Remarks by Ms.Mandisa Mashologu- UNDP Deputy Country Director-Programmes

13 Jun 2013

Workshop on Separation of Powers between the Three Branches of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar

Your Excellency, The Second Vice President of Zanzibar, Ambassador, Seif Ali Iddi,

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Pandu Ameir Kificho,

The Chief Justice of Zanzibar, Honourable Othman Makungu,

Cabinet Ministers, Honourable Members of the House of Representatives,

The Attorney General,

The Chief Secretary, Dr. Abdulhamid Yahya Mzee

The Director of Public Prosecutions

Senior Government Officials

Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of our Resident Representative and the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Alberic Kacou, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is highly honoured to have been invited to make a statement at the official opening of this important workshop on the Separation of Powers between the Three Branches of Government in Zanzibar. When UNDP received the request to support this activity from the Chief Secretary, we had no hesitation in facilitating the necessary arrangements to make this meeting a success. This is because sound checks and balances provided through a functioning system of separation of powers is critical for any constitutional democracy. 

I would like to thank the Honourable Speaker for readily agreeing to have this meeting funded under the auspices of the Legislatures Support Project. His agreement enabled us to quickly mobilize resources to ensure that this important dialogue takes place as scheduled. As you are aware, the Legislature Support Project is not only about enhancing the capacity of the legislature to deliver on its constitutional mandate, it is also about building awareness and consensus on that mandate among other state and non-state-actors. 

From a review of the programme, it is wonderful to note that some of the topics that will be discussed at this meeting include The Roles of the Executive and Legislature in Law-making and Budgeting; Powers, Privileges and Immunities of the Members of the House of Representatives, Parliamentary Oversight, and the Roles of the Executive. These topics are very relevant to the work that UNDP is supporting under the Legislatures Support Project as well as other programmes with respective institutions underpinning democracy and good governance in Zanzibar. Our Governance Advisor will be facilitating a session on good governance and anti corruption tomorrow and we trust that along with other topics discussed over the course of the next two days, it will indeed be a successful and informative workshop. I am therefore confident that both the Members of the House of Representatives here present and other branches of government will find these topics useful in their future day-to-day engagement. 

Your Excellency, the centuries-old principle of separation of powers is one that guides the exercise of state power and seeks to uphold transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs in many countries all over the world. But, it is also one which if not properly understood or deliberately, can result in constitutional crises and political instability. As we will learn from the discussions over the next two days, separation of powers is predicated upon the notion that the state is divided into three branches – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary - each with separate and independent powers.  In its simple form, separation of powers proceeds from the premise that the legislature makes laws which are implemented by the executive, and interpreted by the judiciary. However, we also know that the executive can veto bills while the judiciary can declare some laws unconstitutional. 

Key to the principle of separation of powers is the understanding that none of these branches has more power than the other branches and that in the exercise of their power, they all work cooperatively, in their different spheres, for the proper functioning of the government. However, this system of checks and balances is not without contestation, and in some cases conflict. Such tension is healthy and is part and parcel of the day to day management of public affairs. It however requires political management and sometimes the interpretation of the judiciary as the custodians of the Constitution and laws of the country.

It is also worth noting that separation of powers, especially between the executive and legislature is not absolute. The points of intersection are many. For example, legislation which ends up in the legislature and ultimately with the President as head of government can originate both from the executive and from individual members of the legislature, as private member’s bills. Likewise, the appointment of judges is not without the involvement of the President as the appointing authority. In the case of Zanzibar – as is the case with many members of the Commonwealth – ministers are also members of the legislature. In other words, they belong to and function in both the executive and legislative spheres. 

These and other examples should not be understood to mean or infer interference of one branch in the work of another. They arise from the political and historical traditions and jurisprudence of different states. What is critical – and this seems to be a central objective of this meeting - is that there is a clear understanding among the various actors of the constitutional provisions and legal framework governing the relative powers and functions of each of these organs, including how accountability is exercised.

As UNDP, our partnership with and support for the government and people of Zanzibar cuts across all these three branches of government and recognizes the complementarities of the efforts of these branches towards achieving Vision 2020, the Millennium Development Goals, and the success of the Zanzibar Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (2010 – 2015).

We are, therefore, delighted to be part of this important discussion involving all the critical players, across the different levels of government. We look forward to benefitting from the outcome of this discussion as we seek to strengthen our programming support in legal sector reform, disaster management, anti-corruption, support to the legislature, HIV and AIDS, aid effectiveness and poverty monitoring, and preparations for the upcoming elections. 

We hope that at the end of the discussion, concrete resolutions will emerge on the range of issues under discussion to strengthen collaboration between the different branches of government for sustainable democracy, good governance and development. Ultimately, a democracy is constant work in progress, or in the words of the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, “Democracies are not born overnight, nor built in a year, or by holding one or two elections. They require sustained and painstaking work. Yet, once begun, there can be no going back”.

Asanteni sana.