Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Launch: Taken for a Ride - 6 November 2017

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

We are Satisfied with Democracy in Tanzania But...

The Majority of Tanzanians are Satisfied with the Way Democracy is Working in our Country But...

Chambi Chachage

I have been particularly annoyed with the ways some of our compatriots have been using the corporate Western media to portray the purported decay of democracy in Tanzania. "Upheaval in Kenyan, Ugandan politics as Tanzania cracks down," one such outlet purports in an article entitled: Brawls, Autocratic Moves Threaten East African Democracy. But is the situation that bad?
It was thus refreshing to read Professor Ian Bremmer's tweet indicating that Tanzania, alongside India and Sweden, has the highest percentage of people (i. e. 79%) who are "satisfied with the way democracy is working in their country." The dose of skepticism from Tanzanian critics and wall of defensiveness from supporters of the regime has sent me back to the original source.

Indeed the Pew Research Center's survey on 'Globally, Broad Support for Representative and Direct Democracy' released on October 16, 2017 indicates that we are way up there. "Majorities in Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal and Kenya", it asserts, "say their democracy work well" (p.14). But that is not the end of the story.

In terms of how much we "trust the national government to do what is right for our country", the 79% is virtually halved as 48% said "a lot" whereas 41% said "somewhat." Since my interest in this blog is to simply - and gullibly - interpret Pew's results in their own right, here is their standard interpretation of such glaring differences:

"Attitudes about the functioning of democracy are closely tied to publics' trust in their national government. People who are satisfied with how democracy works in their country also tend to say they trust the national government to do what is right for their country" (p. 16).

Interestingly, Pew adds the 48% of those who say they were satisfied a lot and 41% those who say they were somewhat satisfied  to get a total of 89%. One can only but wonder what we - the ever cautious Tanzanians - actually mean when we say "somewhat."

Ironically, only "53% of... Tanzanians hold the view that representative democracy is good" (p. 20). This makes one to even wonder what type of democracy, then, are the 79% satisfied with?
Is it another version, one that makes 39% of us say "a system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts" is "total[ly] good" (p. 26)? Of course, 57% of us responded by saying it is "total bad" and 39% said it is "very bad" (Ibid.) But is isn't 39% more than a third of Tanzanians?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Contemporary Art Exhibition: Home

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Kutoka Makavazini: Utumbuaji, Uteuzi, Uwaziri

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Simulizi Mijini/Urban Narrative: 27/09/2017

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Attempted Assassination of Lissu as Terrorism

The Attempted Assassination of Tundu Lissu as Terrorism

Chambi Chachage

Tanzania is in a state of shock. Unknown assailants have shot the maverick politician and advocate, Tundu Lissu, multiple times. As he battles for his life, the nation is hoping and praying for him.

Conspiracy theories abound about this attempted on his life. Such speculations are beyond the scope of this article. Evarist Chahali and Mzee Mwanakijiji have already presented us with possible scenarios of who might be responsible and for what purpose.

What this article wants to underscore is the implications of what has transpired. This was not simply an attempted assassination  It is an 'act of terror'. The loaded phrase is fitting, whether this has been attempted by the so-called rogue elements in the 'deep state', 'agent provocateurs' in the corporate world or 'political rivals' in the race for the 2020 presidential elections. It is an apparent continuation of violent acts directed toward activist politicians and human rights advocates, not only to kill but also to instill terror in survivors.

The late Professor Seithy Chachage's novel, Makuadi wa Soko Huria (Pimps of the Free Market), artistically captures this in its narrative of the ambush of activist journalists. "You think you are heroes?" one of the terrifying assailants asked rhetorically. "All heroes are dead," he then told the terrified activists sarcastically.

I have known Lissu personally since the times when he was not  into party politics. His was an environmental activist who was a thorn in the flesh of exploitative multinationals. As early as 2001, Lissu and a colleague were subjected to intimidations for pursuing allegations that 52 artisanal miners had been buried alive to give way to a Canadian mining company in "a World Bank guaranteed gold mine." The Center for International Environment Law (CIEL) stressed that their "efforts are not criminal, they are courageous."

