Now that the task force which was entrusted to collect stakeholders’ views on the state of democracy in Tanzania and the way forward has submitted its final report, the ball, then, rests on the government’s court.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan engaged the task force earlier this year to collect the views in her capacity as the Head of State and not as chairperson of the ruling party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
This has placed an enormous burden on the government to work on the team’s recommendations even though the proposals are the task force’s and not the government’s.
Initially, there was criticism from some stakeholders about the credibility and even the legality of the team. The task force’s preliminary suggestion that the constitutional-making process should be postponed beyond 2025 further antagonized critics.
But a quick analysis of the proposals of the final report vis-à-vis the prevailing debate on democracy, the electoral process and other politically sensitive issues shows that the task force has conducted a good job, thoroughly and soberly.
The fact that this time around the team has avoided suggesting timelines and postponements as they did on March 21 could win over decriers.
No quick fixes
There are no quick fixes to Tanzania’s democratic malaise. Neither are there any easy answers to problems bedevilling the country’s politics and leadership. And, certainly, not all task force proposals will be accepted by all people.
But the significant thing is not the contents of the proposals, which are mere views.
What is crucial is that the task force’s proposals have highlighted, in a very peculiar way, the consensus from around the country of the unacceptability and unsustainability of the status quo in Tanzania’s political state of affairs.
It is commendable for President Samia to have engaged a team. She could have ignored the cries for reforms as she initially hinted at in July 2021 when she said that her priority was fixing the economy.
But through the task force, she has passed a point of no return notwithstanding the quality of reforms that she will facilitate.
Former President Jakaya Kikwete ‘kick-started’ the constitutional-making process in 2012 without much notice even to his own political party, CCM, which doomed the process from the beginning.
President Samia, on the other hand, has done her homework choosing instead to allow some kind of consultation.
CCM’s national executive committee gave a nod for the New Constitution in June 2022. Moreover, the team collected views from individuals, including senior government officials, indicating that the need for change is, at least, mentally accepted by almost everyone.
READ MORE: CCM Drums Up Demands for New Constitution
Time is of the essence
With the ball now in the government’s court time is of the essence. More importantly, is the determination and capacity of the government to facilitate changes in a manner that will be win-win for the nation.
This is a heavy but necessary responsibility that will require commitment of those involved.
Samia’s good intentions driven out of the need to implement her 4Rs strategy (Reconciliation Resilience, Reform and Rebuilding) would not be enough without iron determination and a certain level of ruthlessness for the best interest of the future of the nation.
There would be a host of individuals, groups and even institutions whose vested interests are threatened by the very changes proposed by the task force.
They will use any means possible to block or delay the process or ensure that no meaningful reforms are implemented.
The only allegiance to all those in government who will be responsible to sift through and implement the team’s proposals should be to Tanzanians and not to individuals or groups.
They should be tough, cunning and even ruthless – while remaining within the constitutional and legal limits – when making the reforms in order to outmanoeuvre vested interests and those who are hell-bent to maintain the status quo.
Political appointees and elected officials should put the nation’s interests first and not those of their political parties.
Playing hardball in this process should mean the creation of a fair political playing field. It may sound ironic and sarcastic, but the consequences of the failure to bring about overdue reforms are dire for the nation.
Damas Kanyabwoya is a veteran journalist and a political analyst based in Dar es Salaam. He’s available at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DKanyabwoya. These are the writer’s own opinions and it does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at firstname.lastname@example.org for further inquiries.