IN TELEKI’S FOOTSTEPS. A WALK ACROSS EAST AFRICA. Tom Heston. – Macmillan. London 1989.
This book recounts the remarkable journey of the author, first on a bicycle end then on foot, between February end December 1983, from Pangani in Tanzania to Mombasa in Kenya where he celebrated the end of his journey with a cold Tusker beer on the verandah of the Castle Hotel. Tom Heaton had been working for the BBC in Kenya for 10 years and at the age of fifty, after living a luxurious but boring life in Kenya, decided that the only way for him to unravel some of the mysteries of East Africa was to travel simply. He hoped to replace the envy and suspicion he had previously experienced in travels in Kenya with sympathy and curiosity.
After much deliberation Heaton decided that the route for his journey, some 3,500 miles, would retrace the route taken by two 19th century explorers, Count Samuel Teleki and his travelling companion Ludwig von Hoehnel, the first Europeans to pass through Kikuyuland and penetrate the area North of Lake Baringo. Heaton set out with the support only of his wife Mary. Many of his friends predicted that his fate would be unsavoury, ‘the thugs of Kikuyuland will pounce end strip you naked … you will be speared by the Hamar Kuhe from Ethiopia and your testicles turned into necklace beads’. Heaton, arguing that he was as likely to be run over by a bus in Oxford Street, set off from Pangani with his guide Desmond (a potential troublemaker, partly due to the fact that he regarded every black face with suspicion) heading for Mauia on the left bank of the Ruvu river, where Teleki had made his first camp.
About a quarter of the book deals with the Tanzanian part of the journey. It tends to be rather superficial but good on description.
Heaton writes about the ‘dusty weariness’ of a Church in Mkuzi, the ‘sprawling slum’ Muheza, the never failing generosity of the people, the Usambara mountain range – ‘its stately gazelle-dun buttresses jutting out as though through rents in a vast curtain of gold, blue, orange and green velvet thrown loosely over its mass’; the Butu forest in Same district – ‘some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen’.
A chapter is entitled ‘Marealle’. Heaton talked in Moshi to the son of the famous Chagga Chief Merealle – ‘not only had his father befriended Teleki. but he had also become involved with the notorious German adventurer Carl Peters.’ Heaton refers at each stop to Teleki’s earlier experiences. He also has something to say about present politics. ‘Arriving from socialist Tanzania in capitalist Kenya is like stepping out of Albania into Greece – on one side lies a land of sapped energies and respectful greetings; on the other you crash into a Hogarthian tide of men and women seething all around you … a land where men are judged not by what they are but by what they have.’
His travels are full of incident; losing his bicycle temporarily under a Mango tree, being attacked by a swarm of African bees (‘I was carpeted from head to foot … but ten minutes later I gradually realised that it was not only their feet I could feel, but their tongues; the bees were drinking my sweat’); facing a bush fire and having to pedal away as fast as he could.
The dangers and disasters which are recalled in detail together with his humour and understanding of many of the people he met and situations he found himself in, make this an extremely readable book . Patricia Diop
THE GUNNY SACK by Moez G Vassanji. Heinemann. 1990. F4.95.
BLACK, AMBER, WHITE by J K Williams. Churchman Publishing. 1990. £5.95.
Black, Amber, White is a disappointing book. It promises well, purporting to give an account of Tanzanian legal services in which the author worked from 1951 until his retirement in 1965. It should therefore be packed with incident and excitement. Here was a colonial country looking forward to independence and relying heavily on its courts and justices to steer the way forward. The first years of independence, in particular , must have been full of interest and many new developments in the law.
