Wednesday, December 27, 2006

JMK: You Are Employed By The People

I have nothing personal against President JMK. So when I hammer his thinking and whatever he does, it is not that I hate the guy. I am just fulfilling my obligation as a citizen. Besides, I am the boss. I put him in office. He is accountable to me.

The most compelling reason though, is the fact that the president is the head of the Tanzanian household. When head of the household is not thinking straight, it is a sure thing that we will be in deep trouble. And truly speaking, Tanzania has started sinking deeper, in case you haven't noticed.

I can see some people flinching in shock. No, truly, we – wananchi - are the bosses. But I guess some politicians snatched the power from you that you feel so small. Sorry lady or gentleman, I know my position. I am the boss. So I will provide my scorecard, whether the system likes it or not. That is the nature of the beast.

So today I will just send a short memo to Ikulu:

From: Mwananchi, The Boss
To: The President of the URT, Employee

Dear Employee,

Re: Your Obligations

Given your recent comments during an exclusive interview with the Guardian, in which you gave the following comment: “ British Prime Minister Tony Blair has invited me on January 16 to visit London. Should I say I am not going to meet him because there are Tanzanians complaining about my trips outside the country?”, I would just remind you to watch your mouth and know your obligations.

Tony Blair did not employ you. The regular Hamisis, Sikudhanis, Matonyas and Ngoshas that you are despising employed you. You are accountable to them. If any of these regular wananchi feels that you need to sit your butt down and deal with domestic issues, you have no choice.

Do you think Tony Blair would continue meeting you in Dar, for instance, if there is a crisis in London? How many times have you heard national leaders halting their foreign trips to deal with domestic issues? What do you guys drink and smoke at Ikulu? It seems like whatever you drink and smoke at Ikulu causes an epidemic of arrogance, bad thinking and shortsightedness.

I don’t understand why you African presidents think it is cool to get foreign leaders’ approval. You know what it is? It is simply a bad case of inferiority complex. It was stupid of your administration to belittle the power crisis, while boasting of your meetings with the Blairs. You priority is the Tanzanian people, not foreign leaders. Period.

There is nothing wrong with making foreign trips that are justified, and you should make such trips. But making foreign trips so that you can simply show your face is plain, well, stupid. Do I need to remind you that you were once a Minister for Foreign Affairs and most likely these folks have intelligence on you and they know you better than you think? Do I need to remind you that we have ambassadors charged with representing your policies and priorities to foreign entities? So why run these errands yourself?

I hope you are listening. I hope you are paying attention, because the boss will run you out of Ikulu sooner than you think.

Mwananchi, The Boss.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Mr. President, Please...

I don’t think intellectual capabilities alone are good enough to make a good leader. Nonetheless, I am convinced that an individual who is empty upstairs cannot make a wonderful leader either. You don’t have brainpower like Einstein to become a president. We cannot also yank someone from Mirembe and make him or her our president. A president can just have an average level of intelligence – as long as he or she is capable of handling the office.

That being said, the kind of a president I would like is the type that has the ability to grasp and put issues in their proper context. Honestly, I have doubts whether Mr. JMK is that type of a president. Uncommon situations require uncommon solutions. Tanzania requires a very special leader. If anything, Mr. JMK sounds more of a common, Katibu Kata, operating from Ikulu. I have reflected so much about his government, but my current conclusion is based on his speech on the RDC issue.

One has to wonder, is Mr. JMK for real or he is just playing dumb? Reading the article above, I couldn’t just believe his rationale. So here are my thoughts Mr. President.

1) Throwing the God/nature card is a cheap, stupid excuse.
We need better crisis management process and contingent plans in place. Period. Folks, I have blogged on this before . I don’t have to repeat that.

2) Time isn’t on our side.
Successful people understand the value of time. Apparently, Mr. President, your administration is acting like you have plenty of time in your hand. This is what you said in January, according to yourself: “ During my first speech, I discussed fears of the looming drought, that we were going to grapple with food scarcity, after which I discussed the condition of power generation. I gave precaution on January 31, this year”.

This is the deal Mr. President. Identify problems is just the very first step in finding a solution. Nonetheless, when you want credit for identification of the problem without actually producing swift remedial actions, you are just good for nothing. You identified the power crisis on January 31, 2006. What happened between then and now? Please don’t tell me the engagement of RDC and finding a temporary solution in 10 months is the fastest your government could do. I wonder what Kasi Mpya means to you.

3) Fools rush in.
I am still to find a VERY good reason for engaging RDC. Nobody makes a seriously decision solely on a few factors. It seems to me that the only reason the government engaged RDC is because they charged a cheap rate. That only sounds good on the surface.

Smart people or governments do their homework before getting into a business venture. They perform a due diligence. It is obvious that the Tanzanian government rushed in. If you have power crisis in the country and you are looking for a solution, wouldn’t you go for a company with a proven track record? So, isn’t the following sentence from a president who is just shooting in the dark, with no specific target or goals?

…Richmond turned out to be a small company with little capacity, and their hopes were that once they got the contract they could secure loans from banks, which refused to do so”.

There is no such thing as “turned out to be a small company”. You should have had that information before sitting on the negotiation table with RDC. You know why banks refused? Because they did their homework, while your power committee members were just nursing their vitambis. Honestly, given the magnitude of the power crisis in Tanzania, it was stupid of the Tanzanian government to gamble. I cannot forgive you for that.

Smart people perform a cost-benefit analysis. Specifically, the government.

4) What kind of contracts did you sign?
I thought UDSM teaches Law. I thought the Attorney General knows something about Law. I thought the contract between RDC stipulated remedies to the government in case of RDC’s failure to perform. I don’t understand the Mr. JMK’s government contention that if the RDC was revoked, they might have taken advantage to take the matter to court and seek redress from the government. How lame and stupid is that?

What kind of contract did you sign Mr. JMK? You mean to tell us that the government didn’t have any clause in the contract that covers the government’s back in case of breach of contract by RDC? You are kidding, right?

There are official tests out there, such as the IQ tests that can tell of someone’s intelligence. Nonetheless, I am convinced that acting in a way that is consistent with common sense is a sure sign that your fellow jirani or ndugu is intelligent enough. When they consistently miss on little common sense things, then we must start questioning.

As I sit here, I am just wondering – do we really have intelligent leaders in Tanzania or just some dimwits who got lucky? I mean, how come common sense seems to evade them? If not, how come they have PhDs and big time credentials?

May be politics turns people into zombies. I don’t know. I just don’t.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Beggars Mentality (3)

I love Bongoland leaders. That, of course, is a sarcastic statement from me. Honestly, I am still looking for anything to love my fellow Tanzanians who are given the responsibility to take us to the Promised Land. It is not my intention to depress you, but I don’t think the qualities I am looking for will emerge anytime soon.

See, there are fundamental things that a responsible human being will do. For instance, you are in a squeeze for money. A neighbor comes to you with a proposal. He or she proposes that they will contribute to your bank account, but the only simple condition for you to do that is bath your children. See, the reason why you needed the money was to fund the remodeling of your house. The problem, however, was that your children kept on getting sick, and the doctors advised you to bath your children quite often to save yourself of hospital trips.

So the neighbor, knowing that a fundamental change that you need to make is to bath your children, laid out a beneficial condition for you. Bath your children and I will give you money, as simple as that. So what would you think of a person who fails to accomplish that simple contractual obligation and end up missing the neighbor’s contribution? Stupid isn’t it?

I believe for allowing the contractual time with the Danish government to elapse before tabling the anti-corruption bill, the Tanzanian government has just acted the same - stupidly.

See, corruption hurts. It sends our economy and social progress ailing all the time. So wouldn’t it be the priority of a Tanzanian government to table the corruption bill as agreed upon with the Danish government? Phillip Marmo, the Minister of State in the President’s Office responsible for Good Governance contends the government could not rush to table the Bill in Parliament before seeking people’s views as provided for in the country’s legislative program.

That is crap, given you had a contractual agreement. I know of plenty of Bills that went against the people's will. So don't pull that on us.

One would quickly think that Marmo’s arguments make a strong case, but they are not. This is my question: when the Tanzanian government was signing the aid package, didn’t they know it would take much longer to fulfill the requirements set forth by the Danish government? Why didn’t the Tanzanian government bring that up during negotiations? This is not a surprise all of a sudden, isn’t it?

Tired politicians will always come up with tired arguments.

The bottom line is this: the Tanzanian government agreed to table the Bill not in February 2007, but earlier than that. So shut up and accept the fact that Tanzanian government is irresponsible.

So I just felt like slapping Mr. John Momose Cheyo for his comments regarding the Danish government’s move. Here is what he said: “These people! How can they do a thing like that? Is it that they want the people to go against their own government? Whey they slash aid, it is the people who are going to suffer, not the government. Their priority should be the people, the government in power”.

Either way Mr. Cheyo, wananchi cha moto wanakiona. Just look around you.

