Tuesday, July 10, 2018



Richard Mbunda, UDSM

There is a notion out there that does not sound so good for a leader in a democratic society. They say JPM doesn’t listen, he heeds no advice and that is it! He’s got it all. He has nothing to learn.... and all sorts of comments. 

Well, I want to say this again, that this notion is polarizing, dividing and at best demoralizing. We are used to some wishful exquisite attributes of a leader. We want to characterize leaders as charismatic, eloquent (because leaders ought to persuade their followers) and transformative. That’s all we want to hear: The ability of leaders to inspire their followers to behave beyond their self-interests; for the benefit of the wider social group-the nation.

Of recent, our beloved President has received sticks. Apart from the opposition leaders, of whom Zitto Kabwe deserves an inimitable credit, statements issued by the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church and, most recently, the Muslim Statement, should not be ignored. If you ask me, this is a genuine poll, which is naturally representative for two good reasons. 
First, they are all talking about more or less similar issues. They reiterate lack of freedom of expression, arbitrary arrests, persecutions, disappearances, extrajudicial killings and economic hardship. Hear me Oh Tanzania! Religious leaders are probably the best economists to gauge our situation because they also collect donations. I cannot stop wondering how the voluntary donations and tithe are dwindling... Second, we all belong to one religion or the other. And we interact with these religious leaders every day. They know our problems and they speak for us. We speak. We can in no way ignore them. Their message is REAL.

Oh! Sweet Lord, who says JPM doesn’t listen? As recent as last week, and out of free will, he convened a special meeting with former national leaders at the State House. For me, this is a big thing. It is the learning curve I am talking about! Because JPM knew what was coming from the [retired] politicians. He wanted to confirm the credibility of the noises that have been doing the round ever since he took office. Actually, former President BWM made this clear, that the notion that it’s only from him JPM has chosen to listen to, is wrong. Wrong or not wrong, I see a learning curve, and that’s the point I want to make.
What did the political gurus say? I hear you BWM. In your voice that used to send shockwaves when I was an undergraduate student, you put it precisely... advising JPM to stop personalizing his administration. You say, you want to hear the Fifth Phase Administration identifying itself as the CCM government and that the sitting President has been put in power by CCM. You believe it has effects on the morale of the followers as we are gunning for the 2020 elections. Alas! 

What a vision! It’s only a few months away! Apparently, you are appalled by statements such as ‘my administration’; ‘my government’; and you probably didn’t go as far as saying ‘hakuna aliyeniweka hapa’ ‘mimi nimewekwa na Mungu’.... although I subscribe to the last statement.

There was also a rare appearance of former chiefs of that key branch of the state, dealing with the administration of justice. Their advice was spot on! Ensure a smooth dispensation of justice in your administration. One former Chief, who I hear is also a Pastor, tells you rightly, that peace is a product of justice, whereas without justice there is no peace. Your assistants, such as Ministers, Regional and District Commissioners ought to observe justice in their capacity if Tanzania is to maintain the most valuable item on earth, and that is, peace.
Probably what the other former Chief said is essentially vital! Rule of law. Mr. President, all Tanzanians congratulate you on the developmental initiatives your administration is embarking on, including the recently acquired Dreamliner 787-8. Mr. President, you have achieved a lot in only two years. We are a proud country because of you. And I wish to get my salary arrears so that I can plan a family trip somewhere with the Dreamliner.... Oh, never mind that!

However, in accordance with this former Chief, all our development efforts must be within the rule of law. It is inexcusably absurd to see the way the observance of rule of law is deteriorating in the country! And I won’t comment on the statements that you see leaders issuing in the local TVs Chief... always off the mark! Oh yeah, we all get disappointed, but thank you for this very important remark, and peace be with you!

And look who is here! Former premier, Chair of that Committee whose good work could not see the light... I hear you saying that many good efforts are done to fight corruption, drug trafficking and ghost workers and the like. But you are concerned that, such abhorred practices are likely to come back in future because no institutions are built to ensure continuation of the efforts. It’s a question of sustenance of the efforts which automatically require institutionalization. 
It’s like saying, JPM, we cannot be sure your successor will embrace your spirit! Implied, Mr. Former Premier, you are telling the Commander-in-Chief that we need a new constitution that will accommodate the required institutions to further the agenda which he has initiated. The presence of great thinkers, like this former Premier, made this meeting not only special, but also extraordinarily crucial. 

At this point I don’t want to be analytical. Why would I? Because I don’t want to recap what JPM said about advice from former national leaders, and his example of Mr. Trump versus Mr. Obama. Of course, he had to say something, anything. It’s human nature to kick when you are attacked. Just like in wrestling, even when you are hard hit, you can’t yield in easily. But you accept you are hit. And this is what JPM finally did.... to accept the advice, and promise to work on it. 

May this article serve as a reminder to you- Your Excellency! The Bible wants us to be forever students and there is no end to learning. And Proverbs 20:15 says "Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel". Mr. President, you had rare jewels in that very special and extraordinary meeting. And what is more pleasing for me is that, I see a learning curve. Heed to their advice. 

Viva our President! God bless Tanzania! Amen!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Love Note to Mama Samia

A Love Note to Mama Samia

On that particular evening, like many Tanzanians, I was glued on the sofa watching a LIVE broadcast of the CCM Presidential Candidate nomination. The 3 finalists were two women and one man. As the gender activist I am, I believed on the possibility that CCM will nominate a woman candidate, hence, the likelihood of having the first woman president in Tanzania. 

But my logical self was telling me that the women finalists were strategically brought in to divide women votes, sweeping the floor for a man to win. 

The results came in, both women lost. I was tearing up, angry and emotional. While people on TV were happily dancing for having their candidate, I was cursing, shouting and complaining. Then the candidate announced his running mate, Mama Samia.

 I was still angry, but I remember the ‘then president and party chairman’ said ‘wanawake shangilieni, mtakuwa na makamu wa raisi wa kwanza mwanamke’(women, you need to celebrate, you will have the first woman vice president). It was as if he was speaking to me. I accepted a compromise. 

 Fast forward. The election won, and we got the first woman vice president. I was happy. 

It took me courage to write this blog post. In fact, I have deleted many versions of it. I know exactly what might happen to me.

Mama Samia, when you have a chance to read this, treat it as an emotional letter, from a place of love not hate or hypocrisy. You will notice I hardly use data or any statistics because I don’t want my feelings to be reduced to a statistical debate. This is personal, a love letter to my first woman vice president. 

Mama, before I share my feelings with you, allow me to ask you a few questions. Do you know the significance of being the first woman vice president of Tanzania? Do you know what it means to me? Do you know what it means to your fellow women? Do you know what it means to male chauvinists? 

When you took office, I was excited that finally we have a woman in the white house. We have finally proved a point that women too can be leaders. At last we have changed stereotypes. Now we are reviving hopes of millions of Tanzanian women. They too see possibilities of becoming leaders. 

Three years down the line, I can’t help but feel, ‘you need to be reminded of what your position means to all of us.’ 

Mama, have you taken a moment to think  of your legacy? What would you wish to be remembered as the first woman vice president? Let leave the issue of legacy aside. I would ask you some practical questions.

