This article was originally meant for last week, but a technicality kept it out of the paper, though in essence it has not been overtaken by events; on the contrary it has been more than vindicated.
It set out to show how the absurd has become commonplace in Tanzania over the past couple of years and how the most outlandish statements and actions have become the new normal. Such as the following, selected for your ease of reference:
• Our ruling party has won the recently held civic elections by a whopping 99.4 per cent, which must be making Pyongyang’s Kim Jong Il green with envy. It however makes one wonder where the other 0.6 per cent got lost.
• I heard some big man saying that the opposition had every right to withdraw from the election because even that decision was ‘democratic.’
But at some stage a senior–level law enforcement officer warned against people boycotting elections with the intention of causing chaos.
I was privately wondering how boycotting elections could in itself cause chaos, unless it was accompanied by other deliberately orchestrated actions to cause such disruption as one could construe as causing chaos.
Efforts are underway to liberate our people from thought processes, especially thoughts that have not been sanctioned by government.
It is the case of the government director of information who recently declared that he will ‘deal with’ anyone in local media who quotes a foreign media outlet reporting on Tanzania. Whatever that could mean.
That foreign media don’t have the right to report on our country, and that if they do, they cannot be quoted by our media, even if the reportage is pleasing to the powers that be, or does this mean, good or bad, no foreign reports should be quoted by the Tanzanian press?
I can foresee a situation wherein a bewildered reporter being grilled by this director pleads, “But, sir, this report that I quoted, though from a foreign source, says some very nice things about us. The mega projects, the great strides in transforming the country, surely merit to be read by our people...” And the director retorts imperiously, “No foreign news reports means no foreign news reports, can’t you understand?”
Poor reporters, poorer editors!
The ruling party, which has won the civic elections with unprecedented margins (against itself) is celebrating in style, telling the timid Americans and the Brits, (both of whose embassies released very timid comments about the elections not being actual elections) to shut the hell up, because “this is a free country, we don’t take orders from anyone”... blah, blah.
And who is this man reading the Riot Act to the unashamed Yankees and Brits who are meddling in our internal affairs notwithstanding that we are free to treat our people as we see fit the same way they treat their people the way they see fit without us interfering?...
Well, it is not the foreign minister—who has proven his capabilities in the area of lecturing foreign envoys and our neighbours (like he did in Nairobi recently)—but the secretary general of the ruling party, just to show you that the roles of the party and the state have been merged.
I suppose that those who think that ruling party officials must not act or speak as though they are government officials (and vice versa) do not get the point.
Now the Tanzania government has found the genius to solve its problems with the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights based in Arusha, which has been hailed as a demonstration of homegrown solutions to African problems.
The problem with this court is that it has been accessed too often by aggrieved Tanzanian individuals who have failed to get redress in their municipal courts, and too often they have won..So, the sagacious solution for our government is to withdraw the statutory consent for individuals to sue it.
It will be even more absurd as we enter into the–year 2020 and the general elections, which that the ruling party will certainly want to win in the same way as the just ended civic elections, and so on and so forth.
I advise anyone who wants to understand what is happening in Tanzania to first of all understand that the absurd does not kill you; it just conditions you slowly to accept ridiculous situations that warp your thinking and set you firmly on your trip to cuckoo-land.
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]