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On Some of the Key Issues Concerning Our Country

On Some of the Key Issues Concerning Our Country

 A Pastoral Statement of the Catholic Bishops of Tanzania

 25 February, 2000


What We See and Hear

As the country approaches the elections for local government representatives, parliamentarians and the President, politicians are busy preparing themselves for campaigns to be elected. Meanwhile, many citizens are not fully aware of what is going on and even those who seemingly appear to know what is taking place are concerned and worried.
 
We Bishops, being pastors and moral leaders among our people, see and hear many things that worry us a great deal. For example, the number of children and young people who cannot pay school fees and added contributions continues to grow. In many families, mothers and children fail to obtain basic health care services. Many farmers do not get necessary support, skills and implements for actualizing effective productivity. They do not get support and good counsel on how to profitably market their products. They are victims of the mechanisms of the free market economy. Moreover, the country cannot cope with the problem of many young people seeking decent and stable employment. All these cases contribute to increased formation of class strata and differentiation in our country between the poor majority and the few wealthy who wield and amass power around themselves for their personal gains. At the very same time, the government leans more towards building a healthy financial economy rather than caring for the social health of our society.

Our Democracy 

When Tanzania embraced the multiparty system, we hoped that our democracy could be more strengthened. We were fully aware that this goal will take a long time to be achieved. It is the responsibility of the government to strengthen, protect and promote democracy. From what we see and hear, several questions cross our minds.
 
For example, changes in the Constitution which come out of the government's White Paper, are they introduced for the good of all Tanzanians or rather are they for the good of those in power, or for a certain group of people? Does the government respect, protect and give fair opportunities to opposition political parties when it comes to organizing their rallies? Is there openness and cooperation within the ruling party, or are party members afraid of one another or using crafty strategies to obtain or remain in power? Is there room within the ruling party to evaluate critically party policies and discuss plans and proposals for their better implementations? Equally, within the opposition parties do we find true democracy? How do these parties choose their candidates and leaders for election? Do they propose any viable alternative policies for our country or do they simply complain against existing ones? How come that our country is deprived of the opportunity to choose between different viewpoints and approaches for a better policy and a better implementation of strategies! 

An Appeal to All Tanzanians and to the Leaders 

We invite all people of good will to pray to the Almighty God that we may obtain the graces for enabling us to make discernment on who will be the right people to lead our country in the years to come.
 
We invite all our faithful to see these elections as part of the Jubilee Year 2000 and as an opportunity to collaborate with the Almighty God in building up our country according to His plan and desires.
 
We encourage and call upon all Tanzanian citizens not to be afraid of expressing their views through various channels and means, especially now and during the election campaigns. Let citizens not be afraid of asking leaders to give an account of their duties and services.
 
Let every citizen learn to defend justice and rights with regards to basic needs and oblige the government to give priority to the social needs of the majority of the people instead of prioritizing the wishes and desires of the strata of the wealthy and economically powerful ones. For example, the Government often says: "We understand your problem, but the Government has no money." Meanwhile, a certain class of people continues to receive a lot of money or material goods.
 
It must be remembered that the voice of the Nation is not sorely presented by political parties but by all the people of Tanzania. It is equally important to keep in mind that everyone in governmental leadership position is a servant of the citizens and is being paid from contributions of taxpayers.

 To strive towards being elected is a good deed because it provides an opportunity to the one candidate (if chosen) to render services to follow citizens. A leader who fulfils his duties well is pleasing to God and receives respect and dignity from everyone (Jn 12:26; Rm 14:18). Such a leader has the following qualities:

 A Truthful Person: Does not make empty or false promises during the campaign and does not cheat the people.

 A Faithful Person: Remembers that he/she represents voters of his/her constituency and thus cannot sorely defend the political party at the expense of people. He/she does not betray basic values of the nation and the basic needs of the people.

 A Self-sacrificing Person: He/she is even willing to sacrifice his/her position in view of defending justice and rights of the people. A good leader offers his/her time, strength and even health for the common good. He/she is even ready to lose a position or a good opportunity in order to defend the truth, justice and the common good.

 A Person Guided by Basic Values: Among these basic values are life, human dignity, freedom, peace and equality. These values are defined in the Preamble of the Constitution of Tanzania. From the political point of view, our basic values are unity, equality and democracy. A good leader does not spend most of his/her time on trivial matters at the expense of addressing bigger and more pressing issues in the Nation. 

Concerning the Constitution and Election Campaigns

 The Constitution of the Nation is the basic law of the land, which expresses the aspirations, and desires of the Tanzanian citizens and that spells out the peoples' want to be led and governed. The Constitution is not a thing to play with or to be discarded easily by government, rather, the Government is there to serve the Constitution. We warn our leaders not to change the Constitution in game like manner. It is improper to make piecemeal changes that follow the temporary needs of politicians or those that are in favor of a certain group or of one person.

In order that the coming elections provide us with leaders who are worthy, we encourage each party to be careful in choosing the candidates who have needed qualities.

We urge political parties to stop the habit of using money and other material gains as means of attracting and compelling voters to join them during the campaigns. It is improper and unfair to de-route money which has been set aside for government departments and for government services and development projects, to election campaigns. 

Conclusion 

We have expressed our views clearly because we want our people to vote for leaders who are strong and upright. We want leaders who can contribute efforts towards fostering the values of love, freedom, justice and peace among us all. This is our prayer to God for our people and for our Nation during this election year.
 
Bishop Justin Samba
President of the Tanzanian Conference of the Catholic Bishops
In the Name of the Catholic Bishops of Tanzania
Issued at Kurasini Centre, TEC.