Dar es Salaam. The resignation of Mr Job Ndugai as Speaker of Parliament continues to stir debates in Tanzania with some senior opposition figures suggesting on Friday that they may consider taking the matter to court to challenge the manner with which the resignation of the Kongwa MP (Chama cha Mapinduzi – CCM) took place.
Mr Ndugai, who first became the Speaker of the National Assembly in 2015, stepped down on Thursday, January 6, 2021, following pressure from senior government and party officials who called on him to resign following an apparent spat with President Samia Suluhu Hassan that concerned borrowing from international lenders.
Ndugai, who served as Deputy Speaker during the 10th Parliament, expressed his concern at the speed with which the government was borrowing to fund its development initiatives, warning against Tanzania being auctioned off, something which Samia dismissed as “2025 general election fever.”
But some opposition figures and activists faulted Mr Ndugai’s resignation that he called “personal and voluntary,” pointing out that due procedure was not followed by the 58-year-old Ndugai who became the first sitting Speaker of Parliament to resign from the position.
The national chairperson with the opposition NCCR-Mageuzi Mr James Mbatia, for instance, told journalists during a press conference in Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam on Friday that Ndugai was still a legitimate Speaker of Parliament.
Citing Article 149 of the Constitution, Mr Mbatia said that in case it happens that the sitting Speaker of the Parliament wishes to resign from their position, they should tender the resignation to the parliament and not otherwise.
“Now [Mr] Ndugai [on Thursday] tendered his resignation letter to CCM Secretary-General [Daniel Chongolo and not to the parliament as the constitution demands],” said Mr Mbatia. “Ours is not CCM’s parliament but that of the United Republic of Tanzania. The entire process of Ndugai’s resignation is invalid and unconstitutional.”
Mr Mbatia suggested during his press conference on Friday that, if his party sees it fit, it may consider going to court to block any process that appears to be in breach of the constitution.
He also said that what Mr Ndugai said should not have caused his resignation in a country that truly enjoys separation of power but it happened in Tanzania where “the Executive [branch] has become the alpha and omega, and anyone who dares question it ends up in trouble.”
This is the same interpretation of the Ndugai saga shared by CHADEMA deputy national chairperson (Tanzania Mainland) Mr Tundu Lissu who during a virtual address he gave today on the matter said that Tanzania has only one state pillar, which is the president.
“At least since 1962 when [Tanzania] became a republic, our country has been run from the State House of the president,” said Mr Lissu who is based in Belgium. “Other organs – the parliament and the judiciary – have been operating under the huge shadow of the president.”
Mr Lissu said Mr Ndugai did not break any law by speaking out on the national debt, calling the only fault that brought him down “was criticising President Samia publicly, which in itself is not criminal or unconstitutional.”
On Friday, the Clerk of the National Assembly Ms Nenelwa Mwihambi announced the postponement of all meetings by the parliament steering committees until after the sixth meeting of the parliament that is scheduled on January 31, 2022.
Lukelo Francis is a Dar es Salaam-based The Chanzo’s correspondent. He is available at email@example.com.