Hence, it is ironic that Lissu is now accused of being in consort with the very same corporations he has been spending his lifetime fighting against. In a country with a dearth of courage, there are those who come once in a generation. Such a society cannot afford to lose them easily, especially when its aim is to root out corporate exploitation and build strong legal institutions to curb corruption.
We may not like Lissu's political affiliation as a key member of the leading opposition party. I, for one, have a lot reservations with the way he played a crucial role in embracing a politician whom they had characterized as the face of corruption in the country. Up to now I am ambivalent about his position on the Union. However, I cannot deny his heartfelt role in defending the downtrodden. One only has to read Maxence Melo's tribute to him to get a feel of this.

Nor can I overlook his role in strengthening the legislative arm of the state as an independent watchdog of the executive organ. When he finally became a Member of Parliament (MP) in 2010, I recall asking him why shouldn't he vie for a position in the parliamentary committee responsible for mining given that it is the area he has been closely monitoring. His response did not make sense to me then: 'I want to be in the committee responsible for parliamentary standing orders, privileges, ethics, and powers to ensure that the parliament does it job of oversight.' Of course, I am paraphrasing him. What matters is that what he said is exactly what he has been doing since then to extent that he seems to be a troublemaker.
Take for example, his contribution in the parliamentary debate on the very day that he was shot. He queried the celebratory speed in which the otherwise patriotic Bill on Natural Wealth and Resources (Permanent Sovereignty) was tabled and passed only for the Act to be returned for amendment within a space of two months. For him, such 'acts of fiat' are loopholes that multinationals exploit and thus rip us off when summoned for arbitrations in international courts.

One can thus see why virtually anyone could have attempted to silence Lissu. He surely has many enemies inside and outside of the country. But one thing should be very clear: Whoever attempted to assassinate him was also attempting to terrify the courage out of us.

As we celebrate Doctor John Magufuli as arguably one of the most courageous presidents, let us also remember how much we need the likes of Lissu. We need to raise more courageous citizens. After all, as they aptly say, "cowards die many times before their deaths."

Courage is probably the most important ingredient that we need in the tough "economic war" that our Commander-in-Chief, President Magufuli, has declared. A century or so ago, a young courageous woman penned the call below, out of which when the words "the world", "sin", and "men" are to be substituted with 'our country', 'corruption', 'men and women', captures Tanzania's pressing need:

Bon Courage Tundu Antiphas. Long live Lissu. Amen.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Wizi Mkuu Wa Kiingereza Afrika?

