Monday, December 30, 2019

Mahaba Usongani: Rafiki Kipenzi Niliyempenda

Kipenzi Niliyempenda

Mwanahamisi 'Mishy' Singano

Yarabi huu mwaka na uishe, uishe na shari zake. Mwaka gani huu uliojaa chuki, maumivu, uzandiki, udhalimu, fitna na kila aina ya dhulma? Yailai, mwaka huu nimepata wahaka wa roho, dhoruba ya nafsi na gagasuko la akili. Ama kweli walijisemea wazigua “Mwaka wako humpi mwenzako” !
 Hakika huu ulikuwa mwaka wangu, kila janga lililotakiwa kutokea lilitokea.Ila Alhamdulillah nimekuzwa kuamini kuwa lisiloniua litanitia adabu, si haba nimeshika adabu yangu, tena mkononi. Nimewajua walimwengu kwa mapana na marefu, ama kweli viumbe wazito. 
Haiyumkini kwenye kila kubwa kuna kubwa zaidi, rafiki yangu mie, tena hatukukutana barabarani, wa miaka nenda rudi, hatukuwa mashost wa kupigiana simu kila dakika na kuulizana hali kila saa ila najua yeye alikuwa mtu wangu, wa usongani, wa mabuku na faraja, leo hii kaninunia only God’s knows why, as if I don’t have enough problems already – huu mwaka huu, hakuna rangi sijaona walai. 
Natamani ningekuwa na uwezo wa kumpotezea, ila siwezi jamani, naumia. Labda kinachoniumiza zaidi ni kutojua what happened! Najiuliza nimemkosea kikubwa kipi mpaka akanichunia to that extent?  Namjua ni mwingi wa staha, busara, uvumilivu na asiyependa makuu, sasa mpaka imefikia hatua ya kuni-delete mazima bila hata kunipa haki yangu ya kujieleza lazima nimemuumiza vibaya na naumia kwa kutokujua ni nini hasa nilichofanya. Natamani angeniambia, nikajua, nikajifunza na nikatubu, lakini wapi, nimeachwa nalo jaramba la mwahako nihangaike nalo.
Kibinadamu niliamini ananiamini, anajua what am capable of and what am not, labda naumia kwa kuwa sijawahi kuwa na dhamira ya kukutendea baya, labda naumia kwa kuwa, I honestly care na labla naumia kwa kuwa sikutarajia hili kutokea, of all people!  Not you rafiki. 
Najua sina njia tena ya kukwambia ninayotaka kukwambia, matumaini yangu pekee ni kuwa huu waraka utakufikia. Nikuhakikishie tu naheshimu mawazo na maamuzi yako, najua kila chenye mwanzo hakikosi kuwa na mwisho labda huu ndio mwisho wetu. Wanasema wenye busara zao, kuwa muda mwingine kumuachia aende ndiyo mapenzi makuu na la kuvunda halina ubani. 
Rafiki yangu niliyekupenda, nenda tu… japo nafsi yangu i dhoofu lhali, nikikumbuka how you made me better as a person and writer.
2019, nimekuchoka, 2020 uwe na ahueni tafadhali. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Farewell Kavazi: COSTECH's Quest for Hard Science!

