PRESIDENT NYERERE’S SPEECHES, LONDON 1975

President Nyerere’s speeches at the Guildhall and at the Royal Commonwealth Society, November 1975.

The background provided by Mr. Sadleir’s review helps to explain the issues addressed in these two speeches. At the Guildhall, where President Nyerere was entertained with elaborate civic ritual, he was speaking to an audience representative of those who sell and buy more to Tanzania than anyone else – ‘Sell dear and buy cheap’ as he reminded them was their motto. He was also talking to an audience suspicious of Tanzania’s socialism and resentful of nationalisation.

So he explained to them why these nationalisations had taken place: ‘All the positive economic decisions of Tanzania were being made outside the country. And it was obvious that if we pursued the capitalist path that situation would continue. If any new investment was going to be made, that also was going to be foreign investment … Gradually we realised that under that system the government and people of Tanzania could not determine the direction of their own development. Any private foreign investment would be made in things which would bring a profit to the investor, regardless of our priorities and needs … We could not force an investor to build decent houses for our workers, because low cost housing is not profitable. And it was not much use telling the foreign private commercial banks to make credit available to our peasant farmers, reasonably enough as they saw it they replied that peasants could give no security, and that the cost of operating in the villages was very much higher than the cost of servicing expatriate owned sisal or coffee estates. You, as businessmen, will understand this point of view very well. But I hope you can understand ours also.

We wanted to be independent; to govern ourselves. And you cannot be independent if your whole economy, the whole extent and direction of your development, is controlled from outside. So in 1967 we decided to make our independence a little bit more meaningful … The real effect of all the nationalisations was to bring into Tanzanian control the commanding heights of the economy and to get it into a position where it is responsive to our wishes in a positive way. Our actions were motivated by both ideological and nationalistic purposes. You may not have sympathy with the former, you cannot fail to understand the latter! But nationalising a miniscule economy does not make that economy any bigger; and building a dam against the expropriation of the surplus from a few small enterprises does not convert poverty into riches. The economy still had to be built. And as we have so little capital, we still have to look for external finance to be used in our development. It was this realisation that in future we would need cooperation from foreign financial centres that made us agree to pay compensation for the enterprises we took over. We did not do so because we were convinced that there was much justice in the claim!

‘I have taken note of the feelings you expressed on this matter, my Lord Mayor, and we shall try to come to some mutually acceptable solution to any outstanding problems. But there is a saying that “hard cases make bad law”. We do not want to be unfair to anyone, Tanzanian or non-Tanzanian. But we are not a particularly wealthy country; values of properties within Tanzania must be judged in a Tanzanian context.’

The President assured the company that they could rely on two things – Tanzania needed to go on trading with Britain; ‘and we are too poor to be able to afford to default’. He was given a standing ovation.

At the Royal Commonwealth Society his address was heard by the largest audience ever to attend a meeting there. He spoke of the need to construct a new economic order; he spoke in terms not of aid or relief but of justice; he spoke of the agony of the cultivator who finds that year after year he has to produce and sell yet more and more crops to buy the same machinery; he asked the audience, anxious as they were about the rising number of unemployed in Britain, even though the unemployed received an allowance which ensured them of food and clothing, to imagine the thoughts of a man who in fact worked all day long and still could not be sure of obtaining enough to feed his family . It was an unusually sombre address, unlightened by humour, so that it was odd to hear the first questioner ask whether the President was ‘really serious in expecting the hard-pressed British tax payer to subsidise Tanzanian ideology. Would it not be more sensible to create a climate in which people would be prepared to invest?’ Nyerere said quietly that he had indeed been serious, and that the climate the questioner meant was one in which people were enabled to exploit. A second questioner introduced herself as from ‘the gin and jaguar belt’ and asked if the President was really serious in saving that Tanzanians should not have more than one house or more than one car. ‘You can only sit in one car at a time’ he replied.

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