Home Column/Opinions Rule of law in Tanzania? What a larf!
Rule of law in Tanzania? What a larf!
Written by KARL LYIMO   
Monday, 15 August 2011 06:11


'ONLY when I Larf' is a novel by English writer Len Deighton, narrating the story of three international confidence tricksters in the late 1960s. The story was made into a film of the same title, starring David Hemmings, Richard Attenborough and Alexandra Stewart – and in which the three ostensibly over-confident 'professionals' are coolly and easily outsmarted by amateurs.

More seriously, I'm looking into the antics which have deeply characterised the 10th and 11th Republican Governments of Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete (2005?)...

Look at it this way... The latest tragicomedy in the series has been the way the Govt. in Dar 'handled' (?) the fuel crisis which surfaced after the Govt. marginally reduced pump (consumer) prices for petrol, diesel and kerosene effective Aug. 2, 2011...

It took a fortnight of fuel shortages which were artificially created by (among others) a score of the so-called Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) before the situation returned to a 'normality' of sorts.

Although a random survey by the State utility entity EWURA revealed that there were stocks to last more than a month, dealers simply shut down supplies, sat on their hands and defied the authorities which were making threatening noises through their official beards, so to speak.

But, they were all empty threats that no one took seriously for more than a week! This left Tanzanians fraught with anxiety, not knowing when the crisis'd dissipate... And, more seriously, why the Govt. of the people, by the people and for the people was handling the OMCs with kid gloves, instead of soaking them one in the eye with an iron fist!

The people looked at the OMCs, looked at the Govt. – and saw little or no difference between the two behemoths! 'Lwao ni Moja,' screamed an irate colleague at the next workstation, implying that both protagonists were in cahoots for some deep vested interest or other...

They'd be wrong, of course. 'Governments' as such do not collude with crooks and other  '… nabobs of negativity' (Spiro T Agnew pardon!). It's the very few nasty elements in power who do that – thereby giving their Govt. a bad name!

EWURA marginally reduced fuel prices in early August, much to the chagrin of the OMCs. Some of them threatened to cripple the petroleum trade unless and until they got their will on prices!

As noted elsewhere last week, some of the stakeholders in the petroleum trade are either in high positions of power in the Govt. or its high-echelon institutions – or do exercise great (usually negative) influence on such officials. Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that the OMCs were able to cock a snook at the Govt. for days?

I did liken this to other Govt. decisions whose implementation is today indecently overdue. These include shifting the national capital from Dar to Dodoma, and 'co-opting' (so to speak) train and boat services for Dar city transport to ease the extant commuter problems.

'Big People' do have a stake in DalaDala operations and – noble and prudent although the decision is –  implementing same in earnest would erode their mega-profits.

Ditto for the capital city shift, full implementation of which would erode the profitability of landlords (read 'Big People' in Govt. and out of it) with property in good old Dar! [The Citizen: Aug. 14, 2011].

In all this, I'm sorely reminded of the much-flaunted political soirée that the Tanzania Govt. respects and abides by the doctrine of 'Rule of Law.' Really?

The doctrine comprises three main principles, namely Supremacy of the I.aw; Equality before the Law, and Predominance of the Legal Spirit.

Under the first principle, no person can/should be punished EXCEPT for a distinct breach of law established in ordinary legal manner before ordinary courts of the law. In other words, an alleged offence must first be proved in court in accordance with ordinary procedures.

'Equality before Law' requires that no person is/should be above the law, regardless of rank or other condition. As such, everyone is subject to ordinary law, and amenable to the jurisdiction of  ordinary tribunals.

'Predominance of the Legal Spirit' regarding the rule of law presupposes that the general principles of the Constitution are the result of juridical decisions determining the rights of private persons in particular cases brought before the Court.

In other words, the ideal national Constitution must guarantee their citizens certain fundamental, human and basic rights which are legally, openly and freely enforceable in the Courts.

It has been said that 'the Rule of Law is a defence against arbitrary Govt.' By parity of reasoning, it could also be said that 'the Rule of Law' doctrine shouldn't be used by Govt. to defend/protect its own!'

For example, it is wrong for Govt. to shield from criminal prosecution suspected thieves who return their loot! A recent example are the looters of billions from the External Payment Arrears (EPA) Account at the central Bank of Tanzania who 'refunded' the money – and were effectively shielded from court proceedings... Virtually rendered above the law!

Oh, there are many such cases, and one only needs to delve into public audit reports, the findings of such investigative organs as the Prevention (?) and Combat of Corruption Bureau PCCB, etc, to unearth cases of gross misapplication of the Rule of Law doctrine. Best wishes and Cheers! [ This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ].

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