Friday, October 1, 2010




13th September 2010

Greetings Guardian gurus. Last week I was applauding the vibrant Kenyan press, and the excellent analysis and coverage leading up to the signing of their new constitution.

In many country’s though, vibrancy isn’t the word to describe the media during elections, when the public often find the newspapers boring if they become notice boards for a litany of tedious rhetoric, pompous pronouncements, and false promises from contesting parties.

With seven weeks to go before the campaigns here are concluded, a Daily News editorial has decried the fact that already there are “numerous complaints and accusations of foul play, corruption, use of bad and insulting language, mud-smearing, violence, tribalism, religious bias, and destruction of property among rival parties.”… goodness…..did I say boring!

Discrediting your rivals in the political arena is universal standard practice, but trying to do so via their love life, can have pitfalls, especially in Africa. Accusing someone of having multiple sex partners or wives for example, might well work to their advantage, if this behaviour is culturally accepted and admired……think of Jacob Zuma!

On the other hand, exposing a shifty little extra marital indiscretion could be effective, signifying as it might, a certain lack of decisive boldness, not desirable shortcomings in a leader, which could cause a small fall from grace….think of Bill Clinton!

The local press has colourful terms for such transgressions, with talk of concubines etc…. this biblical word, sounds much more exciting than ‘girlfriend’, though in the case of one Chadema leader, the erotic element is somewhat diminished, when allied to ‘concubine co-parent’, as one paper wrote of his relationship, but parenting and concubines just don’t seem to go together!

On a broader level though, the message often appears to be, the bigger the sin…the cleverer the sinner, and the more likely to get away with it. Observers might feel that’s been the code in this country for some time. Whilst petty thieves are beaten to death, “ufisadis”, EPA opportunists, and state pillagers escape legal or mob ‘justice’. I’d like to think they expire prematurely from a surfeit of good living, but godly justice doesn’t work like that either.

As chief guest at a function organised by churches and civil groups recently, the President expressed concern at falling moral standards here, particularly amongst the youth, saying information technology had brought not only development, but social problems also. Correct, but this is partially the predictable outcome of ‘westernisation’, on developing countries, and since Tanzania has imported the entire ‘package’ wholesale, without apparent policies to mitigate the impact, why the surprise at the consequences.

But consequences there are. The values, customs, culture and habits, I so admired and learned from when I first came here, have certainly diminished, especially in urban areas.

Remember the MP who wanted to ban masai from coming to town without ‘chupis’. Surely a rejection of African culture which this tribe, against huge odds have bravely attempted to retain…they should be on the national currency or flag!

However, as they jet around the globe, how many leaders here promote African values, and lead by example? How many are heard extolling the benefits of the simple way of life, as opposed to sanctioning shopping malls, casinos, endless badly designed prestige towers, luxury tourist projects, and almost anything, however culturally harmful, if it brings in the mighty dollar.

In fact, in blatant disregard of financial regulations, they’ve practically promoted this currency, uncaring at the resultant loss of confidence in their own. Pestering Central Bank officials, and lobbying on the issue for years, I’ve long wondered why local bureaucrats don’t find dollarisation of the economy disturbing, as I do as a non citizen.

Anyway, back to declining morals, which certainly include the political. Equally certain, JK couldn’t have admitted so, when he condemned the social kind!

Penning a critique on Tanzania, retired civil servant Ole Kambainei, in a plea for national probity writes; “In my yesteryear CCM there was integrity, honesty, professionalism, trust ……commitment to serve the common good, while protecting public interest….these were the qualifications for leadership. Over two decades we’ve lost vision and direction for the collective good, becoming a party controlled by powerful and wealthy individuals, to serve their own interests.”

Depressing words, but the writer is still a loyal CCM member, who says he sees no better alternative, and applauds the efforts of the President and government in fighting many social ills, optimistic they can manage future challenges.

Five years ago, at election time I left the country under one president and his administration, returning under another. My favourite ministers had gone, new institutions formed, and re-shuffles effected in the judiciary, police and elsewhere. Some civil servants had been ‘retired in the public interest’, and their own of course, as they got to keep the fruits of the behaviour which caused the ‘retirement’. To the detriment of the public purse, Tanzania has excelled in this form of ‘de-luxe parallel pension’, a constant policy through every phase of government, and the next will no doubt maintain the tradition.

Time to close….but I’ve just remembered…..In October last year, P.M. Pinda deploring ‘‘leaders lust for posh cars”, as a press headline neatly proclaimed, some of which cost up to 230m/-, directed such purchases to be ‘revisited’. He added; “if we implement this move, the money saved could go to areas of dire need, like the livestock sector.”

As I wrote at the time……good thinking, ….let me come up with a slogan to support it …. how about ….”cows instead of cars”….Yeah great, I’ll gift that to the ruling party and our Bagamoyo boy for the next elections. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if those demanding the 230 m/- beasts were made to ride the bovine ones instead…Jakaya honey what do you think?!