Can you believe that this is a guy who actually wanted to be the President of the United Republic of Tanzania? It is very sad that the word responsibility and accountability is not part of the Tanzanian culture. Because of that, we have a twisted mind. I mean, whose responsibility is it for the Tanzanian people, the Danish government or the Tanzanian government? Seems to me like Mr. John Cheyo thinks the Danish government should be more responsible to the Tanzanian people that the Tanzanians’ own government. How stupid is that?

What ticks me off is the fact that we are beggars, but we act like we are on top of the world. I have not done research on this, but I am convinced that holding on to the beggars’ mentality for too long has brought us to the point where we take everything for granted.

I agree with Mr. Idd Simba. Slash the stupid aid. We have plenty of gold. Let’s be responsible for our own actions and decisions. We kicked the British out so we can do that. So let’s do it then. Besides, financial aid has not done much. The last time I checked, if traveling by bus from Arusha to Dodoma, it is a sure thing that your eyelashes will be full of dust when you get there. Wasn’t that the case before the British left the country 45 years ago?

You know what sucks the most? Having clueless leaders. Kwa mwendo huu, Vision 2025 is just a dream. Si mtaona?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Lack Of Hope Is…Well, Dangerous

If you go through my profile, you will notice that one of my favorite movies is Shawshenk Redemption. What stands out for me from that movie is one catchy line at the end of the movie. That line goes like this, “Hope is a good thing. May be the best thing”.

To me, that is a profound statement.

We all do what we do because we have hope for something. I go to work because I hope for my pay at the end of it. I studied hard in school because I hoped for my degree and eventually a “good” job. I have not verified this from any terrorist, but I hear they do what they do because they hope for some spiritual reward. Hope, therefore, is this wonderful thing in us that drives us. It is our engine.

Whether we drive towards the right direction is another thing. Nonetheless, lack of hope is, well, hopelessness. It is desperation.

I am not a psychologist, but I read somewhere that when human beings are faced with a desperate, frightful situation they resort to two options – fight or flight. I believe that when we are facing dangerous situations head on, the choice to fight or flee is not an intellectual one. We tend to lack intellectual capacity to create a “choice diagram” to come up with the best route. We do it by instinct. We become animals that we are. The choice between “ngumi mkononi” or “mguu kichwani” becomes a matter of natural tendencies in you.

Hope, however, is not a utopian concept. That is particularly true when one’s hope is based on another person’s promise. At some point, the “promisor” must deliver to the “promisee” (that sounded legal, didn’t it?). Failure to deliver by the promisor can prompt the promisee to change their expectations, attitude, and course of action.

We must admit it, Mr. JMK came to power thunderously. I mean; racking up 80% of the votes in 2005 was not an easy feat. His early days, as I have alluded to in my previous posts, were promising. Nonetheless, of late he has been falling into this darkness and abyss that only he and him alone understand. That light that shone late 2005 and early 2006 is slowly turning into darkness. Plainly, I don’t see any hope for Tanzanians. He appears to have lost direction and the ability to rule. People, was the RDC issue really that difficult?

I can see a sense of desperation looming over the Tanzanian sky. I can see an eruption of pent-up emotions in the near future. When hope is gone, stuff happens. Things change.

See, my Tanzanian people have been duped for so long. I am not making a prediction of change solely because I desire one, but I know that nature has to take its own course. You can only fool people for sometime. The problem, however, is that CCM is slumbering. They are taking voters for granted. They are taking folks for imbeciles. I am sure Mr. JMK thought that getting 80% of votes was a special present with no strings attached. Well, Mr. President, the 80% votes you got signifies a level of hope folks assigned to your presidency. The problem is, you and CCM have been acting as if you owe Tanzanians nothing.

I cannot blame CCM that much though. Absolute power corrupts. Would you be shaken if you have been in power for, well, forever? It is like nothing moves you. Nonetheless, just ask the Republicans who faced the wrath of desperate people. When you have treated folks as fools for a while, they are bound to wake up. And when they do, they will definitely run you out of the park.

All of us desire to hope in something. Soon and very soon, Tanzanians will find something to hope for and hope in. I am sure there hope will not be in CCM or Kikwete. It won’t be in a system that appears to be incompetent by the day. It will be in something fresh, true and honest. Mark my words and watch out in 2010.

Hope is a good thing. May be the best thing. Lack of it is a dangerous thing. And CCM is facing that danger right in the face. So go ahead and sleep baby CCM, for Tanzanians are about to claim their country back. Pretty soon.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Those Who Travel Faster ...

Friends and readers,

I must start by apologizing. It is my goal to share my fresh thoughts on a regular, timely basis. Nonetheless, life throws challenges our way. I had to face some life adjustments in the past week that kept me away from this little “cubicle” of mine. But guess what? I am back!

Man, there are plenty of things to talk about and reflect on when it comes to life in Bongoland. One of the major issues, obviously, is the fact that RDC has failed to deliver electricity on time. That is not from me, but from Bongoland news all over the mtandao thing. Of course the reason is incompetent (the Company’s resume does not indicate any experience in power supply), but they have come up with plenty of excuses. Wasanii ni wasanii tu, ngojera lazima watatunga .

But I wouldn’t blame RDC. They did what they had to do in a broken system. The blame goes right back at the dude in Ikulu. Well, one would ask why Mr. JK should be blamed. The answer to that is very simple – he appointed these suckers called Mawaziri and Manaibu, whatever their titles are. I mean, Mr. JK got played straight up by Dr. Msabaha and Masha, but what did he do? He recycled them. What the heck is that?

That, in itself, is a problem. Nonetheless, there is more that troubles me. One of them is that inability to enforce contracts that we have entered into with other parties. In an ideal situation, one would expect that all contractual terms with RDC are clear, and that remedies to the government and penalties to for failure to perform are all stipulated. Then what is this thing about extending the time for RDC to deliver? Honestly, that is stupid. That is crazy.

I am not a law scholar, but this is the little I know. By verbally extending the time for RDC to deliver, the government just entered into a modified contract with RDC. If the new verbal terms are accepted by RDC, then we have an implied contract (law scholars, please correct me if I am wrong). But why go through all of this, while the Tanzanian economy is continuing to sink because of some incompetent company? Why not just go ahead and choke their necks for failing to honor the contract?

It stinks and it stings.

I understand that Mr. JK came up with this “kasi mpya” mantra when he took charge of Ikulu. This is my word for his Excellency: those who travel faster, travel lighter. Right now, it appears you ain’t traveling faster. If you can’t solve the simplest things as ensuring steady power supply, how are you going to create the promised 1,000, 000 jobs? (Or didn’t you know that job creation is indirectly linked to increased production, which is highly dependent on steady power supply? I hope I didn’t confuse you there Mr. President)

So if you want to live up to the kasi mpya song, please get rid of the junk that is hanging all over your back. Try trimming down incompetent folks in your cabinet as a starting point. The longer you keep the junk, the slower you will become. Read my lips - or my blog.

But the simplest, but important question that I have for you is this: do you know where Tanzania is going or you are just fumbling your way through? Seriously, I can’t tell if you have any idea. The fact that your own PM thinks power problem is a Third Phase government's issue shows that you folks have no idea.

Before you kill me though, check out what my favorite columnist, Mr. Lusekelo, had to say about the RDC issue.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Was Kambona That Bad? (2)

It wasn't my intention to extend this topic. But I had to, given that some folks might have misunderstood the objective of the first article.

It is my opinion that Tanzanians, in general, are wimpy folks. I can’t quite put my fingers on it, but belief is that it is all because of the Nyerere effect. I mean, we got so scared of the guy to the extent that even years after his departure, we are still afraid to question him.

Jamani, Nyerere amekufa. There are no secret service guys who will drag you to Msasani. OK?

One could contend that given that Nyerere is dead, we don’t have a reason to discuss his legacy. But I would beg to differ. And I will do that by a quote from one of my readers, Maiki:

History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity. The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find yourself and your country both examples and warnings; fine things to take as models, base things rotten through and through, to avoid. Without knowledge of the past we would be without identity, we would be lost on an endless sea of time

Adding or subtracting to that will be injustice.

So my intention was more than to question Nyerere’s legacy. I wanted us to take a very hard look at our history and what we have been long taught and gauge whether our perspective and perceptions are correct. But in order to effectively do that, we have to be objective and let go of our political biasness. Unfortunately, the Tanzanian history is tangled with Nyerere’s legacy.

In order for us to create the right future, we have to unearth some of the wrong foundations and beliefs that we have held on for so long. I don’t want my children to grow up thinking that Nyerere was the best think that has ever happened to Tanzania, while that could not an objective assessment. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that Oscar Kambona, Mzee Mapalala, or Kassanga Tumbo were villains simply because they didn’t fit into Nyerere’s thinking.

What troubles me, for the most part, is when finding quotes such as the following, and never really understanding where Nyerere was coming from:

"Without any question, the manner and the implications of the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar is the most misunderstood aspect of Tanzania's political development. It may not matter very much when foreigners get confused, but unfortunately there are many times when Tanzanians themselves appear to misunderstand it."

