Tanzania bans entertainment of election candidates

DAR ES SALAAM – Tanzanian political parties and rights groups on Tuesday hailed a High Court ruling outlawing a traditional practice of entertaining candidates during elections, which they say encouraged corruption.

The practice, known in the east African lingua franca o

f Kiswahili as “Takrima”, is the giving of tips or tokens and was previously allowed under Tanzanian election laws. Critics said it encouraged graft in the political system.

A three-judge panel sitting in Dar es Salaam last year allowed three non-governmental organisations – Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC), Lawyers on Environmental Action Team (LEAT) and National Organisation for Legal Assistance (NOLA) – to challenge the practice.

The judges on Monday ruled that two articles in the election law allowed political corruption in the name of African tradition and were discriminatory.

“We order the same to be struck off National Elections Act,” the judges said.

The country’s main opposition party — Civic United Front (CUF) — lauded the decision.

CUF Spokesman Ismail Jussa told Reuters from the Indian Ocean Island of Zanzibar that their cry had finally been heard.

“It is however unfortunate that the decision had to be made by the court when there was political machinery that could have done the job,” Jussa said. “This shows how intransigent the government has been.”

Senior State Attorney, Nickson Nkingwa, who was in the government defence team, said the government needed time to think and consider appropriate measures to take.

The political party members said there was now a chance to challenge election results in areas where it could be proved that Takrima was practiced during Tanzania’s elections in 2005.

“The decision can make it possible for aggrieved candidates from both the Zanzibar House of Representatives and National Parliament to challenge the results. It is a shot worth trying,” Jussa said.

CUF and other political parties except for the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi – or Party of the Revolution — have spoken to condemn Takrima.

Officials from CCM could not be reached for comment but President Jakaya Kikwete had promised that his government would look into Takrima, saying it tarnished the political system. — Reuter

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