Wednesday, October 13, 2010



8th October 2010
Daily News
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

THERE is a general agreement within the media fraternity, that what the campaigning politicians are promising the electorate is well out of this world. To test this idea, the Good Citizen (Election Platform, 8 September, p. 8) put to a question to the people: “Will politicians manage to deliver on promises?” Eight out of the nine respondents (i.e. 89%) said the promises were unattainable.

One, a machine operator said: “Generally politicians are liars, … In 2005 we were promised ‘better lives’ but instead we are experiencing hard life I have ‘never’ come across in my life……” In terms of language, “We were promised better lives” is not on. We may be 40 million plus Tanzanians, but here our lives are considered as one, collective. Thus, “we were promised a better life”.

Thus, to say we are having a hard life and not “hard lives” is in order. However, the sentence: “….experiencing hard life I have ‘never’ come across in my life” needs rectification. The “never” should change into “ever” and “hard” is best changed into “hardest.” Our sentence will therefore read: “……… we are experiencing the hardest life I have ever come across”.
We leave out “in my life” because “ever” takes care of that.

Besides, we do not want to repeat “life” twice in one sentence. Another respondent, a religious teacher, had equally harsh words for the politicians: “I have witnessed one of them repeating the same promise he gave us in 2005, ‘this is very normal these people.’ I think this is ‘a’
right time for punishing these people by refusing to elect them in the coming General Election.” This got me wondering.

Is this ‘the’ right time to refuse to elect politicians? If we refuse to elect all politicians (since they are all making unrealistic promises), whom do we elect? Should we boycott the election? The respondent should have been helpful by differentiating (at least in terms of their attributes) the politicians we should vote for from those we should shun. A reader identified as Worried Voter, wrote a letter to the Editor of the TODAY (September 27-October 3, p.7) urging politicians to: “Stop making unattainable promises”.

“We are being promised ‘heaven of earth’ with some unrealistic promises meant to persuade us into voting for them”. The reader claims that the politicians themselves know what is attainable and what is not. “They know they can always later on blame it on something else ‘as the reason to fulfil their promises.’” The conclusion is very strong: “We are tired of your empty promises and lies.” The language: One, it is not “heaven ‘of’’ earth” but rather “heaven on earth”, an extremely enjoyable situation or place.

Two, why should politicians blame it on something else as the reason to fulfil their promises? If a promise is fulfilled, there cannot be blames, but perhaps to praises. If the politicians ever blame, that will be because the promises have been fulfilled: “They can always blame it on something else as a reason for ‘not’ fulfilling their promises” (the weather, oil prices, world crisis, all ready made). Still more salvos.

A regular columnist in the Custodian on Sunday (September 12, p. 13: “Society Watch”) also feels politicians are taking the public for a ride: “A halt should be put on empty, unrealistic election pledges.” The writer cites a TV survey which concluded that: “Close to 70 per cent of the respondents reportedly said what most of the contesting politicians are ‘shouting to the rooftop’ cannot be banked on…”. By “shouting to the roof top” the writer possibly wanted to convey the message that these politicians are making their promises loud and clear for all to hear.

The idiom, however, is not, “shout ‘to’ the ‘rooftop’” but “shout from the rooftops”. Note the plural in rooftops. Shouting something from the rooftops means telling everyone about something because you want everyone to know about it. Now that politicians know that the public does not believe them, why not stop using billions of shillings on making empty promises to people on empty stomachs and with empty pockets; and direct that money to actually implementing whatever such resources can finance.

I would go for desks, pit latrines, text books and water all primary schools. However, a gentleman identified as R, a street trader, has vowed not to vote. This is reported in the Sunday Blog (3 October, p. 9) in an article entitled; “The angry, the happy should vote.” The writer tells why R will not vote: “Only the other day the city militias chased me from my business spot. …… They fleeced me of my 60,000/-. I cannot forget them and don’t want anything to do with their voting.”

The journalist made efforts to convince R to vote, if only in the hope of changing those who are not up to the job but: “R still stuck to his ‘gun’ of ‘never’ visiting the polling station on ‘October 30th’”. “They are all thieves who wallow in wealth while we the ‘lumphens’ – live in misery. On the assumption that R had only one gun, it is logical to talk of him ‘sticking to
his gun.’

The idiom, however, is “sticking to ones guns”. Note the plural in guns. To say R will ‘never’ visit the polling station on October 30th is too strong and not reflecting the meaning. “Not visit the polling station” is more to the point. Let him not visit a polling station on October 30th but he can do so on October 31, the actual day of the General Election. Or he may visit a polling station come the General Election in October 2015.

Are the electorate “lumphens”? Is this a new species of hens, just like we have lump camels, hump whales? I guess the writer meant “lumpens”, which would still be incorrect for, lumpen (i.e. relating to the poor and least educated people from the working class) is an adjective, which must qualify something. Lumpen proletariat is the oft used phrase.