Former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere.
Dar es Salaam Government Printer, July 1970. p. 3.

Source: victorian.fortunecity.com

Unfortunately, 42 years later, I still don't get the objective of the union.

The question is: why didn’t Nyerere clearly explain the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar? My only guess is that he thought Tanzanians were dumb enough (given he was one of the very few indigenous people to obtain a Masters degree) and never really deserved clear explanations. I truly have trouble when such a manipulative person is considered the best thing ever.

Honestly, I really long for objective arguments justifying the labels that the Tanzanian history has given Oscar Kambona, JK Nyerere, James Mapalala, etc.

Somebody, please help me.

Friday, December 01, 2006

How Did Elijah Know?

Let us get back to the basics today. Let us go back to the things that really matter. Let us talk about God. I can see someone almost looking away. How is it that when everything is cool and nice we forget about God, but when it gets sour we all become religious all of a sudden? Try visiting a funeral and see what I mean. I have never come to the point of understanding why churches only get full on Easter and Christmas days either.

You are not one of them folks, are you?

I am not a very good Bible scholar, but I will courageously share my questions and thoughts. If I get something theologically wrong, I am welcoming corrective comments.

I am fascinated about God. That is because I have experienced his power and goodness. That is a personal experience that I cannot clearly articulate. See, experiencing God will never come to you by looking for a scientific or a logical way of proving his existence. Scientists have done a remarkable job, but at some point they hit a wall. When they hit a major wall, they resort to this nice little word – nature - as their explanation. That is crap. Just admit it is God.

I know for sure that when it gets to that point, it is God establishing his supremacy and his infinite wisdom, as He has confirmed in Isaiah 55: 8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord”.

See, I am convinced that knowing God changes everything about one’s outlook in life. A true knowledge of God, which is not of a religious routine, is such a powerful experience. Folks who have experienced that tend to exude an aura of confidence. My favorite verses, which shows such an aura, is an account of three young men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego when faced with a death sentence for holding on to their faith are Daniel 3:17-18. This is what these dudes said: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up

Talking about gangster love for God? Talking about mad love for God? Talking about a deeper knowledge of God? You got it in those verses.

I am convinced that we sometimes miss the mark because we have our own idea of how God operates. When God reveals Himself to us in a certain way, all of a sudden we want to build a tent on it (even some disciples of Jesus tried to do that). As a result we build denominations and religious practices out of just one experience. I believe that our God is deeper and higher than we think. To be honest, I believe we have not seen anything yet.

In 1 Kings 17: 11-12, the Bible reads “The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”

This story really fascinates me. Looking at this story, we can clearly see how quite often we have construed certain religious experiences to represent God’s presence. While it is true that all the physical evidences – powerful wind, earthquake, and fire – have been associated with God’s presence before, how did Elijah know the true presence of God in this particular incident?

I really don’t have an answer to that, but my conviction is that Elijah had an intimate relationship with God, which enabled him to move when God moved. He knew God personally and not religious. Out of that relationship, he was able to distinguish the true voice of God from “noises”. Just think of all the religious experiences (“noises”) we think represent God today. It is insane.

I don’t know about you, but I desire to attain a spiritual sanity by getting to the point of knowing God intimately the way Elijah did. So the question is: do I personally know God or I am just having a fruitless religious experience?

I guess the fruits that are coming out of your life will tell. But the greatest obstacle that stands on your way is sin. But you knew that already, didn't you?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Was Kambona That Bad?

An old respectful Tanzanian lady dropped by for a visit last night. She dropped her hello for my brother who just moved to the US from Tanzania. That was a wonderful courteous Tanzanian gesture. Quite naturally, the conversation touched on politics and “maendeleo” topics. Given that my brother just landed, we all expected a fresh perspective from Bongo. Obviously, when you talk about “maendeleo” you cannot avoid throwing Mwalimu Nyerere into the mix.

I have had a taste of what it meant to live in the Nyerere era. I understand the mystique around this late dude. This lady happened to be an old guard who strongly believe that Nyerere is the best thing that has ever happened to Tanzania.

Really?

How do we know that Nyerere was the best thing? See the problem I have with folks who regard Nyerere highly is that we don’t the alternatives, at his time, to make a logical, objective comparison. I am not even sure if we know Nyerere for who is or what he wanted Tanzanians to believe. He managed to create an aura of admiration and worship. He created an atmosphere where no one would question his ideas.

Remember the days when we couldn’t read anything other than Uhuru, Mzalendo, Daily News and Sunday News before Mfanyakazi came into existence to provide some kind of an entertainment relief? You remember the days when the 8:00 PM RTD news bulletin would be followed up by a “Ujumbe wa Leo” propaganda? I have to give it up to Nyerere. He ensured that Tanzanians couldn’t run or hide from his ideology. If you feed someone junk for twenty (20) years, they would believe that crap. He even went as far as insulting our intelligence by putting a hoe against himself in the election. A hoe or a hammer, can you believe that? Who elects a hoe as the president?

What ticked me off is the fact that he forced us to sing derogatory songs against Oscar Kambona. We sang this tune during our morning mchakamchaka routines in High School, “Kambona ameolewa! Wapi?! Wapi?! Uingereza!” Was Kambona really that bad? What is the historical truth?

Since I was born past the time Kambona took off, I had to dig into the history materials to find out for myself. This is what I found.

When the TANU National Executive Committee met in Arusha January 26-29 1967 it turned out to be a stormy session. At this meeting Nyerere proposed that Ujamaa become the official policy of the government. Oscar Kambona objected strongly to this policy. Twice during these sessions, the Executive Committee adjourned in order to allow their three leaders, Nyerere, Kambona and Kawawa to go into private session. Each time that they returned to the Executive Committee it was apparent that Kawawa had supported Nyerere to defeat Kambona. The result was that the Arusha Declaration was adopted.

Source: Maryknoll Africa

It gets me mad to realize that I actually sang derogatory songs against an individual who did nothing wrong. If at all, his crime was to express his opinion against Nyerere’s utopian dreams. The worst part is the fact that the introduction of free market economy has proven that Kambona was right and Nyerere's ideas were just a disaster in the making.

I strongly believe that Nyerere was just another dictator. A very intelligent dictator though. The dude didn’t physically kill anyone, so you cannot put him the same pile with the likes of Bokassa or Idd Amin. Nonetheless, he softly killed Tanzanians mentally and intellectually. He killed private, independent thinking. He hypnotized the majority of Tanzanians.

The saddest part if that the majority of Tanzanians are too lazy to question and explore the truth even today. Some have not awakened to the fact that the Nyerere’s legacy could be all inflated, if not manipulated to glorify his persona. Great people don’t lie, and I feel Nyerere lied to me about visionaries like Kambona whom the Tanzanian history has deliberately marginalized.

I am sure there are plenty of folks who would think that I am crazy for questioning Nyerere’s legacy. But am I, really?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ching Ching From Education: It Is That Real

Taking things for granted is one of the fatal mistakes we can ever make. Some things in life are so crucial and valuable, but we can downplay their importance if we aren’t careful. One of those things that folks in Tanzania are taking for granted is education. I am convinced that the Tanzanian government and the entire society have not come to the point of comprehending the true value of education -- $$ wise.

Being enlightened through education is probably the most wonderful thing that can ever happen to a human being. I am not kidding; even the Bible stresses the value of education. See for thyself. Proverbs 4:7 says this “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding”.

Generally, educated folks command a higher pay rate. On the other hand, education is a product/service that can be commercially marketed. Most governments are compelled by the citizens to provide free elementary and secondary education, but from that point it is all about commercialized education. Even at the primary and secondary level, parents send their kids to private school, if they perceive private institutions to offer a quality education than public ones.

Good education is highly priced. Try Harvard. Try Yale. Try Oxford. See? The list goes on and on.

Apart from American kids who have no compelling reasons to pursue good college education somewhere else in the world, the rest of the world is willing to search for quality anywhere, regardless of the distance from the homeland. And Africans are good at logging some major miles in search of good education.

So lets talk about the dollar signs behind education. According to The Christian Monitor, international students pumped in $13.5 billion to the United States economy in 2005. No wonder Dina Habib Powell, Assistant Secretary of State is working to woo more Chinese kids to the United States .

But what really stink about this is the fact that despite bringing in the money, most international students stay behind in foreign countries, adding up to the already bad brain drain situation. Trust me, I know that, because my mind could have been utilized in Tanzania, but instead helping the American society to grow.

I wonder if anybody in the Tanzanian government is aware of these realities. I wish that the Tanzanian government would create an environment in which our higher learning institutions will become the greatest in the Africa, and later extending that supremacy to the entire world. I wish that we would come to the point of making Tanzanian the destination for the African kids pursuing higher education.

