Saturday, October 30, 2010

JK stresses need to ensure justice for all

President Jakaya Kikwete, who is seeking re-election as a candidate of the ruling CCM, declared yesterday that it would be wrong and unfair denying people their constitutional right to vie for elective posts merely because they had cases pending in courts of law. He said he would not go for modalities likely to make suspects forfeit the chance of trying their luck in elections before they are convicted “which is when they will surely have lost that opportunity”. The candidate made the remarks in response to a question during a landmark live “dialogue” with journalists in Dar es Salaam, seen as part of the wrap-up of his cross-country election campaigns ahead of tomorrow’s General Election. He was reminded that several CCM parliamentary candidates have cases pending in court and asked whether it was not strange that he has been campaigning for them when touring their constituencies during his own campaign rallies. He said he has been campaigning for himself and CCM members cleared to vie for positions as parliamentarians or councillors. “Before deciding to endorse the people in question as contestants, the party’s leaders met and discussed the matter thoroughly and agreed that since they had cases to answer in court but the courts were not done with them, it was their right to contest since it is only the courts with the mandate to rule whether one has committed an offence,” Kikwete pointed out. He said the major issue the party considered was the fundamental importance of doing justice to all people seeking positions of leadership “and it is not that we do not know or believe that they are faced with court cases”. Asked about problems with the marketing and pricing of farm produce in the country, he said that was one of the most daunting challenges his government has been facing “but we have managed to tame it to some extent”. He had been specifically asked what he would do if re-elected to ensure that the more than 80 per cent of Tanzanians engaged in agriculture have ready and easier access to reliable markets and get good prices for their produce.
The candidate said his government has taken various measures to that effect, among them improving irrigation schemes, making available more farm inputs, subsidies and extension officers. “However, when you talk of markets and prices you are talking about one of the most daunting challenges we have been facing. In part, it is a consequence of the poor management of our cooperative unions,” he noted. He explained that not only were the cooperative unions heavily indebted to farmers and financial institutions and had totally to honour their debt obligations. “Both the farmers and the banks demanded payment, but the unions were hard up, subsequently losing their creditworthiness,” he said. Kikwete said he once visited Newala and Masasi districts, which are famous from cashewnut farming, and discovered that farmers were not benefiting from their sweat and toil. “I decided to have the government take over the responsibility of paying the debts of all cooperative unions and when I did that, now the prices are up. Farmers can now sell their cashewnuts at 800/- per kg – up from the previous 300/-,” he said. The candidate dismissed the possibility of vote rigging in the General Election, saying the present system does not give room for that eventuality “because everything is done in a transparent way”. He added that, if re-elected, he would form the cabinet by learning from the experience of the first phase of his presidency “when I found that there were a number of shortcomings in some government departments”.

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