Why government ministers should not be legislators


JF-Expert Member
Feb 11, 2007
Why government ministers should not be legislators
tony zakaria
Daily News; Sunday,July 06, 2008 @00:06

Our elected and nominated representatives are full of surprises. They keep asking the government to fix the roads, curb corruption, eat crow, etc. from the pulpit of parliament house. Are we missing something here? As we, the people, understand it, government has three arms - namely the legislative, the executive and the judiciary.

Or put differently, the talkers, the deciders and the enforcers. So when did members of parliament get divorced from government marriage? If MPs are not part of government of the people, why are they paid salaries and emoluments from public coffers? Now they are asking for coffee, tea, biscuits, samosas and driver's salaries.

Why would they think they deserve that if they are only contractors of government tenders? Wake up 'waheshimiwa', it is your job to fix the economic mess caused by poor use of natural and unnatural resources by unpatriotic citizens and non-citizens. It is also your duty to mend broken political fences between the spice islands of Zanzibar. Do not leave it solely for the Chief Executive to fix.

Send a strong bipartisan team to Unguja and Pemba to listen to real or perceived grievances and let the team come up with palatable solutions that the mainland will not choke on. You see? Peace in Zanzibar is really important to 'bara' residents who have enjoyed it for the 46 years since independence. If you love the people you will do your utmost to ensure their peaceful slumber is not disturbed by 'mafisadi', 'majambazi' or 'watandawazi'.

And until Pemba foods and spices are fit for Unguja consumption, they should be banned from export to the mainland. If one cannot love a neighbour next door, who could help you extinguish a fire in your house or how can you love a friend who dwells hundreds of kilometres away in Urambo or Sumbawanga? What is good for your neighbour in need should be good for clove and mango traders from across the ocean of India. None of one's neighbours are perfect.

It is thus easy to understand why leaders who were alleged to have acted improperly in deals were received with pomp and fanfare in their home districts. What such leaders had against them were allegations. Even if those allegations were proven, it is right to give thanks and praise when a prodigal son returns home. How can a father love his neighbour and not forgive his own son? But again, humans are hardwired to blame and point accusatory fingers. It is what we do best. But love makes the world go round.

Prophet Issa bin Mariam who taught mankind to love their neighbours two thousand years ago loved imperfect people. He loved not saints but sinners. He chose a fisherman as his top lieutenant. How is that again? You know how cunning Magogoni Ferry or Kirumba Mwaloni fishermen can be. They might sell you yesterday's rotten fish for a princely sum only reserved for fresh lobster. One of the 12 disciples was a tax collector.

Another disciple was such a flip-flop in loyalty terms he sold his master for a few pieces of silver. A third was such a cynic he seldom relied on faith. He would only believe if presented with irrefutable proof. These were ordinary people with common failings but with strong redeeming qualities. Jesus of Nazareth had no problem picking his 'cabinet' of disciples. Everyone was eligible and not just a select few of the pious, God-fearing public figures who gave alms to the poor or who contributed generously to church and state coffers and fasted endlessly.

One may just wonder. If he came back today, would he choose his leaders from wealthy suburbs in our cities like Msasani or Mbezi. Maybe he would just pick someone from TRA border post, another from Kariakoo market and maybe throw in a 'machinga' or small entrepreneur. This is partly why some of us have always believed that the options available for a Bongoland president to pick a cabinet are very limited.

If current or future presidents could choose his or her finance minister from any economist or honest tax collectors, he might get thousands of potential candidates. If the minister of health could be any doctor, nurse or veterinary practitioner, a president could have a thousand applicants. But we have a system in which only a member of parliament is fit to be a minister. Ministers can only be selected from 350 men and women in parliament, even though there are thousands of capable and committed Tanzanians out of the 35 plus million population.

MPs invariably maintain loyalty to their party. Of necessity, MPs must keep their political telescopes on the re-election horizon lest they miss the parliament train. Can ministers selected from ruling or opposition party MPs serve the people with 100 per cent dedication? It is safe to assume the dedication varies according to which way the political wind is blowing. When party survival is at threat, the interests of the masses may fall by the wayside, sacrificed at the altar of political expediency.

Exposing corruption scandals can adversely affect the political fortunes of those in the executive. The tendency would be to cover up and spin a spider’s web to hide any unpleasantness. Having an executive branch separate from the legislature ensures there are checks and balances in the formulation of laws and implementation of policies. MPs becoming ministers just wipes those balances out.

We need to change the constitution so that ministers can be drawn from the whole population, including the business community, academia, civil service and private citizens. This would give incoming presidents and incumbents wide flexibility to choose the best men and women for the job from a wider selection, instead of the current 350 MPs or 0.001 per cent of the population. Let us choose to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Let us create a government that is truly of the people.

Enjoy your Sunday
tnaleo@hotmail.com; cell 0713 246136
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