Whatever you do, dear Tanzanian, steer clear of this special regional commissioner

Thursday March 30 2017

Dar es Salaam has had quite the media week.

An encounter between what appears to be the executive branch and itself via the misconduct of the city’s Regional Commissioner has kept us in the grip of blow-by-blow news for over 48 hours now. It has been an education, especially for hopeless romantics like me who always find themselves utterly surprised by the choices their leaders make.

As I type this, Nape Nnauye’s term as Minister for Information has come to an abrupt halt after a teensy little Cabinet reshuffle. The hysterics on Tanzanian social media are already trying to wreathe his head with laurel and call him a great hero.

His history and the passing of our current unpopular media laws under his watch preclude me from the throngs of his adoring fans.

That said, I can admit to being... intrigued. Is this a moment of political maturity we are witnessing? And is it coming at an opportune time? Probably, and yes. Also, I have never seen anyone have a gun pulled on them respond by leaning into their aggressor to tell them to chill out. I mean, it’s one thing to be stone-cold Bongolandish when being threatened, but this was some #boss level chutzpah.

Just so we get this out of the way: I don’t intend to speculate on why this confrontation between the Minister of Information, the media group he protected from the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner’s abuse of power, the Regional Commissioner himself and his appointing authority the president went down the way it did.


The details don’t matter as much as the bigger picture they present. In spite of a condemning report on misuse of power and possible criminal actions, a presidential appointee managed to survive while costing a Cabinet member his job.

This, in an environment where presidential appointees can and have been dismissed for comparatively minor infractions such as not being competent enough for the incumbent within a given (usually unrealistic) timeframe. It is fascinating, and I am especially excited to observe over the coming week or two how the international media and all of the sycophants who have inappropriate crushes on Tanzanian presidents for no discernible reason are going to deal with it. Reality? Check.

On a more philosophical level, it has been said more than once that Tanzania hasn’t had the fabric of its political system truly tested yet and that this would be the work of the younger generation.

Rather than an isolated incident, what I see going on right now is a manifestation of the clash between paradigms.
We were never going to remain as “tame” as we were in the 1970s when forcible relocation to Ujamaa villages had no one hanging around with a smartphone to fuss about it.

Technology is disruptive, as is the flow of time. The media is the perfect platform and conduit for this evolution that we are seeing in our democracy and to repeat myself ad nauseaum: Inevitable intergenerational conflict of power. This is literally what it looks like. Images of a couple of guys on podiums professing their love for God and their “blessed mission” followed by images of a couple of guys shoving around and pulling guns on sacred ground outside Dar es Salaam’s wealthiest Church.

If that doesn’t make you shake your head and smile with finely tuned cynicism, the delightful drama of politics is wasted on you.

This too shall pass. What will come next is to be seen, for now let me let Nape enjoy his moments of heroism by grudgingly giving him his due respect: Even in his fit of fury he managed to try and tell young people to be calm and cool and to love the country, the party and the president.

We all do nationalism our own ways, and to reiterate: The 2017 way is not the 1977 way.

To conclude: Yes, it is a very interesting episode in Tanzanian politics but in terms of the big picture this confrontation — among others — has been a long time coming. Things will get worse before they get better now that we’re younger, more educated and trying our hand at republican democracy. Have faith though: Tanzania 2.0 is going to be magnificent if we can just get her off the ground.

Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report, E-mail: [email protected]