The Punguza Mizigo Initiative has created a sensation within the political circles. Establishment politicians have dismissed it outright because, among others, it threatens to dismantle their lifelines and create a new centre of power. Which is not a bad thing because the country needs new political direction to liberate it from the few dominant figures with outdated thinking and entrenched self-interests.
Similarly, the initiative has elicited some kind of excitement among other political players who see it as an opportunity to seal loopholes in the Constitution and, importantly, fix some specific items of self-interest. This is both progressive and retrogressive. Progressive in that it offers a new path to reshape the Constitution and make it work. Retrogressive because some of the proposals are unrealistic and unworkable.
Thus, it is pertinent to critically interrogate the proposals, check their viability and ability to deal with the constitutional weaknesses. Our fear is that the discussion on the initiative is devoid of reasoned thinking. Groups are either excited or disenchanted, such that they are unable to interrogate matters and make decisions from sober and informed positions. Worse, the rank and file of the citizen is locked out of the conversation.
In particular, Members of County Assemblies are excited with the proposal to raise revenues disbursed to counties to 35 per cent of the audited national revenues, up from the current minimum of 15 per cent. This is thrilling because it promises to deliver more resources to the grassroots. But there is no discussion on how to raise the cash.
Some of the proposals have far-reaching implications and cannot be taken just at the face value. For example, the Bill seeks to change the presidential term limit from the current 10 years divided into two sessions, to one term of seven years. A single seven-year term is replete with challenges. Once elected, a President has no compunction to deliver because there is no threat of censure should he fail. The reason for two terms of five years each is to empower citizens to exit a non-performer through the ballot.
Also, the Bill proposes to do away with nomination of individuals to the County Assemblies and the Senate on the grounds that those positions are a burden to taxpayers, which is true. However, that argument does not take cognisance of the fact that nomination, in principle, is an avenue to bring on board special skills or categories of individuals who otherwise cannot join the legislative chambers purely through elections. It is an effort towards inclusivity and serving special interests.
We are calling for proper debate on the Punguza Mizigo Initiative, to determine its viability, or lack thereof, before making a determination on how to proceed.