I understand that this probably would not make sense for some, but trust me; Kenyans and Ugandans have already set a trap for the Tanzanian kids and parents. All well-to-do families are sending their kids to Kenyans and Uganda for secondary and high school. These kids are not studying there for free. We are dropping some major ching-ching to the Kenyans and Ugandans. I am not sure if the kids learn anything superior other than the ability to speak English, but it is working.

Creating top-notch institutions will require more than just giving podium speeches. Such an endeavor will require a deliberate move. The fact that CBE graduates are not even able to grasp changes around them shows how crappy our education is, to some extent. The fact some academicians, such as Professor Bavu of the University of Dar Es Salaam, who recently confessed that the university has been offering some irrelevant courses proves that we are miles away from creating superior institutions.

Worse is the fact that the Bongoland government is not funding research, but would rather buy an expensive radar, an expensive presidential jet, or a fleet of expensive sports utility vehicles.

So before you go to bed tonight, just think about the fact that the United States ripped-off $13.5 billion (not millions) from foreign students in 2005. If we have a strategy in place, we can certainly get a piece of that cake, especially from African students. What is cool is the fact that just 1% of that amount alone will translate into about $13.5million to the Tanzanian economy.

I wonder if we can get there though, given we have failed even to ensure a steady flow of power supply. And we have been “independent” for how long?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Relevance Is Power

In my previous blog post, I talked about a stiff competition that is surely coming ahead of Tanzanian graduates. One of the comments from one of the readers, Msemakweli, brought up another factor that local graduates in Tanzania have to consider – their Tanzanian counterparts educated and who have obtained work experience abroad. This one is even a tougher competition, because anyone who has acquired an American work ethic, for instance, is going to trump a whole lot of folks in Tanzania.

An old buddy of mine once told me this: “Aisee tunawachukia sana nyie mnaotoka nje, mkija hapa Bongo mnalipwa mihela kibao”. And why not? Folks going back to Tanzania from overseas have acquired extra soft skills that their buddies who went to Mlimani, for example, don’t have. Those skills should be fully compensated. I think it is fair in a free market economy.

There are plenty of negatives we can talk about in a free market economy, but my conviction is that those negatives are overwhelmed by positives. The fact that socialist ideas didn’t work proves that in the very end, nature must take its course even in business and economy. The best and the toughest survive. Free market trumped socialist ideas.

One aspect of free market economy that I like – which is really going to benefit Tanzania – is the emergence of a powerful private sector. See, the problem with a government-controlled economy is folks are not encouraged to takes private initiatives. Watu wanabung’aa tu (I hope the word “bung’aa” is still cool in the Swahili vernacular, lest I embarrass myself), hoping for the politicians to make it happen for them. Case in point: my CBE friends who are still holding on the idea of government provided employment.

I am convinced that we seriously need the emergence of a strong private sector in Tanzania. That is mainly due to the fact that quality of goods and services will improve. Given the nature of the beast, only those companies that provide the best goods and services at the “best” prices for consumers will survive. Ultimately, the beneficiaries will be the ordinary you and I. Let be serious, have you checked the quality of customer service in Tanzania of late? It sucks. It stinks. Yaani, a receptionist would be this mgambo who can’t effectively communicate or give proper information about the company or the organization.

Strong private sector will change that.

Whether you believe it or not, a strong private enterprise in Tanzania will drastically change the political climate. See, politicians got so powerful in Tanzania because they controlled every aspect of life. In other words, politicians in Tanzania derived their power from being relevant. A strong private sector will snatch away that power through minimization of politician’s relevance. Try to imagine this: what kind of a speech a politician in Tanzania would give, if the supply of basic necessities in life such as utilities, housing, education, food, transportation and communication are abundantly supplied at a higher quality by the private sector? I am sure it won’t be “nitahakikisha maji yapo” crap, but a high level, relevant talk. Folks will start judging politicians based on tangible results and not empty words. That, my friend, will eliminate some Vihiyo’s from politics.

And I honestly think that because of the strength of the private industry in the United State of America, politics have a very little impact on a day-to-day life of average Americans. What BP, Wal-Mart or Microsoft says carry more weight on the average life than what the State Representative, for instance, says. That is because BP, Wal-Mart and Microsoft are more relevant to ordinary folks than politicians. That is not say that decisions made by politicians do not impact lives.

I strongly believe that relevance is always powerful.

When politicians’ relevance and power start to dwindle, we will see some really good things happen to ordinary Tanzanians. The whining agendas you hear from folks like Mrema and Lipumba will certainly be replaced by alternative, serious, strategic voices. Even CCM itself will dramatically change. And I believe that we are getting there. It may take time, but we will certainly get there.

Things don't stay the same always.

Photo: M. Michuzi

Monday, November 20, 2006

CBE Graduates: Compete or Die


We all have expectations from something or somewhere. As a matter of fact, most contractual agreements are based on expectations. That is, party A does certain things and in return, part B is supposed to meet certain obligations. I think they have this nice word called “breach of contract” for parties who fail to meet someone’s expectations.

One of the very few soft skills that had to learn after joining corporate America is “expectations management”. You know what? Formal education is very good, but in some instances it is overrated. There are certain skills you will never learn in school, unless you actually join the hustle of the “real world”.

I had no clue about the expectations management concept until one of my managers brought it up – as a matter of mentoring and professional nurturing of me. It must have been naturally in me, but hearing someone articulate it really hammered the concept down. This is how it goes…as an example.

Your manager gives you an assignment, for instance, and asks you provide the completion timeline. Based on your experience, you must know how long a project of that magnitude will be completed. If you know that it would take you two weeks, for instance, tell your manager that you will be done in two and half to three weeks. Why? That will provide you with a “cushion” time, in case something does not work out the way you expected. In essence, you have managed your manager’s expectations. It is better to present your project two days earlier than two days late.

I hope that helped someone who is planning to climb a corporate ladder or just grow professionally. It did help me.

I just bumped into this article by Tanzania Daima, in which graduates from the College of Business Education booed minister Mramba, when he told them that they shouldn’t expect employment from the government, but rather be self-starters upon graduation . I don’t know about you, but I was amazed at this reaction.

See, smart folks modify their expectations given changes in the environment. The reality in Tanzania is that the government has pulled out of many ventures that used to be the main source of employment for Tanzanian graduates. Given that fact, it is almost laughable for the CBE students to expect the government to provide employment. The last time I checked, Tanzania is riding on the free market craze. That, my CBE friends, include the competition in the labor market. That also includes self-employment.

It appears though, the CBE students are not even aware of the vast opportunities that are available for them through such programs as the Tanzanian government's Private Sector Participation program .

I am not saying that the government shouldn’t draft policies and strategies that ensure and promote economic growth and employment. They should. They are obligated to. Nonetheless, that is where the line ends. We all know that the involvement of the Tanzanian government in running business ventures led to inefficiencies that ultimately led to low pay and eventual lay-offs. So why would an informed business student in 2006 look for government employment? Aren’t they studying the tide?

I am not against government employment either. There are social services and other areas that it is only practical and logical for the government to deliver. Nonetheless, if we have to narrow it down to CBE students with a marketing diploma, for instance, where can they fit in the government’s employment? Kama wanataka kuwa maafisa kilimo wanaoajiriwa na Serikali, si wangeenda Sokoine basi? This just gives the impression that either our graduates are not taught to critically think, or are not well taught how to face the realities around them. I can only make one bold statement: at this rate, our graduates we will be swallowed alive by the Kenyan and Ugandan counterparts in the job market. We can’t be this cowardly and expect to compete. A graduate who gets out of school and cries for employment from the government is just like a mama’s boy who can’t do anything on their own.

Go out and compete in the labor market. Don’t be a whiny little wimp. We don’t want to build a nation of crybabies. The government can only do so much for you. I know the CBE students boos were more political, but I have this news highlight for my CBE friends: South Africans, Kenyans, and Ugandans etc are in Tanzania competing in the job market. So keep on crying and let us see if that is going to help.

Honestly, I feel like whacking CBE graduates on the head.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Test

I am just testing to see if my blog is still up and running. Some readers and myself could not access my blog for some unknown reasons. It appears that everything is back to normal.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

RTI for Tanzania: A Needed Strategy


I am a firm believer in making amends and tweaking one’s strategy to meet the current demands and realities. That is because what has worked yesterday would not necessarily work today. The environment changes and when that happens, we have to come up with a new game plan.

We are not monkeys, so we ought to learn. So when I learned about what the Indians are doing with regards to the right of information ,I got wowed. Despite the fact that the Indians started moving forward earlier than Tanzania, their story is somewhat similar to ours. The majority of folks are still living in poverty and corruption is the order of the day. Or was, because the introduction of the Right To Information initiative, has started to kill corruption, significantly.

Thanks Mr. AT of Columbus, Ohio for sharing this article.

I believe that one of the major factors leading to our current economic situation is lack of accountability and transparency. I know Mr. BWM came up with the “uwazi” slogan, but that ended up being just a sweet song that was never implemented. Enough said about that.