#MakeHardScienceGreatAgain #FarewellKavazi
The rays of the sun meant business. With sheer vigor they expressed their frustration on man’s conduct against nature. So it is said, “nature is generous when preserved and often revengeful when destroyed”. What a way to communicate such vengeance as the heat intensified with every tick of the clock on that fateful Thursday afternoon of the 12th of December 2019.
It was another Kavazi day, but unlike the five years experience of its existence as the Nyerere Resource Centre (NRC), this time around the day lacked that sense of excitement. The mood was not entirely jovial to most of us. The happy faces were now in grief. The lively tones were now in somber. We walked into the gates of the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) with our heads down. Awkwardly, even Vitali Maembe’s vibrant songs that spoke truth to power in many Kavazi events were a nuisance to our ears. We had nothing to celebrate about, how could we as we were bound to bid farewell to our once upon a time home of ideas.
The long awaited moment arrived. Prof. Shivji, in a derailed manner, had that last Kavazi walk on to the podium. His peers, Prof. Saida Yahya-Othman and Dr. Ng’wanza Kamata looked upon him in despair. That was the ambiance all over as if served by Happiness George at the reception desk, together with the pack of groundnuts, bottle of water and soda. Microphone checked, throat cleared, specs well placed, he, Prof. Shivji, glanced at the audience and sighed before uttering the first words on Kavazi’s eulogy.
Throughout the moment, his voice was mournful as he walked us through Kavazi’s journey, remarking its milestone achievements. Like in a funeral mass, the subject matter dictated utmost silence amongst the audience. The good deeds of KAVAZI, the semi-autonomous unit of COSTECH, were spelled. Amongst others, in the course of KAVAZI’s five years there were 4 Nyerere lectures, 9 occasional papers, 4 training courses, special publications, outreach programs and so forth. But none of these thrilled the audience in distraught.
We were all wondering, with all these accolades mentioned and many others spared, how come KAVAZI ‘s life was shortened? It was until Prof. Shivji read us the autopsy report from the coroner, the current Director of COSTECH, Dr. Amos Nungu, that we understood why its life was cut short. He pronounced that COSTECH was no longer relevant to host the Nyerere Resource Center (KAVAZI). Absurd as it may seem, YES! The Director expressed, and as evidenced on paper, said that KAVAZI is not relevant to COSTECH.
With my nerves gutted and every sense in me being irked by such ridiculous statement, I then recalled his words, whereas in his welcoming address, “Dr. Relevance” said, upon his appointment as the Director, he found it difficult to define KAVAZI’s position in COSTECH as COSTECH is the home of HARD SCIENCE. Point of note, this term HARD SCIENCE, he mentioned it with pride, LOL! That earlier statement, corroborated with the reason offered in the termination letter of KAVAZI’s doing at COSTECH, definitely expound on the naivety and ignorance one may have, even though being “A Doctor”.
When queries were issued on the relevance of KAVAZI and COSTECH, this same “Doctor Relevance” just found the need to stand again and prove his ignorance once again by lecturing “KAVAZI’s Soft Scientists” that it is not the question of RELEVANCE PER SE that pronounced KAVAZI’s death, but rather the RELEVANCE OF COSTECH HOSTING KAVAZI. Lol! How would he dare try to hide behind the meaning of words with all the linguists and people who are enthused with words and phrasing present? Yooh! The dialectical relationship between KAVAZI and COSTECH foremost needed KAVAZI to be declared irrelevant to COSTECH for it not to be hosted by COSTECH. And it does not need some laboratory experiments or a HARD SCIENTIST, but a person with mere common sense, to know that you cannot host something that is not relevant to you.
There are definitely floodgates of questions and queries that could flow to "Dr. Relevance’s" thinking: How did the prior director, Dr. Hassan Mshinda, find KAVAZI relevant? How comes there is a social science unit in COSTECH and still KAVAZI is not being relevant? Is the social science unit irrelevant to COSTECH too? Or is COSTECH not relevant to critical thinking – KAVAZI’s trait?
If I, like the wise Dr. Kamata who pleaded of COSTECH’s generosity, try to ignore my conspiracy theories that probably the ultimate move came from an ultra power, yes that one, then I too am bound to believe that Dr. Hassan Mshinda made the Hard Scientists outcasts in their own home and allowed the continued trespass of the soft scientists, for about five years, in the house of real science. It is thus definitely obvious "Dr. Relevance" intends to reclaim that space for some actual science. In a nutshell, he is desirous to #MakeHardScienceGreatAgain. 
And we cannot diss, hate and envy the move as the doctor gotta do what he got to do – if you know what I mean. J Until another KAVAZI replica, I dedicate to you Wiz Khalifa’s (featuring Charlie Puth) – See You Again. Cheers.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Mkapa: A “humble” and pragmatic reformer?

Mkapa: A “humble” and pragmatic reformer?

Dastan Kweka

“My Life, My Purpose: A Tanzanian President Remembers” is an account of what former President Benjamin William Mkapa (1995 – 2005) considers to be his legacy. It brings together a fairly linear but eventful journey of his life as a student, civil servant, diplomat, politician and President of the country. The memoirs focuses, to a large extent, on highlighting the rationale as well as the constraints associated with the actions that he (as President) took, or did not, whether he harbors any regrets, and his assessment of the trends and practices that have come to dominate politics and public service today. 

