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Controversial Law Amendment That May Cripple Tanzania's Multi-Party System


Tanzania's parliament has passed a controversial amendment of its Political Parties Act (1992), that may cripple the country's infant multi-party democracy, reported some media on January 30, 2019. The parliament passed the amendment on late January 29, 2019, according to the reports.

The amendment gives almost unlimited powers to the government appointed registrar of political parties over political parties in the country, including among others, power to: invalidate political parties, strip individuals their memberships to political parties, and remove individuals from leadership positions in their political parties.

The amendment has been castigated by opposition parties in the East African nation as been politically motivated, aimed at among others, curtailing freedom of association and expression, as well as giving the ruling party an advantage in next general elections in 2020; and above all taking Tanzania backwards politically to a de facto one-party state.

According to a prominent opposition leader Zitto Kabwe, the amendment clearly contravenes the country's Constitution that provides for freedom of association. As he put it and we quote: "You can't have a Constitution that allows freedom of association then give someone powers to revoke that freedom of association"

The influence of the opposition in law making and amendment is very limited because the ruling party CCM has a clear majority in the parliament. That means the ruling party can easily get through any new law or amendment of an existing law that may be in its favor. In some previously reported cases, some local critics of the government accused it of using legal instruments to safeguard individual political interests of some of its politicians.

Tanzania's young multi-party system was inaugurated in 1992 by the country's first president, Dr Julius Nyerere, after 30 years of one-party system. While subsequent presidents, namely Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa, and Jakaya Kikwete, seem to have strictly respected the introduced multi-party system through respecting all leaders of the opposition, the current government is said to have a serious problem with that.

Since coming to power in late 2015, the current government has prohibited opposition parties from holding meetings or gatherings at national level, and denied respect to leaders of the opposition through allegedly allowing police to perpetually harass, arrest and detain them on trivial grounds.

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