Friday, September 28, 2007

RTF: End Times for CCM?

Man, life really is unpredictable. You wake up in the morning expect one thing only to end up bumping into another. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to muse on this Friday. Nevertheless, I just couldn’t resist this strong temptation to shred the Tanzanian former PM, Mr. Warioba into pieces.

I am not a Dracula. Nonetheless, I have a very good reason for wanting Warioba’s blood. I want to shred this guy into pieces following his recent comments regarding corruption accusations leveled against CCM top dogs. Just the original story here, here or here.

Honestly, I have had so much respect for this guy. In my opinion, this man has held himself to relatively higher standards than the majority of politicians in Tanzania. He has made sense in most occasions. But I wonder, was all that a fake façade? Is the guy just getting to old to think straight?

One of Mr. Warioba’s arguments that got me going was this notion that the president’s evils shouldn’t be brought to light (particularly corruption), since that would diminish the trust in the president. And in Warioba’s opinion, diminished trust in the president would lead to a plethora of problems.

Mr. Warioba has the right to express his opinions just I have the opportunity to express mine. Nonetheless, I strongly believe that Mr. Warioba’s position is just perpetuating a political culture that has brought Tanzania where it is. It is a mindset that tends to afford the president’s seat a godly status. What that has done is to create an artificial notion that a president is actually above the law and that the president should be worshipped.

That is a very wrong outlook. That is a bunch of crap.

You know what? I am glad that Mr. Warioba in the same sitting Mr. Warioba called for a cultural change. Let me just quote his own words:

The country can only manage to flush out corruption if there is cultural and behavioral change among the public in general”.

Unfortunately, Mr. Warioba missed the fact that cultural change must, and always start at the top. It appears Mr. Warioba is clueless of the significant influence that the president has over so many aspects of Tanzanian’s lives. Whoever becomes the president must understand that being Tanzania’s president is not equivalent to personal success (ulaji), but a privilege and a challenge. The responsibilities bestowed upon the office of the president must be understood and respected first and foremost by whomever assumes the office.

In my opinion, the presidency position in Tanzania has not been respected for roughly the past twenty years. And that is not by wananchi, but those Tanzanians entrusted with the office. Much has been documented to support that, and Mr. Warioba knows that a president who didn’t have enough respect for the office shelved his own commission’s report and recommendations on corruption.

If anything, adoration of any president comes out of his or her own respect for the trust and honor that wananchi gives them. It appears, however, that Mr. Warioba is forcing wananchi to respect the president, despite president’s own lack of respect for the office. It is amazing that Mr. Warioba is playing naïve to the fact that some of the very folks accused of corruption are government officials appointed and protected by the same president. Apparently, Mr. Warioba wants folks to embrace a president who has clearly failed to fulfill his call of duty.

The saddest part is that Mr. Warioba is apparently not clearly reading the signs of the times. I am not convinced that someone like Dr. Slaa is that stupid to bring his political career to a halt by leveling false accusations against key government officials. Well, it could be that in desperation Chadema is attempting to gain some political equity, but it might as well be that CCM is coming to the end of the road.

One thing is obvious though; the political landscape is changing in Tanzania and the same old rhetoric is becoming irrelevant. I believe that Tanzanians are getting tired (didn't someone come up with a saying about fooling people for only sometime?) Some conspiracy theorists are contending that Warioba has just been used to put out the fire burning the CCM camp up. Well, think he just sank the CCM ship down, if he was indeed sent the steer CCM out of the mess.

Man, think I am kidding about Tanzanians being tired? Just read some comments posted on Mjengwa’s blog.

Photo Credit: Mwananchi Newspaper

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

EAC: Can We Handle The Heat?

I believe in cooperation. I strongly believe that Tanzania cannot just operate and exist in isolation. For one, history has taught us that political environment in neighboring countries have a potential of have an impact on Tanzania. Just ask folks in Kigoma and Karega. They have a first hand experience with a refugee influx.

