Citizen ban: You're hungry because you're lazy...

Tuesday March 12 2019

Tanzania suspended The Citizen newspaper for

Tanzania suspended The Citizen newspaper for seven days citing a publishing of a story on fall of the shilling against the dollar. PHOTO | NMG 

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It is called Object Permanence and is a skill and a function of intelligence that we learn in our infancy.

Quite fun to be honest, and you can observe this directly. Use your own infant or borrow one from a friend or family member if necessary — for science. A preverbal one. Now, play peekaboo with the infant.

The reason children like it so much is that every time you hide your face from them you literally disappear, and then when you part your hands and babble at them lovingly it’s like magic! You and your weird smiling face are back from the Void that was Behind Your Hands!

And then one day they figure out that you didn’t go anywhere, you’re just hiding behind your hands and that it is a lot more fun to try and stick a fork into an electrical outlet and watch you have a meltdown. They have discovered Object Permanence, meaning that they know something is still there even if they can’t see it at the moment.

Which is why I have been tickled sick by the banning of TheCitizen newspaper after they reported some bog standard economic news accompanied by analysis that seemed to indicate that the Tanzanian shilling isn’t doing so well. Full disclosure: I only learned about it when a number of diplomats tweeted that they were suddenly forced to forgo The Citizen and read That Other English Language Newspaper over their morning toast for the duration of the ban.

My government is literally playing peekaboo with a citizenship numbering in the tens of millions. Like, if they “hide” economic news somehow like a bunch of six-month old babies we’re going to conveniently “forget” that the economy is struggling.


The sheer level of contempt displayed by this action is simply breathtaking. We have been actively re-arranging our basket of goods for the past year or more to adjust for unexpected scarcities and rising prices of basic commodities (don’t even get me started on the cost of milk).

The only thing The Citizen did was it’s job: Economic reporting with analysis thrown in. For the record, nobody has to make up economic statistics: the Central Bank, Ministry of Finance, even the Bretton Woods institutions generate these as part of their job.

As for we the people: We know this as part of our lives. We shop here, run businesses here, manufacture, import, export and trade internally right. Here. And yet someone in the employ of the public, ie a civil servant paid from our public funds, thought it would actually be prudent to hide economic news…from an economy?

It’s almost like someone is deliberately looking to unite Tanzanians against the common enemy of gross economic mismanagement. You can try to pit us against each other over party loyalties, but when people can no longer afford to feed their children and you tell them that “the economy is fine, you’re just hungry because you are lazy?” you’re not winning hearts or minds.

We have object permanence, and we can count. We might just set aside what petty disagreements we have going at the moment and start agreeing across the entire 50 plus millions of us that something has got to change. We know that 2020 is only so many months away…