Unfortunately Williams does not catch the flavour of these years in a meaningful way. He tells us a good deal about himself, his family and his daily travels but rarely looks at the wider scene. When he does so he says very little. Even the accident with his gun in Arusha, when he could have killed his wife, seems somehow undramatic. So often in the book it is because his style is flat and proseic. His book revolves so much around himself and his rather small world that it does not see the huge questions hurtling around him. What is the role of the judiciary in a fast developing, newly independent state? Whet powers should be given to the judiciary and what different powers to government? Should capital punishment still be carried out for the most serious crimes? There is no shortage of questions . The real need is for some stimulating answers, and these we do not get. Those readers who want a plain, unvarnished tale of how Wlll1ems spent his colonial years might find it mildly interesting biography. But if they are more demanding and want the wider picture, they will, alas, be as hungry and unfulfilled at the end as at the beginning.
The Gunny Sack, by contrast, is a marvellous piece of writing. Salim Juma, a Tanzanian Asian, is left a gunny sack by his mystical grand aunt. Nicknamed ‘Shehru’, this gunny pours out for our entertainment, and enlightenment a huge number of characters and incidents which mirror superbly the Asian experience in East Africa over several generations.
The novel has three great qualities which should commend it to readers far and wide. First and foremost it has from the very early chapters the most beautiful word-pictures of life in Tanganyika, especially before the first world war. His description of the two ‘jewels’ – the German farmers Herr Graff and Herr Weiss – are very funny and sad at the same time, and convey with such precision the whole flavour of German rule that we are given a remarkable insight into a world that seems now so far away, and yet shaped the world we have now. And the menace of that German rule is conveyed so swiftly. “Sometimes Guu Refu’s arrival was preceded by news that he was on the lookout for more men for a special project; and as soon as the lanky figure with the sunhat and the rifle was sited, towering over his Askaris, men and boys scurried towards the forest, at which sight the German and his mercenaries stomped after them in their heavy boots, cutting off their paths to safety.”
And in these pictures Vassanji has used caricature, satire, and occasional farce with marvellous effect. This is the hallmark of good, perhaps even great writing.
The second remarkable quality of this novel is its very clear, direct style. Vassanji has such sure mastery of his material, and even moral depth, that he does not need to play tricks. Above all his work has breadth and vision. He knows his people so well that he can glimpse a wider world beyond them and set his memories in such a firm context that they live absolutely, on their own terms. Fine style and extraordinary use of language are the keys to his art in which there is no deception. His publishers seek to spread his fame by subtitling his novel ‘Africa’s answer to ‘Midnight’s Children’. I have news for them; they have undersold him. This novel is considerably more powerful and much more clear in its vision than anything done by Mr Salman Rushdie.
Its final strength is that it tells a great story and holds the reader from first to last. Vassanji is quite simply a fine story teller, in addition to all his other achievements. Even his treatment of Tanzanian independence, and the views of Julius Nyerere, never get bogged down in political sterility. His work has all the integrity of an artist. He never lets his story wait for second hand analysis or sociological dispute. Here is, in essence, a fine vision of four generations of life in this Asian community, and there is very little indeed which compares with it, in depth of thought and the sheer compassion of its colourful prose. Get it – and read it IMMEDIATELY.
N. K. Thomas.
(The author of the Gunny Sack is the recipient of the 1990 Commonwealth Literature First Novel Award. According to Ahmed Rajab writing in AFRICA EVENTS Vassanji now joins Ngugi and Abdirazak Gurnah as the finest East African novelists writing in English at present – Editor).
BED IN THE BUSH by Wllliam Heleane. The Book Guild Ltd. 1991. £12.95
William Heleane, a new Zealand District Commissioner in colonial Tanganyika has written an authentic and amusing novel, based largely on his own up-country experiences in the decade preceding independence. The intriguing title is taken from Robert Louis Stevensons’s romantic poem ‘The Vagabond’ and indeed a golden thread of romanticism runs through the book which vividly portrays the sights, sounds end scent of the African bush.
The precise location of his imaginary Magonda District is anyone’s guess but from various clues tantalisingly scattered through the pages it would appear to be in the old Central Province – an amalgum perhaps of Manyoni and Kondoa Irangi given enough poetic licence to shift the railway a bit!
The day-to-day life in this archetypal ‘one-men station’ is faithfully depicted in a series of exciting scenes set in his hero Stephen Ashton’s time.