"Hii ni Insha inayonuia kuhimiza, kushangilia na kuendeleza mchango wa Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o katika mjadala muhimu unaohusu swala la lugha barani Afrika. Lengo kuu hapa ni kusema kwamba hoja ya majadiliano kuhusu lugha ya Kiingereza katika akademia inabidi isibaki tu kwenye ubishi kati ya swala la umilikaji -aidha Kiingereza ni lugha ya Mwafrika au si lugha ya Mwafrika lakini isonge mbele na iangalie kwa makini swala la mizigo, gharama, na hasara za kuchukua Kiingereza tunavyokichukulia barani Afrika. Hatuna budi kujiuliza kwanini Kiingereza kinaendeleza ubaguzi, ubinafsi, na udanganyifu kuwa lugha za wenyeji Afrika hazihitajiki katika maswala ya elimu na maisha ya kisasa. Insha hii inajaribu kubainisha kati ya ‘Vertical English’ yaani ‘Kiingereza fasaha na cha kitaaluma’ ambacho ni Kiingereza maalum na tena teule ambacho ndicho kinatumika katika kazi za kisomi zikiwemo harakati za kujifunza, kufundishia, kutahini na kufanyia utafiti. Kwa upande mwingine ‘Horizontal English’ yaani ‘Kiingereza cha watu wa kawaida’ ambacho kimetanda kote Afrika ambako Kiingereza ni lugha rasmi. Kiingereza hiki pamoja na lugha zetu havithaminiwi. Hoja ni kwamba Kiingereza hicho fasaha (kimuundo na kimatamshi) ndicho pasipoti ya kupanda ngazi kielimu, kutambulikana kisomi, na kuwa mwanachama mheshimiwa katika klabu cha wanataaluma duniani. Kiingereza hicho kinatoa fursa hizo kwa Waafrika wachache mno na kuwanyima nafasi hizo wote wale ambao hawakimudu. Tamko ‘heist’ linamanisha ‘unyang’anyi’ na usemi ‘The great English heist’ una maana ya ‘wizi na unyang’anyi mkuu unaohusu Kiingereza’ katika masomo ya Kiafrika. Maana ya kutumia neno hili ‘heist’ unyang’anyi/wizi ni kushtaki jinsi ambavyo elimu na ujuzi wa mwafrika unavyokusanywa, kujadiliwa, na kuhimarishwa kwa lugha zetu za asilia na Kiingereza cha watu wa kawaida zikiwemo pijini, lakini kusahaulika makala zinapochapishwa. Kile kinachokosekana na kusahaulika katika mchakato huu ni mchango mkubwa wa lugha hizi katika akademia ihali wale walio wachache wakinufaika kwa tuzo, umashuhuri na kupanda ngazi. Basi wakati mwingi mchango wa mwafrika hauonekani wala kuchangamkiwa ila kupitia lenzi za wasomi walio wachache wanaomudu Kiingereza fasaha" - John Mugane

Calls for Research on Urbanization in Tanzania

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

International Literacy Day at Soma Book Cafe

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Tanzania at the T-Junction

Tanzania at the T-Junction

Chambi Chachage

The protagonists of the recently premiered film, T-Junction, are a marvel to watch. Although dubbed “An Amil Shivji’s film”, it is a collaborative work that brings Tanzanian talents as they attempt to make sense of our society. What is particularly impressive is the way the scriptwriter who also happens to be the director has juxtaposed the role of the starring.

There is the young Fatima (Hawa Ally) who seems to be the starring. But this feeling does not last long when Maria (Magdalena Christopher) enters the scene. One then gets a sense that Maria could be the ‘alter ego’ of Fatima as she struggles to come to terms with the contradictions of her society. As such, her experience embodies Tanzania’s crossroads. 
These crossroads include the questions of race, state power and economic (dis)empowerment. As a daughter of the later Iqbal Hirji, whom we never get to see in the film, Fatima has what one may call ‘Indian heritage.’ But Mama Fatima (Mariam Rashid) was his African domestic worker prior to their marriage. Whereas the widow deeply mourns the loss of someone whom she believes loved and accepted her irrespective of ‘class and color lines’, the orphan hardly finds solace in a memory of an “estranged father” who probably drunk himself to death.

That is as far as we can get in unpacking the mystery of why T-Junction opted to start with the funeral of Fatima’s father. What we can surmise is that the film is attempting to tell those of us, who tend to view the ‘Indian Community’ in Tanzania as generally wealthy, that not all is rosy. The ‘Iqbals’ lived in a modest house though the funeral services took place in a prominent mosque. Yet ‘their house’ does not seem accessible to Africans probably because it appears to be in the areas that were historically – i.e. ‘racially’ – designated for Indians.

Thus, the only people who came to comfort Fatima and her mother were from Tanzania’s ‘Indian Community’. To buttress this point, the film ensures that Fatima is asked if she does not have any friends who will come. We thus encounter Fatima making her first friend in the film when she goes to the hospital to seek treatment and enquire about a death certificate.

