Monday, March 24, 2008

When Politicians Lie…

The good thing about advancement in technology, particularly the information technology is this, I can prove our politicians wrong right here from a foreign land. Isn’t that amazing?

Honestly, I have so much respect for Dr. Slaa. He has been one of the fiery politicians who are not afraid to stretch the imagination of those in power. He could be just another politician, but what he has accomplished in bringing the BoT scandal to light deserves its due praise.

So, does that mean Dr. Slaa gets it right all the time? You would think that, him being a PhD holder and all. Just read the following story to get the context in which I am slamming this dude.

What caught my attention in that story is the following sentence from Dr. Slaa:

I have not seen any country that has privatised power supply

Mh….let me scratch my head a little bit. Well, the sentence could mean two things. Either no country has ever handed over a government-owned power supply company to private ownership or no country has ever allowed privately owned companies to play in the power supply market.

Given the context and discussion within which Dr. Slaa made his point, it is safe to argue that our esteemed Doctor meant that no country in the world has ever allowed privately owned companies to supply power. We will find out if that is true.

I just hate it when my fellow Bongolanders are fed junk. This was definitely one of those dumpster materials from a reputable politician. Let me just shred Dr. Slaa’s statement into tiny little pieces. I will accomplish that with practical experiences.

Dr. Slaa, please hear this. The supplier of electricity to my humble abode is none other than American Electric Power (AEP). AEP, dear friend, happened to be a non-government owned power supply company. The company also is publicly traded at New York Stock Exchange. You want some proof? Check out the company’s website for yourself.

Need I say more?

The saddest part is that I am sure someone clapped for that crap.
Photo Credit: Food For Thought Blog.

Monday, March 17, 2008

If It Ain't Your Forte...

Sometimes I just laugh at how Bongolanders like to pull a fast one on themselves. I mean, someone would pretend to be an expert in an area where…well, they are essentially Maimunas. The end result, for someone who really knows the field, is just downright hilarious. I am not against trying, but there are areas where experimentation is a no-no. Especially when you call a press conference, with planned points.

Let’s get down to it, shall we?

Well, y’all know the whole BoT scandal and how there have been a whole lot of dilly-dallying displayed by the Tanzanian AG – Mr. Johnson Mwanyika. By the way, I just think this guy is a really good example of how “empty” the Tanzania government is. I mean, the guy can’t make a convincing point! That, to me, begs the question, how in the heck did become the country’s AG? Is that how Tanzanian legal experts are?

I wouldn’t conclude that though, because I have heard some very good Tanzanian lawyers making some very good and convincing points.

Going back to the EPA funds thievery, the Attorney General initially contended that commission appointed by the President was taking all its time and cautions to finalize the investigation on BoT funds’ looters. In his explanation, he pointed two things – one, exposing the name of looters would be jeopardize the possibility of collecting all the funds, and secondly, going after these thieves is a bit complicated given that the recipients of the EPA funds were companies, which are legally regarded as “persons”.

I have very little knowledge of the Tanzanian business laws, but I would imagine that those laws are not far off from “universal” business laws. Based on my understanding, it is true that a limited liability company, typically denoted by a LTD in Tanzania, shields owners from being pursued when the company owes money. In other words, when a company goes belly up, debtors cannot go after personal assets of the owners.

This is called a corporate veil, which Mwanyika explained above.

Corporate veil could be pierced in some cases, especially if a company was a sham and essentially set up to defraud. Given the facts regarding the EPA funds’ thievery, AG’s contention of complication in prosecuting EPA funds’ looters is…well, stupid. Unless, the Tanzania laws are set up in such a way that corporate veil could not be penetrated for any reason under the sun. I am presuming that is not the case and that Mwanyika was trying to pull a fast one on us.

Let forget about Mwanyika for a minute and fast-forward with me.