The often unconscious strain of being on duty 24 hours a day is well expressed in descriptions of the problems of providing food and accommodation for a variety of visitors appearing at short notice by road, rail or even air in response to constant crises of Mau Mau, leopard men murders, man eating lions and plague, and the more mundane claims of increased cassava and cotton production, fish farming and VIP visits….
The author paints sympathetic portraits of a greet variety of characters ranging from the larger than life European officers, missionaries whose latest eccentricities, here accentuated by their relative isolation in the bush, to Asian merchants and Africans old and new.
Indeed Mr Heleane shows great insight in understanding not only the tribal peasant farmers and their chiefs with whom he mostly has to deal but also with the growing number of educated African administrative officers, nurses and so on who were entrusted to his care for training and guidance.
Despite the obligatory legal disclaimer et the front of the book some of the characters seem vaguely familiar !
A delightfully hopeless love affair runs through the book lending a more precise relevance and poignancy to the excellent title. There are some lovely descriptive passages which evoke dream-like memories. ‘As I gazed at the early evening shadows on the plain I became aware of a blue-tinged veil over the land below me. This phenomenon was visible from high ground in this part of Africa quite often in the dry season. It never failed to stir a shudder of delight and wonder in me. I gloried in this one for a few minutes end the fairy shade slowly dissolved and disappeared and it was dark’.
It may seem churlish to refer to a few proof-reading errors such as ‘Provisional’ for ‘Provincial’, Agriculture end Education Officers, the Swahili ‘Anasemu’ for ‘Anasema’, the German ‘Dectch’ for ‘Deutsch’ and so on. Incidentally, the King’s African Rifles was certainly not the local equivalent of the French Foreign Legion, whilst Tanganyika became independent in 1961 not 1962. These minor errors apart, however, I can safely commend this book to older readers who wish to relive the past and to the younger ones who will read how it was from the ‘horses’ mouth’ . Randal Sadleir
THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL POLICY IN TANZANIA. Felician S. K. Tungaraza. Journal of Social Development in Africa. Vol 5. No 2. 1990.
This paper analyses the development of social policy in Tanzania from 1961. From then until 1967 social policy was urban based and aimed to influence economic growth; afterwards it was oriented towards the broader population. Social policy has been determined by economics and politics. Amongst the sub-sectors of social policy throughout the period up to 1983 the health sector had the highest real growth (11. 7%) with education second at 7.4% – DRB.
WALUGURU TRADERS IN DAR ES SALAAM. Paper by Jan Kees van Donge of the Agricultural University, Wageningen, Netherlands presented to the African Studies Conference, Birmingham, 11-13 September 1990.
This paper contains few figures. It concentrates on the business careers and life stories of migrants to Dar es Salaam from the Mgeta division of the Uluguru mountains, south of Morogoro. It is thus both easy to read and fascinating to follow.
It begins by comparing the various other ways 1n which contemporary African society has been studied impersonal economic mechanisms, capitalist development, entrepreneurial behaviour. The paper points out how these various factors work out in practice. Virtually everybody in the area trades from time to time; the backbone of the trade is vegetables grown in the mountains and subsequently sold in Dar es Salaam.
As the story of the various individuals who were studied unfolds certain factors are repeated over and over again; unreliabllty of income; land scarcity in Mgeta; stiff competition; the physical hardship of the life of the traders; the unstable partnerships between new entrants and more established traders even though often framed in kinship terms; the constant threat of bankruptcy; the ambiguous relationship with government authorities and the frequent raids by the police; the widespread ambition to avoid physical wage labour; the aspiration to obtain a legitimate stall from which to sell; and, the totally ingrained value of individualism with, at the same time, a very great need for cooperation to survive.
Some of the traders are successful. Gaudens Thomas is one of the big men at the market. He tried many other things before becoming first an illegal trader and then having his own legal stall. He now has two houses. He is secure! – ORB.
