…Troublesome Tanesco talk!

04Dec 2017
The Guardian
…Troublesome Tanesco talk!

Hello, jambo and greetings for the coming week, and what variable weather patterns there was in the last one.

Going…going…gone!   Part of Tanzania Electrical Supply Company (Tanesco) head quarters being demolished last week, to allow for roads construction works.  (photo John Badi).

We had  torrential rains in some areas,  dry fierce heat and sunshine in others,  whilst in much of Dar es Salaam and elsewhere,  humidity levels were so high that milk could curdle, and food go off almost as you looked at it.    So what do people value in such a climate, refrigeration of course, which many of the fortunate have.

… but to run them  we need  an effective and reliable electricity supply…which, whether you’re fortunate or not… we currently don’t have!

 Despite the on-going disfunction of the power services, I was still shocked last week to see a newspaper headline of “it’s the end of the road for Tanesco….”only to realize when I saw the full page, that it referred  to the demolition of  water ministry buildings, and Tanesco’s Ubungo headquarters to accommodate the coming road construction.

But such has been their lamentable performance recently, with constant power cuts now standard, that maybe my mistake was understandable, and I could almost see the follow up story in my head of “…President disbands ailing state power utility”.

 …over many long years, I’ve had a cordial relationship with Tanesco,  and known some friendly and charismatic MD’s , going back to the days of the old headquarters in town.   That was the time when any boss, even thinking of ‘cutting’ off power to Zanzibar for their non payment, risked being  ‘removed’ or sacked, because of the ‘sensitive’ nature of the union.    An example of political cowardice (or expediency) that’s now fortunately been dispensed with!

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Well, the recent partial demolition of the uninspiring  Ubungo building that housed the state owned electrical supply  company,  was a dramatic sight, though maybe few would have mourned had the entire structure been scheduled to go.

But in May 2002, that  Tanesco headquarters,  hosted a dramatic happening of a different kind,  when the newly appointed  foreign management team from Net Group solutions took up office there,  guarded by a Field Force Unit, who with their face visors, and rifles at the ready as though for combat,  were an unsettling sight.

 Few people could recall seeing the unit used in this way by a public entity,  and  later, I wondered did those six South Africans safely installed in their unfamiliar headquarters, feel secure to have FFU guards, or were they alarmed that they were needed…  but to protect them from who… angry Tanesco employees?

…and if it was bright sunshine when they started work, I hoped they’d begin as they intended to proceed, and always switch off the lights in the many windowed company offices, as some of the previous Tanesco  employees didn’t,  yet they occasionally issued ‘energy saving tips’ to the public via the media!

The unorthodox manner of the Net Group Solutions new stewardship take over, and what it represented, (failure) was a far cry from the days when the Tanesco Electric Supply Company, was lauded by the World Bank as being a good example of a public utility.   But their problematic situation and under performance, had only followed the pattern of other state owned corporations, albeit with a more disastrous economic impact, given its very broad function, or should that be mostly malfunction?

But the fall out from the Net Group ‘Solutions’ appointment,  (whose confidence in using that word in their title, would prove to be mis-guided!) was not yet over, neither the criticism of the government’s role in it.

A media editorial at the time, said that Tanesco had been audited every year, but the phenomenal  losses were kept hidden.    They were scathing also of the fact that three different international audit and consultancy firms were called in to expose the problems, a job they say could have been performed by local companies, and that the ultimate remedy of appointing foreign Tanesco managers also, had only compounded  the workers grievances, and lack of faith in their bosses.   

Unless you believe in fairies, or spirits, holy or otherwise, or perhaps have faith in god or the government, there’s no reason to suppose that the part demolition of the Tanesco HQ, should  herald in a better era for the troubled power utility, as a few observers have irrationally suggested.   

…we have to put our faith in Dr. Tito Mwanuka, who earlier in the year was acting MD of Tanesco, later confirmed as Managing Director.    An interesting name, Tito brings to mind Marshal Tito, former Yugoslavian leader, often called a dictator, he held his country together, till the battle ground of the Balkans ended it.

Tanesco have certainly been through some battling times, but the youthful looking Mwinuka  said in January that there should now be a change in the  ‘business as usual culture’, which doesn’t  sound like a finely tuned fighting strategy, but maybe he’ll become more militant as he goes along .

Time to close with a mention of Tanesco rationing cuts, which apparently they want us to call load shedding…so let’s give the last word to William Shakespeare who famously wrote hundreds of years ago, that “….a rose by any other name, is still a rose”.     Just as “Rationing, by any other name… is still rationing’’!!!