ON Monday last week, by prior arrangement and agreement; a delegation of information officers from the Speaker’s Office in Dodoma, visited me at my cozy retirement home in Ukerewe; on a dedicated mission to make a video recording of the memorabilia of a retired, long- serving Speaker of the National Assembly, regarding BUNGE’s “growth and development” during the whole of this period of six decades.
I was, of course, very delighted to receive them, and made a spirited oral presentation of all that I could remember, lasting for approximately one and a half hours; essentially adopting the old Ukerewe culture and tradition of the grandfather telling stories to his grandsons in the evenings at the family ‘s ekikome (fireplace).
They said they will subsequently publish that information in their BUNGE journal, and in the other dedicated BUNGE media channels.
But since this narrative fits very well into my series of articles on “Sixty years of independence”; today’s article will largely be a repeat of this ‘mind-refreshing’, political history information relating to BUNGE’s post-independence performance.
And it will focus primarily on the following specific areas:- (i) Bunge’s structural development, i.e. the progressive changes in the composition of its membership; (ii) the consolidation of its powers and privileges; and (iii) my own personal involvement in this institution’s affairs.
Bunge’s structural development The story of the Tanzania Parliament, or “ BUNGE LA TANZANIA” in Kiswahili, actually starts way back in 1926, when the British colonial Administration in Tanganyika (which was administered as a “British Mandated Territory” under the mandate dully granted to it by the United Nations Organization), advised the British Government in London, to enact legislation establishing a Legislative Body for Tanganyika.
That advice was accepted, and resulted in the enactment by the British Parliament, on 19th March, 1926, of a statute titled: “The Tanganyika (Legislative Council) Order- in- Council, 1926”.
After its establishment, the new Legislative Council, consisting of 20 members nominated by the Governor, held its first session in Dar es Salaam on 7th December, 1926. However, for a period of 20 long years, the Tanganyika Legislative Council had no Tanganyika Africans among its members.
The entry of such members first occurred on 24th September 1945; when Governor Sir William Battershill appointed Chief Abdiel Shangali and Chief Kidaha Makwaia.
The third African member, Chief Adam Sapi Mkwawa, was appointed two years late on 3rd June, 1947, closely followed by the fourth African member, Mr. Juma Mwindadi, who was appointed on 1st April, 1948.
Another structural development occurred in 1953; when the Governor ceased to be Chairman of that Institution, upon the introduction of the post of Speaker of the Legislative Council.
The first such Speaker was Brigadier William Scupham, who took the oath of office in that capacity, on 1st November, 1953.
Mwalimu Nyerere’s nomination, and resignation : a lesson in ethical leadership. Of much greater political significance during this period, was the resignation of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, only six months after he had been nominated to the membership of the colonial Legislative Council; purely for ethical reasons.
It has been said that “ethics is the heart of leadership” This big heart was amply demonstrated by Nyerere through that heroic action.
Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was nominated by the Governor to the membership of the Legislative Council in July, 1957.
But only six months later in December of the same year, he announced his resignation there from, and publicly explained his sole reason for doing so, which was that the colonial Government was paying no attention to any of his reasonable proposals which he submitted to the House relating to the pace of constitutional development to the country’s independence.
The next major change in the Legislative Council’s structure was introduced in 1959; when the Council’s first elected members entered the House; as a result of the country’s first-ever Parliamentary general election of 1958/59.
Further structural changes which were subsequently introduced, include that of 1st May, 1961, when the name of the Tanganyika’s Legislature was changed from “Legislative Council” to “National Assembly”, through another statute enacted by the British Parliament, which was titled: “The Tanganyika (Constitution) Order- in-Council, 1961”.
The entry of the first women members therein “ A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman” (from “Women Quotes” by Belinda Gates).
Parliament is, indeed, the most appropriate forum for giving women an effective “voice” in the affairs of the country’s governance. women’s participation in the Legislature of Tanganyika, started during the colonial Administration period, precisely 1955; when the first three women were appointed by the Governor as Members of that Legislative Council, and they took the oath of office on 19th April, 1955.
They were, respectively, Elifuraha Mkamangi Marealle; K.F. Walker; and S. Keeka. Further nominations of women Members were made by the Governor in 1956 (Mary Kashindi); and in 1958 (Bertha Akim; and J, Davies.
It is the independence Parliament (1960 – 1965) which brought on board the first elected Members.
They were: Marion Lady Chesham (Iringa); Babro Johansen (Mwanza); E. Markwada (Tanga Urban); Bibi Titi Mohamed (Rufiji); Sophia Mustafa (Arusha); and Mwami Theresa Ntare (Kasulu); plus two nominated Members: Lucy S. Lameck and Cecilia Paes.
The subsequent post-independence Parliaments have progressively increased their numbers, especially after the introduction of the new category of “women’s special seats”.
The independence Parliament (1960 : its conversion to the designation “Parliament”. In recent times, there has developed a convenient practice of referring to the successive phases of BUNGE LA TANZANIA in terms of numbers.