When your boss publicly dehumanised pregnant schoolgirls, did you go to his office and look him in the eye and call that out for what it is? When appointments are being made with less than 10% women representatives, do you call him and ask: ‘Where are the women?’ I am asking these questions assuming that you were not in the room when these decisions were made. If you were, gosh, I would be devastated. 

Mama, I don’t see that we are making any progress. I don’t see what I expected from you as a woman leader. I don’t see our ambassador who negotiates within while we lobby from outside! 

I know you know the many reasons we have been pushing to have more woman leaders. Apart from exercising our rights to vote and be voted for, men have no insights of our experience as women. When in leadership, they tend to take women issues for granted and protect their interest over ours. 

Now we have you as a vice president. Do you get us mama? Do you have our interest at heart? Are you proud and happy with everything that is happening? Or are you as upset as all of us?

 Some of my friends try to convince me that your hands are tied. I refuse to accept that. I refuse to accept that the vice presidency is a toothless position. If it is, then let history records that we are yet to have women in powerful positions. 

As a woman, it took me courage to ask you these questions. But I believe in the power of love and I bank in your wisdom. I know I will be called a hater by some of my fellow women. I also know that the rest of ‘men-kind’ will be jumping with joy, invoking the myth that ‘wanawake hawapendani’(women hate each other).
Mama, let me tell you it is from this fear of being labeled ‘hater’ or the desire to labeled ‘supportive’ that almost all women have chosen to glorify you, singing praises, yet complaining about the backsliding on the gender agenda. In their mind they divorce you from the system, absolving you in everything that is going on now.

 When asked to list five awesome things you have done or changed during your three years in the office, they end up saying, ‘let’s not be too hard on her, her hands are tied’. This excuse that masquerade as an explanation boils my blood. I see you as a comrade, a doer, a mover and shaker, a woman of courage and the list goes on. 

Unfortunately, when your glorifiers think they are bailing you out by saying, ‘your hands are tied’ they are actually saying you are incapable of doing anything. This is an explanation I refuse to accept. And this is why I am sending this letter to you Mama.

Mama, you are wiser than me and you certainly know better. The truth is, as soon as you leave that chair, critics will be throwing arrows right and center. They will tell you then the opposite of what they are telling you now. It will be tough because there will be nothing you can do then. But I believe that in telling you now, there is a lot you can do. That is why I am doing it. 

I know you can handle critics. What would be lethal is to retard the women leaders nurturing movement for failure to provide evidence of transformative leadership. As one of my friend puts it, “better to be ruled by a man who we can punch on the face publicly and shamelessly than being ruled by women who we are ‘not allowed to criticise.”

Mama Samia, there is a reason you are the first woman vice president. This position is not only about you. It is for all of us. That is a lot of pressure for sure, but we don’t have a choice.

 Leave a lasting legacy. Make your vice presidency inspirational to millions of women aspiring to be transformative leaders. Please inspire change on men’s attitudes, so, they too can envision their wives, daughters and sisters in leadership roles. 

Last but definitely not least, prove to all of us that when women lead, the quality of life for all women and men improve, a dignified life became a reality, and society became better. 

With Love,


Friday, June 22, 2018

Miaka 10 ya Mkahawa wa Vitabu Soma: 29 Juni 2018

Saturday, June 16, 2018

In Defence of African Bloggers' Freedom

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Book Launch: Tanzania in the Age of Change...

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Fraught with Land Acquisition Risks: LNG Project

Tanzania`s LNG Project Fraught with Land Acquisition Risks

There are indications that the government, and the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project consortium, are determined to explore ways to take the (delayed) $30 billion project forward, after nearly four years of limited activity. The slowdown was due to multiple factors - global and national, such as contentious land acquisition process for the project, low oil price, leadership transition within the national oil company (TPDC), limited negotiation capacity, and the general election in 2015, and its aftermath, especially Acacia`s copper concentrate issue. 

Notably, what started as a row over concentrates in March 2017, evolved into a broad scrutiny of the mining sector, symbolized by multiple investigation committees, and culminated into significant policy changes in July, 2017.

Reportedly, the government has not yet reached a final agreement with Barrick – Acacia`s parent company, but this seems not to be a distraction anymore. At least not to the government, given its renewed interest in the LNG project, as signalled by the decision to “prioritize”it in the 2018/2019 budget. The (ultimate) objective is to improve energy supply, which is central to achieving the fifth phase regime`s central agenda – industrialization. 

Apart from industrialization, rural electrification is expanding demand for energy, and thus straining available capacity. Another notable action that points to government commitment is the decision to hire a consultant to support its Negotiation Team (GNT) as it seeks to work out a framework for the project. This is strategic and, if done well, will not only enhance government stake, but also shorten the turn-around time, which has been a challenge in the past.
Graph shows Percentage Distribution of Households Connected to Electricity.
Source: NBS, 2016 – Energy Access Situation Report.

Commitment signals, as highlighted above, will not be sufficient to reassure consortium partners, after a tumultuous period of reform. Oil and gas companies prefer “stability” (interpreted as maintenance of terms that protect and guarantee their interests) and concerns arising from last year`s legislative reforms will likely feature in the LNG negotiation. 

As such, companies will, undoubtedly, seek to obtain significant guarantees through the project agreement and may, in the process, deliberately depict the government as a sole player responsible for ensuring policy stability. Fortunately, experience from the row over concentrates has shown us that this strategy works, but only for a “short” while.

Government policy tends to depend on “public” opinion. Moreover, public opinion shapes and is shaped by national and sub-national political dynamics, i.e. the status of the ruling coalition, the influence of the (political) opposition, orientation of the masses (political culture) etc. This level of interdependence limits the ability of the government to guarantee policy stability. In other words, the government is not the sole guarantor of (policy) stability – there are other “environmental” factors, public demands included. 

As such, companies` ought not to rely, totally, on what the government offers to the public. They must strive to push the boundaries in ways that seek to improve the (overall) policy environment, because it is in their interest. An important question is, when to do so? While the Final Investment Decision (FID) has not yet been made, companies are certain about their interest in the LNG project. As such, they should pay attention to any potential risks, current or future, since, the project, if implemented, is likely to outlive several regimes.

So, what are the risks associated with the LNG?

One of the key areas of concern is land acquisition for the project. For instance, the national oil company (TPDC) announced acquisition of land for the LNG in late 2015 and noted, in early 2016, that it was undertaking a confirmatory exercise before paying compensation. Reportedly, valuation had been undertaken more than a year earlier by the Ministry of Land, Housing, and Human Settlement Development. 

This is to say, the Project-Affected People (PAP) have been waiting for compensation for more than four years now. Unfortunately, the uncertainty arising from the delayed acquisition means that these people are unable to think about long term development. They, instead, focus on surviving, and struggle to access credible information about when their plight will end.

Compensation standards is another important dimension of the land acquisition aspect. The national oil company (TPDC) stated in its 2016 press release (cited in the paragraph above) that compensation would be paid based on national laws. However, research has shown that such standards are not always applied consistently, they are inadequate ,and may lead to an outbreak of conflict. 

Moreover, the Minister for Constitution and Legal Affairs, Professor Palamagamba Kabudi, is on record telling the parliament how disastrous similar standards have been in the past. It is unclear if the LNG consortium has decided to accept these risks or ask for application of better standards.
Source: Must, E (2016) - `When and How Does Inequality Cause Conflict`? PhD thesis, LSE. 

