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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

An Open Letter to Professor Anna Tibaijuka

Dear Professor Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka,

Greeting from the slums of Dar es Salaam!

It is with a sigh of relief that I key this public letter. As publicly anticipated, you are now our popular Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development. Congratulations!

Now the swearing in is over. Your job has only begun. Luckily enough you have been quoted as saying you “know what to do in the ministry of lands” (The Citizen on Sunday 28/11/2010: 3).

What you need, as you further affirm, is “support from the public and public servants to serve the interests of Tanzanians” (Ibid.) I am sure you know those interests. So it is not in my interest to remind or teach a professor about what Tanzanians need. After all you already know what to do.

Your Curriculum Vitae speaks for itself. There are a lot of public expectations that your work at UN-Habitat will also be scaled up countrywide. Slums will be upgraded, not only in Hananasif. Housing shall be bettered, not only at UDOM. Land would be accessible, not only in Muleba.

Since what you need is support, you already have it at your disposal. What more show of support do you need than the popular-cum-populist call for your appointment? As one political analyst asserts, populism can go both ways. The onus is on you to make sure it goes the positive way.

One way of ensuring this is to stay close to your constituency. By this I don’t mean those who elected, or rather allowed, you to be their Member of Parliament. I strictly mean all those who depend on our main natural resource, namely, land. As you know, most of them are in villages.

But as far as land is concerned things are not so well in our villages. The ongoing global crisis associated with the so-called ‘f’ - financial, fuel and food - crises has sparked a new wave of land grab. What our laws call ‘Village Land’ is being grabbed by foreign and local investors for speculative purposes and biofuel production among other things. We are indeed experiencing the ‘Moral Hazard’ popularized by the new Hollywood movie ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’.

As you may be aware, your UN colleagues have recently documented this trend in an alarming tone. In their ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food’ made publicly available online, they thus note: “In the United Republic of Tanzania, five years after a major titling effort had begun, pastoralists reported their eviction from multiple common grazing areas and were under threat of losing other grazing lands because those lands had been classified as “unused”.

It is quite ironic that that the very developmental measures – such as land formalization and upgrading of informal settlements – that promises a better life for all Tanzanians are ending up alienating people from their land. As a result, skewed urbanization and urban primacy is bedevilling our beloved country. Why, for instance, should Dar es Salaam end up harbouring a quarter of our population? But, as I said, it is not my intention to tell you what you already know.

All I am asking you is to keep your ally close. You have asked for support. Seize it accordingly.

May your book ‘Building Prosperity: Housing and Economic Development’ become our reality!

Yours Truly,

Dar es Salaam Dweller

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