Corruption is brewed in an environment where accountability and transparency are just a foreign notion. I understand that the government is currently working on a bill to empower the Prevention of Corruption Bureau. That is fine, but that alone is not adequate. Borrowing a leaf from the book just written by the Indians, we need to empower our citizens more, and that can only be achieve through granting them a right of access to information.

Besides, all governments are supposedly working for the people. As the government officials' bosses, wananchi ought to know. That is their right in a democratic society.

Guess what? The Americans figured this out way back. The United States Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) enacted in 1966 , provides access to all federal agency records except for those records (or portions of those records) that are protected from disclosure.

I work for the state government, so I know that the Act works. Any citizen in the state of Ohio can request information on my travel expense reimbursement. Likewise, I can request information on how much money the governor is being paid. Heck, I can even ask and get the tax filings for the President of the United States of America to determine how much money George W. Bush made in 2005.

As I said, we are not monkeys, so we can learn. The Indians just did that. It is impractical to eradicate 100% of corruption, but at least you can get rid of “minor” corruption incidents that stand on the way of a regular mwananchi. I mean, do you really need to pay a bribe to get a death certificate? Do we really need to pay a bribe to enroll our children in school? The right of information is certainly going to eradicate all of that. Having the right of access too all the contracts the government signed, for instance, will bring accountability and shift enforcement on the hands of regular wananchi.

If we truly want to make socio-economic progress, we gotta enact the right to information. Poor folks have suffered for so long.

Photo. M. Mjengwa

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Drivers' E-Records: Insurers, Please Jump In


I have no statistics on how many lives have been lost in Tanzania due to motor vehicle accidents. Nevertheless, I know it is that bad. I can only come with four theories as to why there have been such road accident statistics: 1) unqualified drivers obtaining driving permits through corrupt means (we are talking about Bongoland here, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise) 2) corrupt traffic police who are not following the rules of their trade 3) bad roads 4) increased population of motor vehicles on the roads.

It is funny that way back in early 1990s, some government officials thought that road accidents increased because buses traveled at night. So they order daytime bus routes. They even introduced speed governors. Did that work? It didn’t, because the decision was more political than scientific. We continued to see road accidents.

It appears that the government has finally stopped hitting the snooze button, awakening from their slumber. According to IPP Media, the government is soon to introduce computerized driving licenses. I have no clue how such licenses would work, but I am assuming they will “machine readable”, that is, a driver’s information will be stored on a magnetic strip on the driver’s license card.

While this is a good move, fake licenses is just one factor. I don’t see a policy or strategic draft to tackle traffic policy corruption. But such is Bongoland.

I am in a light, good mood today. So I will provide a strategic advice to the Tanzanian government today. I hope that someone will listen.

According to research findings issued by T. Rwebangira (UDSM), T. Pearce and DAC Maunder (Transport Research Labaratory, UK), reckless driving was ranked highest among various causes of accidents in Tanzania between 1993 - 1997. According to the same research, private cars and dala-dala buses outdid buses in causing accidents. Read the report for yourself . It appears that one is likely to be involved in accident riding a dala-dala than taking a ride in Champion Bus. Not surprising.

Given that road accidents are caused mainly by reckless driving, we have to come up with a scientific way of dealing with the problem. My conviction is that road accidents can only be reduced when there are intrinsic reasons for the drivers to stop causing them. Drivers must have a reason to behave, not from cops, but from within. That is where the Tanzanian government must bring the insurance companies into the equation. In most cases, the government mandates motor vehicle insurance. Nonetheless, the premium rates charged by the insurance companies vary between drivers. Insurance companies weigh out the driving risk provided by each driver, based on age or the past driving records. Risky drivers, quite naturally, cost the insurance companies more in terms of insurance claims (Per the above cited report it costed NIC TShs 11 billion to settle claims in 1994 alone). So the insurance companies hit risky drivers the hardest.

As bad driving records will lead to higher insurance premiums, drivers will want to keep their records clean. This is will lead to a cheap self-regulation. No taxpayers’ money spent. That is the first whip for bad drivers.

Insurance companies can only push for the driver’s self-regulation through higher premiums if they have access to accurate records from the government. With the introduction of the computerized driving permits, I hope that the government will create a database for drivers’ records. Such a database should be used as a second whip for bad drivers. Drivers should be assigned points based on the nature and type of accidents caused. If a driver caused an accident for being drunk, for instance, higher points should be assigned. At a certain threshold, a driver will be stripped of his or her driving privileges, fined a huge amount of money, or sentenced to jail.

Given that bad driving records will lead to revocation of the driving privileges, hefty fines, and spending time in jail, drivers would not like to face such prospects in addition to paying higher insurance premiums. That will lead to a wonderful self-regulation by drivers.

This is something that we can implement. We don’t have to wait for some mzungu to tell us.

Obviously, I have assumed that the system will work. That is, violators will not walk free after bribing their way. That is something that the government is responsible to work on. I believe they hired Said Mwema for that.

This is my honest conviction: in order for Tanzanian improve in all crucial sectors of life, we need to move from making politically charged decisions and head towards a scientific approach. Most of the problems we face do not require complicated scientific abilities. They only require application of a little bit of common sense.

Photo: M. Michuzi

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Samsung Invitation: Why?

I know it is tiring to be just critiquing what the government is doing. It is not the most pleasant role to play. Honestly, if I had a chance, I would have helped the government with a strategic and a visionary outlook. Since I am not part of the system, I can't help the president before he makes his decisions.

If you know how I could be of help to the president, let me know. Seriously. At the end of the day, it is not about CCM, Chadema, CUF, TLP and any other political party. It is about poor folks who end up with dirty roads and substandard health care.

I strongly believe that Mr. JK has good intensions. But he comes short. I convinced he comes short because of his limited environmental and culture exposure. He is trying hard, but you can’t accomplish what you don’t have a context for. He is limited because he has advisors who are also not visionaries. At some point, I believe that Mr. JK and any other president will have rule that country just like a CEO would run a for-profit company. Tanzania must come up with unorthodox leadership style to change things around. That is because we have to catch up with the rest of the world, quickly.

It is clear that we don’t have a clear, consistent plan to eradicate electricity problems, because Mr. JK has just engaged Samsung to invest in electricity generation. I understand that the president has to do all he can to ensure that pertinent problems are solved. Nonetheless, that does not mean that he has to say or act on everything before the vision, the strategy and the execution plan for eliminating the problem have been ironed out.

Samsung is undoubtedly a giant company. It is an established company. It has a wonderful reputation. However, electricity generation is not their core competency. Electricity generation is not what they do best. So why do we engage electronic gadgets and ship building company to invest in electricity generation? Why don’t we expand the Tanesco capabilities? If that is not possible, why don’t’ we privatize Tanesco then? Hello, are the advisors awake at Ikulu?

The Samsung deal might sound nice and dandy. But at the core of it, Samsung is not coming to Tanzania to generate electricity for us; they are coming for more than that. Let’s get to it. Ladies and gentlemen, please read the following excerpt from IPP Media with me:

SAMSUNG has also shown interest in exploitation of Tanzania’s iron and coal, so as to produce steel which has a huge demand in Korea, as it is used in ship building and production of industrial machines. The Korean firm is also interested in having a stake in copper mining.”

That is why Samsung will be coming to Tanzania.

I can't blame Samsung. It makes sense from the Samsung’s point of view, because Samsung is engaged in electronics, communication and shipbuilding. Samsung’s interest is to find steady supply of cheap raw materials from a poor, naïve country like Tanzania. Case in point: The demand for copper, which is used in manufacturing electronics, has climbed recently, forcing a concurrent rise in prices . Does it make sense for Samsung to produce own raw materials, probably below world market prices? Absolutely. But guess who the losers are from the deal with Samsung? We are. Tanzania will end up being losers, failing to capitalize on higher market prices for copper and iron. Furthermore, as China continue to grow, so is the rising demand of iron.

Essentially, we got played. The Koreans have just thrown in a little bone in order to get a bigger piece of the pie. We are in a dire need to solve electricity problems. So a brother in need would sound like a brother indeed, right? Wrong. I work with Americans. I know how it all goes down. This is the game: identify an opportunity, create a relationship, and reap huge benefits in the future. Samsung is not electricity generating company, but they are making an extreme shift in their corporate focus to get their feet through the Tanzanian door. That should sent danger signs all over. When a company steps outside its comfort zone, we got dig deeper into it.

KEPCO NG, the company that Samsung wants to "partner" with, is an independent, global electricity generating company. Why can't Tanzania engage KEPCO directly? Why allow Samsung to play some mental games with us? What Samsung is doing is playing a middleman that we don't need. They are playing a dirty, business game.

You know what the best deal would have been? It would have been for Samsung to move some of their production facilities to Tanzania. Create a few more jobs for our young people. Moving raw materials from Tanzania only benefits the Koreans, but it seems Mr. JK and his boys were just happy to get "anything" from the Koreans. That is not the smartest way to run a country.