Recent evidence suggests that concerns over “land grabbing”, especially “sale of land rights to foreign companies” played a key role in the outbreak of the 2013 riots in Mtwara (see graph above), and that the southern part of the country – Lindi and Mtwara – has strong sentiments related to land rights issues dating back to Ujamaa days in the 1970s. 

There is, obviously, a strong case for handling land acquisition for the LNG cautiously. This is an example of a key issue that companies can, and should influence. Another key issue is that of “host community’s” benefits, which has been described by Nape Nnauye (MP) as a “big bomb.” The time to act is now, before the tide of public opinion turns.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Introducing the New Owner & Host of Udadisi Blog

From this 27th day of April 2018, Takura Zhangazha (@TakuraZhangazha) of Harare, Zimbabwe (pictured above) will be the owner and host of Udadisi Blog. As for matters concerning this blog, he can be contacted via udadisiblogu@gmail.com. Guest submissions of blog posts on matters of relevance to Africa and Africans in the continent and its Diaspora are warmly welcome.

Public Lectures by Joseph Stiglitz and Kaushik Basu

Sexuality 101: From Horrible Sex into Viben10 Affair

From Horrible Sex to Viben10 Adventure

If you are women you know how sex sucks – most of the times; and if you are men you know how many times your wife/partner has made sill excuses not to have sex with you. Let me get one thing right here: By 'sex sucks', I don't mean not attaining the pleasure of doing it – 'orgasm'; I mean pain, serious pain and massive discomfort. 

While I am writing to share experiences from this part of the world, i.e. Tanzania, I know, experiences of women are more less the same worldwide. When you read widely or have honest conversation with women across the world, you will come to the same conclusion; sex sucks, to most, often. But hey, we need to do it!

I know you are now confused, why do we need to do it if, after all, it sucks? I was less confused growing up, because like many, I didn’t know better (sex education was not in the public domain) and I was made to believe sex is not for me, it is for him, to keep him happy and satisfied. 

Like any other girl in my culture, I was mentored and trained by the 'experts' - nyakangas in 'Unyago' (a traditional ritual to prepare girls before marriage). Believe you me, for 8 days was confined in a room with more than 60 women, roving experts coming in and out, teaching me how to be a perfect wife and how to have a perfect sex for him. 

No one, I mean no one, even accidentally told me how to enjoy sex. But I was warned "you have to give it to him, regardless; even when you are sick or angry, if not, he will go out and have it with someone else; make yourself available when he needs you and how he need you"

My experience might be one of the many reasons women perform sex despite being a nuisance or obligation. Some call it punishment. As one of my friend puts it, "girl, it’s a total courage to fake orgasm while you are actually in pain and upset, what a punishment!"

The good news is the world is changing fast. More women aspire for sexual satisfaction, partly because they are more informed now or they have the luxury to be adventurous  I should be clear here as this is limited to certain categories of women, mostly urban, exposed middle class. The unique thing is most of those women is that they are sending signals and some openly blame men for their inability to satisfy them. 

In cities men are now officially terrified, their sense of self-confidence is going down and they are now consuming all sort of ‘busters’, being it traditional or modern. To most men solution to their problem is either food, physical strength or medication, but today I want to suggest altering relations of power as the solution.

Let me give you bit of background. Where I come from most women cannot tell their men that they aren't good enough or they are not satisfied because men ought to be powerful. They are supposed to know better and women responsibility is to protect and polish their men's ego. Women are taught the do’s and don’ts. Telling your husband "this sex is flat and I am not feeling it" is a crime against ancestors. You will praise him no matter how polite he asks for honest feedback. 

Anyone who is close to me knows that I love talking about sex. One might not know why (I will reserve that for next blog) but they have become comfortable sharing their intimate stories. In that horizon of comfortability, one of my friend confirmed to me his confusion. He had opted to start an extramarital relationship with one woman who is mature and smart. The agreement was that their relationship was for fun, sexy, going out and so forth.

 The first day they had sex the woman felt annoyed and told him "this is a waste of time". My friend was confused because, back home, his wife praised him every time they had sex but she was never excited about it. He was torn between believing in his ability or questioning the ‘girlfriend’ who is more experienced than him. Even though her verdict on his sexual performance seemed true, as a man he should have been able to satisfy her, hence his confusion. 

As a concerned friend, I asked him to go back home and stop asking for his wife’s feedback after sex, but he should ask his wife what she wants, and how she wants it and he has do as instructed. It was odd for a couple of weeks but, to his surprise, after a few months, his wife was asking him to touch and do things they never did before. She felt happier and satisfied without saying it. Her husband seems happy too (I hope he has stopped having extramarital relations).

This case is not different to the emerging trend of Viben10. Anyone living in Tanzania would know that some older, well to do women are now going out with younger men, very young men – mostly good looking with good physique. Taking the lead are our celebrities and other professionals (especially single moms). The society is terrified, but men are more frightened because, not only are they blamed for not being good in bed, but also younger men are now the most wanted creatures, making the conventional men less important – oops – egos are bleeding. 
I sat with a couple of women who date younger men – Viben10. To do justice to their thoughts, I will phrase them as they are: 

A. "My dear, I can keep up with bad sex if you are paying for rent, buying me food and paying for kids' school fees; if I do all that myself, why shouldn't I find a man who can do me well? This young boy is good, I dictate what I want - having best sex ever"

B. "You know I work so hard, there is nothing that I haven’t accomplished, I have it all, if there is one thing I didn’t have is a man who will speak to my body and soul, I didn’t want a man to tell me about a sick aunt or construction site's problems, I want a man who will look me in the eye like he wants to eat me alive, who will tell me, I love you 10 times a day and who will do me like nobody’s business"

C. "This boy knows that he has one job and one job only, to satisfy me, if he can’t deliver, he is off – he got a performance plan, ha ha ha and I am appraising him every month, we are dating for two years, that means he has been doing well" 

D. The beauty of dating a younger boy is having that mother-son relationship, these young men, they can be all bossy outside, but when we get in, they take instructions, they do as we please"

E. "I am in that point in life where all I need is good sex, I don’t mind paying for it, so long as it is good. I am actually surprised that men are surprised that we are keeping young men for sex, they did that for centuries, that is all that African marriage is all about – women being sex toys for men because men are feeding the families. So, if that is the rule, they shouldn’t feel surprised, we are copying them, my boyfriend knows I have the upper hand in this relationship and I am enjoying it. 
There can be many interpretations of the quotes above, and some of them may seem radical – attempts to replace patriarchy with matriarchy. Nonetheless, it is clear that when women are in control of the relationship there are significant chances of them being sexually satisfied, which makes them happy and make their men even happier. Some men even told me that there is an awesome sense of pride and accomplishment when men feel when they know their women hit the climax. 