You can never take those experiences lightly. As such any opportunity you have (such as the East African Community) to have a positive influence on your neighbors should be honored and cherished. Nevertheless, I struggle with the idea of just joining hands for political reasons, without considering some practical and significant issues.

A buddy of mine sent me the following message. This was from his father who is currently undergoing some medical treatment in Nairobi. Read on…

If you want to know how dirty politics could be, come to Kenya. These guys fight using weapons such as arrows. It is amazing that even a minister from one political party goes out to campaign and he gets beaten up. These guys are dangerous.

But they are coming. They know exactly why they want to join the East African Community. Since I got here, at least on a daily basis you will hear about a carjacking or bank robbery. Even worse, these guys are using deadly weapons such as AK47 and others ammunitions. I think they get these weapons from Somalia.

I have come to appreciate living in a peaceful country. The bandits can strike at anytime, anywhere. If I was not aware of this reality, then the majority of people (Tanzanians) have no clue. I was naïve enough to assume that as long as I was living in a peaceful country, other places had the same environment.

I am afraid Tanzanians’ eyes will open while it is too late. For instance, just yesterday, bandits attached Kenya’s flying police and forced the police force to retreat. The bandits were on their way to rob the Bank of India...”

I am not undermining the importance of the East African Community, but certainly there are plenty of factors that Tanzanians need to ponder before joining hands with the rest of the East African countries. Just go over the above message from a shocked mzee and tell me if you would even think of being a Nairobi’s residence.

One of the mostly cited reasons for calling for East Africa’s cooperation is the commonness of the people. A very simple example is the existence of the same tribes (such as Luo) across the Kenyan and Tanzanian borders. While that could be true, I don’t think that is strong enough of a reason. Language alone is never enough a reason to unite people. Luo in Kenya are conditioned differently from Luo in Tanzania. The Kenyan environment has positioned Luo in that country to have a differing perspective on tribal relationship from that of Luo in Tanzania.

My point is that Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have very unique experiences – both political and cultural – that we can’t ignore simply because Swahili is spoken among these countries.

Despite the obvious tribalism culture that is prevalent in Kenya, I am not convinced that these countries share the same political culture either. Honestly, I am not sure if I want Museveni to be my president. Despite the fact that Tanzanian past presidents have had their black spots, I praise them for respecting the people enough not to demand a change in the constitution so that they could become life presidents. Not only that, I think the guy is overly ambitious, not for the people of East Africa, but for his own personal gains and legacy.

Seriously, are Tanzanians ready to fund about $10,000 that Kenyan’s MPs give themselves on a monthly basis once we become on country? I don’t think so.

In addition, I am not convinced that we are all on the same economic path. Yes, Kenya has led the way in East Africa for a long time. Nonetheless, the country’s recent performance indicates that the country is heading in the wrong direction. It would be very myopic to believe that economic inequality will not bring with it some problems. Wonder why young people are flocking to Dar-es-Salaam? It is because of the imbalance in the distribution of national wealth (farmers produce exports in rural areas, while tarmac roads and skyscrapers are being constructed in Dar-es-Salaam).

I have not studied on how the East African government, once formed, will be run. Nonetheless, the reality is that Tanzanians must be ready for a huge cultural shock. Man, if you have not been to Kenya, please make a “study tour”. We can handle the Ugandans (we did about 20 years ago, plus they are mild mannered), but Kenyans are of a class of their own (I am not saying this to promote separation, I am just letting Tanzanians know the cultural differences).

The text message above from a shocked mzee definitely focused on security issues in Nairobi. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that the rise of banditry is a result of some of other social factors. The question is this: are Tanzanians ready to handle the heat once the EAC is finally here? Are ready to be part of the social problems in Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda? Do we have clear idea of what we are getting ourselves into or we have just let emotionalism blur our vision?

Photo Credit: BBC

Friday, September 21, 2007

RTF: Poor Business Skills?

I am not abandoning this space. It is just that life happens and you have to be very wise in time allocation. This happens to be one of those weeks where the means through which I pay my bills – that is my job – took a sit on the front row. But I would not let this entire week pass by without sharing my thoughts.