PERSISTENT PRINCIPLES AMIDST CRISIS. C K Omari (Editor). Uzima Press for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. 1989. £8.95 (incl. p&p)
The first major benefit in this study is that it should have been published at all in East Africa, at a price that gives it a chance of being accessible to students and decision makers in Tanzania. The Editor, his contributors and the publishers are to be congratulated on making this possible.
The study is a great deal more than the title implies – in fact a comprehensive, in depth analysis by leading Tanzanian commentators of the economic and structural problems of the Tanzanian economy over the 30 years since Independence. The context is comparative analysis – Tanzania’s ideology and resulting policies against real economic development problems. However, the studies as presented, with the exception of a useful presentation of extracts from Nyerere’s writings on Tanzanian economic development and a less useful theoretical/ideological analysis of agricultural and rural development policy by Maganya, concentrate on a rigorous empirical analysis of structural, economic and financial problems in the economy’s development. The main focus is on agriculture but the logic of comprehensive analysis is followed through in informative chapters on population growth, the balance of trade, industrial development and financial and budgetary policy. Presentations are academic in the best sense of the word – analysed in depth and carefully documented – but intelligible to the lay reader.
The study should become essential reading in all undergraduate courses at the University of Dar es Salaam. It should also concern aid agencies and the officials of the IMF and the World Bank, as an example of a genre all too absent from debate on Structural Adjustment and Transformation Policies – African analysis of African problems. The difficulties created by this lack of input are now gradually being recognised, for example in the recently launched African Capacity Building Initiative, but will take time to work through.
The one major criticism that could be made is of the failure to move from exhaustive analysis of causes and symptoms to prescriptions for reform. For example, on the ‘agricultural/economic crisis’ that has dogged Tanzania for the last 15 years, both Miti and Omad provide excellent and comprehensive analyses of alternative causes drought, collectivisation/villagisation, population growth, inappropriate technology, relative emphasis between cash and food crop production and availability of finance. Hesitation in going on to policy prescription is understandable as the choice and solutions are so difficult. But more effort could hove been made. Even the one article that concentrates on policy – Wagoo’s critique of the IMF package for Tanzania – sticks very much to analysis. Someone, and preferably a Tanzanian expert, has to take the lead in defining reform programmes. Not least of the reasons for policy definition is the psychological need to move beyond the extremely depressing picture presented of current economic reality.
One last small but valuable addition that could be made to any reprint. Some of the authors are well known, some are not; the overall impact would benefit from brief biographical notes on contributors.
(The above book is available from Leishman and Taussig, 2b Westgate, Notts, Southwell, Notts – Editor)
TAXING DEVELOPMENT IN TANZANIA: WHY MUST WOMEN PAY? Janet Bujra. Review of African Political Economy. No 47/48. 1990
LIMITATIONS ON WOMEN MANAGERS’ FREEDOM TO NETWORK IN THE TANZANIAN CIVIL SERVICE. Wendy Hollway. University of Bradford. Paper presented at the African Studies Conference, Birmingham. September 1990.
Janet Bujra uses the issue of development tax to examine the role of women in the Tanzanian economy, and particularly in its development. She combines some familiar questions about feminism and development in a fascinating study of the Tanzanian experience. The argument for a feminist perspective is made against a background of ‘Womens Studies’ in Tanzania; she highlights the tensions between the perception that the issue of womens position is a unique factor in society and an analysis which includes it in a broader context of class and national exploitation.
Tanzania’s explicitly socialist development policy implied greater equality for women and Nyerere himself drew attention to this. At first glance the Ujamaa policy of village production provided an opportunity for greater participation by women, but Bujra shows that, in fact, it added to the burden of women, while the policy continued to be dictated by men. Other development policies, too, ignored the particular role of women in Tanzania particularly as primary subsistence providers and fuelwood gatherers. Many of the classic development errors caused by consulting men, when women were the relevant group, were repeated in Tanzania – with adverse consequences for both the development programme and women.
