Look busy, Magufuli is coming? Surely Tanzanian professionals are beyond this

Friday December 15 2017

Dubbed the bulldozer, a majority of Tanzanians

Dubbed the bulldozer, a majority of Tanzanians have endorsed President John Magufuli’s leadership style. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

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Hey. It’s one thing to be underestimated as a chill land full of people who are quietly and irresistibly attractive, but I am starting to get worried that Tanzania could earn a reputation for “Tanzanian Engineering.”

I am worried that it won’t have quite the same connotations as German Engineering if you know what I mean. We may need to rethink our public education and management styles. Two examples why:

Recently, our electricity company Tanesco was forced to assure the people that it would be providing steady service with no major interruptions.

After all, energy is vital to a Hapa Kazi Tu economy and one of the most tangible demonstrations of efficiency. So, Tanesco has been trying.

Unfortunately, November through roughly February are months during which the power supply is guaranteed to be less than dependable. There are any number of reasons for this ranging from Mtera Dam’s vulnerability to drought to ageing infrastructure being unable to cope with the summer heat.

Which is why I used the term “forced” because Tanesco knows, but they still had to make an empty promise. Disappointing The Bulldozer is not an option.

Naturally, as soon as Tanesco told us that all would be well, the entire national grid took a nap. The Entire. National. Grid. It was epic.

Second issue: Last year, His Excellency ordered that planned new dormitories at the University of Dar es Salaam be built fast and cheap.

Accommodations for over 3,000 students, within the space of a year, at a price tag that was amenable to him. And you know what: The Tanzania Building Association delivered well within deadline. Said dormitories were opened in April of this year to great pomp and ceremony. Because disappointing the Bulldozer is not an option.

About a week ago, a young resident of these buildings put out a picture on social media showing some rather worrying structural damage. For his troubles, he ended up as a guest of the state for a spell, while the popo decided whether or not it was his right to post a picture online.

We the people were told by the authorities that apparently these incredible cracks — about the size of the Rift Valley — were called “expansion joints.”

Magufuli Is Coming

After decades of investment in education and good and bad decisions, Tanzanian professions are finally at that point where we’re developing into something substantial.

A generation of eager young people who know how to do mathematics and innovation and to dream of achievement: Why would we expose them to this? “Look Busy, Magufuli Is Coming” T-shirts for the whole government, when we are trying to recruit upwards? Sigh.

As a proponent of good management and anti-authoritarian, the least I tend to expect from dirigistes is an understanding that quality is a large part of the point, and the legacy.

Yeah, yeah, even leftists can read Lee Kuan Yew’s biography, get over it. We’ve all had jobs, we know the difference between good and bad management.

Good management makes you do the best you can, competent management gets out of your way at the very least, bad management relies on force and “doing-ism” to appear to be worth keeping in your job.

And at the end of the day, the product is the thing. I don’t even understand how an Engineer could forget that.

Honestly, I am cool with Tanesco. We go back a long ways and since they joined social media to keep in touch with their clients and let us know what’s up, we can hope for the best.

It’s a terrible situation, they try to make the best of it. Likewise, everybody knew those dorms were going to be awful. Trying to bring a false application of a technical term into it has only exacerbated the impression that the Engineers that the government employs are “only engineers.”

So I just want to say something to the professionals who are still trying: We know. It’s been tough. Everything is topsy-turvy: We even have a law professor as the governor of our central bank.

But keep to your standards, for goodness sake. We don’t need false promises, just good delivery. Management is only management at the end of the day. It comes, it goes. But a profession? Is a profession. And for goodness sake, don’t arrest university students for living in sub-par housing. It makes us all look stupid.

Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report, http://mikochenireport.blogspot.com. E-mail: [email protected]