Sociologists- both classical and contemporary have kept themselves busy with the study of human action for they all agree that action is part of human behaviour. For a long time, they have dwelt with what constitutes human action.
With this in mind Max Weber defined sociology as a science which attempts the interpretive understanding of social action to arrive at a casual explanation of its course and effects- this impliedly means all sociologists should study human action- social action.
True to their nature, sociologists use the theories which are the tool of their trade to study social phenomena. With respect to social action, sociologists have developed the social action theory.
The social action theory advances that human action has the element of agency, motive, means, and end goal, meaning and orientation to social structure.
An individual action is a result of negotiation between his or her personal desire and the social institutions which define the norms, values, means and end goal of social action. Social structures limit and define what an individual can do and what he or she can not do and how she or he can do it including the means to be employed in the cause of a social act.
The social action theory further reveals that human actions are oriented toward their personal goals within the context of their social environment, which both opens up possibilities for them and shuts down those of others. The application of the theory enables one to see and understand how individuals make decisions, take action and how these actions affect the composition, functioning and direction of society as a whole.
Parliament ended its regular meeting this week that was full of action, which climaxed in a move still in the making which aims at tabling a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. The PM came to the spotlight after some parliamentarians sensed that they can not force ministers who are charged with high profile abuse of public office and trust. But this action poses more questions than the answers available.
However this discussion will only deal with two of them. Common sense tells us that if there is a direct way one can not take an indirect way. Provisions of the constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977 provide for ways to deal with ministers who breach public trust.
Article 57 (2)(g) provides for a direct way of taking unethical ministers by the horn, save that they will have the full right to defend themselves before an ethics tribunal against all charges leveled at them. Unfortunately in politics there is no room for the burden of proof.
Our political structures being part of our social structures do not allow the prime minister to fire any minister; all he can do is to advise. As we all know advice may or may not be heeded. In this light, the direct way of dealing with unethical ministers is to go for the head of the top guy, the President of the United Republic. Article 46A of the constitution provides for ways to handle an issue of a president who by his/her actions or omissions would have breached public office and trust.
Zitto Kabwe and company have acted within the context of the social structures in the best way to serve their interests better than those of the public and these actions are oriented to that end. They all know if the prime minister falls down, the whole cabinet goes down with him, but they can not guarantee that none of the unethical ministers end up being re-appointed.
But for how long are our politicians going to keep on acting only in the way that serves their interests better than those of the public?
This discussion is posing this question as it does see Parliament and public positions being used as a launching pad for the creation of circumstances where others fall in order to create opportunity for the rise of those aspiring for these ministerial positions for the same goal of siphoning public resources for their personal gain. I for one does not blame them at all save for their attempt to try to depict for public consumption that they can do better than and significantly different from those currently occupying ministerial positions.
All members of Parliament have invested heavily in their rise to that public position, and like any investment one expects return to fully recover the cost plus tangible profit. Being an MP alone does not guarantee recovery especially if one wishes to seek re-election, for the end of one election process is instantly succeeded by the next election process.
As if that is not enough, our MPs have been turned into moving money minting and dispensing machines by members of our society. The financial pressures subjected upon our legislators can not be sustained by socially approved means of generating income.
Appointment to ministerial position provides for an opportunity to widen the horizon for recovering the cost of being elected to Parliament, keeping the constituency happy and creating a good environment for re-election. A ministerial position is the dream and goal of every Tom, Dick and Harry in Parliament and this explains all we have witnessed so far.
President Jakaya Kikwete seems to be the victim of our social construction, for only one crime – the crime of being the president at a time when things have matured. As a society, we are all responsible for the rise in the cost of election campaigns which are to a larger extent borne by those who contest for political posts. As a society, we are also responsible for turning our politicians into moving Automated Teller Machines (ATM).
A few weeks ago I happened to host Minister Ezekiel Maige when he passed at our place for breakfast on his way to his constituency. I saw him off on his way out; at the gate I meet a young man who told me to ask minister Maige to give him some money.
I did not do that, after he had left, I asked that young man why did he do that and he replied by saying “hao wana hela bwana watupe tu” literally meaning these guys have money they should simply give it to us. This situation has forced our politicians to react accordingly but irresponsibly.