Given this is Friday; I will allow my mind to flow freely. If I don’t get some facts straight or I become incoherent in my writing, just flow with me. But don’t assume I am intoxicated; I am just trying to be human.

Last week I happened to bump into a business proposal from Business in Development Network (BID)’s website. This site has tons of business proposals from various locations in the world, Tanzania included. One business proposal caught my attention – not for its brilliance, but its shortcoming. The following is just the executive summary:

The Owners

The partnership on XXXX. Is made up with two partners, Whose details follow below:

a) Mrs. XXXX:
Aged 31 yrs and Educated up to college education. Attending Kenya Utalii College where I acquired the certificate in food production courser in which covered among them, The bakery and confectionery, hygienic and nutrition, Food processing and preservation, General Account and Management.

b) Mr. XXXX
Aged 37 years old, Educated up to University level majority in marketing and ntrepreneurship, He has attending several courses and Training in Hotel industry management conducted by Sheraton Dar es Salaam Hotel and Royal Palm Hotel. He has wide experience in running food and beverage services.
I didn’t alter anything, except blot out the names.

Just imagine that you are commercial loans manager at a bank, where thousands of loan applications pass through your hands on a daily basis. Given that first impression has a lot of influence, would you even pay close attention to this business proposal?

I didn’t bring this out to condemn these innocent Tanzanians, but to challenge all of us to land a hand. I am sure that these good citizens were just doing what they know best. Nonetheless, it is not good enough to have a vision and a strategy, if you don’t have the tactical skills to carry out your vision.

From this very story, you realize that there are plenty of problems in Tanzania when it comes to business skills. The reality is that as the free market economy matures in Tanzania, the business environment, as we know it in Tanzania will change. Those inevitable changes will bring opportunities to those willing to change and acquire the appropriate business skills and attitude, while on the other killing those who want to conduct business in the old ways will find themselves kicked out to the curb.

One of the skills that Tanzanian businessmen and women need to acquire is the ability to present their business in the best way possible. Just look at the above business proposal. Do you honestly think that these innocent people were serious? If they were, why not give this business proposal to a trusted “consultant” to perform a review for grammatical accuracy; given the chosen language was English and the business proposal was intended for the whole world to see?
What I am saying is this: businesses do fail even in the United States of America. So knowing English is not the only factor in building a successful business. There are plenty of factors that have to interact, such as the business strategy, pricing, distribution, competition, etc. However, there is a universal business fact – businesses that succeed tend to do what they do well than the rest, unless such a business is monopoly.

Honestly, I wish I had the opportunity to help these fellas out before they posted their business proposal on the Internet. I wish I had access to plenty of young men and women in Tanzania who are aspiring to be business people so that I can share my thoughts and experiences with them. Obviously, they need more empowerment and more business skills than they currently have.

If you have an idea how I can be of help in the consultancy or mentoring capacity, please let me know. Certainly, if the cited business came from individuals fortunate enough to acquire some college education, what do you think of the rest of the innocent Tanzanians? Our help is certainly needed.

By the way, don’t forget to visit the JUMUWATA’s space to air your views on the constitution and other good stuff. You don’t know what JUMUWATA is all about yet? It is an organization bringing Tanzanian bloggers together.

Enjoy your weekend.

Photo Credit: Mjengwa

Friday, September 14, 2007

RTF: What A Bang!

It is another Friday. It is another day for me to allow my mind to wander far and wide. So bear with me.

In case you didn’t know this, God takes a center stage in my life. I know that sound would sound stupid to an atheist, but hey, that’s me. So I will talk about God today. I will talk about my faith today. In a world where we want to be politically correct, it would be tempting to hide one’s faith under the rag while allowing others to express their beliefs.

If you are in America, you will understand what I am talking about. There are so many forces that are essentially geared towards muzzling those who believes in God. I have once said this: we all worship. You can either worship high or worship. We can’t escape that reality.

What prompted me to reflect on this is one the program aired by ABC television stations on May 5, 2007 . In the program members of the Rational Response Squad squared off with Christians Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort about the existence of God.