I wish I had access to Ikulu. I mean, why are we so naïve? The truth of the matter is, no company in the developed world will ever get into a venture without doing their homework. I am sure Samsung has studied the Tanzanian culture, the opportunities available, the angles to attack, etc. The problem is, Tanzanians never do that. I am sure that Mr. JK just shook hands with folks he has no data on, purely banking on their smiles.

Smiles? Do you know how fake these smiles are? Just ask some of us in North America.

It is true that we are desperate to get rid of the electricity problems. Nevertheless, that does not justify engaging ANY company. We have to follow the script within the drafted strategic plan to eliminate electricity woes. We have to perform due diligence on every company and to gauge whether all companies invited for investment match our needs and goals.

I think that is smart. Why can't we do that?

Update: November 10, 2006
According to IPP Media, Mr. JK has had a discusssion with KEPCO about power generation in Tanzania. I have to commend that. If you need meat, you talk with meat suppliers, not paper suppliers. This is a smart move. Mr. JK, that is the way to go.

Photo: Freddy Maro

Monday, November 06, 2006

OIC: A Pain In Tanganyika's Rear End

I am sure Nyerere didn't see this coming. I am sure it was all rosy and fine that 26th day of April in 1964. His mind was rushing with excitement about the Pan-Africanism. You know, if you want the whole of Africa to be united, you have to start in your own back yard. So the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar seemed to be a wonderful, romantic marriage. Nyerere was so in love with Zanzibar that he gave up everything Tanganyikan, while allowing Zanzibar to retain its sovereignty.

I cannot blame Zanzibar for that. They had the right to bring forth the conditions of the union, one of which is retaining their power. Only that Nyerere was fooled. That, my friend, was a big mistake. And for that mistake, Tanganyika's rear end is being bitten today.

I know this is a controversial topic, but I think we owe it to ourselves to dig into it and be honest. Embracing kufunika funika mambo has gotten us here in the first place. I mean, we are committed to the union thing, but who knows what is in the original article? I am sure none of us has seen it.

In my opinion, allowing Zanzibar to retain her sovereignty set the mainland for baby-sitting for ages to come. Just a host of things can prove my point. When was the last time Zanzibar paid their electric bill? They even wanted a share of gold sales from the mainland. A problem child? You bet Zanzibar is.

Nyerere saw it coming in 1984, but I wonder why he didn’t do anything serious about it (I am convinced that Nyerere was so smart, intellectually, but was so naïve when it came to human relations. He failed to understand that trust is earned. Simply because someone sung the “kidumu Chama cha Mapinduzi” chorus didn’t mean they believed in his vision). Apparently, Aboud Jumbe and his boy Seif Hamad wanted more Zanzibar autonomy. Nyerere in his wisdom forced the resignation of Jumbe. [Source: Nation Encyclopedia]

Did forcing Jumbe’s resignation solve anything? Absolutely not. Zanzibar was coming and coming hard. In 1992, under the leadership of Dr. Salmin Amour, Zanzibar secretly joined the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). The move was thwarted, but guess what? Mr. Karume is back with the same issue again ,14 years later. It appears that some things never change. Mtoto wa nyoka ni nyoka tu.

The Tanzanian Constitution (Chapter 3, Section 9(2)) states this:
Without prejudice to the relevant laws of the United Republic the profession of religion, worship and propagation of religion shall be free and a private affair of an individual; and the affairs and management of religious bodies shall not be part of the activities of the State authority” [Source: Kituo Cha Katiba]

Well, this is what I got from the OIC website, with regards to the objectives of the OIC:
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is an inter-governmental organization grouping fifty-seven States. These States decided to pool their resources together, combine their efforts and speak with one voice to safeguard the interest and ensure the progress and well-being of their peoples and those of other Muslims in the world over" [Source: http://www.oic-oci.org/]

Sounds to me like OIC is a faith-based organization.

I don’t have a problem with the existence or the objectives of OIC. OIC is doing what is their prerogative to do. Nonetheless, the Tanzania constitution clearly states that engaging in religious affairs is not part of the government’s agenda. So for Tanzania to join OIC is plain unconstitutional. Why is Karume then deliberately trying to bring something that is, and has already been ruled unconstitutional 14 years back? Does it matter whether Zanzibar joins OIC solo or part of the URT? We are not that dumb. At least I am not.

In my opinion, the introduction of the OIC issue by Mr. Karume is an insult to all of us. It is an insult to our constitution, which he swore to abide by and defend. It is an insult to other faiths in Tanzania, which he and the Zanzibari Muslims want to drag into joining an Islamic faith-based organization. But you know who are disgusting the most? It is our MPs who have no guts to rebuke a deliberate move to violate our constitution.

I am as religious tolerant as the next guy, but some things are not worth tolerating. Especially, when such things are done as sure sign of dissrespect for my faith.

Another troubling trend is the fact that the OIC agenda has been brought up when; coincidentally, there is a Muslim president in Tanzania. I don’t to make any conclusions, but the fact that Dr. Amour brought up the OIC issue during the tenure of Mr. Mwinyi and the issue never came up during the Mkapa's tenure proves my argument. It gives the impression that the presence of a Muslim president gives the Zanzibar Muslims some sort of an audacity to bring up controversial religious agendas. This is a trend that is surely sending Tanzania into deeper troubles. It is an accident waiting to happen. It is a time-bomb ready to explode– mark my word.

Given that the OIC issue has not originated from the mainland Muslims proves yet another fact – Zanzibar has been and will continue to be the thorn in the mainland’s flesh. From a political correctness standpoint, Nyerere has nothing to be blame for, but truthfully this mzee got Tanganyika into trouble. To untangle the mess will require a very special kind of leader. Mwinyi couldn’t do it, BWM couldn’t either, and I am sure JMK has no guts to do it. So Zanzibar will continue to be a pain in our rear end. I don't have anything against Zanzibar, but I believe Tanganyika can do just fine without her.

In retrospect, I wonder what Nyerere was smoking on April 26, 1964. Seriously.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Evil Spirits? Please...

I am not going to lie, studying and living in the United States has helped me tremendously. Sometimes, I forget that my experience is not similar to that of many in Bongoland. I believe that what I write in this blog has been frustrating for some folks, simply because they can't comprehend what I am talking about.

I sometimes wonder if Mr. JK, for instance, understands what I am talking about. Honestly, I sometimes feel guilty for being so hard on these CCM, opposition guys and even wananchi. I mean, these people have no point of reference. A typical mwananchi can't demand what they don't know. Imagine being born and never left your remote village in Lindi. How would you ever imagine that there are highways with up to eight lanes in this world? I mean, why would you start talking about critical thinking blah blah to a person who can't even read, write or even own a pair of decent shoes?

Even those in Dar-es-Salaam, watching Arsenal and Manchester United duke it out on TV is not adequate to expose someone to the thinking level I see on this Northern hemisphere. It just provides vijiweni stories. Period.

I wouldn't understand me either, if I were still in Bongoland. I can say I was smart enough to understand issues, but my understand was limited by my environment. Trust me, I consider myself blessed to be here. It is not about money, cars, and paying mortage, because there are folks in Bongoland with a load of money that I can't even dream of. I am talking about the opportunity to learn and be exposed. That I have had, and I consider it to be priceless.

So when I read a story like this one from IPP Media about this dude who got conned by a witchdoctor , I just feel sorry. I mean, this is the 21st century. Nevertheless some folks, including Simba and Yanga still holds on to the witchcraft crap. Can you believe that?

With regards to this story, I like the witchdoctor's defense, because somehow he is right. The witchdoctor contends that he couldn't refund this dude service fees because the dude failed to follow instructions. Furthermore, the doctor couldn't get the money back because the evil spirits have gotten away with it. Well, I kind of agree with the withdoctor. If I were the magistrate in this case, I would sent this stupid dude away for life.

See, it is true that evil spirits really took away with the money. While the witchdoctor wanted to make the whole thing look overly spiritual, it truly wasn't that complicated ( I think the witchdoctor wanted to sound technical. I mean wouldn't you be flabbergasted when a Neurosurgeon is presenting a complicated procedure?). What really got away with the dude's money is the spirit of ignorance and stupidity. It is amazing that at this day and age of science and technology, some of our brothers and sisters are still holding on to such backward beliefs. I wonder why some folks have not figured it out that a dose of education 2X3 daily is adequate to fend off evil spirits coming from the pit of ignorance.

If juju really works, I am sure most African football teams would have won the World Cup thus far. We could have had a technology that would have enabled me to avoid security lines at the airport, visa requirements, and paying alot of dough to the British Airways. I could have just jumped on my ungo and do the amazing. But it hasn't been that way. That is because the realities of life have gone the opposite direction. We gotta think. We gotta apply our brains to succeed.

Ask the Majimaji heroes (By the way, are they still heroes, given they died stupidly? Or this whole thing is political that I would be hanged for even asking this question?), they would tell you all about it.