Bujra investigates possible solutions to this problem, including the ‘Women in Development’ Way. However, this concentration on the role of women can be itself divisive, by concentrating on the ‘token’ women involved, without a more holistic approach to the community. Just as the theories of women’s role had concentrated on different aspects, the practical WID approach could be disappointing, and be hijacked by particular groups and classes of women for their own advantage. Bujra shows throughout her article that Tanzanian women have traditionally done more work and exercised less political influence than men. Moves to accelerate development, even when these were overtly socialist or aimed at women, merely exacerbeted this imbalance. Thus Bujra concludes that the inclusion of women in liability for a development tax on grounds of their equality is unconvincing – they already pay a tax in kind through their greater contribution. Indeed a tax would reinforce the iniquities already present in the economy.
The reinforcement of existing power structures is the theme of Wendy Hollway’s paper on networking in the Tanzanian civil service. This details a familiar story of social systems which provide opportunities for advancement for men and from which women are excluded. This exclusion is due partly to domestic responsibilities and partly to inaccessibility because of social custom. Hollway reports on attempts to remedy this through women’s networking within the civil service – where it has had mixed results. However the success of such groups in promoting women’s careers depends in turn on the access which the groups have to those in a position of power and influence.
Both these papers analyse the role of women in Tanzania, and attempt to remedy inequalities of opportunity and contribution. Both show what a slow and painstaking task it is to redress imbalances as deeprooted as these. Those who hold power (in this case men) are unlikely to yield it willingly, and will continue to use existing structures and new developments to reinforce their advantage.
CHOICE OF TECHNIQUES AND UNDERDEVELOPMENT IN TANZANIA: THE CASE OF THE SUGAR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION. Samuel E. Chambua. Canadian Journal of African Studies. Vol 24. No 1. 1990.
This detailed seventeen-page study examines the factors which have influenced the choice of techniques of production in Tanzanian public enterprises with specific examples taken from sugar factory operations. The author begins by describing the conventional way in which managers choose the most appropriate technique. He goes on to describe the history of the sugar industry. The first company – the Danish-owned Tanzanian Planting Company was established in Arusha-Chini in 1930 and its first factory, with a capacity of 350 tons of cane per day, began operations in 1936. Then followed the Madhvani-owned Kagera factory (1958), the Kilombero Sugar Company in Morogoro district (owned by the Colonial Development Corporation from Britain, a Netherlands company and the Standard Bank) in 1962, the Greek owned Mtibwa Estates in 1963. In 1974 the parastatal Sugar Development Corporation took over the whole industry.
The author describes the various efforts made to make Tanzania self sufficient in sugar production and then analyses the two main sugar producing processes. He argues that the technique chosen, which involved heavy capital investment, was not the most appropriate. He describes the problems the industry has faced because of such factors as tied foreign aid, lack of standardisation, under utilisation of plant, low production of cane, shortage of labour and so on – DRB.
RESPONSES FROM BELOW. A TALE OF TWO TANZANIAN VILLAGES. Goren Hyden. Food Policy. August 1990.
Weak institutions are often cited as a major constraint to overcoming hunger in Africa. The author of this too brief six-page aper spent time in 1988 in two Villages – Mung’elenge on the main trunk road in Iringa region and Bulungura in a distant corner of Muleba district, Kagera Region, studying local institutions. He writes of the ‘parental authority’ of the CCM Party, the assumption that a village consists of 250 households organised into cells of ten with a village government or committee of about 25 (with obvious variations between villages) but noted that in his two villages the committees never met. But in Mung’elenge official institutions (including the womens and youth organisations) did play a prominent role in village life, partially because there were revenue earning activities including a sunflower project, beer sales and ox carting. In Bulungura, by contrast, an almost non-existent revenue limited the scope of village government. They tended to rely on ‘home grown’ institutions. Hyden asks who is responsible for food security. Is it a communal responsibility or not? Answer: In Mung’elenge, where weather conditions are good, it is an individual responsibility; in Bulungura which is less favoured climatically it is communal.
The author concludes by noting the disappointing results from the government’s desire to have uniform institutional structures all over the country and the great institutional adaptability that this has brought about in Tanzania. ‘There is much more than meets the eye’ – DRB