If that is true, why don’t we all explore this alternative? With a fair doze of power shift, it will save men money from buying all potency drugs and traditional herbs and it will make women satisfied and happier. Until then, let’s accept seeing more women with Viben10.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

New Book on The Travails of a Tanzanian Teacher

The Travails of a Tanzanian Teacher

Karim F Hirji

Daraja Press, 2018

This is a most valuable and absorbing reflection upon a rich lifetime in teaching. The author draws deeply upon that experience, well documented through diaries and relevant papers, to draw lessons about the very nature of teaching (and thus about the training of new teachers) which, not to be forgotten, is always affected by the wider social and political context. This book deserves an international audience because the issues raised and problems met are universal. Furthermore, the book is very clearly written, and excellently illustrated with examples, stories and critical reflections. Richard Pring, Emeritus Professor at the Department of Education, and Emeritus Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford. 

The remarkable life of a principled Tanzanian educator and activist told with an eye for historical accuracy but also with emotion and humor. Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of Tanzania’s Ujamaa period. Peter Lawrence, Professor Emeritus of Development Economics, Keele University UK, and Lecturer in Economics, University of Dar es Salaam, 1970-72.

Through his account of four decades of teaching experience at different levels in varied contexts in post-colonial Tanzania, Karim Hirji provides us with a timely reminder of the ways in which education generally plays the role of consolidating existing structures of power – whether this be of colonialists, or bureaucratic, corrupt party hacks, or the neoliberal state and its private sector partners. As he remarks, educators face a choice, now as ever: “serve the status quo or educate in ways that will promote equality and social justice”. Dr Anne Harley, Paulo Freire Project, Centre for Adult Education, University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. 























The Travails of a Tanzanian Teacher is a riveting account of the bumpy first decade of the work life of Karim F Hirji, a retired Professor of Medical Statistics. Filled with a distinctive variety of eye-opening episodes, it covers lecturing at the University of Dar es Salaam, the life of a political exile in a remote rural area and the challenges of setting up from scratch a one‑of‑a‑kind educational institute in Africa. With a style that seamlessly combines the personal with the general, Hirji provides an illuminating description of different aspects of the Tanzanian political, educational, economic and rural landscape during the 1970s. Starting with a commentary on teacher training, he concludes with a critical comparison of modern university education in the nation with that of the earlier era.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Public Lecture Today at Nkrumah Hall-UDSM

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Ma Winnie Mandela: Child of the Soil

Ma Winnie Mandela: Child of the Soil

Born of a woman
Marked by color
Fighting for liberation
Deep in Soweto

Wrinkled by Apartheid
Forged in a turbulent time
From Kroonstad
To Sharpville

A mother of the nation
Daughter of the people
A sister of the African
Shero of the struggle

Your people shall govern
The land and the mines
In the depth of Marikana
And the heart of the veldts

Hamba Kahle Ma Winnie
Child of the soil
Umkhonto we Sizwe
A South African soul

© Chambi Chachage @Udadisi
* Photo courtesy of Kgalee Art @TheKgalee + @kgalee_art

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Winnie Mandela: The Product of Her Enemies

Winnie Mandela: The Product of Her Enemies

Chambi Chachage

It has been a longer walk to freedom for Winnie Mandela. Even as she rests from her struggles, the walk continues. This time among those who follow in her footsteps in fighting Global Apartheid.

Yet there are those who feel she is not worthy of emulation let alone adulation. Like the friends of the black people that Ossie Davis referred to in the 'Malcolm X Eulogy', they consider it their duty to tell us to revile her. To flee, even from the presence of her memory. And to save ourselves by writing her out of the her/history of our turbulent times. As if Winnie was/is merely a footnote in it.

They think they know better than Stompie Seipei's mother, Mananki Joyce Seipei. Or feel more pain than this mother who feels she does not have enough details to blame or convict Winnie for the murder of her dear son in the bloody decade of the 1980s.

Winnie was not a saint. Hardly anyone would be so in the turbulent times that defined Apartheid South Africa. Not even the Black Pimpernel who later became the Messianic face of  'A Rainbow Nation'. Or even the Bishop who won a Nobel Peace Prize.

On the other hand, those who are more critical are "gradually isolated, and then quite simply brushed aside." In the case where they cannot simply be ignored due to their touch with the masses, they get eliminated. This is what happened to Chris Hani who was assassinated on this date 25 years ago in South Africa.

Mam' Winnie could not easily be isolated or brushed aside. I was a student in South Africa in 2001 when the then leader of the African National Congress (ANC) pushed her in public during the 25th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising. Yet in 2007 she got more votes than all ANC leaders in its National Executive Committee (NEC) voting in Polokwane. She remained a political force to reckon with.

Some of us would even invoke the counterfactual to grasp what could have been. Were it not for misogyny, she would have been the President of both the ANC and the Republic of South Africa. And who could better serve in those capacities that the one whom Graça Machel has referred to as her "Big Sister" who "loved our people unconditionally and sacrificed so much for our freedom."

A holier-than-thou attitude should not stop us from remembering that love from someone who is on the record for stating that she is the product of the masses of South Africa. Someone who was bold and honest enough to acknowledge that she was also the product of her enemies. The product of the violent legacy that made her biographer, Anne Marie du Preez Bezdrop, make this painful observation:

Fare-thee-well Mam' Winnie. You have played your part. May we.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Kwaheri Kamaradi Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Tanzania in National Geographic's Racist Coverage

This week we have been treated to this controversial confession: 'National Geographic' Reckons With Its Past: 'For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist'. Some critics have welcome it while others remain critical. I hereby post an essay I wrote 15 years ago.


Chambi Chachage (2003)

“In its polemical stance, then, African discourse presents itself as a thorough-going deconstruction of the Western image of the Native, the Black, the African” (Irele, 2001, p. 69)


     “And I ponder what will happen here in Tanzania…” (White, 1975, p. 474)

At on the onset I am constrained to categorically state that this essay is based on the following three premises that account for my subjective standpoint as a reader and a writer: the terms ‘Africa’ and ‘African’ are very problematic notions/constructs/ideas which need to be deconstructed and reconstructed for the benefits of the so-called ‘African people’; the Western image of the African, which owes much to the universalizing discourses of colonialism, civilization and imperialism, is still alive and well in its virulent metamorphoses and subtle forms; in as much as Africa and Africans are heterogonous, the social, economical and political construction/creation of Africa has created, not only a ‘real’ homogenous place called Africa, but also some ‘real’ common consequences to the majority of Africans (Mudimbe, 1994, Zeleza, 1997; Irele, 2001). These premises impose a moral responsibility that constrains me to subscribe to what Irele (2001) refers to as the polemic stance of African discourse, by engaging myself in a thoroughgoing deconstruction of the Western image of the African.

In this essay, then, I attempt on the basis of the above-mentioned polemic stance to offer a close reading of how one of the African country by the name of Tanzania and its people have been represented by the National Geographic Magazine. I acknowledge the fact deduced from http://wwwnationalgeogaphic.com that the writers of the magazine sometimes mention Tanzania in passing when they are writing about other African countries and other related issues but for the purpose of this essay I would particularly focus on one article that was the only article that was wholly devoted to Tanzania as a country and therefore formed a part of the ‘selling’ cover story/stories of the magazine. 

However, I would attempt to compare this article, which was written by White (1975), with other cover stories/article on other African countries that were published during the first half of the 1970s. Moreover, I would also attempt to consult other subsequent articles on phenomena and events that were experienced in Tanzania. A copy of National Geographic of April 1975 will accompany this essay as an attachment. Unless otherwise specified, all the italicized and underlined texts that appear in all the quotes below are my own and they are employed for the purpose of substantiating my analyses and arguments.