You can google these guys to figure who they are.

I didn’t watch the program, but I heard plenty of discussions about it. I am not a theologian, so I will not reflect from a standpoint of a scholar in theology. Rather, I will do this from a layman’s perspective. I will do this based on my personal experiences.

I don’t think these discussions about God are new. They must have been there for ions. I believe we have these discussions because human beings want to explain and make sense out of life. Secondly, we have these discussions because we are spiritual beings. The difference, however, is how we exercise our spirituality.

That has led to a huge debate on creation versus the Big Bang theory. Honestly, I laugh when I hear intelligent people theorize that human beings evolved from some other creepy creatures. Furthermore, it is ridiculous to imagine that the Big Bang was a result of explosion of primeval atoms. Which begs the question – where did these atoms come from in the first place?

Oh, so the atoms later developed – in some miraculous ways – to the extent that we now have different species. And in some miraculous ways, human beings just got favored by nature to be superior of all the resulting creatures of the Big Bang? Oh what a Bang it was!

I know atheists and the rest of “ists” who do not believe in God would really love for any believer to give them a scientific and logical proof of God’s existence. That in itself is a stupid request. You can never prove for the existence of anything in a way that does not go with its nature or in a manner that does not work.

Apart from the proof of God’s existence which we can see in His intelligent design, we can never prove God’s existence in a scientific laboratory. That is because the materials for proving God’s existence are not litmus papers, microscopes, or any other tools but FAITH. And faith, amigo, is intangible. You would think that atheists and all skeptics of God’s existence are super intelligent enough to understand how different faith and matter are.

Let me ask you this: if you happen to be talking to a laboratory technician who, upon looking at a microscope informs you that he or she is seeing moving bacteria, would you dare ask them to prove the existence of the bacteria through bare eyes? If you are intelligent enough, wouldn’t kindly say “let me see for myself”? See, faith is a microscope through which we can see God. So, if you want to prove God’s existence, why don’t you look through the lenses of faith – which is the right tool for seeing God?

I know a person who sends inspirational emails and at the very end says this - sin makes you stupid.

Intelligent people act intelligently. What is more better – believing God exists and finding out that He does exit, believing God exists and finding out that He doesn’t exist, or believing God does not exist only to find out that He exists?

Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What Makes The Tanzanian Culture?

I love Tanzania. Not only because that is where I can trace my roots. Tanzania is my heart. So if you read me whipping my people, it is because I love them. I truly desire for that country to change for the better.

I pay attention to my readers’ comments and sometimes, I really wonder if I should change my focus. That is because I don’t want to dwell on the negatives. I don’t want to sound like I don’t appreciate little changes that are happening. Some of these changes are truly good and could potentially act as a springboard for the next generation.

As I muse on a possibility of tweaking my focus, another fundamental question always pops up at the back of my mind – change to what? I mean, wouldn’t that be flip-flopping, if I can borrow these famous election campaign term from Mr. George Bush? Wouldn’t that be silencing my own voice that I feel the need to air?

As much as I want to be balanced, it is a tough thing to do. So I think I will do what I truly feel is necessary. I will continue to write with a voice that fulfills my calling.

My objective wasn’t even to write about my focus. But since I am not bound by any editorial limitations, I allow myself to float freely like that. Hey, focus with me. Would you?

I really wanted to pose a question on what constitutes our (Tanzanians) culture. And when I talk about culture, please put it in the right context here. I am referring to languages, traditions, food, etc. What prompted to pose this question are many negatives comments that arose following the crowning of Richa Adhia as Miss Tanzania. Obviously, at the core of it all is the issue of color.

Certainly, the sense that one gets is that the same folks, who are crying for equality, are similarly expressing discrimination in the opposite direction. That is being messed up upstairs. Shouldn’t it be fair for the one crying for equality to afford the same?

But that is just a detour.

The main thrust of this reflection comes from the following comment, which I picked from Issa Michuzi’s blog:

Hivi akiambiwa aeleze culture za kibongo hataeleza nini?”

