Claims of intimidation and fear of victimisation among members of the Constituent Assembly (CA) were made yesterday as the debate on Standing Orders exposed a deeply emotional views on the method of voting that should be used.
Virtually all members who spoke on the second day of the debate spent their time on the thorny issue of whether the assembly should adopt an open or secret voting system, with some suggesting that an invisible hand may be out to manipulate and influence delegates. The other two of the 87 items under the Standing Orders that received substantial mention were the quorum and how to treat “dissenting” views during proceedings.
The CA came to life on Wednesday following the tabling of the Standing Orders by Prof Costa Mahalu on behalf of a special committee that had been tasked to prepare them for debating.
The interim chairman Mr Pandu Ameir Kificho continued to steer a civil, but sometimes emotionally charged debate, as some members took a dig at colleagues perceived to present overly controversial views.
There were fears the days set aside for debating and thereafter approving the Standing Orders would not be enough as the debate neared its scheduled end yesterday.
It is widely believed that CCM had directed its members to push for an open ballot system in order to check those from its flock who would deviate from the party’s stand on various aspects of the Draft Katiba.
Some CCM members fear that if they openly expressed their stand against the party’s preferences, they would be punished or face other unspecified consequences.
Yesterday a number of prominent CCM legislators publicly declared that they would not support open voting on grounds that it went against democratic principles. Ms Ester Bulaya (Special Seats – CCM), Prof Juma Kapuya (Urambo West – CCM) expressed support for the secret ballot when they stood up to air their views. They said an open voting method will violate their basic rights and break Section 27 of the Constitution Review Act 2011.
Prof Kapuya, a former Cabinet minister, warned that the open ballot would expose members to threats and divide the nation as the public will judge their representatives on the way they voted.
Mr John Shibuda (Maswa East-Chadema) who defected from CCM and won a Parliamentary seat on an opposition ticket warned the open vote may exacerbate sectarian differences.
MPs from the ruling CCM as well as those affiliated to the ruling party among the 201 members appointed by President Kikwete were among those opposed open voting.
Prof Mahalu said on Wednesday his team proposed the secret voting and electronic voting as was recommended by the secretariat team which designed the CA Standing Orders.
Those who opposed a secret ballot system included Land, Housing and Settlement Minister Prof Anna Tibaijuka, Deputy Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children Dr Pindi Chana and Dr Lucy Nkya and Mohamed Abood Mohamed from House of Representatives among others.
Prof Tibaijuka who worked for the UN before plunging into politics, said the open ballot system was common at the international body and saw nothing bad with it.
However, Ms Esther Matiko (Chadema – Special Seat), Mr Rashid Mtutta, Mr John Mnyika (Ubungo-Chadema) and Mr Hija Hassan Hija opposed the open ballot, arguing that the system was only meant to serve the interest of a certain political party.
“I was one of those, who preferred the open ballot system, but after I heard my colleagues who discussed the Draft of Standing Orders, I sensed that there is a plot behind the system,” said Mr Mnyika.
He added “I have seen a dossier from a certain political party which indicates that some members’ support for the open ballot here is actually the party’s stand.”