Sunday, December 21, 2008



By Khalid Mtwangi

To many Tanzanians it came as no surprise when the Chief Justice, His Lordship Brigadier Augustino Ramadhani, announced that there were hardly any lawyers and advocates in private practice anywhere outside of Dar es Salaam. There have been complaints aired by many people that there simply is a bit too much of everything that is concentrated in Dar es Salaam.

Perhaps more important in this context the Muhindi dukawalla will have moved away from the village and even from some big trade centres along time ago. He will have been harassed enough by some tin pot of the bureaucracy for his liking. Yet it is businessmen who form the core of the advocates’ clientele. The pensioner simply would not ever think of spending his final days in a decrepit of a village. Yet this group could have been another of those who would very likely seek the services of the advocate since they will probably have invested their hard won settlements into a small going enterprise, including a small farm.

All this is sad commentary on the economic planners of this country and; by thunder! Since independence the country has been able to manufacture quite an assortment of them. Or is it the politicians who call the shots and therefore they are to blame for everything that on the rocks!

It must be accepted that for a very large majority of the people of Tanzania, as it would be in many other African countries, the village is where everything began to happen. Looking back at that simple life one now wonders what has happened since then. In those days, life was fairly routine such that for some there was the task of herding livestock, taking them out early in the morning to graze then leading them back into the manyatta or zizi in the evening. There were villages where farming, mostly subsistence, was the mainstay of activity with the production of cash crops a subsidiary pass time. However it was the little money the peasant farmer would get after selling his produce in the nearest town that would keep the merchants in that town alive.

All in all life would be worth living in the town. In addition to the commercial life other social facilities would be available and working. The employees in the Native Authority offices would not be “wafisadi” but conscientious public servants willing to serve the people.

The dispensary would have medicines to cure malaria and dysentery if not something more serious. This must not be construed to mean that one longs for the bad old days of the strutting and, at best, condescending British District Commissioner; certainly not, but give the devil his due, he had the knack of getting things done and go like clock work.

Nevertheless it would be naïve to expect the world to stop so that the simple rustic lifestyle could sustain itself and be able to fight off the onslaught of modern day commercialism (one shudders to call it capitalism). Change had to be expected and change has arrived with vengeance. It has had the effect of transforming village life into one long nightmare that simply is incompatible with the vagaries of life of a learned brother’s idiosyncrasies. It would therefore be infra dig for a start and secondly he would not be able to find any member of the fraternity for miles around, but more important he could not find any breakfast foods such bas corn flakes or the now ubiquitous sausages, pork or beef.

All that could be dismissed as snobbery since one would recall that there was the colonial Bwana Shamba (agricultural officer) who was able to live comfortably with the peasant farmer in the village. By simple deduction surely the local man who though has been able to adopt some trappings of modernity should as well be able to live in the village! But the Mzungu Bwana Shamba was able to count on his employer for other perks that could make life in the bundu quite liveable. On the other hand the advocate is left to fend for himself in the village completely devoid of social services in time of need. Apparently, there is the feeling among many Tanzanians that the powers that be think that when every one in Dar es Salaam is served well all Tanzania is happy. No one else matters a hoot.

But what could be worse for the lawyer advocate would be the lack of clientele as has been pointed out earlier.

He has to live and his one source of livelihood is to get miscreants out of trouble; the businessman is more likely to want his services than the wayward small time criminal that is more likely to be found in the village or small town. Therefore he cannot set up shop there. Unfortunately, this predicament would afflict even those that may be patriotic enough to want to work in their home areas.

Take Tabora Municipality for example, the town has certainly seen better days. At the moment not even the roads in town are passable such that the renowned senior private advocate Hon. Said El Maamry, would find it difficult navigating his shangingi driving home along Rufita Street. With tobacco being the main cash crop in the area the economy should be buoyant, but it is not. What has happened now? The commercial life in the old days in the town would certainly have been able to need the services of many advocates not the two that are now available in Tabora.

It must be accepted that life away from Dar es Salaam and perhaps a few regional headquarters is a hard struggle for survival for every one every inch of the way. In the old days the people from the slopes of Kilimanjaro and the Balangila from Kagera would always want to settle home on retirement, but not any longer. There are hordes of them who have made Dar es Salaam their home far away from home; and ugali and changu their staple. In fact there are others such as Mangi Leonard Mandara who, having sampled mgabuka (fish) prefers making Kigoma his home. Those who had seen Moshi town or Bukoba in their hay days would understand why not many learned brothers would want to set up shop in their ancestral towns. Yet the people from these two areas do dominate the fraternity.

It must be accepted that the demise of agriculture has been the one devastating factor that would account for the life in the villages and towns being untenable. The lawyer class are not the only ones who shy away from setting up shop in those places. The medical profession too are concentrated in Dar es Salaam and a few regional headquarters. Under the circumstances all those statistics that get reeled out every day detailing how well the country is doing do not wash with members of the legal profession. Like the unfortunate and much despised pensioner these learned brothers vote with their black robes that the village or the small town is out.

The economic planners and the social scientists in the bureaucracy may get down to assisting His Lordship the Chief Justice dissipate his woes!