Translation: “If (Richa) is asked to articulate various Tanzanian cultures, what would she say?”

I could be wrong, but I am tempted to conclude that the above sentiments represent the view that the majority of Negroid Tanzania has when it comes to their assessment of the Asian-Tanzanians’ understanding and interaction with other indigenous groups on a daily basis. Honestly, I can understand why such an assessment could be laid out, given the feeling that Negroid Tanzanians are not respected enough or given equal economic opportunities in their own country.

Would I blame the Negroid majority? Absolutely not! That is because even the few educated folks like Mr. Nimrod Mkono holds or has perpetuated the same negative attitude towards an indigenous Tanzania’s position in her own country. If influential people like Mr. Mkono are playing the race card, the worse should be expected from the rest who are not as fortunate as Mr. Mkono to be enlightened or educated.

Apart from the obvious bigotry that surfaced during this Richa versus Walalahoi debate, I believe the biggest question is what constitutes the Tanzanian culture. From my perspective, cultures in Tanzania are so diverse that no average Tanzanian, regardless of their “authenticity” as indigenous Tanzanians, can claim to fully understand. I mean, do you know how many ethnic languages, traditional dances, etc that are in Mara Region alone?

While hateful Tanzanians have queried whether Richa has an understanding of other Tanzanian cultures just to justify their bigotry, the truth is that Tanzanian culture includes the Arabic, Indian, and other influences. The bottom line is this: Richa does not have to know anything about the Makua culture, for instance, to win the Miss Tanzania’s crown. For one, there were criteria set (equally for all contestants) to win the crown. Secondly, not knowing other cultures in Tanzania does not make you less of a Tanzania. Despite my birth in Tanzania and my blackness, I know virtually nothing about the Barbaig culture. Does mean that I am not a Tanzania enough, let’s say, to be the country’s ambassador to Spain?

Even more, have we established how much the former Miss Tanzania, Hoyce Temu, knows about Luo or Suba culture from Tarime? Have we revisited the origin of Swahili of late to appreciate what a cultural cocktail the language is? Bottom line is this: The Tanzanian born Patel is a member of the Tanzanian culture just as Mwabuponde from Mbeya, Otieno from Shirati, Semvua from Tanga, Nyanda from Bariadi and Rweyemamu from Kagera are.

I believe that bigotry is a result of ignorance. But what can we attribute ignorance to?
Photo Credit: Michuzi

Friday, September 07, 2007

RTF: Oh Poor Taifa Stars Fans...

It is Friday man. And I am looking forward to the weekend. Oh am I? This is going to be a full weekend for me. Mostly with church activities and then other social activities. The organization of Tanzanians in Central Ohio (TCCO) is planning a “TCCO” day on Saturday. As a board member, I have to be there.

But hey, I signed up for this (except for the church involvement, which I know God called me to do), so I will not whine even a single bit.

Honestly, I wanted to write about something else (which I won’t disclose to keep you coming back), but I couldn’t just help musing on this post by Issa Michuzi.

Apparently, the soccer fans are furious for not being able to buy tickets for the upcoming soccer match between Tanzania and Mozambique. I am a soccer fan myself and I can tell you this: I was disappointed when I could not get a ticket for the upcoming match between Columbus Crew and LA Galaxy on September 30, 2007. Obviously, the Beckham craze drove the ticket demand up.

This is my message to you Tanzanian soccer fans – welcome to the real world! Welcome to the free market environment!

Well, I know. In Tanzania it could not even be a question of demand and supply interplay. Given the level of corruption in the country, there is a HUGE possibility that some few wajanja seized the moment to reap off the rest of the populace. But mind you, that is just my theory. It could have been that someone projected the ticket demand (given the fact that this match is potentially historic) and heavily invested in buying a chunk of tickets with the intention of rolling them out in a secondary market. Is that opportunistic? You bet, you it is.

In a country where some folks are still stuck in an Ujamaa thinking, this is not a pretty picture.

