Committees or not, we either fix our problems or prepare to perish

Monday September 18 2023

President Samia Suluhu Hassan addressing political parties’ council meeting in Dar es salaam, Tanzania that brought together all the parties except for Chadema which boycotted on September 15, 2023. PHOTO | IKULU TANZANIA


All is not well with the body politic in Tanzania, and maybe there is nothing new in that.

Political dissensions are a regular feature in every polity, whether the dissention is allowed to brim over, or it is kept under wraps until wraps unravel and the contents spill over. Most times in such situations, those who live in such societies get a hunch or two that things are ill at ease, but, unless they are really in cahoots with those close to the cauldron, they are more or less clueless.

Still, in all situations where public statements are made, people may be made to discern the main lines of dissention, at least on the main issues under discussion.

For instance, a number of issues are topical, and they confluence at the same time as the country readies itself to go into another set of elections, next year and the year next. On this set of elections alone, the two main protagonists — the government and the main opposition — could not be farther apart.

Read: Tanzania reforms crusaders change tune

The main issue (for now, regarding next year’s election) is why the government insists on having civic elections run by its local government and regional administration ministry instead of being run by the national electoral commission as the election the following year will be.


To be sure, it is not in any way suggested that the national electoral commission itself is above reproach, but at least there is an engagement between the two main protagonists (government and main opposition) at that level. In short, it smacks of a refusal to give up a position of unwarranted advantage when those in power are insisting that their ministry will, at least in the civic elections in 2024, play the game and blow the whistle.


This is where one may discern whether an actor is imbued with a sense of fairness. If the government is really motivated by goodwill, would it not be expected of it to show more maturity? The Waswahili have a saying, which goes, “When you share a meal with a blindman, don’t touch his hand,” a logical thing, because he cannot see what your wandering hand is up to.

A lot of the straightjackets we have to carry with us as we grope about in the dark are vestiges from a debilitating one-party dispensation which lasted for too long. At the inception of a new multiparty dispensation 30 years ago, the man entrusted with guiding us in just that direction, Chief Justice Francis Nyalali, was treated with scorn by our smart alecks in government, and now we are back to from before Nyalali; we are stuck.

Read: ULIMWENGU: Samia-Opposition détente is a jaw-jaw far better than war-war

Had we paid heed to what Nyalali said in 1992, we would not be here. Nyalali warned us against trying to fit round pegs in square holes, and we thought he was joking. Now we are busy trying to fit square pegs in round holes, just to prove Nyalali wrong, and we find it won’t work.

Thirty years ago – it seems like an eternity—Nyalali taught us not to rush too fast into multiparty and to take time to make sure the architecture for the new dispensation was in place. He proposed a constitutional conference and a dismantling of certain single-party trappings, including a total of 40 “oppressive laws” to be scrapped or seriously amended.

Instead of dealing with any of the laws Nyalali talked about, more laws are being added onto the list. No, honestly, those in authority may think people like Tundu Lissu and others in the opposition are stubborn, but honestly tell me where is Tundu’s stubbornness when he is telling a police officer about a rule in his own rulebook that he has forgotten?

Have learned anything?

Back to Nyalali, he is not the only illustrious man — may his gentle soul repose in eternal bliss—who gave his all to rulers who perhaps did not deserve him. Others came after him — Rober Kissanga, Joseph Warioba— and they also have tried to knock some sense into our heads the same way Satchmo would try to play jazz music to his goat. What have we learned?

Read: OBBO: Time to bribe leaders for African growth?

We are fast becoming experts in organising expensive merry-go-rounds without ponies. We may have heard the advice that if you want to kill a bright idea, send it to a committee? Now, having failed to understand it as a joke, we are turning that idea into a national pastime: taskforces will spawn working committees which will appoint working groups that will form special committees which will advise on how to do away with special committees….

But when we are done with this tomfoolery, which we must surely know is taking us nowhere, we are still saddled with the things we cannot run away from. Our people are still waiting for leadership to show them the way out of this undeserved poverty amongst plenty, which only a selfless group of patriots who eschew personal aggrandisement can offer.

I wish we would try to keep it simple, not to play smart. Let us do just what we are capable of doing, and leave the other tasks for coming generations, without saddling them with unnecessary problems from our own absentmindedness.