Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Genius of My President

The Genius of My President 

Mwanahamisi 'Mishy' Singano

A significant number of the people I know are falling out of love with my president for so many reasons. Some claim he is not presidential, not compassionate and, of course, not a politician. Ironically, the latter was one of the qualities most of his aficionados  admired - the fact that he was not a typical politician. ‘Mechanical,’ they called him - he would deliver development without being politicized, they presumed.

Three years down the line, I look back on how it started and how we got here. I can’t help but feel admiration on how cleverly he has played his politics; smart, tough, and sequenced - virtually dealing with one thing at a time, almost in a chronological order. And in the broad day light - live televised. Such genius!
When he put a stop on the live broadcast of the parliament sessions, I thought this is a simply a mechanism to control information and shape the narrative. What I didn’t realize then is that I will not only miss out on information, but I will not recognize the faces of our Members of Parliament (MPs), I won’t know their names and what they stand for, I will not connect with them - the trust bond between me and them is gone. Most of them have become unpopular and less influential to the majority of us. But because he is the only one who is really watching, MPs now have only one person to impress - him. 

On the other hand, he has made himself a household name. There are live coverage of all his events and speeches, ensuring there will be new news from him or his famous press secretary every day. We talk about him, everywhere and every day, whether being in a romantic date, in a bar or dinner. Love or hate it, he is the most talked about person in the country even by the people who never used to follow politics beyond elections. Such awesomeness!
I guess we would all agree that his crackdown on the rich and the powerful was untraditional and innovative. He did not only pick up a handful of them and deal with them aggressively to the extent that the majority of the ‘other’ started to pack and go, but with the help of  his aiders, he also made sure that the drama aspect of these crackdowns are of high quality in terms of their viral effect. We know, at time, the drama and script didn’t match – but who cares? They served the purpose and that is what makes it super cool!
Another new entry to the history book is how tax has been used as a tool of punishment for businesses of all scales and shapes, with only two options given to the punished; accept the punishment with praises or close the business with praises as well. For those who have accepted to be punished, they then have to deal with Regional Commissioners (RCs) and District Commissioners (DCs) who often show up or call them, demanding contributions to build or host this and that. I bet socialists are having the best time of their lives. As he famously said, ‘the era of ‘the rich can do anything’ are gone, now, ‘anything can be done on the rich.’

Then there is - or there was - the opposition. I guess we all know how he is dealing with them. But one of the things that strikes me, is his effortless ability to make all of us realize that opposition leaders have a price tag too, they can be sold and bought just like pizza. ‘Standing for an issue’ is for only those who do not have the opportunity to enjoy the national cake with the rulers. Because of that, people feel cheated by the opposition. 

We are increasingly pledging our allegiance to our ‘frustrations,’ which serves the party in power. Less opposition MPs due to defection to the ruling party means fewer funds and human-power to run and build the opposition parties. Add that with the crackdown of the rich, and the limited scope of political parties' mandate as proposed in the political party bill, I see a boring, broke and starved opposition  camp come the 2020 elections. I swear, we are all set to vote yes. 
Media – Oh gosh, who would ever thought I will be only watching the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) TV right now, with about 90% of its programming praising our Commander-in-Chief? Laws and regulations have been enacted to make it harder for alternative narratives. What we have now is state of the art, well-thought through state propaganda system run by once celebrated critics of the state monopoly of the public media and the best part is, no one is really complaining. I am amazed. 

Of course, the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) should have been complaining but most of them are dealing with their own state conformity. With new law demanding CSO to gazette all the funds received and ministries responsible holding the right to direct them on both ‘focus, and geographical coverage’, the level of CSO's self-censorship is at all-time record high. NGOs have turned to be New Government Organizations.

Satisfied with his subtle crackdown on the parliament, media, business, and CSOs/NGOs, the only group which was left were development partners. With the international community powers plus the actual money power, they can real make things hard to the rulers. The genius of my president set up a ‘frustration’ trap. As per its design, they are falling for it. I can imagine him on his sofa and popcorn, watching their every move, waiting for the right time to indulge them with other sets of frustrating drama until they leave him alone with his country, in any form. That aside, I strongly believe, he might not qualify for the Nobel peace price, but he definitely deserves a Harvard honorary degree for politicking.

Having all these achievements in 3 years, with majority of the citizens running their business as usual despite shrinking income and insecurities, is commendable. You can blame this on the apparent non-confrontational Tanzanians culture but never underestimate the influence of the men behind it. His political acumen has left many of us failing to predict and afraid to act. One of my good friend wrote, ‘confusion is his strategy.’ I see no confusion. All I see is determination, over-calculation and super-powered brain-coding of every move. 
The question is, to what end? Life-time presidency? What else?

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