This is when she encounters Maria who narrates to her about the story of the T-Junction. In a nutshell, it is a ‘surreal’ narration of how the state apparatuses bulldozes those who attempt to eke out a living through ‘street vending’ in what some theorists refers to as the ‘informal sector.’ It is also an account of what a young African girl, i.e. Maria, can encounter when she works for an Indian woman who seems to be related to Fatima’s father. To add nuances, the film indicates that even a seemingly exploitative Indian businesswoman who hires an African domestic worker can also be subjected to the gendered violence that emanates from patriarchy.
Though it may seem coincidental, it is interesting to note that there is a real Fatima Bapumia who has published her research on Rationalizing violence Domesticizing Abuse: South Asian Experience in Tanzania. Therein she unpacks how what happens in the ‘private sphere’ of Tanzania’s ‘Indian Community’ is hardly noticed in the ‘African community.’ T-Junction thus gives us a rare chance to peek into that sphere in relation to what transpires in the public.

Then there is what is hardly coincidental. As the film premiered, we witnessed another round of demolition of houses and business premises in Dar es Salaam. This time it is not only the downtrodden in the informal sector who are bearing the brunt, but also the ‘middle class’ in the formal sector. In this sense, T-Junction is not a corner out there where ‘the poor’ struggle for a ‘right to the city.’ Rather, it is at the very heart and soul of a society in search of solace.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Breakfast Debate on Tanzania's New Land Policy

Friday, August 18, 2017

Public Seminar on Food Crops as Cash Crops

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Mjadala wa Wazi Kavazini: 25 Agosti 2017

Sunday, July 30, 2017

New Book: Karim Hirji on 'The Banana Girls'

New Book from Mkuki na Nyota Publishers
The Banana Girls 
Karim F Hirji 
ISBN 978-9987-08-320-6
Two talented high school girls, who are also best friends, have resolved to eat bananas every day. Together with their devotion to the truth and idealistic spirit, this addiction slowly propels them far into the lands of ideas and action. From reserved science students, they evolve to be steadfast fighters for justice, and ultimately find themselves behind bars, convicted of terrorism related charges.

This action packed novel traces that evolution through a wide cast of characters that range from school mates, teachers, family members, street vendors to state officials and businessmen, both national and international. It is a story, based in Africa, of true friendship and the struggle for a decent human existence in the face of powerful adversaries. Though otherwise entirely fictional, it derives from existent and historical realities. Interspersed within its pages, you will find enticing entities from the plant kingdom as well as songs, photos and mathematical ideas relating to bananas. The supplementary material at the end provides an introduction to the factual basis of the story.

Dedication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  .  .ix
Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . x
1. Addiction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  1
2. Revelation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
3. Illumination . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
4. Liberation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
Supplementary Material
Banana Basics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
Banana Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
Banana Mathematics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119
Banana Readings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
Author Profile . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .133

In Dar es Salaam, visit TPH Bookstore on Samora Avenue.  Globally available at www.africanbookscollective.com and 

Note: Because it has many color photos, the price is on the high side.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Seminar on the American Foreign Policy in Africa

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What is Magufuli hiding about Acacia?

What is Magufuli hiding about Acacia?

Chambi Chachage

The government of Tanzania is about to start negotiations with Barrick Gold Corporation. With a stake of 63.9 per cent in Acacia Mining PLC, the stakes are high for the Canadian multinational. In March 2017 President Magufuli suspended the shipping of concentrates and subsequently ordered the impounding of its local subsidiary’s export-bound containers.

In line with the ‘Art of War’, the President has publicly taken an offensive approach. This is hardly a strategy of someone who is willing to compromise unless he is bluffing. “I was not crazy”, he recently reiterated in a rally, “when I impounded the containers of...big shots.” They “say it is ‘sand’, he further pointed a finger to them, “but transport it with police escort…there are more than 12 minerals there…they just take.” Isn’t this smuggling? 

Playing it safe legally, on 4 July 2017 Acacia announced that Notices of Arbitration were served in Tanzania. Doing so at that time, its press release insists, was necessary to protect it. However, it further noted, “Acacia remains of the view that a negotiated resolution is the preferable outcome to the current disputes and the Company will continue to work to achieve this.”