This review focuses on at least six major, and recurring themes in the book – early life (and his personality), race and ethnicity, ideology, (economic) reform, role of institutions and his relationship with the opposition.

Mkapa grew up in poverty, a common reality for most Africans who lived under the colonial rule, and was raised by semi-illiterate parents. But he was lucky to have had a father who worked for missionaries. This was an important connection at the time, given that the (Catholic) Church owned and ran vital institutions such as schools and hospitals. The former President does not say whether this connection influenced, in any way, his selection to join Ndanda Secondary School, a mission school, in late 1940’s. However, he notes that his two elder brothers – Blasius and Bernard – had also gone to the same school.

The author did well at school, and went all the way to Makerere, which was then the most revered higher education institution in East Africa. He also writes that he was two years ahead of the renowned Kenyan literary giant - Ngugi wa Thiong’o - at the University. One gets an impression that Mkapa`s favorite authors were, and still are predominantly western - the likes of Shakespeare, Dickens and Agatha Christie.  Could this be the impact of a highly skewed colonial curriculum? It is unclear how this preference may have affected the development of the arts sector during his time in office. His decision to write the memoirs in English, instead of Swahili, is also another issue of interest. While English makes the book accessible to billions of people across the world, the language excludes majority of those that voted for him twice. The publisher – Mkuki na Nyota – has not announced plans for producing a Swahili version.
Regarding his personality, the author informs his readers that he is shy and reserved, and that it took a while for him to become comfortable in facing a huge crowd during the Presidential campaigns in 1995. During his school days, he was always the youngest and smallest, and struggled to identify a role in sports. While at Ndanda, he washed dishes because cooking wasn`t fit for him. Throughout the book, the author contends with accusations of arrogance and aloofness. He quotes even his own mentor – Julius Nyerere – describing him as “intellectually-arrogant.” In 2015, Mkapa referred to those opposing the ruling party as “fools and loafers” and repeated the statement in 2017. The book does not reflect on this statement, or the potential influence of the authors’ stature as well as his school experience in shaping his leadership style.

In terms of racial relations, the author describes what he calls “subtle differentiation” in Tanganyika where, for instance, a European would be served first in shops, and contrasts it with blatant discrimination in Kenya. He observed such differentiation at Ndanda as well, while a multi-racial class at Makerere showed him the potential for co-existence. Mkapa writes that racial awareness was central in shaping his political awakening, as well as his eventual decision to join the struggle against colonialism. However, the readers gets an impression that the author`s personal experience of racial “differences” was mild, and possibly not sufficient to have had the effect he seems to describe. The author does not reflect on the wave of “racial populism” that was championed by the (late) Reverend Christopher Mtikila during his first term, and which, according to some researchers, appealed to some prominent members within the fast growing opposition party – CHADEMA.

The author worked for the party and government newspapers at different periods, not long after he left Makerere, and used these outlets to popularize government policies, and educate the public about socialist ideals. He explains that he was part of the process that led to the adoption of the Arusha Declaration (1967), and implies that these experiences were helpful in cementing his understanding of (socialist) ideology. Ironically, Mkapa’s views about the country`s “socialist heritage” are quite negative. He writes that the country was seen as socialist “but was not delivering socialist benefits” and associates the entire opposition to his privatization agenda to a “socialist outlook.” It is important to highlight the fact that a significant section of the elite opposed the approach –  what to privatize, the nature of the arrangement, potential benefits, ultimate beneficiaries – and not necessarily the agenda (privatization).
Available records indicate that there was advice to slow down the pace of privatization, and make the process more transparent and inclusive. However, the administration ignored such voices, some of which were coming from the Parliament, and proceeded with its agenda.  Between 1992 and 2002, more than 150 public parastatals were privatized, most of them under Mkapa (1995 onwards). This is an average of 15 per year, even though there had not been adequate prior preparations. The full consequences of this approach, in terms of public and individual losses have not been established.

Mkapa describes Mwalimu as a “pragmatist” in part because he supported his reform agenda. The label is probably more appropriate to the author, based on what seems to be his hushed aversion to socialism, and almost radical embrace of capitalism. While “pragmatism” often implies lack of a firm commitment to an ideology, and willingness to accept what is practical (and realistic), the book suggests that the author was (and still is) highly committed to neo-liberalism.

