Revelations in the dark: Not even the state can keep the lights on

Saturday April 06 2024

Tanzania Electricity Supply Company (Tanesco) Headquarters along Morogoro highway at Ubungo, Tanzania. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Recently, Tanzania suffered a massive power cut. This is notable for two reasons. Firstly, while it is customary for there to be rationing during the drier months of the year, the rationing ends soon after the first rains around the Easter season or earlier, as temperatures cool.

This year due to a heavy rationing load, we were even assured that one of the government’s projects, that of generating power at the new Nyerere Dam, would reduce the power deficit in the country to negligible levels. Secondly, the power cut affected a significant part of the national grid- specifically the primate city of Dar es Salaam.

Dar is unlivable without electricity- during the day for work purposes and during the night as the blood suckers come out to spread insomnia and malaria. In the small hours of the night when prophets have their visions, I found myself online doing what any reasonably savvy Bongolander would do: stalking Tanesco on social media to find out what’s up.

Sure enough, sifting the conversations paid off because in the absence of an official statement it was possible to map out from complaints just how widespread the problem was.

It was a technical issue that had a Tanesco boss pulling people out of their public holiday to come and fix it. I am familiar with the government method of problem solving, everything is a firefight.

Read: EYAKUZE: This is not the hottest summer or most acute power shortage


They seem just as surprised as we are when challenges emerge. Once or twice is excusable, but as the prime method of managing crises, constant surprise on the part of the government does not inspire confidence.

They are, after all, The Government, aren’t they?

Which is how I got my epiphany after all. I am guilty of thinking too highly about The Government, like so many of us are. This nebulous entity has taken on godlike powers in my life, I am constantly expecting things from It.

The Government should have the power to fix education and healthcare for the vulnerable, be coldly reasonable and abandon all plans for a punishingly expensive national airline, predict the rainfalls to control power supply accordingly, and run excellent public media outlets.

While of course combatting poverty, maneuvering the international landscape, anticipating my every need, reducing taxes, looking fly but not spending too much on expensive vehicles, providing quality and timely services et cetera, perhaps even ad infinitum since I certainly expect it to outlive me with confidence. Failed state is not an option I am willing to tolerate.

In reality? The Government can’t keep the lights on.

The revelations of mundane reality can be quite profound. Who or what is The Government, even, and how did we get to the point where we seem to be helpless supplicants at the mercy of a State that is simultaneously omnipotent and utterly incapable? This kind of paradox is the business of religion, and not of State.

Or is nationhood itself, and the patriotism it engenders, just another belief system? It bears thinking about, especially in the existential crisis of a dark Dar es Salaam night that is sponsored by The Government.

Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report; Email [email protected]