“Alas the Serengeti ecosystem isn’t easy to fathom, any more than the socio-economic dynamics of Tanzania. I must move on.” (White, 1975, p. 490)

The year is 1975 and what Legum (1999) calls the Romantic period in Africa has or is rather giving way to what he terms as the period of Disillusionment. The Cold War between the so-called Western and the Eastern bloc is still at its best and Africa is one of its favourite staging grounds: on the southern part of Africa the Apartheid regime is till causing a lot of havoc to the liberation struggles in the African countries of Zimbabwe, Angola and Mozambique; the Soviet bloc and the Chinese are busy supplying weapons to aid these liberation struggles and the last of the Western colonialists i.e. the Portuguese are on the verge of granting Angola and Mozambique their independence; Tanzania and their leader, Julius K. Nyerere (1978), are busy leading this 'Crusade of Liberation'

This is the year Peter T. White (1975), a staff of the National Geographic Magazine, decided to travel to Tanzania and write a travelogue that was heavily laden with carefully selected images as photographed earlier by his compatriot, Emory Kristof. Why 1975? What so special in Tanzania in 1975? Why not 1964 (the year Tanzania was born after the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar)? Why not 1967 (the year the Arusha Declaration was proclaimed so as to usher the famous policy of Ujamaa na Kujitegemea i.e. Socialist Familyhood and Self-reliance)? Who did White (1975) target as his main audience and what did he intend them to see, and for what purpose? Upon which discourses and myths did he build his travelogue? With these questions in mind its time now start tackling White’s (1975) texts and its accompanying photographs. 
The first thing one encounter is the title of the travelogue being juxtaposed with other titles in the front cover. Actually the title, “TANZANIA MARCHES TO ITS OWN DRUM” is sandwiched between “UTAH’S SHINING OASIS AND “THE LOYALISTS: AMERICANS WITH A DIFFERENCE.” One of the things that this title as well as the way it was located presupposes, is that there is another kind of drum i.e. a drum which is not Tanzania’s ‘own’ drum. It also presupposes that Tanzania was either not marching at all or if it was marching, then it was not marching “to its own drum.” Drawing from Achebe (1989), I hypothesize that the title of White’s (1975) travelogue, just like the way Joseph Conrad’s River Congo acted as an antithesis to the River Thames, is meant to act as an antithesis of above titles which are based on myths engendered in the song “America the Beautiful.” 

This hypothesis is supported by the fact that throughout the texts things Tanzanian are comparatively analysed with respect to America: “Consider first a few notable aspects of Tanzania (Tan-za-NEE-a), whose 14 million inhabitants and 363, 000 square miles roughly approximate the population and size of Texas plus New Mexico” (White, 1975, p. 474); “ Zanzibar…. produces more than two-thirds of the world’s cloves. That means some 35 million dollars annually…. If the U.S. sold a crop on a similar scale, it would bring 17 billion dollars” (White, 1975, p. 501); “Nearby, men in Arab-style white robes discuss the price of dagaa [this word is italicized in the original and it defined as “local freshwater sardines”]…The price is high across the lake, in Zaire. A policeman tells me the smuggling is brisk; back come secondhand American clothes. In the market I see shirts neatly laid out on the ground. Sear. Brooks Brothers. Nothing in my size” (White, 1975, p. 504); “Lake Tanganyika has a tremendous underexploited stock of sardines, a man from Idaho [U.S.A] tells me. He should know – he’s an aquatic biologist working for the U.N., and he just surveyed the lake with an echo sounder” (White, 1975, p. 504).

The above universalizing language of western modernity reminds me of the genealogy of the myth of the “Dark Continent” which was produced by the imperialist ideology that was based on the self-validating and legitimizing idea that “ there was only one civilization, one path of progress, one true religion” (Brantlinger, 1988, p. 17). Though White (1975) attempts to be charitable in his representation of Tanzania and Tanzanians, a close reading reveals that this myth that rendered Africans as backward and in need of progress is so pervasive in his travelogue. In the very beginning of the article the reader is introduced to someone and something ‘impressive’ that is happening “UNDER THE EQUATORIAL SUN” in East Africa, in the Dodoma region of the United Republic of Tanzania: “a little girl with a big gourd on her head walks into a dry riverbed”(White, 1975, p. 474). White’s ‘gaze’ scrutinize her as “she digs a hole in the soft sand, armdeep.” The gaze fixes her as she “waits, until enough muddy water has seeped into the hole to fill her gourd” and then the gaze follows her along as “she walks back a quarter of a mile to a row of grape seedlings, to pour a bit of water on each.” 

We are not told long this gaze was but the conclusion we are given is that she “has done this all morning, and will do it again in late afternoon. I am impressed – such hard work, to nurse along a few seedling after the expected rains did not come” (White, 1975, p. 474). This gaze implies that there was enough time to talk and ask her name but her name is not given. Her reaction to the gaze is not described either. She was just a “little girl” after all who “impressed” White, the traveler with “such hard work” to the extent that she qualified to be used to set the stage for the representation of the predicament of Tanzania and Tanzanians with respect to labour and progress.

What we see above is a gaze per excellence for indeed “‘the gaze' is more than a long, fixed look of wonder and (possibly) admiration upon a body/subject. It is rather 'a fundamental structure in the ways in which the subject relates to the cultural order ... the way in which subjectivity itself is formed through [its] mechanisms ... [It is] something that impacts on, shapes, and contorts the body/subject'”(Kamenier, 1998). Moreover, a close examination of this charitable gaze and some other subsequent ones reveal that White is practicing a very subtle form ‘othering.’ Just like Pratt’s (1986) John Burrow, White ensures that the people he wants to other are homogenized into a collective ‘they.’ 

The only difference is that White is clever and subtle enough to include the term “they” in absentia: the “little girl” in a country where “they,” the people are said to work and farm together according to” the spirit of Ujamaa,” is described as if she is working alone the whole morning and will work alone “again in late afternoon”! So, this is how ‘they’ live and treat their ‘little’ ones: “a ‘little’   girl with a ‘big’ gourd on her [little] head; “Goose-stepping Young Pioneers salute African Leaders…” captions the opening photograph on page 475, with a “little” boy leading some other “little” boys as “Tanzania marches to its own drum”; “ A young dockworker levels a truckload of maize” accompanies a photograph of what appear to be a “little” boy doing a man’s job on page 481; “I visit a camp in Mafinga in south-central Tanzania for graduation day. Youth in khaki show off their agricultural achievement…. Quite a few in the ranks are girls…. I think of my basic training in World War II and hope these kids won’t ever see real combat. When you’re that green the casualties are fearful” (White, 1975, p. 483). “Babies are breast-fed, but when the second child comes along the first goes to grandmother, and she’ll give the kids only bananas, or “stiff porridge” of maize meal, or whatever she got when she was a kid…” “The freshwater sardine, nearly 65 percent protein when dried, could add a much-needed nutrient to Tanzania’s starch-laden diet”(White, 1975, p. 504, 506) “What to do when the vast majority lives scattered in the countryside and grows barely enough food to survive…. The unorthodox Tanzanian answer fascinates the world’s experts on underdevelopment – and may have much to say to other lands where a quarter of the children die before reaching five, where nearly half of those who survive will never go to school” (White, 1975, p. 478).

