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Professor Mukandala: To Improve Our Institutions, We Must Start with the Country’s Constitution

Mukandala made these remarks during his Professorial Inaugural Lecture at Nkrumah Hall at the University of Dar es Salaam.

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Professor Rwekaza Mukandala has said that for the country to improve its governance institutions, there is a need to revise the country’s constitution. Mukandala made these remarks during his Professorial Inaugural Lecture at Nkrumah Hall at the University of Dar es Salaam.

He delivered this lecture, titled “Lessons from the Induced Birth, Tortured Life, and Painful Death of MV Bukoba,” on May 21, 2024. The lecture reflected on the MV Bukoba tragedy in 1996, tracing the events from the acquisition of the vessel in 1979 to the tragedy.

Mukandala highlighted that proper procurement procedures were not followed in the purchase of the ship. He explained that since the country was using a loan from the Belgian government to acquire the vessel, the terms of the agreement required the ship to be procured from Belgium.

Mukandala noted that despite pressure to sign a contract with the contractor appointed by the Belgian government, there was opposition from Tanzanian experts and other government officials. However, the then-President ordered the contract to be signed.

READ MORE: LHRC: New Constitution Is Needed Right Now

All powerful Presidency

Mukandala explained that by ordering the controversial contract to be signed, the fate of MV Bukoba was sealed. He explained that research shows the vessel received had significant technical faults. Mukandala underscored that the President was able to order the signing of the contract against the advice of his experts because the constitution grants him this power, stating that the President is not required to receive advice from anyone.

 “The President’s decision to proceed with the contract to purchase MV Bukoba despite its flaws and opposition from experts was important,” underscores Mukandala

Mukandala went on to refer to research by Professor Ibrahim Juma on the power of the Presidency:

“The President’s power to make such decisions is derived from the Constitution. As Professor Ibrahim Hamis explained very well in 1998, he said, and I quote, ‘Today, the office of the President can be compared to a large tree whose leaves have grown so large that they endanger the life of the tree itself.’ End of quote.”

He continued: “The decision-making process in Tanzania is influenced by the Constitution, which is designed to revolve around a very powerful Presidency. Every public sector is forced to rely on the President’s office in its operations, using his extensive authority to appoint, promote, and dismiss people in public service. The President can ensure that his appointees carry out their duties as he wishes.”

READ MORE: Stakeholders Resolve to Proceed With Minimum Constitutional Reforms Ahead of Elections

Need for a new Constitution

Mukandala highlighted three lessons from the MV Bukoba. First, a need to have a good relationship with the neighboring country, here he explained that Tanzania had to procure a new ship after the dissolution of the East Africa Community.

Second, he highlighted the need for the country to be attentive to avoid ‘blood-sucking’ contracts. Third, he argued the country needs to improve its state institutions, here he underscored that for this to happen there is a need to work on the country’s constitution.

He explained: “The University of Dar es Salaam, through its Department of Political Science and Administration, since its inception, has tried to contribute to the building of Unity and national identity and to strengthen the systems and clean politics of democracy.”  

“We have learned in this lecture that the number one institution in the state is the Constitution, the cornerstone or the main law is the constitution of the country, and we, in the context of improving our institutions, must start with the Constitution,” emphasized Professor Mukandala.

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