly with one stand – to defend its two-government union structure, and that anybody not following that directive could not hope to be selected by the party for any position. (Citizen  20.2.2014; dated 21.3.2014 and Mwananchi, dated 18.2.2014 and 8.3.2014).

When it was rumoured that as many as 90 to 100 of the CCM members of the CA were in favour of a three-government federal structure, its Secretary General, Abdulrahman Kinana, admitted that there were only 10 to 15 “wasaliti” (traitors), which is a strange way to describe members of the CA.

This is what led to the tussle over secret or open voting, depriving many of the members their constitutional right to freedom of thought and speech. At least one member was driven to tears and was forced to vote publicly in one of the Committees, but surprisingly, Chairman Sitta said nothing about it.

When it became clear that the ruling party did not have the necessary two-thirds majority from both sides of the Union on the first two chapters discussed by its 12 committees, and therefore in the whole CA, contrary to the regulation that required these chapters to be discussed by the CA for three days only and then voted on, the CCM-dominated Organising Committee decided to prolong discussion for another ten days, and postpone the voting until 5th August to give them enough time to do what they could to change the situation.

This arbitrary political decision cost the country more than 1,250 million shillings that were paid to the 429 members of the CA who remained to eat the “posho.”On the other hand, the 200 UKAWA members, by refusing to participate in this charade, each gave up 300,000 shillings a day, and saved the country 600 million shillings.

Nor has the habit of changing the parliamentary regulations ended. Soon after UKAWA left, the Kanuni was changed again to reduce the time given to the minority UKAWA in their presentation to the CA from 45 minutes to 30 minutes, while increasing that of the majority CCM from 45 minutes to one hour. And, Sitta has now threatened to change even the Constitutional Review law itself to overcome the two-thirds hurdle, although the CA does not have the power to change the law that was passed by the Bunge.

And the third reason why UKAWA left the CA was the foul and discriminatory language that raised the spectre of racial, tribal and even religious discrimination in a country that claims to be democratic. Members were berated for being ‘Indians’, ‘Arabs’, ‘Wapemba’, even ‘Wahadimu’ – a name that had all but disappeared from Zanzibar’s vocabulary. With the memory of the horrible genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, CUF Chairman Ibrahim Lipumba’s warning about Intarahamwe tendencies exhibited in the CA was not inappropriate.

As if that was not enough, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Wailliam Lukuvi, had to toss this noxious salad with own religious invective. At the consecration of a bishop, he told a Christian congregation in Dodoma that people who were pushing for three governments wanted to establish an “Islamic state” in Zanzibar; and if that happened, Christians, who had been saying their prayers in their Catholic and Anglican cathedrals in Zanzibar for more than a century peacefully, will not be able to do so in the future.

These were the reasons why UKAWA walked out of the CA, and the challenge for Sitta or any other who wants to find a solution to the deadlock in the CA was to deal with these problems. So far the only statement that has been heard has been from Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda, who merely said that, if the foul language was the problem, then let us discuss it at the CA. Insults can never skin an honourable man. If the PM thinks that this is the only problem, then we are really in a mess. And, Sitta’s meeting of his Consultative Committee cannot bring a solution.

But, maybe that was his objective anyway. Many aspirants for the presidency next year detest the draft constitution precisely because it reduces the powers of the Imperial Presidency, and they do not want to be President of Tanzania if he/she cannot also control all the riches of Tanganyika, regardless of the long-term survival of the Union, about which they are so loud.

By Prof. Abdul Sherif


3 thoughts on “The problem is not the walkout by UKAWA, but the reasons that led to it”

  1. Tatizo sio UKAWA mh Rais ndiye aliyeparaganya kusema jeshi liatachukua nchi na msimamo wa chama hili si la chama ni wananchi wanataka serikali tatu huu si wakati wa kutishana wakati kukubaliana na huwezi kumlisha mwanao chakula asokitaka na CCM hii nchi si yao peke yao pamoja na wananchi wakiamu sasa hatutaki hata watumie nini na ukawa wanawatetea wananchi ndio maana wakasema laki saba hatutaki hata milioni tano hatutorudi bungeni

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