White (1975) tells us that most of the Dodoma's grapes, which of course might include the grapes that the above-gazed little girls was watering, will go to “a so-called “parastatals” enterprise, managed by an Italian expert” (White, 1975, p. 474). Why does he refer to it as a “so-called” “parastatal ” enterprise? Why is he detaching himself from this “parastatal” while rendering it as the ‘other’s’ enterprise? I argue that he does so because he was writing from a western capitalist/ universalist standpoint and the establishment of parastatal enterprises [i.e. public corporations  was “generally presented as socialist policies because of the elements of nationalization in setting them up” (Legum, 1999, p. 44). The wines that come out of these parastatals are sampled and the conclusion is, “Who’d want such acrid stuff? Parastatals planners expected to export lots of wine for precious foreign currencies. Now they admit something went wrong somewhere-unsold bottles are piling. They are looking for another expert” (White, 1975, p. 474). 

White seems to be telling his Western reader that he is worried about the non-western “social experiment” in Tanzania and its global consequences: “And I ponder what will happen here in Tanzania, where so much enthusiastic planning is done these days, and so much hard work, but somehow quite a few things turn sour. The upshot may be of considerable importance, not only to Tanzanians and their descendants but also to millions around the globe” (White, 1975, p. 474). How can this be of considerable importance to the Western audience? Why is it so worrying to the universalizing west when an African country chooses its own particular development path?


“Weapons, the foreign minister says, have been coming from the Soviet bloc and China. But Tanzania, he insists, is not committed to any superpower, East or West” (White, 1975, p. 505)

The message to the western audience is clear: Tanzania and Tanzanians are underexploited and ‘they themselves’ do not want to progress. If only they can follow our universal western path of progress and modernity then they will get billions of “precious” U.S. dollars. With an imperial nostalgic tone reminiscence of Pratt’s (1992) Anticonquest travel writers, White laments this lack of a capitalist spirit of exploiting labour and resources in Tanzania, while he cherishes every moment he sees traces of Western modernity:

 “ Our flight offers a verdant prospect indeed: first a green plateau, green mountains splashed on it, magnificent emptiness…. Dense forest now, a seemingly endless expanse – good soil, it’s said, to grow rice enough for millions, but nothing man-made can be seen except, a thin straight line. It’s the Great Uhuru Railway, a minuscule string of concrete ties and steel. It was strung here to help open up this land for Ujamaa” (White, 1975, p. 484).

“The din is deafening at the Friendship Textile Mill, no wonder. Nearly a thousand looms are banging away in a hall the size of two [American] football fields. It’s Tanzania’s biggest factory – 4, 700 employee. It could manage with half that many, but it does not want to. People need jobs and labor isn’t expensive, machinery is. The Chinese set it all up…The Friendship mill runs around the clock but probably won’t reach its goal this year, says the production chief. Too many power failures” (White, 1975, p. 486).

“Most of the larger coffee farms have been nationalized, and one of the last expatriate coffee farmers [White does not refer to them as ‘white settlers,’ which was a common name in the nationalist discourse] is packing to go back to England. I admire the pretty cottage, the clipped lawn. He says I should have seen how beautiful it was before – he doesn’t care about it now. His wife shows me her photo album, how it was when they came 26 years ago, all wild (White, 1975, p. 490).

“ I drift to the dhow harbor. Where’s all that Coca-Cola going? Forty-five miles away, to Zanzibar. Thirty-two thousand cases a year, says a shipping official. The empty bottles come sailing back” (White, 1975, p. 491).

“I disembark in Bukoba, in the land of the Haya, and am struck by vision of ecclesiastical modernity…. And lo, the bishops of Bukoba are promoting a dam! I’ve seen churches and missionaries all over Tanzania providing schooling and medicine, but nothing like this. It’s the Ngono River multipurpose project, promising swamp drainage and electricity. To help pay for equipment and materials, the bishops collect funds in Europe”(White, 1975, pp. 503-504).

The biomass is incredible!” An average of 800 pounds an acre, mostly ever-shifting schools of dagaa. Dry them in the sun, and you might have 65 percent protein. Masses of protein! This may someday be an answer to Tanzanian toddlers’ malnutrition, and their resultant susceptibility to disease. All a lot of them get starch. Babies are breast-fed, but when the second child comes along the first goes to grandmother, and she’ll give the kids only bananas, or “stiff porridge” of maize meal, or whatever she got when she was a kid….”(White, 1975, p. 504).

“ At night along Morogoro Road I join thousands happily watching a movie on an outdoor screen. It’s an ancient American Western, interrupted by commercials for hair tonic made in Kenya. You might call it a flickering of free enterprise” (White, 1975, p. 505).

The above statements are substantiated by carefully selected images: though we are told that by 1973 there were 5, 628 no single photograph of a successful/unsuccessful Ujamaa village is given yet one find a third part of the combination of pages 498 and 499 splashed with a very magnificent photograph of well-cultivated farms and nicely arranged houses entitled, “Harlequin fields – some of the last a farmland tilled by Europeans – quilt the foot of a cinder cone near Mount Kilimanjaro.” This photograph is provided after the reader is bombarded with pathetic images and descriptions such as that on page 481- 482 where one finds a  “young dockworker” leveling “a truckload of maize (corn) pumped from a ship’s hold” – an image’s description that is preceded by the statement, “Self-sufficiency remains Tanzania’s chief dictum, but reality often intervenes. A searing drought crippled the 1974 harvest, and the government imported 170 millions dollars’ worth of staple foodstuff to stave off famine.” On page 506 and 507 one finds a pathetic photographs of lowland villager’s houses and farms flooded by the “swollen Rufiji” – a timely antithesis to the above-mentioned highland European farms. 

Moreover, on page 490-491 one finds a pathetic photograph of thin and starving cattle with the description, “Dust of drought hangs over gaunt cattle at an emergency auction by the government near Arusha.” This photograph is immediately followed by six colorful pages full of wild animals and where one finds White’s self-detaching statement: “The animals are so vast that some believe herds could be carefully cropped to provide 24 million pounds of meat each year for hungry Tanzanians” (White, 1975, p. 492).

But there is more of it. White (1975), like most of his fellow capitalist westerners in the 70s, is worried that Tanzania is going red”’, that is, it is allying itself with China and therefore it is becoming a socialist and not a capitalist country. The Tanzanian President, Julius Nyerere, has warned the major powers,  We shall not allow our friends to decide who our enemies shall be” (White, 1975, p. 482). In other words, they are claiming to be self-reliant and non-aligned but look what is really happening down here in Tanzania!

“A dozen ships are waiting to get in – Norwegian, U.S., Japanese. There is no waiting, though, for ships of the People’s Republic of China. They turn around fast…. The World Bank and the Western powers refused to underwrite the railway [Tanzania-Zambia Railway/the Great Uhuru (Freedom) Railway)]. The Chinese eager for friends in Africa, offered not only engineers and materials but all those thousands of workers [“15, 000 Chinese”] and an interest-free loan [“400 million dollars”]. Repayment is not to start until 1983…. Meanwhile Chinese ships bring mountains of consumer goods – pencils, canned food, flashlights, bicycles, sewing machines. These Chinese goods are sold in Tanzanian shops; the proceeds go to pay the railroad workers. So every time I drink Greatwall grape squash or use Bee and Flower soap, I too help build the Great Uhuru Railway” (White, 1975, p. 479).