But somehow, I am not blaming this guy. If TFF has not clamped down on an open display of witchcraft during the Tanzania Premier League, why would anyone in regular life circles in Tanzania think that this is all wrong? Besides, how many leaders made a trip to Bagamoyo in 2005 to win elections? It is crazy to think that a leader who believes that they won an election through witchcraft would ever believe in science and technology. It is hard to imagine such a leader believing in critical thinking and application of our mental faculties as a vital ingredient for progress.

I am telling you, if you want to make it big in Tanzania, open your own witchcraft business. It is kind of being a lawyer in the United State of America. You will win all the time. By the way, are witchdoctors paying taxes? I mean, these guys are being paid a lot of money, not forgetting tons of freebies like chicken and goats they use for "medical procedures".

Just wondering.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

JK: So God Is To Blame?

I was ready to move on from this the whole electricity and Richmond Development Corporation thing, that is because it is just saddens me how most folks felt for it. It appears to me that people have not guts or skills to ask the right questions. If I was an editor for a newspaper in Tanzania, I would have gone to the depth of it all. I would have forced Mohamed Gire to provide specifics on some of the information on the RDC's website, which is a bunch of crap in my estimation.

Just as I was about to move on, our President popped up. In an article published by Tanzania Daima, Mr. JK, in his address to the Baraza la Idd El Fitr, attributed the electricity woes in Tanzania to God, and not crappy leadership. Just read the article yourself .

Just a quote from that speech goes like this:

"Ni tatizo la Watanzania wote na wala halikubagua misikiti au Waislamu pekee. Napenda kuwahakikishia kwamba kiini cha tatizo si uzembe wa mtu yeyote bali ni mitihani ya Mwenyezi Mungu kutokutupatia mvua za kutosha na hivyo kusababisha mabwawa yetu ya kuzalisha umeme ya Mtera na Kidatu kutopata maji ya kutosha kuzalisha umeme wakati wote wa mwaka"

Obviously, our President thinks that the problem has nothing to do with human beings, that is, his administration. In my opinioin, that is shortsightedness and inability to put things in their proper context.

Let me share with you my thoughts Mr. President. Acts of nature, which in this case you have termed "kazi ya Mungu" happen. They happen all the time around the world. Nonetheless, it is the same God that has given us brains and the ability to think. Our brains are supposed to be used to plan, among other things, on how to mitigate the effects of natural courses.

I live in North America where it snows. Depending on natural causes, it can heavily or lightly snow. But you know how cities and municipalities control that? They watch the weather trends. They adjust their salt budgets based on weather trends (salt is used to melt snow on the roads). They don't let citizens locked up in their houses simply because "God showed up with tons of snow this year".

What do we have in Tanzania? We have TMA - Tanzania Meteorological Agency . The agency's job, which your government happens to fund, among other things is to predict the weather. So was it a surprise that the rain was not adequate in 2005/2006? I don't think so. That data was sitting right there at the TMA's office. Mr. President, just visit the TMA's website to prove that what I am saying is true. I am sure nobody from Tanesco, despite knowing that the company is heavily dependent on rainwater for electric generation, bothered to collect the forecast data from TMA. Had they collected that data, they would have planned ahead of time on the best alternatives.

I am sure also that nobody at Tanesco bothered to push for an environmental protection policy, a policy that would ensure the safeguarding of water resources. If they did, I am sure nobody bothered to enforce it. But you don't seemed to be bothered by the fact that nobody, including your own government is not strategic and deliberate. It seems that the whole system is in love with the zimamoto mentality.

As such, Mr. President, I think it is a bunch of crap to tell us that we should not blame anybody in your government, but blame the whole thing on God. Yes, it didn't adequately rain in Tanzania, but as smart human beings, we plan. The ability to think is a wonderful, free gift that God has bestowed on us.

You know what? The God I know is an awesome God. And He does not deserve to be blamed for our own stupidity. Did we do all we could given our resources (information etc)? The answer is no. But you seemed to know that already. I can quote what Tanzania Daima wrote regarding your own thoughts:

Alikiri kuwapo kwa ulegevu na makosa ambayo serikali imekuwa ikiyachukulia hatua kila ilipoyabaini, na amebainisha kuwa serikali haitasita kuchukua hatua zaidi kama hapana budi

What the heck it that? Mr. President, didn't you just say that nobody was to blame in the system?

Vision 2025? I don't think we will even get there. Yes, 2025 is bound to be here, but not with the vision fulfilled. I need hard data to be convinced otherwise. So far, none. Zip. Nada. Zero.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

RDC: Just Street Smart Hustlers?

I know that my last reflective piece was a little bit depressing, but justifiably so. Things in Bongoland could drive any reasonable human being insane. Surpringly, there are folks in Bongoland who don't get it. Actually, they think the recycling of ministers is OK. The rationale being that leaders need a second chance.

Well, in a Tanzanian context that sounds "reasonable". That is because we have a culture of laxity. Sticking to schedules, appointments, responsibilities and so forth is unheard of. So I can understand when an educated Tanzanian thinks it is OK for a minister who messes up in one ministry to be given a second chance at another ministry. It is a cultural perspective, which has nothing to do with logic or common sense.

This is why I am against recycling of leaders. Tanzania is a poor country. That is a drastic situation. Trastic situations require drastic measures. In order for us to make progress, we have to be in a hurry (but intelligently). That would require applying zero tolerance when it comes to mess-ups. Otherwise, we are setting up a wrong precedent that will come to bite us in the butts (unfortunately, the recycling culture that Nyerere set up is still haunting us). We have to be extreme in the change of our culture, thinking and philosophies.

In a local emailing group here in Columbus, we happened to have a discussion about the Richmond Development Corporation as it relates to the supply of power generators. My own Google search didn't not reveal the existence of this company. A certain gentleman called me out, justifiably, for not doing enough research. He kindly provided the RDC's website, which I also kindly provide for the rest of us http://www.rdevco.com.

Guess what? I also did do my own research. The fact of the matter is, the registration records by the State of Texas shows that RDC is not a legally recognized company in the State of Texas. The address shown on the RDC's website is that of Richmond Printing, which happened to be owned by Mohamed Gire, who is at the center of the RDC fiasco. So I am justified to say that the company is not legally existing.

Yes, it is true that the power generators finally got shipped to Bongoland. Nonetheless, that does not stop us from digging deeper into this company. That is because, from a personal standpoint, it bugs me when folks treat Tanzanians as naive and a bunch of fools. In my opinion, Mohamed Gire is nothing more than an opportunist, street smart dude who played his cards right in a corrupt system. Heck, even Net Group, IPTL, Chavda and many more played Tanzanians too.

The RDC website is more than a marketing magnet that is supposed to catch fools rushing in. The "rosy" projects that the company lists are nothing than a hoax. That is because some of the projects, such as the "building of a national sports stadium with the capacity of holding 60,ooo spectators" does not tell us where those projects are carried out. A reputable company would list its clients for verification and establishment of credibility.

A huge red flag about this company is the fact it boasts of completing $500 million worth of projects, while it could not supply electric generators before begging for money from Bank of Tanzania. If a company boats of completing $500 million worth of projects, yet a call to the company "head quarters" goes directly to Mohamed Gire, then something is not adding up.

I don't want to sound ridiculously pessimistic, but we have to see whether the generators would work. But the biggest question, that I am still yet to find an answer to: If Tanesco is responsible for power supply in Tanzania, wouldn't it make more sense for them to order the power generators themselves? Wouldn't that help to cut costs by eliminating the profit margin that the likes of Songas and RDC will make? What is the Tanesco's CEO doing if he can't place an order for a power generator?

Why let the likes of Mohamed Gire do away with millions of dollars for nothing, seriously?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

JK: Another Stinking President?


You know, I like being objective. That is mainly because I don’t like ups and downs that come with being “emotional”. That is, allowing one to be dragged into supporting an agenda or idea based on the attached emotional appeal. I must agree, there are times when being reactive is natural and human – when such a reaction is about being “real”. But please understand this, I am as compassionate as the next-door neighbor, just a little on the objective side.

This article, however, is not about me.

I remember early in 2006 when Mr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete was ushered into the presidency. Subsequent to that he did some “remarkable” things, including swiftly acting on recommendations brought forth by a commission formed to investigate the killing of innocent people by the Police, ending the majambazi’s upper hand in the country, ending Mahita’s ineffective administration of the police force, etc. I must admit, the dude’s first 100 days in office were stellar compared to his predecessors. It appeared that the Kasi Mpya mantra was for real.

Given such a “record”, one would be tempted to just sing praises to this guy. Nonetheless, I am not one of those suckers. See, Uncle Ben duped me once. He came into power and his early days also looked promising. Remember the Uwazi slogan? We all know that he never lived up to that slogan.

We can all agree that nyota njema huonekana asubuhi. From a technical perspective, I don’t see any flashes of brilliance from JK. Honestly. I just don’t see how he can effectively take Bongoland into the Promised Land. Not yet, may be. And I can just present a few cases to back my argument.