Apart from Mwanyika, another member of the EPA investigation commission is the Inspector General of Police – Said Mwema. Apparently Mr. Mwema has taken a somewhat tougher stance on the looters, likening the looters to terrorists. Tanzania Daima covered part of IGP's address to the press. But what really caught my eyes was this sentence:

Sasa tumeshavuka corporate vein (wigo wa makampuni)…

Given the context of the EPA scandal and what the AG has earlier talked about, I am sure Mr. Mwema meant “corporate veil”. Was he misquoted? Possibly, because the Tanzania Daima undisclosed writer opted to interpret corporate vein as a “corporate network”, which does not make sense also in the given context.

This story does not have any juice to it, from a contextual standpoint, but it still highlights one of the biggest problems in Tanzania, where folks are trying to impress in areas which are not their strength. This is my perspective: given that plenty of information and speeches given by politicians and whoever calls a press conference are posted online, it is necessary to avoid exposing yourself (negatively) to the entire world.

If indeed Mr. Mwema talked about “corporate vein”, then I can only assume he picked that from AG, but didn’t quite understand what it meant. Given the Tanzanian culture where asking questions for clarification is equated to stupidity, it is very possible that the poor guy went on and used a word he didn’t understand!

On the other hand, if the Tanzania Daima writer misquoted the IPG (which is more than likely), then just shoot the writer, would you? Someone once contended that Tanzania journalists should have at least a college degree. In cases like this, that person was absolutely justified. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think the person who made that suggestion is nobody other than Dr. Harrison Mwakyembe.

My point is this, if an area is not your forte, don’t play a hero. You could end up making a fool of yourself.

By the way, what in the world is corporate vein? I could be the one missing something here. Please let me if you know anything.

Photo Credit: Mjengwa

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Told You So…

Let me just admit to the fact that I am not a genius by any imagination. As a matter of fact, I goof just like the rest of humanity. I err just like all of us. Nonetheless, once in a while I get things right. And that makes me feel justified in calling out the doubters of this blog – I told you so!

I have been accused on leaning towards the negative side of the Tanzanian experience. I understand that and I am doing that deliberately. But, boy, it feels so great to “dunk” on my “enemies” and wag a finger like Mutombo Dikembe (in case you have not seen Mutombo do that, please consult any NBA nut head).

So what is this fuss or junk I am writing about? I will tell you.

Once upon a time when Tanzania faced drought which led to power problems, the then elected Mr. President contended that power problems were not to be blamed on anybody in particular, as this was an act of negligence, but a test from God. In case you forgot the story, just revisit my original reflection right here.

Little did I know that almost one year and a half later; I would be proven to be right on the money. In case you didn’t have time to revisit my reflection, let me fill you in. In a nutshell, I bored a hole in Mr. JMK’s argument that electricity problems in Tanzania were not to be attributed to negligence. I provided the fact that Tanzania Meteorological Agency is charged with weather trends observation and prediction. I also pointed out the fact that TMA actually predicted rain deficiencies and that data was available – on the TMA’s website!

Guess what? Recently, Raia Mwema reported that Dr. Mohammed Mhita, TMA’s director general, confirmed that the agency do produce weather reports that are disseminated to, among other places, the State House and TANESCO!

So who is still doubting the fact that Mr. JMK is a goofball and that Tanzania will NEVER go anywhere (except backward) with him as the president? In case you are wondering why I think so, just revisit many of my past reflections, some of which dissected the president’s thinking. Honestly, I don’t think we have the greatest critical thinker in the president. But that is just me.

But re-dissecting the Prez wasn’t my main point though. I just wanted to let know how great it feels to say “I told you so!”

Photo Credit: NBA

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Introspection – The Fear of Self?

According my Google search, introspection could be defined as “self-observation of one's thoughts and feelings”, “is a technique of self-observation”, “a process of inward attention or reflection, so as to examine the contents of the mind”, etc. The underlying concept though, is that introspection is about taking an inventory of self.

I am not a psychologist, so if I get some of the concepts wrong in this reflection, I am welcoming those who are experts in the field of psychology to help out by correcting me. In the end, my objective is for all us to grow and learn.

What has prompted me to write on this piece is my observation of the way most Tanzanians, including my very own relatives, tends to attribute their issues and problems to some external factors. Hardly do you come across a person who is willing and humbly ready to take ownership of their state of affairs. Everyone is just almost always on the lookout for that mchawi out there.

Unfortunately, our political leaders are not exempted. I have hardly come across an African leader who is ready to take an inventory of Africans’ own doing. You are more than likely to hear the old and tired rhetoric, such as how badly the white folks are exploiting Africa and how Africa could have been developed if it wasn’t for colonialism. You know the usual junk that flows, like river Nile, from the mouths of the so-called African leaders.

Well, I know that colonialism wasn’t the best thing that happened to Africa. But that Africans are not the only people that were colonized. History attests to that. I also think that it is crazy to blame the West for exploitation of Africa, while the same Africans are exploiting each other. So I threw this challenge out - to what extent should we blame Africa’s problems to external factors and to what degree should we attribute the Continent’s woes to self-destruction?

Guess what? No one has ever given me a response to that.

And I am not surprised. That is because responding to that question requires self introspection. Not in Ghana, not in Zambia, not in Tanzania, would you find a typical African willing to take a closer look inside. And that is where the biggest Africa’s problems lie. We are very afraid of ourselves, because what we see inside is not pretty. So we find a comfort zone is singing the same old songs.

But let me just speak to my peeps – Tanzanians.

Shifting or projecting of our problems to external factors diminishes a sense of personal responsibility. And I am not crazy for saying that. The fact that our president would proudly regard his trips abroad as a success simply because he secured some donor funds proves my point. The beggar’s mentality, which I have address in this very blog, is just an outcome of lack of self introspection and a sense of personal responsibility. If the government is not setting up realistic goals on when to end donor dependency, that tells a lot about our character and the desire for personal responsibility. It is very sad that we derive more satisfaction from what others do for us than the best we can do for ourselves.

Lack of introspection has also made Tanzanians reactive. I stand to be corrected, but I don’t see any indication that Tanzanians are proactive. That is because lack of introspection leads to a victim mentality. The victim mentality makes one feel that whatever happens to them is attributed to someone or something out there and not self. The worst part is that the victim mentality does not encourage the assumption of a leadership position. You can never be a leader (in politics, science, sports, etc) if all you do is wait for something bad to happen to you (giving you a reason to throw a pity party) or something good to be handed to you (giving you a reason to feel accepted).

Because Tanzanians, and most Africans for that matter, tend to glorify the victim mentality, it has become very difficult to identify and focus on their unique strengths and potential. You know what? Everyone faces obstacles and opposition. The world is a competitive place. Nothing comes for free and only those determined enough gets the prize. Most winners, however, focus on their strength while minimizing their weaknesses. The reality is that you can never fully identify and exploit your strength if you don’t know who you are. And discovering self requires plenty of introspection.

At the very end of the day, lack of self introspection brings down a very damning outcome, and that is lack of development. And this is not only at a national level, but also on a personal level. Progress and development requires adaptation to changing environment and boldly taking a lead in setting the future trends. Taking those steps is impossible if you think that your circumstance is controlled by someone else.

See, what introspection does is to give us an opportunity to connect our failures or success to our mindset, attitudes, strategies, tactics, tendencies, etc. All successful people do that. I know that most Tanzanians are quick to conclude, typically without concrete evidence or wrong political ideas, that problems in Bongoland are attributed to some evil wazungu. That is not entirely true. I think we should all look inside before we step out looking for that mchawi, because our enemy in most cases is ourselves.

How big is the problem of lack of introspection in Tanzania? It is humongous. Just read
this article .

Why in the world would the Tanzanian government be offended by the delay of donor funds? When was the last time beggars had any rights? That, amigo, underscores the fact that we can’t even be ashamed. Shame, of course, comes when we can look at ourselves and know that we messed up. When we justify shameful things, we are either stupid, insensitive, or we are just not from this world.

May be self introspection is also a sign of intelligence. If that is the case, then, oh well.
Photo Credit: Mjengwa