For example, the current phase BUNGE is generally referred to as the “Twelfth Parliament”. It may be helpful to explain that this counting actually starts with the 1st post-Independence Parliament of 1965 – 1970. It is precisely for that reason, that the Parliament which existed at the time when UHURU was achieved, is referred to as the ‘Independence Parliament’.
The Legislative Council’s conversion to the designation ‘Parliament”. In the British parliamentary usage and practice; the term “Parliament” is normally used to describe one of the three ‘pillars’ of an independent State, as its Legislative Branch.
The other two pillars of State are the “Executive” and the “Judiciary” Branches. And that is precisely the reason why, before Tanganyika’s independence, the country’s legislative Branch was designated not as the ‘Parliament’; but as the ‘Legislative Council’, or subsequently as the ‘National Assembly’.
However, article 62(1) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania provides that ‘Parliament’ shall consist of two distinct parts: one of which is the President of the United Republic; and the other is the National Assembly; But, the Kiswahili designation of “Bunge la Tanzania”, is inclusive of both these parts, and is freely used interchangeably, to mean either the National Assembly alone, or the entire Parliament.
The “teething” challenges of the ‘Independence Bunge’ (1960 -1965). “We must run, while others walk”; is one of President Nyerere’s famous, immortal, titbits.
The Independence Bunge of 1960 -1965) was characterized notably by the exceptionally high speed at which it enacted legislation; under the “Certificate of Urgency” National Assembly procedures; which enable the Government to present a Bill at a much shorter notice, which is anything less than the stipulated 21 days notice.
The first postindependence government understandably made very extensive use of this provision; but it was indeed necessary, in the prevailing circumstances at the material time.
Among the most urgent tasks facing President Nyerere upon his assumption of the Presidency, was, inevitably, that of the need to de-colonize the government structures, processes, practice and procedures; in respect of all the areas of government activities , by urgently dismantling all the colonial structures and processes that had been left behind by the previous colonial Administration; and almost all of this work had to be carried out through the urgent introduction of appropriate legislation, in order to reform the entire governance system.
This is what justified the government’s resort to the special procedure of presenting a large number of Bills in the National Assembly under ‘certificates of urgency’.
But this was, in a way, a serious challenge to the inherent right of National Assembly members to be given ample time to consider government proposals; especially legislative proposals, in order to avoid the danger of enacting legislation without having given sufficient consideration to their contents.
However, this implied challenge was amicably resolved by the MPs themselves who, presumably in their patriotic enthusiasm and commitment to support the decolonization process, they always willingly and readily cooperated; as evidence by the fact that almost all of such Bills easily sailed through all the prescribed stages in a matter of only a few hours, and always without even a single dissenting voice being heard.
The consolidation of Bunge’s powers and privileges: protecting BUNGE from undue interferences by the EXECUTIVE Branch.
It should also be noted that concerted efforts have been made, through appropriate constitutional provisions, to protect BUNGE from undue interference by the Executive Branch of Government; in two specific areas:- (i) there can be no “prorogation” of the National Assembly ; and (ii) the President cannot just dissolve the House at his discretion. No prorogation of the National Assembly.
One established way of exercising such interference, is through a process known as the “prorogation of Parliament”; whereby the country’s Head of State is constitutionally empowered to send the House “on compulsory holiday”.
These efforts to protect the House were first manifested during the making of the Tanganyika Republican Constitution of 1962 ; when a provision was included which denied that power to the Head of State. This power had been provided for in the previous Independence Constitution.
As was explained by Prime Minister Rashid Kawawa, in his speech introducing the motion for the Second Reading of the Bill for the new Constitution, in which he said the following:- “Mr. Speaker, the abolition of the power to prorogue the National Assembly is a departure from previous practice.
We have accepted it after full consideration, in order to emphasize the sovereignty of Parliament. No discretional dissolution of Parliament. And, in addition to that, there is another provision in the current (1977) Constitution of the United Republic, (article 90 (2); which denies the Head of State the discretion to dissolve Parliament at any time he may wish to do so.
This, again, was designed in order to emphasize the sovereignty of Parliament. My own close association with BUNGE LA TANZANIA.
My personal, close, and direct involvement in the affairs of BUNGE commenced in 1960, during the Independence Parliament; when I was appointed Clerk-Assistant of the National Assembly (Training Grade), apparently in preparation for my possible subsequent taking over the Clerkship of the House from the British officer Geoffrey Hucks after the country’s independence, if I successfully made it.
Fortunately I made it, and was appointed to that position effective from 9th December, 1962, the first anniversary of the country’s independence.
But I had to deal with the inevitable ‘teething’ challenges which arose as a result of this fundamental transition from colonialism; and particularly the need to transform the Parliament itself from its entrenched colonial model, to an entirely new and different model that would be is in line with the country’s new independence status; a task which turned out to be pretty challenging.