Towards the end of the book, the author admits that his reform agenda lacked an overarching ideological clarity, and regrets not having had time to work on this during his time in office. He writes about persistent poverty, and the fact that inequality is growing, and points to the need to ensure there is a better distribution of benefits. The world is now well aware that inequality is a known limitation of capitalism. Surprisingly, the author maintains his (probably long-held) belief that capitalism is (also) capable of “fairness and equality”.
One has to credit retired President Mkapa for paying a particular attention to the role of institutions, and undertaking extensive work to establish them. It is hard to think of any single regulatory or accountability institution that exists today which isn`t part of his legacy. In early 2000s, he established the Prevention of Corruption Bureau (now PCCB). This institution later initiated a case against one of his former ambassadors – Professor Costa Mahalu, and in 2012, he had to appear in court to defend his former appointee. This was the first time a former President had appeared in court. Mkapa believes that a former President should not be taken to court for the purpose of preserving the integrity of the office of President. Unfortunately, this position contradicts his belief in the rule of law. No one should be allowed to be above the law – not even the President. Presidents need not have lifetime immunity. There should be a way of holding them accountable, especially after they have left office. This is a fundamental deterrence.

The author believes opposition political parties need to be able to operate freely, and that there should not be too many restrictions on their ability to operate. This is an important point, and very relevant, especially now, because of the existing extrajudicial ban on political rallies. But has he given this advice to the current President? In his book, Mkapa describes the opposition as weak and its leaders shallow, but also blames them for some of the goals that he wasn’t able to achieve – a contradiction? It is worth noting that the opposition is amongst very few actors that the book is scathingly critical of. The author praises even his one time Minister of Education, Joseph Mungai, even though he was in charge of a controversial (and wrong) decision, taken in 2004, to discontinue competitive sports (UMITASHUMTA) and the teaching of business studies in primary and secondary schools, respectively. A Minister under President Kikwete`s administration – Ms. Margaret Sitta - reversed this decision.
President Mkapa gives his readers a glimpse of the worries that beset a leader who is about to leave office. He writes about having to take a loan from the National Bank of Commerce (NBC) to purchase a rental property that would serve as a source of steady income, and indeed a lifeline, in case a successive government decided to adjust retired President`s emoluments. Analysts have often reasoned that worries such as these tend to condition how retiring leaders handle the process of selecting their successors. Unfortunately, the memoirs do not offer useful insights on this aspect.

My Life, My Purpose is a well written book, but one that, to a large extent, toes the line. Mkapa describes the late Oscar Kambona as opportunistic, and his actions “treacherous”, and does not credit him for anything. This assessment isn’t backed up by any sufficient background and seems to be in line with the official desire to always paint Kambona as a villain. Also, the author writes that the Arusha Declaration is still somehow relevant, and that it shouldn`t be reduced to a mere leadership code. It’s clear that it has become a norm to acknowledge its importance, and not take any meaningful steps thereafter. The book excludes controversial issues, such as the recent conviction of two former senior Ministers that were in Mkapa`s Cabinet – Basil Mramba, and Daniel Yona.
Mkapa has offered his account – one that Honorable Zitto Kabwe has described as “honest, if not fully transparent.” It is hard for me to be so certain, given the amount of “balancing” that political figures have to do to safeguard their future, if any, or that of their offspring as well as allies. The sons and daughters of this nation would benefit a lot if his main election opponents - Augustino Lyatonga Mrema and Professor Ibrahim Lipumba could also share their views - a counter-narrative. It’s unfortunate that this may never happen.

Call for Women Visual Artists+Creative Writers

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Kwaheri Kavazi

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Adieu Ali A. Mufuruki (1958 - 2019)

"Your coverage of my story is factually accurate, I am even surprised by some of the details I had long forgotten that your researcher’s eye picked up. I am humbled by your description of me as a human being and hope that I deserve such kind words"-Ali Murufuki on 'A Capitalizing City: Dar Es Salaam and the Emergence of an African Entrepreneurial Elite (C. 1862-2015)' downloadable at

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