DAR ES SALAAM. The recent appointment of Prof. Ibrahim Juma as the Acting Chief Justice by President Dr. John Magufuli following the retirement of Chief Justice Mohamed Chande has been welcomed with high hopes for continuing the effort to tackle big problems and challenges facing the Judiciary today.
Many people, in and outside legal circles, have spoken so positively of Prof. Juma’s immense legal experience, intellectual skills, scholarship, genuine passion and love for the law, and his vision for judicial reform through the greater use of Information and Communications Technology.
By virtue of Article 118(5) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977 (“the Constitution”), Prof. Juma, who has been appointed Acting CJ appointed under Article 118(4) of the Constitution, is required to perform the duties of the Chief Justice, which include presiding over the Court of Appeal of Tanzania and the Judicial Service Commission.
Now, Tanzanians look forward to seeing how Prof. Juma will transform Tanzania’s Judiciary into a true institution of service for the people. And, they hope that Prof. Juma will be humbled by this noble expectation and keep his humility while performing the duties of his office. Tanzanians expect him to ensure accessible justice and that the rulings and judgments from the Judiciary bench evenly balance the scales of justice.
Moreover, given that Tanzania is a country of diverse interests, Prof. Juma, his colleagues, and the Judiciary have to evaluate and balance all these interests against the provisions of the Constitution and the law in order to conform to the values preserved therein that require the Judiciary to promote a culture of Tolerance, Non-discrimination and Inclusiveness.
However, the noble expectations of Tanzanians upon Prof. Juma should be within the scope of the mandate, powers and functions of his office as prescribed by the Constitution; the Judiciary Administration Act, 2011; the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, 1979; and any other written law.
Tanzanians should also take cognizance of the fact that Prof. Juma cannot ensure dispensation of quality justice alone, since the greater part of his powers are at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the Court of Appeal of Tanzania (CAT) where he has to work collegially with colleagues.
He also needs the support of the Executive arm of the Dr. Magufuli-led government for the suave management of court administrative systems and the execution of decrees from various Tanzanian courts.
In short, the triumph or foundering of the Judiciary over some of the big problems it faces; to wit, delay of cases and corruption is not entirely dependent on Prof. Juma, but on the joint efforts of all Tanzanians and stakeholders to perform bountifully their duties in bringing about coordinated, unified and integrated reforms and improving the Judiciary.
Tanzanians as court users must steer clear of corruption at all costs. A bigger picture of the repercussions of a corrupt Judiciary is that of dissuading Tanzanians to bring their genuine disputes to courts established by law and encouraging extra-judicial means of dispute resolution.
This utterly upsets the genuine interests of the disabled and vulnerable Tanzanians, including women and widows and children and further exacerbates their position in the society. A corrupt Judiciary may also stunt trade and commerce as there would be no impartial arbiter to hear and determine trade and commercial disputes and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows into Tanzania may shrink if the laws of Tanzania are not upheld and enforced.
Therefore, every Tanzanian—individually or collectively—must reject corruption; respect and champion accountability and transparency; uphold the rule of law; and ensure we have a more independent, honest, impartial, accountable, transparent, and efficient Judiciary. Equally important, Tanzanians should be vigilant and raise genuine complaints regarding the functioning of various courts or staff working in the courts as Prof. Juma cannot be in every judiciary office or court room.
The Parliament of Tanzania, the supreme legislative body of Tanzania, can also contribute to curbing judicial corruption by legislating creative solutions to people’s problems and effectively performing its constitutionally given oversight function. Actually, some scholars have argued that the relative effectiveness of parliament’s performance of its oversight function contributes bounteously to the worthiness of democracy and the fight against corruption.
In undertaking the difficult but not impossible task of leading the Judiciary of Tanzania, Prof. Juma needs the support of the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), particularly in profoundly raising the ethical standing and conduct of its members. By using their advocacy with integrity in order to help maintain the equilibrium of the scales of justice, the TLS—a key partner in the administration of justice in this country—can contribute to the progress of Tanzania’s democracy and improve the Judiciary.
Overall, Tanzania has taken great strides towards addressing the ills that have plagued its Judiciary. However, there’s still much room for improvement through joint, collegial efforts. Consequently, as we celebrate Law Day 2017, Tanzanians and all stakeholders must collectively begin by evaluating where the current justice system fails and questioning their role in ushering in the much-needed improvements, and then stay united and focused in their quest for a more independent, honest, impartial, accountable, transparent, and efficient Judiciary—that’s essential to contributing to the good governance and economic growth of Tanzania.