“I look up the Tanzanian Foreign Minister, John Malecela. He makes no bones about it [i.e. regarding the Liberation struggles in Mozambique]: To eradicate racialism and colonialism from southern Africa, and establish majority rule there, bloodshed has been necessary, peaceful efforts having failed. It’s our duty to helpWeapons, the foreign minister, say, have been coming from the Soviet bloc and China. But Tanzania, he insists, is not committed to any superpower, East or West. We have not been swallowed up by the Chinese. We are nonaligned” (White, 1975, pp. 504-505).
“Next morning, here they come, the green shirts of the Youth League, or Green Guard, and hundreds of blue-orange shirts imprinted with party slogan. They come at a slow run, 40 abreast, clapping, shouting, with big banners: INDIAN OCEAN IS NOT FOR U.S. MILITARY BASES! U.S. IMPERIALISTS GET OUT OF AFRICA, ASIA AND LATIN AMERICA! They squeeze into narrowing streets and spill out into the American Consulate. Next to me a little middle-aged lady leads the shouting. Should the Americans be removed from the Indian Ocean? Ndiyo, Ndiyo! Yes, Yes! Kwao, Kwao! Go Home! Go Home! A forest of fists flairs in the air. I am pushed against the consulate building, and a police commander points his swagger stick at me: ‘Don’t lean against the wall, you’ll make it dirty! We haven’t come to quarrel, only to express our feelings’. At last a green shirt with an electric bullhorn tells everybody to go back to work. It’s over” (White, 1975, p. 503 Italics in the original).

The capitalist message to the western audience  is clear: Tanzania is a country full of resources that could be capitalized and exploited by the West, therefore the west should not loose such an important Cold War battle there.


“Forty years ago Ernest Hemingway saw game-rich stretches of what is now Tanzania a virgin country, an unhunted pocket in the million miles of bloody Africa” (White, 1975, p. 492)

It is clear that in 1975 the representations of Tanzania and Tanzanians in the National Geographic Magazine was tainted with the legacy of the Myth of the Dark Continent. Indeed, fifteen years before, Louis and Mary Leakey, with the aid of National Geographic Society grants, captured the attention of the world when they claimed to have found the fossil of the earliest human being in Tanganyika/Tanzania. Their claim based on the theory of evolution was well bought by the West and the National Geographic Magazine published their findings as a cover article in their magazine. This, in the “Western Imagination” was a confirmation that Africa in general, and Tanzania in particular is the so-called “cradle of man” - place where humans originated from the hominids.  

This legitimizing story was to be perpetuated further in July 1983 when another article entitled “Tanzania’s Stone Age Art” and written by Mary Leakey came out as one of the cover stories. As a staff of the National Geographic, it is highly likely that White (1975) subscribed to this story for indeed page 488 and 489 of his travelogue are splashed with photographs of what he refers to as “some of the most intriguing fossils ever found” i.e. the fossils that the Louis family discovered. His charitable style of writing, which subtly attempts to self-detach him from the racist discourse of the “Western Imagination,” begs the question: who was Peter T. White? Was he just a neutral traveler who was just reporting what he saw in the land of Tanzanians? Was he a writer brought up and nursed on the shoulders and bosoms of the likes of Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone? Was he a weary or un-weary son of the likes of Ernest Hemingway and president Theodore Roosevelt who saw Africa as a vast game-lodge? Look at how he detaches himself from the Myths of the Dark Continent while strongly articulating some their inherent ideas:

“More than five million magnificent beasts abound in its [Tanzania] National parks and game reserves, on which it spends a considerably high proportion of its national budget than the United States spends on national parks. Western conservationists love it” (White, 1975, p. 478).

Most visitors to Tanzania come to see the great animals up north, and I can hardly wait to get there, to lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater. Sure enough, the lions, elephants, hippos, giraffes, and lesser quadrupeds are visible as advertised; the tourists in their minibuses and Land-Rovers are delighted. To come so close to an uncaged elephant and not need to worry! If his ears stiffen threateningly, the driver will step on the gas and pull out” (White, 1975, p. 488).

“In comfortable lodges there’s animated conversation. ‘How’s your curried antelope?’ ‘Great, like veal.’ I hear talk of Impalas, zebras, buffaloes, of wildbeest (or gnu); about the big cats, and how marvelous it is to see so many wild creatures live so calmly together. ‘Such innocence, says a lady from Connecticut, Garden of Eden, a paradise (White, 1975, p. 488).

“And Ngorongoro Crater! This 1-by-13- mile saucer with a 2,000-foot-high rim and all the wildlife in it has been called the eighth wonder of the world. But look, encircling four dozing lioness stand six vehicles – 27 cameras are clicking away. A lioness yawns. And suddenly it’s not so much like a paradise but more like a zoo (White, 1975, p. 488).

“Forty years ago Ernest Hemingway saw game-rich stretches of what is now Tanzania as virgin country, an unhunted pocket in the million miles of bloody Africa.  Where he stalked rhino and kudu, his son, Patrick, teaches conservation to aspiring game wardens at the College of African Wildlife Management near Moshi” (White, 1975, p. 492).

“I fly to Lake Tanganyika, and at the little town of Ujiji I see a monument where 104 years ago [Henry Morton] Stanley found [David] Livingstone. In the Western imagination this was then the heart of darkest Africa” (White, 1975, p. 504).

From the above statements, which are only concerned with the landscape of Tanzania and its animals at the expense of the presence of Tanzanians, one can clearly see a number of myths, practices and discourses articulating with each other and with the myth of the Dark Continent long after Tanzania and many other African countries had gained their independence: “the garden myth, the myth of the return to Eden and innocence” (Coetzee, 1988, p. 2); game-lodges and colonialism – “Doesn’t the game lodge represent the ultimate ‘leisuring’ of colonial history…. the game lodge impedes the emergence of an image of Africa and its diverse culture as transforming historical phenomena” (Ndebele, 1998); civilization and conquest – with a modern car like a British Land-Rover one can fearlessly “participate in the continuing enjoyment of the fruits of conquest” (Ndebele, 1998).

I glance at my sample of other National Geographic magazine of the early 1970s and the message is the same as I see Allan C. Fisher, Jr.’s (1975) “Rhodesia, A House Divided” lushly illustrated with the Victoria falls, the great Zimbabwe ruins, the beautiful waterbucks of the Zambezi and “canal lush fields “ of white settler and many more; John J. Putman’s (1973) “Yesterday’s Congo, Today Zaire” with photographs of precious diamonds, a huge elephant from Virunga national park, pygmy hunters, the forests of the river Congo and many more. There is no much change in the later 1990s and in the new millennium either: Carol Beckwith’s (1996) “Royal Gold of the Asante Empire” with Africans heavily decked with “Africa Gold”; Paul Theoroux’s (1997) “Down the Zambezi” with fighting elephants, the beautiful untamed Victoria falls and the Zambezi’s “unspoiled reaches”. Indeed the writers of National Geographic Magazine, like the 18th an 19th century travel writers, have been major producers of “Africa” to the western audiences.

