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Gov’t hides behind Constitution to deny citizens access to social services, says -Law

Discussion in 'KATIBA Mpya' started by fangfangjt, Oct 26, 2010.

  1. fangfangjt

    fangfangjt JF-Expert Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Joined: Apr 25, 2008
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    A seasoned university law don and human rights expert, Professor Chris Peter Maina concurs with many including senior public servants, key public figures and distinguished academics that Tanzania’s natural resources are immense and can support its population but the problem to effectively use them lay in the government’s lack of priority and poor planning.

    In a carefully articulated expose, Prof Chris Maina is of the view that the government is hiding behind weak constitutional provisions crafted in the rag-tag constitution without strong independent laws demanding government to provide key social services to its population.

    Professor Maina was speaking at a public dialogue before the launch of the Non-State Actors Charter on the Tanzania Citizens want During and After the 2010 General Elections held at Ubungo Plaza’s Blue Pearl Hotel on September 21st 2010.

    He said even the little financial resources the country collected had been more often than not misused, hence compounding the problem. Professor Maina said nothing hurt him more than when he came across primary school pupils seating on the floor almost 50 years after independence.

    And as if that was not enough insult, a school inspector would drive an immaculate 150m/- land-cruiser to such a primary school, leaving the air condition in the vehicle on as he went about his inspection business.
    He said if the government was really serious about solving the nation’s socio-economic problems; it could have started by spending the 150m/- on school desks rather than buy the luxurious vehicle to be driven on by one government official.

    Professor Maina nowhere was the government’s failure to deal with social problems more apparent than in the health delivery sector.
    In this sector, he said, women either delivered at home where their lives literally and precariously hang on the death pendulum or in hospitals where they slept more than one on one bed!

    He said the source of all these problems was not inadequate financial resources on the part of the government but rather what he described as sheer mental laziness. He said just like many of his colleagues during the first phase government of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, he had free education from primary school to Master’s Level at the University of Dar es Salaam.

    “The only thing I was required to do in order to qualify for free education, especially at university level was to fill in a simple form in which I solemnly promised to serve my nation on completion of my study which I have done,” he said.

    He said a general glance on the social services scenario in the country was that government’s service delivery was going from bad to worse.
    For instance, he recalled in the rural areas during the first phase government, every month villagers had an opportunity to watch both entertainment and very educative films.

    “And at schools,” he said, “every month we were given Old-Liver Oil for improving our sights…every pupil had a spoonful of the oil and so were vaccinations which served as defence against numerous diseases”.

    He said it was due to such services that played a major role towards reducing the rural-urban migration.
    The people in the rural areas did not need to come to urban areas in order to get important services.
    “In short, we should not be surprised when we see people streaming to our cities and towns today…they are coming to urban centres in quest for such important services,” he said.

    “Having said that,” he said, “there are two pertinent questions which we ought to ask ourselves and that is, one, does the government of the day have the ability to serve its people?”

    “Secondly, whether the government has such ability or not, does it have responsibility? The answer for the first question is yes, the government has the ability to serve its people,” he said.

    Professor Maina said for one to get the answer for the second question, it was pertinent that one took a critical look at the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania.

    He said important services such as education, water, health and so on were in the preamble of the Constitution and therefore not legally enforceable in the court of law.
    He said the decision to put such important services in the preamble rather than in the Constitution was not accidental but rather deliberately.

    “Therefore important issues such as education, water, health are political and civic rights, but one cannot contest free provision by the government of such services in any court of the law on the land,” he said.

    “Yet many of neighbours such as Uganda, Malawi, South Africa and Kenya recently, have such important issues in their National Constitutions and not in the preamble of cardinal law,” he said.
    For instance, he said Ugandans put such important issues in their Constitution in 1995, Malawi in 1994 and Kenya inserted them in their recently produced Constitution in which all Kenyans participated in writing up.

    He said the problem of confining important issues such as education, water and health in the preamble rather than inside the Constitution is not confined to the Union government per se, but also in the Zanzibar Constitution.

    He said the motive behind such conduct on the part of the powers that be in both Union and Zanzibar governments was not to be forced by law provide such important services to their people.
    Professor Maina said it was not him who was saying that the mentioned issues were not enforceable by law because they were in the preamble of the Constitution but that that had been clearly said in a paper issued by none other than the former Attorney General, Mr Andrew Chenge.

    According to Professor Maina, Mr Chenge had argued, in his paper, that free provision of services such as education, health and water depended on the government’s ability rather than legal requirement.
    He said a people’s right is not politics, hence the need for such right to be included in the Constitution rather than in its preamble.

    Professor Maina said the implication of putting such important issues as free provision by the government of education, water and health in the Constitution rather than in the preamble meant putting the government of the day on notice and that if it (government) failed, legal action would be taken by the people against it.

    The Don’s views , were supported by Mr Ayoub Rioba, a leading media practitioner, trainer, scholar and lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam’s Institute of Journalism and Mass Communication (IJMC), who argues that Tanzania’s current problems are associated to lack of critical thinking and obsession to a culture of handing over donor funded projects

    Our leaders are so happy to hand over toilets constructed with support from the people of foreign governments like Japan, etc and yet they drive around in flashy government cars costing millions of tax payer’s money.

    One latest Toyota land cruiser driven by some of our leaders can construct more than a hundred toilets in the rural primary schools. Yet they don’t feel ashamed to hand over toilets constructed with a fraction of what their official vehicles cost. Something is wrong, we have to change, if Tanzania is to move forward, Ayoub stressed.