ULIMWENGU: Since they cannot handle the truth, our leaders’ quick fixes are lies, exaggerations

Tuesday September 24 2019

Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli talks to medical staff at the Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, on August 11, 2019. PHOTO | STRINGER | AFP

Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli talks to medical staff at the Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, on August 11, 2019. Recently, in a daily, the health minister declared that health delivery systems had so dramatically improved since 2015, that referrals to India and elsewhere had fallen drastically. But miracles do not just happen. PHOTO | STRINGER | AFP 

JENERALI ULIMWENGU
By JENERALI ULIMWENGU
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Our local government mouthpiece recently carried two stories that exemplified a malaise afflicting our body politic, that is, the desire to be seen to produce quick results in whatever we are in charge of without giving a damn about whether what our officials are reporting is something they can seriously vouch for or attest to.

In this daily we got to read about the minister responsible for health declaring that because health delivery systems had so dramatically improved since President John Pombe Magufuli took over in 2015, heart-condition referrals to India and elsewhere had fallen by 95 per cent, and I was like, wow, that has to be a world record in reversing trends in just four years.

In the same paper we also read about some "development director" in some district outpost sharing his frustration that too many schoolgirls are dropping out of school because of teen pregnancies. His solution to this irksome problem? Arrest those girls and prosecute them.

This minister and this director are reading from the same page: The minister is crowing about instant success produced by a punctual intervention in a crucial area, and the director wants to produce spectacular, and quick, results in another equally important department.    

The problem with this kind of approach is very easy to see. Miracles just do not happen, even if it would have been easier for us all if from time to time somebody popped up to turn our water into wine.

Success has to be worked toward, in a hard, slogging manner, but also intelligently. No success will come your way simply because you willed it to do so. You just don’t command success to come to you; you have to earn it.

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I doubt the health minister’s declaration because I do not believe a fall that fast is possible when I know that people have been flying to India and elsewhere with diseases that should be handled locally. What has changed so suddenly?

A decade or so ago, some old charlatan set up shop in Loliondo, in the Arusha area, and called for people to come to him with all their diverse ailments. Thousands flocked to get the magic cure that even an ignorant peasant should have seen as a sham.

But our leaders were the first to queue up, even trying to beat the common men and women who should have been given the opportunity to get treatment on the cheap, they that could not have afforded a trip to India.

After that scam, no one seems to know what has happened to that old trickster, but now we are told we have recorded a 95 per cent drop in external referrals. All I am saying is, show me the money, mate.

And now the director wants to score his own quickie. He does not even seem to know that the earlier statements made by Magufuli and his people about not allowing pregnant schoolgirls to reintegrate in school are obsolete because the government has had to do deals with important institutions which have told our government about basic facts of life.

The government has listened, not necessarily because they have travelled the road to Damascus as did Saul, but because they need the money. I swear, it is a sad state of affairs when the welfare of our children can only be guaranteed by foreign outfits whose only argument to counteract our officials is, ‘‘We have the money you need, and you don’t get it till you change that law.’’

I dare suggest that a little thinking, coupled with intense local consultation, would go a long way toward freeing ourselves from the necessity of looking like we do not possess the most basic reasoning capabilities until we are forced by our foreign donors to see what we should have seen all along.

Our government decided a long time ago to work toward reintegration of pregnant schoolgirls. It is sound policy and it is just.

All the government needs to do is stay the course, make the appropriate arrangements for such reintegration.

Honestly, one of the most disconcerting statements at the time when this debate broke out was someone in government who said something like, "this government will not educate mothers." And I was like, what would Aggrey of Achimota say here.

Still, we won’t make any headway till my director sees some light and the minister tones her exaggerations down.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]

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