“But I can’t keep my mind on animal problems. Will Ujamaa survive? I am haunted by a conversation with a distinguished Tanzanian: He thinks a crunch is coming...” (White, 1975, p. 505)

In a time when Nyerere (1978) and Tanzania was wary of the U.S.A.’s economic support of the racial oppressive regimes of Southern Africa and when Tanzanians were trying to foster unity and a belief in Ujamaa, White (1975), with his subtle self-detaching charitable writing style, decided to use an unnamed “ distinguished Tanzanian” to voice his dissident and skeptical voice: “The conflict, he [the distinguished Tanzanian] concluded, is between young revolutionary willing to use force to further African socialism, and older bureaucrats opposed to Ujamaa. Some might even welcome an army revolt to sobotage the programs in the name of national salvation. Where it [Ujamaa] will end, no one knows. But the outcome will be of great moment to Tanzania, to Africa, to the world” (White, 1975, p. 505). 

Even though I am a champion of academic freedom and freedom of speech, the context of 1975 imply that this was a very dangerous statement given the fact that the Cold War meant that Tanzania was wary of the western intelligence such as C.I.A’s manoeuvres in the affairs of African countries. White must have been aware: “The region commissioner tells me this is not for foreign consumption; I’d better stick to writing about coffee” (White, 1975, p. 490); “I stumble into a symposium [at the University of Dar-es-Salaam] on Ujamaa villages as seen through the eyes of Lenin: Will Ujamaa villages breed capitalists? A gigantic bookstore display paperbacks, a bulletin board announces Daniel Ellsberg coming to talk about the Pentagon papers” (White, 1975, p. 486).

Did Ujamaa survive?  Let us hear from the horse’s mouth: “The Arusha Declaration and our democratic single-party system, together with our national language, Kiswahili, and a highly politicized and disciplined army, transformed more than 126 different tribes into a cohesive and stable nation. However, despite this achievement, they say we failed in Tanzania, that we floundered. But did we? We must say no. We can’t deny everything we accomplished. There are some of my friends who we did not allow to get rich; now they are getting rich and they say ‘See, we are getting rich now, so you are wrong’. But what kind of answer is that? The floundering of socialism has been global. This is what needs an explanation, not just the Tanzanian part of it. George Bernard Shaw, who was an atheist, said, ‘You cannot say Christianity has failed because it has never been tried. ‘ It is the same with socialism: you cannot say it has failed because it has never been tried” (Nyerere, 1999).

Some of the precepts of Ujamaa might have survived in Tanzania but now in 2003, it is a common knowledge that Ujamaa as a policy has not survived. This is end that White said will be a great moment to the world – a moment which has been described as the triumph of capitalism and global capitalism. Was White an innocent prophet of doom? Indeed, he was a messenger of the so-called light of western modernity and civilization in Tanzania – the light that has dawn in this so-called age of globalization and free market. If it is true that Ujamaa in Tanzania did not survive because of some internal and external pressure, then, I have to admit that little do I know about the external impact of White’s travelogue on aiding the end of Ujamaa. As I re-read again the following critical sentiments of his, I am constrained to suspect that he was not just a prophet of doom, but also a self-fulfilling history maker in the making of an end of Ujamaa: “But more and more I get wind of less happy matters I cannot possible ignore, especially since official voices and publications deal so bluntly with these issues bedevilling Tanzania today”; “ Or consider the unhappiness of many a Ujamaa settler.” “Is the great social experiment coming apart?” “Will Ujamaa survive?” (White, 1975, p. 505).

Surely, White knew that Ujamaa won’t survive and he himself was in the mission of ensuring it does not survive, no wonder he even detached himself from his own conclusion when he wrote, “ I remember a children’s program on color TV in Zanzibar. A boy and a girl do homework but mother keeps tearing pages from the girl’s notebook, for wrapping fish. Father sends the boy on an errand and takes the lamp away. The boy comes back. He lights the candle. The message is, Don’t give up” (White, 1975, p. 509)


        “The message is, Don’t give up” (White, 1975, p. 509) 

Would I go, as far as Achebe (1989) went when he claimed that Joseph Conrad was a racist, by claiming that Peter T. White was a thoroughgoing racist? His diplomatic style of taking a non-moral neutral stance and detaching himself from the language of anti-racism and anti-struggle as the following quote indicates, indeed makes one a racist by acquiescence: Moreover, Zambia joins Tanzania in seeking to eradicate ‘racist oppression’ in southern Africa; thus the railroad has political as well as economic significance. It’s been a shot in the arm of patriotic liberation movements – for insurgency, depending on which side you’re on” (White, 1975, p. 479). His subtle paternalistic othering of the Chinese and their products raises serious questions on Orientalism. His wooing sympathetic description of Tanzanians and especially Tanzanian children, coupled with his zoological metaphorical description of their land and animals is ‘ontological disturbing

The strength of his subtle racism lies in his ability to historicize and portray the events, manners and customs of Tanzanians while simultaneously creating “a normalizing discourse, whose work is to codify differences, to fix the Other in a timeless present where all ‘his action and reactions are repetitions of ‘his normal habits” (Pratt, 1986, p. 139). White is more than engaged in what Achebe (1989) refers to as the inducing hypnotic stupor in his readers through bombardment of emotive words and other forms of trickery. Like Joseph Conrad, White “chose his subject well – one which was guaranteed not to put him in conflict with the psychological predisposition of his [western] readers or raise the need for him to contend with their resistance. He chose the role of the purveyor of comforting myths” (Achebe, 1989, p. 5).

The above close reading of White’s (1975) charitable yet subtle Euro-American centered travelogue on an African country therefore constrains me to also conclude that indeed for “reasons which can certainly use close psychological inquiry the West seems to suffer deep anxieties about the precariousness of its civilization and to have a need for constant reassurance by comparison with Africa. If Europe, advancing in civilization, could cast a backward glance periodically at Africa trapped in primordial barbarity it could say with faith and feeling: There go I but for the grace of God. Africa is to Europe as the picture is to Dorian Gray – a carrier on to whom the master unloads his physical and moral deformities so that he may go ahead, erect and immaculate” (Achebe, 1989, p. 17). To the weary champions of African discourse, these persisting negativizing Western images of the African imply that the deconstructionist work is not yet over. “The message is, Don’t give up.”


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Nyerere, J. K. (1978). Crusade for Liberation. Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania: Oxford University Press.

Nyerere (1999). The Heart of Africa: Interview with Julius Nyerere on Anti-Colonialism (http://hartford-hwp.com\archives\30\049.html).

Pratt, M. L. (1986). Scratches on the Face of the Country; Or, What Mr. Barrow Saw in the Land of the Bushmen. In H. L. Gates (Ed.), “Race,” Writing, and Difference (pp. 138-162). Chicago, USA: Chicago University Press.

Pratt, M. L. (1992). Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. London, UK: Routledge

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The National Geographic Official Website. http://www.nationalgeogaphic.com

Zeleza, P. T. (1997). Manufacturing African Studies and Crises. Dakar, Senegal: CODESRIA.


National Geographic. Vol. 147. No. 4 April 1975

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