Dar es Salaam. CHADEMA national chairperson Mr Freeman Mbowe said here today that Tanzania needs to revive its constitution-writing process “as soon as possible,” saying there should be no ifs, ands or buts in the debate about the importance of rewriting the mother law.
Addressing the party’s congress that took place at the Mlimani City Hall, Mr Mbowe said the debate on what should come first between basic legal and regulatory reforms and the New Constitution is useless for the two processes can be undertaken simultaneously.
“I told President Samia Suluhu Hassan that CHADEMA will never abandon its call for the New Constitution,” Mr Mbowe, who held a meeting with Samia on May 9, his second meeting with the Head of State since he was released from jail on March 4, said. “I also asked [President Samia] why are you so afraid of the New Constitution?”
Mbowe spent nearly eight months in prison, accused of terrorism and economic sabotage, before prosecutors dropped the charges, saying they no longer have an interest in pursuing the case that CHADEMA and other rights activists labelled “dubious” and “trumped-up” one.
Mr Mbowe was arrested amidst movements to demand the New Constitution, a fact that made many to think that the charges against him were intended to shut him down and disrupt his activism.
Monday’s congress, the first since the release of Mr Mbowe, drew attendance from a number of CHADEMA members and leaders from across the country. It was also attended by senior opposition figures from other parties, including ACT-Wazalendo’s chairperson Juma Duni Haji and the Ugandan artist-cum-politicial leader Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine.
Among the top agenda that members of the congress will be deliberating on today concerns the fate of nineteen former CHADEMA senior female leaders who were stripped of the party membership and leadership positions in November 2020.
CHADEMA sacked the leaders over their alleged defiance of the party’s rules by accepting the National Electoral Commission’s (NEC) appointment as special-seat MPs without the party’s approval.
CHADEMA said then that it did not forward the list to NEC and when the 19 women leaders were summoned to the party’s Central Committee to clarify the matter they never showed up. But they went on to be sworn in as MPs by then-Speaker Job Ndugai anyway.
Addressing party members who parked the meeting hall to the brim on Wednesday, Mr Mbowe also touched on the prevailing challenges in the country regarding the rise in the cost of living, dismissing the government’s analysis that the situation is thanks to COVID-19 and the ongoing war in Ukraine as “preposterous”.
According to Mbowe’s analysis, the current crisis has been exacerbated by the failure of the Chama cha Mapinduzi-led government to come up with sound economic policies and plans that would improve the living standards of most Tanzanians.
“Basically, [Tanzania] was not affected by COVID-19 because we never imposed a lockdown,” Mr Mbowe said. “We cannot have a sustainable economy if the government continues to milk its people without feeding them first. There are a number of taxes and levies imposed on people who only have one meal a day.”
In a move that many interpreted as the opposition figure’s attempt to move CHADEMA from hate-filled politics to politics of understanding, Mr Mbowe reprimanded the party’s young cadres who he accused of spending a lot of time online “attacking, ridiculing and insulting” leaders of other political parties.
Recently, members of CHADEMA and ACT-Wazalendo online have been at loggerheads over almost everything concerning the political and democratic development in Tanzania, with differences going as far as involving personal attacks and insults.
“I want you to stop this behaviour immediately,” Mr Mbowe told CHADEMA’s youths. “There is no need for denigrating other political parties. Not everyone who is against what CHADEMA stands for is the sworn enemy of the party.”
Lukelo Francis is a Dar es Salaam-based The Chanzo’s correspondent. He is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.