Since Zanzibar was ruled by number of foreigners including Portuguese, Arabs and British, its Legislative history had been affected with their original legislative systems. During Arab therefore (1832-1920), Zanzibar had experienced the decision making system based on Majlis al Shura, that made the laws based on largely the personal prerogative of the Sultan, as the top ruler at that time.
The Agreement for protection of Zanzibar that was signed between Great Britain and the Sultan of Zanzibar on 14th June 1890, had marked the great change of putting Zanzibar under the British protectorate. And that was one of the great change on legislative history from Arab influence to British legislative influence history. The same had affected the beginning of Zanzibars constitutional history. In 1891 constitutional government was established, with General Sir Lloyd Mathews as His Highness First Minister.
During British (on the 1st July 1913), legislative history of Zanzibar had developed with the effect of transferring the British administrative system, from “Foreign Office” to “Colonial Office” and abolishing the posts of “First Minister” and “Consul-General” in substituting with the new post of “British Resident”, the change that did not please the Sultan (Seyyid Khalifa bin Haroub who had come to the throne in 1911) as it deprived him the colonial power and degraded his governance.
From the Sultans grievances, Zanzibar legislative history had taken another change known as the Protectorate Council whose chairman (as nowadays known Speaker) was Sultan as President while the British Resident as the Vice President (might be as Deputy Speaker in nowadays legislative systems). The said change happened subject to the Protectorate Council Decree (Decree No 6 of 1914). The same Decree had further established other six members of the Protectorate Council, including three ex-officio members (Attorney General, Chief Accountant, and Head of Government Affairs) and three unofficial ones nominated by the Sultan (Arab, Asian, and European). The council was an advisory body to his Highness the Sultan.
In 1926, the Councils Decree was passed (Decree No. 1 of 1926) that established Executive Council (EXCO) and Legislative Council (LEGCO). The two councils had separated powers, the administrative powers were granted to the Executive Council, which mainly consisted of senior British administrators, and Sultan as the head of the Council. The legislative powers were granted to the Legislative Council (LEGCO) which was presided by the British Resident (as the Speaker of such body), but still the bill passed had subsequently to get the assent of His Highness the Sultan.
LEGCO had 12 members; some of them were from government side (three ex officio members and three official members). Another six were nominated unofficial members. For the period of twenty years of the life of LEGCO, there was no African representation. The African representation in the LEGCO started in 1946 when Sheikh Ameir Tajo was nominated to represent the African population. In 1947 Sheikh Ali Shariff was also nominated to the LEGCO to improve the Africans representation.
The nomination of two Africans caused racial agitation where other racial groups demanded their representation as well. The situation appeared intolerable to the British Resident who had improved people representation to four Africans, four Arabs, three Asians and one European without affecting the nomination of the ex-officio members.
In 1956 the new Decree was passed, the Council Decree which repealed the previous Decree of 1926. The newly enacted Decree re-established Executive and Legislative Councils plus a Privy Council in the same year. W.F Coutts who had been appointed to advise on the methods to be used in choosing the unofficial members of the LEGCO recommended that out of twelve unofficial members a common roll election be held for the six unofficial members, based on male suffrage, property and educational qualifications. That recommendation was accepted and it was the basis of the 1957 elections under the procedure laid down in the Legislative Council (Election) Decree of 1957.
By then, the struggle for independence was growing and in the mid 1950s racial groups were organized to political parties demanding independence. The first election was conducted in 1957. Since then the unofficial members of the LEGCO were obtained from the election results together with the Sultans nominees.
The councils Decree of 1956 was amended in 1960. These amendments were far reaching because for the first time the posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker were introduced. Hence, British Resident was no longer the presiding officer of the LEGCO.
Later on, other elections were conducted in January 1961, June 1962 and July 1963. The newly legislative body of Zanzibar was established by then the Constitution of the State of Zanzibar of 1963 (Decree No. 10 of 1963) that was the first Constitution to establish the Parliament of Zanzibar which was known as the National Assembly. The Constitution had established the post of Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly for the first time of the legislative history in Zanzibar. However, that Constitution was short-lived and abrogated by the January 12, 1964 Revolution in Zanzibar.
Due to the revolution of 1964, Zanzibar Legislative history changed to the new era of law making body by the Revolutionary Council, at the same time exercising the executive functions of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar. The Revolutionary Council survived for 16 years in the history of the country, until in 1980 when the Zanzibar House of Representatives (HRZ) was inaugurated on 14th January 1980 as a product of the 1979 Zanzibar Constitution, under section 21 of the 1979 Constitution.
In 1984, the 1979 constitution was repealed and replaced by the new the Zanzibar Constitution of 1984. This document is valid hitherto and has become the legal foundation of the House of Representatives of Zanzibar. Section 63 of the 1984 Constitution provides its legality. In addition to that, Article 106 of the 1977 Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania (URT) does recognize the House of Representatives of Zanzibar. The House of Representatives of Zanzibar is an institution of democratic representation for the people of Zanzibar. It has legislative, financial and representational functions on all non-union matters for Zanzibar.