Jul 10, 2008

Zanzibar: Premier under fire on Zanzibar status

Sample ImageA discussion in the House of Representatives on the state of Zanzibar.

Below is an article published by the The Citizen:

Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda yesterday [9 July 2008] came under heavy criticism in the Zanzibar House of Representatives over his recent remarks on the Isles’ sovereignty.

Members from both the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) disagreed with Mr Pinda’s interpretation of the issue and demanded that the Zanzibar Government clarify their country’s status.

The minister of State in the Chief Minister’s Office, Mr Hamza Hassan Juma, was among those angered by Mr Pinda’s remark that Zanzibar is not an independent country outside the Union Government within which it can only exercise its sovereignty.

Mr Juma warned that people issuing statements that undermine Zanzibar would come to regret it. Zanzibar, he added, was a state like any other in the world.

The heated contributions during the Isles’ Budget debate, which echoed the deep-seated suspicions in the Union, forced Zanzibar Attorney-General Iddi Pandu Hassan late in evening to come up with a statement clarifying the position. He said the Prime Minister had erred in his interpretation of Zanzibar’s status.

Mr Pandu said Zanzibar is a country with full constitutional authority to exercise its powers. He said Mr Pinda had only mixed up the words nation and State.

“Mr Speaker, I would like to allay fears among the representatives and the public by stating that Zanzibar is a country, according to the constitution. Our colleague, the Prime Minister, merely slipped on the issue,” Mr Pandu said.

The Attorney-General said that following the unification of the former Tanganyika and Zanzibar, the latter retained its authority as a country and state that was independent but without a separate nationhood.

He said that as a consequence of the union, Zanzibar lost its nationhood as did Tanganyika, when the founding fathers of the two countries decided to enter into a unity arrangement.

“The Prime Minister slipped a bit like many other human beings but he knows that Zanzibar is a country save for his translation of English words into Kiswahili that confuse nation and state,” Mr Pandu said to thunderous applause in the House.

The Attorney-General, however, conceded that Mr Pinda’s remarks had unsettled the representatives and members of the public. He said that was why seven CCM and CUF representatives had demanded that the Government declare its stand on the issue.

Earlier, during the heated debate, the members called for constitutional amendments, which would also recognise the Zanzibar’s President ask the Vice-President in the Union Government.

Contributing to the Budget of the President’s Office on constitution and good governance, they said that constitutionally, there is no country called “Tanzania” but the “United Republic of Tanzania” as a result of the unification of Zanzibar and Tanganyika.

A nominated representative, Mr Ali Mzee Ali, said that Zanzibar is a state and “will continue to be a state forever.” He said statements referring to Zanzibar as not a state “are in bad taste and could lead to the break-up of the union.

”I have heard unusual statements, including that of the Prime Minister, who said Zanzibar is not a state yet the Constitution of Zanzibar says in chapter two that ‘Zanzibar shall be a state and it will always be,’” said Mr Ali, who was applauded by other representatives.

He cautioned against statements referring to Zanzibar as not being a state. “I don’t want to witness Zanzibar breaking away from the union since there are many counties that united like us but didn’t last long,” added Mr Ali.

Mr Ali said the Republic of Tanzania came into being after the Zanzibar Revolution of January 12, 1964, which formed Zanzibar as a sovereign state. It was later united with the Tanganyika to form Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere as the President and Mr Abeid Amani Karume, as the Vice-President.

He said that as a state, Zanzibar has a House of Representatives, a judiciary and the president, which are the criteria’s of a sovereign state.

Speaking last Thursday during the Prime Minister’s question and answer session at the National Assembly in Dodoma, Mr Pinda said that Zanzibar was not an independent and sovereign country out of the Union.

He said there was “nothing like the sovereignty of Zanzibar in the Union Government unless the Constitution is changed in future”.

He was responding to opposition MP Yahya Kassim Issa who was challenging the Prime Minister’s Office’s statement on June 27 [2008] that Zanzibar was not a country despite having its President, other State organs, a national flag and an anthem.