MEMBERS of the Constituent Assembly who will convene next week to start discussing and drafting the new constitution, have been urged to place the nations’ interests ahead of political party affiliations so that they produce a constitution that is in public interest.
Addressing leaders from government, political parties and religious groups in a two-day forum organized by Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD) Vice President Dr Mohammed Gharib Bilal said that if the interest of the public is placed before anything else, the country will move ahead, otherwise there will be an impasse.
“The new constitution is ours. There is no need to fight but instead, we all need to work together, because if we place Tanzania as a whole ahead of our own interests we will move forward,” he stressed at the forum which started on Wednesday.
Dr Gharib Bilal represented President Jakaya Kikwete who is in the United Kingdom attending a summit on how to save the world’s most endangered species at the behest of Prince Charles.
Dr Gharib Bilal noted that although the election fever has started being felt across the country, it should not hinder the members of the constituent assembly from producing a document that will help the state forge ahead peacefully.
“This is a rare opportunity that happens once in a life time. It is a serious and very important process and we need to employ wisdom in ensuring we get a document that serves the nation. We should do what we can now and not wait for later,” he explained.
The Vice President noted that the government does not condone threats or activities that will plunge the nation into chaos. He urged everyone to demonstrate respect and responsibility.
He called for the noble culture of discussing issues and arriving at consensus in public interest without using threats or getting into fights. He praised the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) for the progressive work it has done so far.
He noted that the process has revealed challenges that the government needs to address. “The whole process has also revealed challenges facing the nation, giving us the opportunity to find solution before we actually get the new constitution,” he added.
He said the whole process towards getting the new constitution should leave the public in peace, unity and harmony.
He pointed out that one of the hottest topics that will take centre stage during the discussion and drafting of the new constitution is the issue of the Union.
He said there are a lot of major development activities that have successful been implemented under the Union. He noted that there is a need to add more Union activities especially in areas of Education and Health instead of reducing them.
On his part the TCD Chairman, Mr James Mbatia, called on all political parties to go into the discussions and drafting of the new constitution with one goal in mind — producing a document that will serve all regardless of political affiliations.
Mr Mbatia said there should be alternative plans for different issues so that deliberations reach amicable outcomes that will benefit the nation.
“We must have plan A, B and C so that if we do not agree on plan A, we move on to plan B and C. All political parties must go there with a common interest — to ensure that the nation drafts a new constitution that has the interest of the public at heart,” he said.
Mr Mbatia quoted the holy books – the Quran and the Bible — to show verses that speak of unity and working together for a common goal.
The CRC Chairperson Judge Joseph Sinde Warioba, spoke about the entire process toward getting a new constitution. He expounded on what the draft constitution proposes with regard to the structure of the Union and the types of government.
He said that although the draft constitution had proposed a Union comprising three governments, one or two governments is also possible. However, this will only be possible if the differences in the constitution of Zanzibar are reconciled with those of Mainland.
Judge Warioba noted that from the public opinions collected during the initial stage, it will be difficult to convince members of the public in the Isles that Zanzibar is not a country.
“The Union issue was the most debated of all. We received varying views, some of which called for the break-up of the Union itself while other participants proposed a one government structure.
“Some people wanted to see two governments and there were those proposed a four government structure as well,” he explained.
Also present during the forum which sought to contemplate and reconcile the differences as the country moves towards drafting the new constitution, were Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda and a number of ministers including the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Ms Asha-Rose Migiro.