The first case in point is the electricity saga. Lets bring some objective arguments and facts here. NO COUNTRY can ever make any economic strides without setting up good and reliable power supply and infrastructure. You don’t need a Harvard degree to know that, common sense can suffice. Power rationing has been in Bongoland as long as I can remember. Power rates in Tanzania are the highest in East Africa. So this is nothing new. Wouldn’t it be a priority, as a matter of common sense, to make power supply our priority, given its importance to productivity and economic growth? Hello, Vision 2025 anyone?

The JK’s administration can argue that they tried. But they tried in a zimamoto way. They tried in ridiculous and laughable ways. They tried like folks who have no clue or deliberate strategies in place. First, came the Prime Minister’s crazy idea of importing rainmakers from Thailand. Secondly, they engaged a non-existent and stupid company like Richmond Development Company to import power generators. The fact of the matter is that the JK’s government is another laughing stock. Even Adam Lusekelo , a columnist for the government’s own newspaper, Daily News, is poking fun at his employer. How stupid can we be? Isn’t this Richmond’s story all too familiar?

Another case is the recent recycling of ministers . Isn’t this too familiar also? Talking about some of the reshuffled ministers - Anthony Diallo, Basil Mramba, and Stephen Wasssira – didn’t I blog about lack of leadership qualities from these fellas way back? (You can review my original blog on Diallo and Mramba ). Moving ineffective ministers from one assignment to the next will not improve their performance. That is equivalent to moving a stinking fish from one container to the next to get rid of the stench. Such a move is nothing but stupid, for it will not improve or change the condition of the fish. If Dr. Msabaha couldn’t deliver in the past, why think he will deliver in the future? Deja vu anyone? I guess some things never change in the CCM's world.

In my opinion, Mr. JK is acting EXACTLY the same way JKN, Mzee Ruska, and Uncle Ben acted. He has brought nothing to the table, setting aside his appealing personality. We have seen recycling of ineffective leaders before and the results have been detrimental. It appears this guy didn’t learn from the past. And for an objective and technical guy like me, I am left with nothing but skepticism. I have not seen the light at the end of the tunnel yet. That may sound too depressing, but it is a fact.

So here I am going on record, and please mark my words – Tanzania will NEVER develop unless we find a true leadership. The type of leadership that is focused and deliberate. The type of leadership that is able to separate substance from political crap. The type of leadership that is capable of identifying suitable and appropriate personnel to carry out the articulated vision – regardless of their age or political affiliation. The type of leadership that is truly proactive as opposed to reactive.

Unfortunately, folks, Jakaya has failed to demonstrate those qualities thus far. My experience in the past four months – from the time of the Bunge budget sessions – proves that. I don’t see this guy as capable of taking Tanzania to the Promised Land. I simply don’t. Nyota njema huonekana asubuhi. In my world, this Jakaya dude ain’t shining this morning.

And that gives me a very bad feeling.

Photo credit: M. Michuzi

Friday, October 13, 2006

DC’s Conduct: How Do They Get Here?

On September 20, 2006, I had reflected on the Prime Minister’s reaction to crappy progress reports that were prepared by some Kigoma District Commissioner and Regional Commissioner. I hailed the PM for articulating the performance expectations for these esteemed DCs and RCs. Despite those accolades, I also cautioned that we must look at how these DCs and RCs got here in the first place. That is because it is not adequate just to criticize the DCs and RCs without taking a critical look at how they got appointed in the first place.

In a nutshell, I contended in that reflective post that a DC is a representative of the President. As such, the quality of performance that the DC or the RC is displaying, is a direct reflection of what quality of leaders the President accepts. That is because the President would appoint an individual capable of carrying out the President’s mission. So if the DC is performing poorly, we can only deduce that the President accepts such a poor performance, otherwise they would not appoint these folks in the first place. That is my conviction because an effective leader is capable of identifying the right people for the right positions.

So what would one say about the Mbarali District Commissioner, Hawa Ngulume, who is reportedly slapped the chairman for small-farmers association for allegedly blocking the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Land from visiting the area. The IPP Media reported on this, so don’t throw stones at me for being mzushi.

In a Tanzanian context, this is probably not a big deal. The fact that the DC assaulted a poor farmer would probably not given a proper legal attention. I mean who cares to what happens to poor folks in Tanzania anyway? Nonetheless, in a wider perspective of things, this incident and many more is an indication of how poor the quality of our leaders is. In my opinion, by slapping the poor farmer’s chairman, the DC has violated a host of leadership rules that she was supposed to uphold.

May it is just me, but I am strongly convinced that in order for us to make serious progress, we need a serious paradigm change. We have to change the way we view our leaders and how we view our selves. Particularly, we have to establish what we expect from our leaders and steps to be taken when such expectations are not met. Ideally, leaders should be serving the people and not acting like the old colonial masters. Regardless of how the DC gets mad, there are integrity and ethical standards to uphold. There are boundaries not to be crossed.

We need leaders who are capable of empowering the regular wananchi. We need leaders who are capable of listening, discerning, and providing creative solutions in a way that is respectable both to their superiors and wananchi to whom they are called to lead. Leadership is not about embracing dictatorial tendencies. Leadership is not about feeling like one is above the rest. Leadership is not about having louder mouths on podiums.

Given the fact that the Ms. Hawa Ngulume got appointed by the President, this is my question to Mr. Jakaya: You mean to tell us the in a country of 38 million heads, you couldn’t find anyone else who knows how to act? You couldn’t find anyone else better than the likes of Ms. Hawa Ngulume?

Seriously, how do people like her get here?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Point of Clarification

Recently, one of my esteemed readers posted a comment in reaction to my September 29, 2006 post under the title “Lipumbas: Exactly Why the Opposition Sucks”. I would just like to quote, so that I give the commenter a respectable and deserved voice:

I would say that I was a bit impressed by your comments on 'Lipumbas: Exactly Why the Oppostion Sucks". However, I did not like the way you choose your words particularly when it comes to describe a person.If I were in your position I would not have used such words/phrases as 'stupid comment', 'childish', LiPUMBA and others.If you want to be critical of somebody, you have to stick to arguments, you should not cross borders and enter into criticizing one's personality and integrity.I think you should also have taken sufficient time to ponder over the arguments raised by Prof. Lipumba. You would have discovered more than you did

Let me start by expressing my sincere appreciation for the observation. It would be meaningless if I write and nobody reads, except may be for a few members of my household (if they really care for my thoughts that I express on the internet in the first place). So Simbadeo thanks a lot.

That being said, lets get to it.

Writing is about expression of one’s thoughts or feelings. If I were writing for Daily News or Uhuru, I am sure that my thoughts or feelings would have been censored to fit into the editor’s liking. But given the fact that I am the writer and the editor at the same time through my own blog, I play into that freedom. I don't have to get anybody's approval to tell what I see.

That being said, I am not intending to just cross boundaries in the name of freedom and liberty. I have a writing objective and I try to fulfill that. In case it has not been clear, my objective is to challenge the status quo, particularly with reference to our thinking and attitudes. In connection to that, I deliberately choose certain words that would evoke certain responses. Furthermore, I choose certain words to hit my points home. Why not call a spade a spade? If Professor Lipumba gives a stupid comment, I would say that.

I am trying to imagine how it would be like calling a stupid comment something like "a comment that was short of logical sense". That is being too politically correct, and I don't think political correctness will ever help our folks grow. So I try to deliberately defy the norm to get folks out of their routine. I don't want to be another Uhuru newspaper. Folks have had plenty of that.

Does that mean that I should just go out and blah blah? I don't think so. I try in all my articles to provided facts and rationale to support my assessment.

I am not sure where Ms./Mr./Mrs. Simbadeo got the impression that I was getting personal, for instance, in my criticism of Professor Lipumba. If you read the whole article, in no place I said, “Professor Lipumba is stupid or childish”. I think there is a clear distinction between someone being stupid and someone giving a stupid comment. I believe throughout the article I tried to stick to judging Professor Lipumba’s comments. But what would an American say? Stupid is as stupid does. If Ms/Mr/Mrs Simbadeo was impressed with my comments in that article, then my choice of words is irrelevant to the point I was driving home.

See, life is full of preferences. Ms./Mr./Mrs. Simbadeo’s dislike for my choice of words is a good example of how subjective things could be. Given that fact, why would I switch and be like him or her? Where would my individualism come into play? I like me. I like my writing style. This is who I am. I would be worried if what I write doesn’t make sense. But he or she didn’t say that I don’t make sense. So I am at peace.

With regards to this argument, “I think you should also have taken sufficient time to ponder over the arguments raised by Prof. Lipumba. You would have discovered more than you did”, What can I say? Wasn’t the whole article, which Ms/Mr/Mrs. Simbadeo was impressed with, intended to negate the arguments raised by Professor Lipumba? Honestly, I would appreciate getting what I missed from Mr.Lipumba’s comments. That is that whole point of growing.

My point is, I have a writing voice and a writing objective. Some will like that, some will not. Such is life. It would not be fair for me to stop others from having their own preferences. SoI would like to stick with me.