Monday, October 7, 2013

Opposition positive about president’s address, state conditions

Three opposition parties with representation in Parliament have received President Jakaya Kikwete’s end-of-month address which he issued on Friday last  week with mixed reactions. They say the Head of State left many questions unanswered, particularly on their demand to have the Constitutional Review (Amendment) Bill taken back to Parliament. Due to this uncertainly the three parties - Chadema, CUF and NCCR-Mageuzi - say their plan to hold countrywide demonstrations this week remains intact, unless a clear announcement that the Bill will not be signed is made public. The decision by the three parties was made open on Saturday last week in Dar es Salaam when they issued a joint communiqué by their technical committee which was preceded by an indoor meeting of their leaders held at CUF headquarters in Dar es Salaam. Technical committee members of the three parties were John Mnyika (Chadema), Abdul Kambaya (CUF) and Faustine Sungura (NCCR-Mageuzi). They told a press conference on their standing points basing on three major issues, one of which was to request the president to arrange a particular day to meet with opposition party leaders as he declared in his speech.  On the other hand, the three parties have requested him to call them within the set days before the day earlier proposed for countrywide demonstrations, without which they will go to the streets. Even if the president would meet them before the set date for start of demonstrations and discuss other matters apart from listening to their demand, they would stick to their vow of demonstration, they said. Opposition leaders want the president to declare his intention not to sign the bill on the spot while meeting with them, in which case they would stop the demonstration with immediate effect. They similarly observed that the president noted in his speech that he was informed of the development of the constitutional review process and the Bill, “and came to learn that Zanzibar was not adequately involved in the whole process.” The three parties have unanimously agreed with the president in his directive that the discussion on Zanzibar participation should be taken back to Parliament. In response to that point, the three parties have asked the president to “take to task the responsible Ministers whom they said have cheated the president over the matter.” Mnyika, the Chadema party publicity and MP for Ubungo, named the three ministers as the Minister of State in the President’s Office, Steven Wasira who is responsible for coordination, as well as the Minister of State in Prime Minister’s office responsible for Parliamentary Affairs William Lukuvi, along with minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mathias Chikawe. Mnyika said the three ministers earlier said that the representation of Zanzibar in the whole process was complete, and that when the opposition party wanted to inquire from the State House by a demonstration on the matter, they were refused permission on the matter.  The Zanzibaris should be given the attention they deserve, the MP said, underlining that it is from this point of view the president should take to task his ministers for having relayed wrong information to him. The third point the three parties noted is that in establishing the constituent assembly, which they said it should be equal, as the participation of other civil society groups was necessary in the whole process to balance the ideas likely to be discussed. The issue of restructuring the constituent assembly did not however come up in a sympathetic manner from the president in his remarks, as he targeted opposition fears on his mandate to pick eligible aspirants for the 166 places provided for in the recently amended legislation. The president said that the number of organizations and aspirants to those positions was massive and there was no way they could select themselves, without executive mandate as to who was eligible. He said that Chadema had suggested 40 students and 40 lecturers out of the 166 positions, which the president said was wholly impracticable, thus emphasizing the necessity for the procedure given in the amended law, of the various civic groups to issue lists of aspirants and the president picks them, to stand. President Kikwete said that the method to be used in that regard was to pick individuals who represent more than one organization, as he did with selecting members of the Constitution Review Commission.  He reminded his audience that similar fears had been expressed at that time concerning his having the final say in the membership, but finally most civic groups were satisfied that the selection of members of the commission was diligently done and a professionally competent body, balanced in its representation of the various civic groups in society was unveiled “It should be the case this time as well,” the president insisted, declaring that the fear among opposition parties and some civic groups on his role were largely without merit. He also castigated demands for equal representation of Zanzibar and the Mainland in the Constituent Assembly in like manner as in the constitutional review commission, saying that the two bodies have different roles and must have different compositions. The commission was meant to operate on a principle of consensus, in that they should all agree about something before it is incorporated in the draft constitution, and no voting was intended, unlike the constituent assembly where the voting principle is part of its decision making mechanism, he explained. There is however no question of the Mainland swallowing Zanzibar because of their numbers, he said, pointing out that amending or passing the constitution requires a two thirds majority of each side, counted on its own, in which case the Mainland does not need to reduce its representation to be equal to that of Zanzibar, the president underlined.

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