In marriage, there is a saying which says that a successful wife is the one who can find and get married to the man who can make a lot of money than what she needs. Our politicians are doing exactly that to meet unjustified and unrealistic public expectations defined for them by the very society which is complaining that politicians should make an effort to meet these expectations.
President Jakaya Kikwete has tried everything in store. His Plan A made him appoint his long time associate Edward Lowassa as Prime Minister, Zakhia Meghji as finance minister may be on the notion that women are trustful and obedient servants once given opportunity, Nazir Karamagi was appointed also to bring in the seriousness of entrepreneurship in the cabinet, youth with proven record like Lawrence Masha, Ali Malima and William Ngeleja just to mention a few were brought in to bring in fresh blood and energy. This plan A was torn down in the same power struggle like we are seeing now. The plan B brought the ‘Mtoto wa Mkulima’ into action, but the same power struggle continues.
This current cabinet President Jakaya Kikwete brought in new people who were not here during the fierce struggle for presidency in 2005. This discussion is referring to Nundu, Mfutakamba, Mhando the list goes on, but things are not getting better.
It is easy to explain the power struggle as having something to do with the rise into power of President Jakaya Kikwete. This discussion could precisely fault the mtandao as being responsible for creating another opposite force to counter it during the rise to power and after gaining the presidency. Since then the mtandao has broken into several factions, with each one struggling to make the Kikwete presidency a big flop.
But how can we hatch and nurse a strategy and plan to kill the only pilot of the plane in the middle of the flight over the massive water body like the Atlantic Ocean and hope to survive? We may be banking on the auto pilot facilities. That can not save us as no plane can land while on auto pilot, it has to be piloted by a human being- a trained pilot.
As a country we have lost trust with the system of governance which we all have created. I do not think President Kikwete is a bad leader. He is blamed for nepotism in appointments, but who honestly could have acted differently. Everywhere we see position holders appointing and working with their close relatives, friends and associates. Our society is now a closed society per se.
In a closed society, resources are not allocated on merit but by ascription. Worse enough allocation by ascription is accounted for by merit possessed by the beneficiary of nepotism. He is also blamed for not taking action even when high profile people are before the court of law for breaching public trust.
It is understandable if we blame him for failing to meet our expectations. But were our expectations realistic? This is debatable for sure. We have punched the president a lot and sometimes below the belt, but it has not changed anything. Are we turning our society into a society of whiners? Not my country.
As a country we have no one left out there who can objectively tell us which way to go. All we hear is whistles from various quarters whereby the later counter and oppose the former sending the public into circle of confusion, true to the Swahili saying which says “miluzi mingi hupoteza mbwa mawindoni” literally meaning uncontrolled whistles disorient the dogs in a hunt.
Our system like any other system has a mechanism to adapt to any unforeseen situation. An adaptation system provides an opportunity to clear us of the mess we all can not afford to run away from. The constitution, although it forces the president to appoint ministers from among MPs, also allows him to appoint any Tanzanian with attributes qualifying him or her to be elected MP to the legislature and from there he can appoint him or her to a ministerial post.
The selection of ministers out of Parliament will mitigate the power struggle and blackmailing that is obvious among MPs. It will also check unequal allocation of the resources which seem to be benefiting the ministers more than the rest of the legislature.
Overall, it will make the Parliament playground even with no one having comparative advantage against another member. For sure should Ezekiel Maige fall and become replaced and change position with James Lembeli, the bickering and backstabbing will continue with more vigour. However, the changes will never motivate the replacement to do things differently.
It is high time we start thinking on how to solve this problem once and for all. The root cause of the problem is the cost of the election process. If we want to have our politicians to be reasonable we need to create a society free of public resources swindlers, and threatening them with hanging, stoning and long term jail sentences can not help. What we can do is changing the election process; if it costs them less they also will swindle less, if it costs them nothing may be they will swindle nothing as well.
Let all well wish for this country and pray for President Kikwete so that he gets at his disposal the right way and right people to take us through this confusion. God bless Tanzania.