Dar es Salaam. CHADEMA Secretary-General John Mnyika has outlined five qualities that the opposition party thinks should be taken into consideration in any constitutional and legal process that seeks to deliver a truly independent National Electoral Commission (NEC) to the people of Tanzania.
In a memo that the party released on December 28, 2021, Mr Mnyika noted that the independence of any electoral supervision body depends on how it is obtained, starting from the recruitment of its senior officials; the availability of its resources; as well as the laws and regulations that govern it.
According to Mr Mnyika, the first step towards the availability of a truly independent NEC is to have its officials drawn from people who either personally applied to serve in the commission or recommended by people with high social standing within the communities.
The next step should involve public scrutiny of these people, a step that will be followed by an appointment of those people to serve in the commission. But unlike now where the president, alone, appoints the officials, Mr Mnyika advices that the appointment be made by an independent organ that he did not outline its availabilit arrangement.
The fourth process, according to Mr Mnyika, should involve a confirmation hearing of the appointed officials that will be done by the Parliament, which will be followed by their swearing in. Mr Mnyika advices against the idea of having the president swearing in the officials. He instead suggests that the swearing in be conducted by the Chief Justice.
Mr Mnyika’s five-point recommendation towards the availability of an independent electoral commission comes at a time when Tanzanians are debating what should come first between an independent electoral body and the New Constitution.
While others suggest that the New Constitution should come first, arguing that that will pave the way for an independent electoral commission and other important electoral reforms, othrers have however argued that the independent electoral commission should come first as that would lead to the availability of the New Constitution.
Many in CHADEMA belong to the former group while ACT-Wazalendo is advocating the latter approach, with its party leader Zitto Kabwe being the staunchest proponent.
Mnyika’s proposal also concides with the formation of a task force by the Registrar of Political Parties Judge (Retired) Francis Mutungi to follow up on key issues agreed during a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss the state of multiparty democracy in Tanzania that sat in the capital Dodoma between December 15 to December 17, 2021.
One of the issues raised at the meeting, which was also attended by members of the civil society, religious organizations as well as the Police Force, included the need for an independent electoral commission, coupled with new laws and regulations.
Others included the need to review the current Political Parties Act; the renewal of the stalled constitutional-making process; and the need to lift the illegal ban on political rallies.
The Mutungi-formed task force will compile recommendations and submit them to the Council of Political Parties that in turn will submit to the government.
In his memo, that draws electoral experiences from a range of countries – from India, Kenya and Canada to South Africa and the United States – Mr Mnyika proposes an electoral commission that he calls “participatory,” which means one that involves the inputs of other electoral stakeholders – which means voters and political parties – in its formation and undertaking.
“Given the pace of digitization in Tanzania and globally,” Mr Mnyika writes in the detailed memo, “it would be easy for people to actively participate in every thing that concerns the electoral commission if the opportunity will be granted.”
Mr Mnyika, however, does not think that having an independent electoral body at the national level only would be enough to ensure electoral justice in Tanzania.
“After having this commission at the national level,” notes Mr Mnyika, “the constitution and the law will need to empower it to hire its executives, like Executive Director,” and other senior officials.