If I were to write Tanzania’s history book for the past fifty years, I would not make a reference to what has been recently highlighted with regard to the 50th anniversary of Independence last December...
The highlights were on the obvious, trumpeting what should have happened with a government that collects tax from its citizens, getting aids and grants from donors; what would you expect? Should the country remain static as it was in 1961? It is undeniable that if you had 20 health centres in 1961, I would not expect them to remain still 20 in 2011.
The measure and assessment should have been the ratio in terms of population and the work done and not the way we were made to believe.
Probably I would be more at home with Martin Meredith’s book on the State of Africa, a history of fifty years of independence, which cites numerous examples from Tanzania and other African countries which were about to mark their 50th Independence anniversaries.
As opposed to Meredith, most of these countries heaped a lot of praises on how they have featured in those years to bring better services to their people. Difficulties or problems were referred to in euphemism as challenges keeping their people hopeful after fifty years!
In the case of Tanzania, Meredith quotes Mwalimu Nyerere’s evaluation of Azimio la Arusha in 1977 on his sincerity when Mwalimu said “It is essential that we should tighten upon industrial discipline. Slackness at work, and a failure to give a hard days’ effort in return for wages paid, is a form of exploitation of the other members of the society and slackness has undoubtedly increased.”
I have picked up this quotation simply because it is a genuine soul searching review on how we have featured in that given period rather than blowing our own trumpet. It is clearly indicative of the spirit of hard work and accountability. It is from this basis we can strategise how best we could organise ourselves to face the future with hope!
Whitewashing and being indifferent to obvious inherent incidences has never been a solution to the ever increasing hazardous occurrences to our country. Let us look at these incidences which would have given us good experience to avert them from recurring. They date back since the early days of independence but we seem to have forgotten them.
In 1967 a number of poll tax defaulters were crammed in a cell at Mwanza’s Ilemela Primary Court. Many offenders died making Mwalimu Julius Nyerere on that day to declare a national mourning day to bury the dead. He also declared that as one of the shameful act to have happened in independent Tanzania and was very bitter on that one. We saw those who were responsible for that negligence taken to court and summarily imprisoned for long sentences as an act of accountability.
Possibly because of that accountability action, our criminal justice system underwent some sprucing up and could manage to contain that situation until 39 years when a new generation of leadership came in.
This time around it was at Mbarali in Mbeya Region that several remand prisoners suffocated in their overcrowded police cell while waiting for their cases to be processed. It is here where the new culture of lip service to accountably started to creep in. Nobody was reprimanded and that became a trend. All that we saw is the purchase of posh prison buses for remand prisons. We remember the Shinyanga killings which by then Home Affairs minister Ali Hassan Mwinyi had to resign and several Police and State Intelligence officers were thrown into prison. The infamous escape of the high treason case prisoners at Keko Remand Prison made the Minister of Home Affairs and Principal Commissioner, Abdallah Natepe and Ganja Geneya respectively to resign as well as some senior prison officers were incarcerated.
The non-committal in accountability of officers to some of these serious incidents has in a way made it possible for recurrence of these incidents which would not have happened.
We remember the first episode of the MVVictoria sinking in Lake Victoria 1996, killing a number of our people. And last year’s Spice Islander and this recent Skagit Vessel our people are dying while we do not seem to have any lessons to learn from both the experience and accountability. Yes, the Mbagala TPDF ammunition storage explosion that within a year was followed by with another one at Gongo la Mboto in Dar es Salaam is hard to believe on the effectiveness and efficiency of our people entrusted on these sensitive vital installations. Yet nobody was spotted to answer for that.
As said earlier, I would not hesitate to place our country as basket case in assessment! How could we allow all these things to happen while we remain courageous enough to think and believe that it’s all God’s will?
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