Tanzania: After resisting, ruling party now wants to amend the constitution

By 'Tofe Ayeni
Posted on Thursday, 23 June 2022 15:28

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (not shown) and President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania meet at the White House on Friday, April 15, 2022. Photo by Yuri Gripas/

Tanzania’s ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) announced this week that it “insists” on amending the constitution, thereby reforming the country.

Opposition groups have been calling for the constitution to be amended for years, but the last attempt failed in 2014. Since current President Samia Suhulu Hassan came into power following the death of her predecessor John Magufuli in 2021, the opposition has continued to request constitutional review.

In July last year, the head of the leading opposition party (CHADEMA) and ten others were detained while planning a meeting to discuss a new constitution.

A month before, Shaka Hamdu Shaka, the CCM’s ideology and publicity secretary, had said: “Let’s join hands and support our president. We need healthcare facilities, water and sanitation. Those noisemakers [the opposition] have no agenda.”

The implication was that the government had bigger and more pressing issues to deal with, and the constitution was far from its focus.

Why should the constitution be changed?

The current constitution dates back to 1977 when the country was a one-party state. The terms were decided by the senior members of the ruling party.

This has led to allegations that it is outdated, and does not fit in the modern country as the people had no say. It has also been said that the constitution gives the president too much power, which affects the opportunity for proper checks and balances within the system.

CCM’s policy reverse on constitutional reforms comes following weeks of intense negotiations between the party and CHADEMA … CHADEMA has consistently pursued constitutional reforms as its principle policy plank. – Tindu Lissu

Indeed, Article 37 (1) states: “The president shall be free and not obliged to take the advice given to him by any person, save where is required by this constitution or other law to act in accordance with the advice given to him by any person authority.”

For John Heche, former MP for the Tarime Constituency: “A constitution agreed on by the people will make politicians accountable to the public, unlike the current one that completely places politicians above the people.”

Why has the ruling party changed its tune?

It seems the CCM now agrees with the opposition. Shaka Hamdu Shaka said: “I would like to inform you that Chama Cha Mapinduzi insists on the need of having a new constitution … The party is supporting President Samia’s reconciliation efforts.”

However, no details were given as to the reason for this change in priorities. Tundu Lissu, a former member of parliament and chief legal officer for CHADEMA sheds some light on this, telling The Africa Report that “CCM’s policy reverse on constitutional reforms comes following weeks of intense negotiations between the party and CHADEMA … CHADEMA has consistently pursued constitutional reforms as its principle policy plank…”

Although a good start, Lissu believes that “it must now be followed by agreement on how to move the reform agenda forward and within a timeframe acceptable to all stakeholders.”

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