Wednesday, 8 October 2014

FATMA KARUME: Zanzibaris deserve say in referendum

By Fatma Karume

Posted  Tuesday, October 7  2014 at  10:20
In Summary
  • As all Tanzanians know, on Thursday  last week, the Constituent Assembly (CA) apparently voted in favour of a draft constitution, which will be presented before Tanzanians in a referendum—we are now told will be held before the next General Election.
If truth be known, last week was horrendous for me for lots of reasons which I cannot express in totality but which I shall attempt to put on record so that if my grandchildren research this era, they will be assured that there were points of view other than those expressed in Hansard.  As all Tanzanians know, on Thursday  last week, the Constituent Assembly (CA) apparently voted in favour of a draft constitution, which will be presented before Tanzanians in a referendum—we are now told will be held before the next General Election.
The Draft Constitution was met with much jubilation within the hallowed walls of our Bunge.  There were unbearable moments of screeching disguised as singing; profuse shaking of hands by temporary friends; twerking of well-fed behinds and speeches aimed at creating fear in all those who dare oppose. 
If you could pause the moving images on screen, magnify the characters one by one and then scrutinise them in detail, as a scientist would scrutinise bacteria under a magnifying glass—you would see beyond the sham—because you would see the fear and urgency that engulfed the drivers of the entire process veiled by the bravado. 
Why is there such fear and anxiety I asked myself, as I sat watching the fiasco in horror and it hit me that the fear comes from isolation, because despite the bravado, the ruling party, CCM knows without a doubt that the Draft Constitution was written by CCM, debated by CCM and passed by CCM. All other points of views were either dismissed, stifled or beaten into submission.  The result of “exclusive politics” is isolation, and the price that CCM shall pay for selling its soul to the demon of “exclusive politics” is paranoia.  In turn, unless we too screech the ruling party songs, whilst desperately, twerking our behinds to the CCM tunes in a show of support—we shall be enemies and not citizens who deserve the party’s respect.
As you zoom closer and you start examining the passengers, you will see their fear too.  Like CCM, I too have nameless passengers who voted “Yes” for the CCM Draft Constitution because they know that they are followers and without the crumbs that are occasionally dropped from the party’s High Table, they will starve into oblivion.  However, unlike CCM, I am not constitutionally obliged to name all those who  voted for the Draft. 
Too scared to talk, vote
And so we all sit quietly frozen in the hell that is created by fear—too scared to speak and to vote; too scared to demonstrate lest we be beaten to a fine and unrecognisable pulp; and too scared to write the judgments that will free us from the enslavement of fear.  Meanwhile we are told, and we pretend to agree in a desperate attempt to convince outsiders that this is a peaceful country.  I say it is not. 
It is a country that is immobilised by fear and under the apparent tranquil surface there is rage building up slowly, but surely.  The last time Tanzanians felt such rage, Mwalimu Nyerere retired from the Presidency because despite everything, he had his finger on the pulse that beat the rhythm of the Tanzanian heart—he felt the rage and he knew that Tanzanians wanted change, so peacefully, he handed over the reigns of power.  It seems to me that Warioba understands this and like Othman, the Zanzibar Attorney General, he is a man who has not allowed fear to determine his path.  Both have chosen the path of integrity over fear.
So CCM’s fear is driven by isolation; the opposition’s fear is driven by the beatings; our fear is driven by the knowledge that despite the theoretical independence of the judiciary, we operate in a country where there is absolute impunity for the golden few.  So how will a party that is isolated win the necessary two thirds majority required to pass the Draft Constitution in Zanzibar?.  I am told that there is a very simple, but effective way of doing it.  So I am sharing this theory with all of you, if you care to know.
There are two electoral commissions responsible for voting in Zanzibar, the National Electoral Commission and the Zanzibar Electoral Commission.  The former registers all persons resident in Zanzibar for the purpose of voting for the President of the United Republic of Tanzania and the latter registers Zanzibaris only, who have the right to vote for the President of Zanzibar.  The theory is that the definition of a Zanzibari for the purpose of the referendum will be expanded to include all those who are registered by the National Electoral Commission and who claim they are Zanzibaris.
This is despite the fact that there is a law in Zanzibar that defines what a Zanzibari is.  In theory therefore, all Tanzanians who claim to be Zanzibaris, wherever they may be will have the right to vote in the referendum as Zanzibaris.  You will no doubt all agree that it is a simple and effective theory because suddenly the voice of 1.2 million Zanzibaris can be drowned by the cacophony of 44 million Tanzanians.  In the end though, CCM will have to govern 1.2 million Zanzibaris in Zanzibar and the momentary drowning of their voices will only increase resentment and tension.
Best  form of governance

I voted in the first multiparty  elections in 1995, and I lived through the poverty, deprivation and unhappiness created by the seemingly unbridgeable political impasse, which divided Zanzibaris.  This rift was healed in 2010 when we introduced the Government of National Unity in Zanzibar.  I do not want to see another decade wasted by “exclusive politics” creating a rift between Zanzibaris and Tanzania Mainlanders.  Unlike in the CA, Zanzibaris deserve their say in the referendum.  If we do not agree with CCM, have the courage and honour to accept it and make the changes that will lead to a better Tanzania not run by fear and intimidation, but through participation and willingness to change.  May be I am naïve, but I really do believe that democracy is the best form of governance
Ms. Karume was called to the Bar in the Middle Temple and is an advocate of the High Courts of Tanzania and Zanzibar.  She is presently Litigation Partner with IMMMA Advocates in Dar es Salaam.  Email: