Four presidents, schools without teachers, grassroots activism, film on tour and the gay issue

Blogs continue to provide a venue for Swahili bloggers and their readers to question every action of political leaders. Sure, there are blog posts devoted to other issues – film, fashion and even socio-political commentary with a light touch, but this week one cannot help but notice a series of posts by Tanzania's leading photoblogger Issa Michuzi. He has devoted five posts to the four presidents who have ruled Tanzania so far asking his readers to discuss their performance.

The first two presidents, Mwalimu Nyerere and Ali Hassan Mwinyi escape fairly unscathed from reader's comments – with exceptions of Nyerere's inability to sack his corrupt lieutenants, a charge that is thrown at Ali Hassan Mwinyi too.

On Nyerere, one reader writes:

alisahau sana mambo ya ndani ya nchi na kusaidia sana majirani, aliwabeba watendaji wake wabovu kwa kuwabadilisha badilisha hao hao tu wakiendelea kuharibu, Alikuwa dikteta kiani lakini wakati ule ilifaa, alikuwa na huruma kwa watendaji wake wabovu ambao ndio walikuwa waharibifu wakubwa wa nji

He (Nyerere) did not pay enough attention to domestic issues but went out of the way to help neighbouring countries, (Tanzania was the leading member of “frontline states” for the liberation of Southern Africa) he was comfortable with his incompetent government officials preferring to reshuffle them instead of sacking them, he was some sort of a dictator who was necessary in that particular era, he had a big heart though…

Some blog readers praise Ali Hassan Mwinyi for liberalising the economy after Nyerere's socialist economic policies, but they are critical of his support for laissez-faire principles:

Aliweza kufungua nafasi za kibiashara baada ya mfumo wa kijamaa ambao ulianzishwa na mtangulizi wake. Ila udhaifu wake alishindwa kuendesha miaka 5 ya mwisho ya uongozi kila mtu alikuwa anajifanyia analotaka bila kufuata na taratibu za nchi, rushwa ilishamiri sana kipindi cha mwinyi, na mwisho mfumuko wa bei ulikuwa katika kiwango cha juu.

He was able to liberalise the economy after the socialist era. But his weakness started to show in the last five years of his government, everyone could do as they pleased with no regard to country's rules and regulations, corruption was rampant and inflation was high.

Tanzania's third president Benjamin Mkapa who opened the doors wider to foreign investors proves a hard to pigeon-hole. Commenting on a post about him, some of Michuzi's readers think he was a genuine hard worker who oversaw improvements in critical infrastructure, schools and expansion of towns. Critics, however, point to the amount of foreign debt he left behind, depreciation of the shilling, the worsening poverty in the rural areas and his wholesale privatisation policy.

While the account of the current Tanzania's president Jakaya Kikwete is still in the making, his many foreign trips are criticised by readers. Since coming to power in October 2005, Kikwete has visited over 25 countries:

Jamaa ni safari na yeye kasahau kuwa anatakiwa akae na kubuni mipango imara.Ni kweli misaada tu ndio suluhisho la matatizo yetu inashangaza.Jamaa yeye anawa win tu wale watu wa uswazi ambao ndio walimchagua. Hao ndio wakisikia anawaleta Real Madrid wanamfurahia sana,hapa anawakuna. Lakini hajafanya lolote kwa uchumi mkuu… NAONA BADO HATUKUMTARAJIA KUFANYA HAYA TUNAYOYAONA. Pia hata maisha yamekuwa magumu kila kunvyokucha kunanini hapa Je amafeli. UTAONA PIA MAAMUZI YAKE MENGI NI YA KUWA WIN WATU. TUSUBIRI

He loves to travel and he forgets that his job is to devise strong programs for the country. The argument that his foreign trips are aimed at seeking foreign aid does not add up. He (Kikwete) is all about winning popularity among the lay people – those who elected him. When lay people hear that the president has managed to get Real Madrid Soccer team to tour Tanzania they are overwhelmed with joy. He just sedates them. He has done nothing for the economy… we did not expect him to behave like this, when life gets harder by the day. All his decisions are aimed at becoming more popular. Let us wait and see.

Real Madrid is expected to visit Tanzania
later this year at the invitation of Tanzania's president, Jakaya Kikwete.

And others plead for patience before forming an informed opinion about his presidency:

Tusi panic na safari zake he is just taking contact mwaka mmoja on business it is too early to say something kuongoza nchi si rahisi. He sounds promising, young, active and simple (like all Tanzanias). I have confidence he will do good work maana kitu kimoja anapenda wananchi. Tukutane hapa after three yrs ya uongozi wake then we can say something.

Let us not panic because of his foreign trips, it is too early to judge his performance, he sounds promising, he is simple and active like most Tanzanians. I have confidence he will do a good job because he loves his people. Let us meet again after three years of his leadership, then we will be able to judge him fairly.

And, as Tanzania marches forward with its vision of becoming a nation with a high quality of education to meet regional and global challenges, a critical eye of Mtanzania (a teacher by profession) is focused on the implementation of the Tanzania government's 2004 five-year Secondary Education Development Programme (SEDP) under which 1,050 new secondary schools have been built across the country. However, many of these schools do not have enough teachers.

He thinks that fast track, two months training of new teachers from the ranks of high school graduates to teach in the newly built secondary schools may produce enough but not incompetent teachers.

On the same issue of education, Maggid Mjengwa, sees encouraging signs as people are starting to question the government's conduct. He writes:

Katika jamii yetu tumeanza kuona dalili za wananchi kuanza kuamka na kuhoji juu ya masuala mbali mbali yenye kuwahusu. Moja ya masuala hayo ni hili juu ya ubora wa elimu itolewayo kwa watoto wao. Tumewasikia wazazi kule Serengeti wakihoji; iweje watoto wao wafaulu darasa la saba ilihali hawajui kusoma na kuandika?!

Now we are seeing signs in our society that people are starting to wake up and question issues that directly affects them. One of those issues is the quality of education of their children. We have heard of those parents in Serengeti asking: how come their children complete primary school with low literacy levels.

Mjengwa goes on to assert that education in Tanzania is in this state because policy makers and other top officials do not have direct interest in the public school system because most of them send their children to private schools either within the country or abroad.

Tujiulize; hivi kweli waziri angelala usingizi huku akifahamu, kuwa shule ya sekondari ya kata anayosoma mwanawe ina walimu wawili, haina maktaba, chumba cha maabara na mengineyo?…

Let us ask ourselves: would a government minister have good night sleep knowing that his/her child's secondary school has only two teachers, has neither a library nor a laboratory?…

He goes on to plead to the masses to pay tribute to those who fought for Africa's liberation by continuing the fight by concrete action and by questioning the powers that be.

… Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Frantz Fanon na wengineo. Hawa ni wana wa bara hili, wamepigania ukombozi wa Mwafrika. Katika utumishi wao kwa bara hili, kupitia kauli na matendo yao, wamejenga misingi ya maarifa ya kuwakomboa Waafrika, wanyonge walio wengi. Kuwaenzi wanamapinduzi hawa, ni kupigania yale waliyoyapigania, kwa vitendo. Ili kuibadili hali tuliyo nayo ni vema tuanze sasa kudadisi na kuhoji. Tanze sasa kuhimiza

… Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Frantz Fanon and others fought for this continent. They build the foundation for Africa's liberation through their words and their actions. To honour these revolutionaries is to continue their struggle by our actions. In order for us to change the state of things, it is imperative that we start questioning. Let us start now.

In his fiery delivery, Ndesanjo writes about an article he recently wrote for a Swahili daily newspaper, Mwananchi. He posts a few paragraphs of the article revealing his disgust for government empty slogans. He portrays the Tanzanian society as a one big choir with the press as the lead singers, and the people as the backing vocals; the party cadres are leading vocals, the World Bank and IMF are players of instruments:

Wanatuambia kwenye ripoti zao kuwa serikali yetu inaendesha uchumi kwa ufanisi na imepiga hatua mbele kwenye vita dhidi ya rushwa. Eti nini? Rushwa? Niambie, toka uzaliwe, umemsikia nani kati ya akina nani hii amefikishwa mahakamani kwa rushwa kisha akaenda jela? Niambie ni kesi ngapi unazifahamu za rushwa ya mamilioni?

Their reports (IMF and World Bank's reports on Tanzania) tell us that our government is waging the war against corruption effectively. What? Corruption? Tell me, since you were born, have you ever heard of any political elite who was prosecuted in the court of law and went to jail for corruption? Can you tell me how many corruption cases involving millions of shillings that you know of?

He briefly touches on what appears to be a cross-border corruption scandal where a UK firm secretly paid a $12m commission into a private Swiss account while selling a military radar system to the government of Tanzania. He urges people to start the process of change from where they are:

Mjadala huu lazima tuuanze hivi sasa. Ni vipi wananchi, ambao ndio wengi kuliko viongozi walaghai, tutakuwa na uwezo, njia, na mfumo imara wa kuhakikisha kuwa hatuibiwi kama watoto wadogo? Kuna wakati niliandika kuhusu mbinu za kuleta mabadiliko kwenye jamii. Nilisema kuwa iwapo hujaweza kumwajibisha mwenyekiti wa serikali za mtaani kwenu, ni vipi utaweza kumwajibisha raisi, mbunge, au waziri? Kama hujaweza kuunda vuguvugu mtaani kwenu kuhakikisha kuwa mnaondoa wezi, mnajenga utamaduni wa kutupa takataka sehemu zinazohusika, mna utaratibu wa kusafisha mtaa wenu, n.k., ni vipi utaweza kuongelea suala la utunzaji wa mazingira kitaifa au kampeni ya kukamata majambazi kitaifa?

We have to start discussing how the people can be empowered to make sure that they (goverment officials) do not steal from us as if we are little kids. A while ago I wrote about strategies for social change. I said, if you have not been able to make your local councillor accountable, how will you then be able to make the president, your Member of Parliament or cabinet minister accountable? If you have not been able to mobilise your neighborhood to make sure that you get rid of petty thieves, that you build a culture of cleanliness in your local areas, etc., how can you start to talk about enviromental protection on the national level or national anti-crime campaigns?

And as the dust is beginning to settle after the meeting of Anglican Church leaders in Tanzania where conservative and liberal views on homosexuality were not resolved, Damija seeks some clarification on what is sin and what is not, and why the issue of gay priests has never been controversial in other religions like Islam:

Watu hawa ambao hujulikana kwa wanaume kama ‘Basha na wasenge’, na kwa wanawake ‘Wasagaji’, wamekuwa wakipigania kukubalika katika jamii na hata kupewa majukumu mbalimbali ya uongozi. Wanataka waongoze nchi, wanataka waongoze makanisa bado sijasikia wanaotaka kuongoza misikiti. Hali imekuwa ni ngumu kwao hasa katika hili la uongozi. Swali langu ni kwamba je wanapaswa kupewa nafasi hizi au hapana?

Gay and lesbians have been fighting for their rights including serving in different capacities in governments or churches but I have never heard of them trying to lead mosques. What do you think, do they deserve to lead or not?

And elswhere in the Swahili blogosphere, an actress Chemi Che Mponda
writes that the multi-award-winning film in which she acted in, Maangamizi (The Ancient One), will be touring Toronto, Canada.


  • […] Malizia kusoma habari hii hapa.   […]

  • Mwidimi

    It is a shame that most tanzanian leaders are more selfish than acting for the public good. Possible things will get worse befor they get better. It seems that the leaders are managing to fool their own people as well as the international community. They pretend to be doing “good work” which is potrayed in their figures and reports but the reality is different. The public find it difficult to expose foul-playing because of the obvious lack of support even if they had a hard evidence their lives would be vanndalised. They therefore overlook or continue to survive living things in the status quo. When things get possibly worse then possibly the people who will have nothing to lose will rise up to question their leaders either directly or violently.


    The world will wait, let alone Tanzania for tolerance on homosexuality but that will never happen in Islam. If Canada could not successfully establish a gay Mosque, could Tanzania? after all, Truth stand clear from falsehood. If in Christianity the issue is unclear, well in Islam is as clear as day and night.


    is better for the people to think which is good and which is bad , time to forecust, were do we go, back or forward. who will benefit, what kind of lesson do we want to teach our children and the coming generation?. lets’us start to bring changes from our side, why don’t we say openly that we don’t want such homosexual discussion in our land. may be we might lose but i hope that we will gain much.we are still fighing on drugs lets settle our existing problems rather than chasing waterfalls

  • Pius Ntwale

    It,s time for the people of Tanzania to change!,every one should say, enough is enough but every day am asking myself the methodology to bring these changes, we should start demonstrating, initiating the movements for the new constitution and make the leaders accountable and responsible for the people.Ndensanjo you have good ideas on this nimekusoma kwenye Mwananchi you can be one of the front line fighters.Kila mtu amechoka anasubiriwa wa kuanzisha na huyu ndiye atakayekuwa SHUJAA wa mapinduzi yatakayoleta siasa mpya, uchumi mpya na jamii mpya.The time is now.May be we should start discussion regarding this through our blogs

  • A.L.

    I want to comment directly on the issue of homosexuality. I think its interesting that among the races of man it would seem that the monotheistic god whether he be Allah or God never saw fit to speak to an African nor speak in any of his languages. We have found spiritual solace and moral direction from the same cultures that have worked for over two millenia to destroy us. We are unsure of ourselves regarding homosexuality because there is a deeper lack of certainty. The semetic human tribe somehow is sure that the destiny of their history overlaps with the interests of their God, a convenent in moral purpose, and the appropriate reward of leadership in all matters on earth and ultimate gifts in heaven. We on the other hand are so unsure, do we have the powers of moral discerning for ourselves? Can we bite the hand of the western churches their purse strings are tethered to the health of our church accounts, and so their sexual philosophy has sway in our bedrooms. One element in the protestant revolt against catholicism was conscience, this ability for human beings to define a spiritual line in the sand that cannot be crossed, that demanded respect from the halls of cathedrals and the halls of law. Are we finding our conscience over the issue of homosexuality, I’m not so sure. We have been separated from our own sense of divinity. The number one thing that men should do together is civilize the world, they have always needed to believe that they were made in gods image to do so. Western gay priests and their supporters believe in their own divinity enough to make deals with God? And the churches respond. What deals with God do we need to make so that the church could respond accordingly? Might we demand that the black muslims dying in the dust of Sudan be treated as the Arabs throwing stones in Gaza in Allahs eyes, or in the eyes of internation diplomacy? We dont even have religions that are in character with our national natures? I believe we’ve borrowed unpitying war gods from others who make war on us and pity us. You’ve got to love yourself enough to believe that Gods story and your people’s story are one. Arabs of note want to tell you they are descendents of Muhammed, Jesus is white. There wouldn’t be an Islam without Arabs or their language? Does Islam need Bamabara or Kiswahili, or those that speak it? In North America there were once a native people that numbered in the millions and some of them even adopted Christianity.They were almost exterminated wholesale? So Christianity only needs its true people and those are the Europeans? Which God will be ultimately concerned about us above all other people? Which God will hold us up as an example to all nations?

  • New Plate

    Should I just say, especially to the above comment? When you create your own god to suit your own needs and culture or even the colour of the skin, who speaks the things you like to hear, or do the things you like or approve your actions; you will have made an idol and NOT God.

    There is only one God and we do not need to (create) another one otherwise he will cease to be one. All these religions are distractions,every creature deep inside has a conscious which connects them to the true God. Thats why even when you do what you like, you do not need a preacher to tell you that you are wrong. Your own consciousness is God’s policeman!!!

    God bless Africa

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.