Such an affirmation from a company that unequivocally dismisses the two presidential reports seems contradictory when one reads its following take on the negotiations that are about to take place:

What these statements mean in their totality is that Acacia is not ready to meet us halfway. Doing so would imply that the President and his committees are right, albeit partially. It would entail that they would have to comply with his demands to bring back our money or minerals.

Casting doubts on the presidential reports is thus one way of dealing with all this. International tax experts have joined the fray. For instance, Maya Forstater and Alexandra Readhead have published an article on ‘A brutal lesson for multinationals: golden tax deals can come back and bite you.’ Therein they inform us that there “are several reasons why the findings of President Magufuli’s committees are hard to believe.” Yet they cite Acacia’s statistics and arguments on why they are confident the two professors got it all wrong as the first reason.

Probably what is more puzzling is that after doing so they present this rhetorical argument that draws heavily from Acacia’s self-defense regarding its integrity and compliance:

How does the reaction of shareholders lead these experts to conclude that the “committees’ findings are implausible”? Why did the Executive Chairman of Barrick, Professor John L. Thornton fly all the way to the Julius Nyerere International Airport if this was simply a matter of setting the records straight since our very own professors missed the mark glaringly? The official website of Barrick informs us that at “present, Mr. Thornton holds 2.4 million Barrick common shares, roughly 65 percent of which have been purchased using personal funds (not associated with incentive compensation).” So, how did they measure his reaction?

Nevertheless, some of our own leading experts find their analysis compelling. This is worrying given that they should also read it with the same healthy dose of skepticism that they used when reading the report summaries of the presidential committees. One would expect them to underscore that the article that has been gaining traction since it was published in the prestigious British daily, The Guardian, hardly engage with other Tanzanian sources.

By simply asserting that the Tanzanian President is “accusing the company not only of striking an unbalanced deal but of massively under-reporting its gold exports to evade tax,” the article is missing or dismissing a key argument. Smuggling. When its writers opt to insinuate that “Acacia may not have stolen billions of dollars worth of minerals” without engaging with the possibility of smuggling, they are bypassing a wealth of clues and cues out there.

Let us recall that Professor Osoro’s summary uses the Kiswahili word “magendo”, which means ‘contraband’, when describing the disappearance of containers. The summary does not only provide the shipping number of containers that were shipped without trace, but also the dates of shipping. In total, they were 43 containers that were not accounted for in one year alone. 

Does one need an independent committee to even verify this? How many presidential committees since the times of Mwalimu Nyerere were subjected to such verification? As a friend asked, rhetorically,  why is it so easy for us to trust researchers other than our own?

One may, by way of proxy, revisit the Controller and Auditor General’s (CAG) reports on the Tanzania Port Authority(TPA) and Tanzania International Container Terminal Services (TICTS) to get a glimpse of why it easy for companies to collude to smuggle stuff inside or outside our country. “We noted”, CAG stated on 28 March 2016, “that TPA does not have controls to monitor total number of containers handled at TICTS.” Why? Because “TPA only relies on information received from TICTS and does not reconcile this with the actual number of containers handled by TICTS.” Moreover:

Fast-forwarding to 27 March 2017, one notes CAG reiterating that TPA should collect data from TANCIS showing all containers handled at TICTS and reconcile this information with actual containers received at TICTS.” Now, if such was the state of importation, why should we expect that the conditions for exportation did not have a room for smuggling our minerals? 

Reducing the issue to tax deals or evasion can thus be misleading. “We have tax experts – good ones”, President Magufuli indeed points out. “But”, he firmly stresses, “they were just allowing the containers to be carried away after being given a bit of money.”

Maybe the President should just share the committees’ reports publicly in their entirety.

Karibu kwenye ulingo wa kutafakari kuhusu tunapotoka,tulipo,tuendako na namna ambavyo tutafika huko tuendako/Welcome to a platform for reflecting on where we are coming from, where we are, where we are going and how we will get there

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