But lets just get down to it. This is ticket scalping. The truth of the matter is this: ticket scalping is everywhere. Think I am kidding? Just read the following report on ticket scalping from the State of New York’s Attorney General. Well, in New York it could be them Mafia running the show. But why would we not suspect that we have own on little Mafia network in Tanzania?

Regardless, my heart goes out to the fans. It is a man eats man world, isn’t it?

Enjoy your weekend.


Photo credit: Michuzi

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Change in Mindset: Go Ahead, Kill Me…

I would like to think I have a creative mind. Even a little. That being said, it is my desire to bring to light other issues of life and not the same old song about change in attitude, culture and mindset. Despite my desire to move away from that, there are current events in Bongoland that just proves me right. So just go ahead and kill me. I am going to call for a change in mindset, if Tanzanians truly want to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I know this is all general talk, so if you have gotten what I am talking about and have made the necessary change in your attitude, please bear with me. As I am talking in generalities, don’t be offended if what I am talking about does not really apply to you.

Last week the new, ultramodern soccer stadium was opened. Thanks to a helping hand from the Chinese, Tanzanian can now boast of a good soccer stadium. And for all y’all who are thinking that this is the first stadium in Tanzania to have night-lights, you are wrong. Lights were installed at the Jamhuri Stadium in Dodoma way back in 1987. Only to be stolen (or sold) immediately after the celebrations to mark the 10th year of CCM.

Given the fact that Taifa Stars are performing well relative the recent past (which I am personally proud of, as we are climbing the FIFA world ranking charts), such a facility should have not come at the best time ever. I am mean, picture this: if our soccer standard is improving, there are possibilities that we could secure international friendlies with other African soccer powerhouses such as Ghana and Nigeria. And given the standard of the stadium, most giant African national soccer teams would be more than willing to play Tanzania.

Even better, what about the possibility of using the stadium to lure European, American and Asian teams to train in Tanzania for their World Cup preparations to be held in South Africa come 2010?

While there are such possibilities, it seems that our main adversary – awful culture and mental attitudes – will definitely stand on our way. Just read this story.

The truth of the matter is this: we have idiots in every country and in every continent. God has endowed mental capacity differently to each individual. Nonetheless, the level of idiocy demonstrated in other countries is due to the fact that folks take things for granted. You trash the streets and you know for sure the city will clean it up. This is my biggest question: given the fact that we don’t have much in Tanzania, wouldn’t it be expected that we would die for the little that we have?

I cannot imagine that a person would go to a new, ultramodern soccer stadium and instead of concentrating on the game, take his time to poop, take his own remains and wipe it all over he wall! And then this person can actually go home to his wife and kids or friends and boast about the fun they had at the new stadium?

See, whether we like it or not, these are the same things that makes on wonder if truly anything good can come out of Tanzania. It is seems like quality thinking is so scarce and stupidity is abound. If this is a sample of “exposed” Tanzanians (I’m riding on the general belief that folks residing in Dar are more “educated” than the rest of the country), then what you get when you extrapolate and conclude about the entire population, what you get is not pretty.

I wonder how the President gets up every morning motivated. Watu wenyewe ndio hawa? It is tempting to just take care of one's family and leave the rest to rot. It is so infuriating.

It is not just this stadium issue that is disheartening. We all know about the transportation problems that southern Tanzania experienced for ions. Well, finally the Mkapa Bridge was constructed for them. Guess what? It didn’t take long for these folks to start vandalizing the bridge. Seriously, who cuts off the hands that feed them? I guess you can only find this level of stupidity in Tanzania.

Just go ahead and kill me, but I will repeat this again. I strongly believe that most of problems in Tanzania are not due to lack of resources. They are just rooted in awful culture and mindset. Unless we address those, no amount of money will make that country better. Yeah, money can build stadiums and construct roads, but we know that the stinking culture will tear them down.

Tanzania as a society needs to take a very hard look at itself. We stink and the National Stadium story couldn’t prove me more right. Unless we change our mindset as a people, we will just continue to admire the British soccer and other “good" things happening majuu. And then we wonder why.


Photo Credit: Michuzi