REVIEWS

NAKUMBUKA. Frank Burt. Excalibur Press of London £6.95 (+ £l postage).

The author, a typical product of the English public school Oxbridge background, from which many hundreds of colonial civil servants were drawn, saw service in Tanganyika from 1922 to 1946, first briefly, in the surveying department and then in administration, He became a district commissioner and during his long stay in Tanganyika worked in almost every part of that huge land, with all its variety, from the hot humid coast and the island of Mafia to the cool spectacular highlands of Njombe and Mbeya and the wonders of Ngorongoro.

Burt’s reminiscences are eminently readable and, despite the rather flat style and the absence of descriptions of the natural landscape in any colour or detail, do succeed in evoking a past that, although recent, seems now so remote. Those who shared his working life and the older reader will find nostalgia here and perhaps regret the passing of what was in many ways a noble way of life – essentially simple, often hard, occasionally even dangerous.

Unfortunately, for those unfamiliar with the colonial system or ignorant of Swahili, some terms – ‘boma’ ‘baraza’ ‘banda’ ‘fundi’ will be puzzling. There should have been a glossary of such words. Further, since Burt travelled a great deal, both to transfer from one posting to another and about his own area, there ought to be a map.

The book takes time to get under way. The earlier chapters contain too much that is anecdotal and the general reader would need more background fully to appreciate the difficulties of living and travelling for a European at that time in Tanganyika, although it must be said, later in the book, Burt does write well and vividly about safaris. The sheer logistics of moving people and large amounts of luggage around such vast distances were daunting. Add to the vastness the appalling roads – dusty in the dry season, quagmires in the rainy season – and the uncertainties of obtaining food and water, then one appreciates how tough and resourceful the likes of Burt had to be. Sadly, Burt is not adept at portraying his fellow human beings. There are dozens of people – British, Indian, African, German – who figure in the book yet none of them is a three-dimensional character. Burt’s wife is at best a shadowy figure and, at the end of the book, the reader really has no idea about the kind of person Burt was. We must have been conscientious and he must have enjoyed his work but he says almost nothing about himself and the opinions he holds about ‘the natives’ and missions are relegated to appendices tacked on at the end. He devotes a chapter to the colourful dress and customs of the Barabaig tribe, a people he clearly took a liking to, but the local people throughout the book are, as it were, part of the background – there to cook the author’s food, carry his luggage, guard him in moments of danger, act as guides or trackers when he went on a game hunt, never coming through as fully drawn human beings.

However, there are many incidents worthy of recall here; the thrill of the big game hunt, the interesting descriptions of methods to deal with huge swarms of locusts, the celebrations for the coronation of the new King and the many exciting journeys by car – the chapter on travel is one of the best.

The outbreak of war in 1939 involved the author in a truly bizarre episode; the arrest and internment of his German neighbours on the island of Mafia. These Germans, despite their Nazi leanings, had become Burt’s friends but they had to be locked up. It was done in a civilised way, without rancour, however, one of the Germans even inviting in the author for a drink before the arrest was made.

To the general reader who has had no personal contact with the colonial service, this book might seem oddly old-fashioned. Despite Burt’s obvious basic decency, his referring to the Africans as either ‘natives’ or ‘boys’ sets a jarring note but then he was merely reflecting the speech and the attitudes of the times. Burt hoped he always left his district better than he found it – an unexceptionable sentiment. Perhaps many more years must pass before the work of such as Burt and his colleagues can be seen in true perspective.
P.Barrett

RENAMO. TERRORISM IN MOZABIQUE. Alex Vines. Centre for Southern African Studies, University of York/James Currey/Indiana University Press. 1991. £7.95.

Resistencia Nacional Mocambicana RENAMO is a little known fighting force still controlling, after 14 years of fighting, large (but varying) areas of Mozambique. Very much more can be learnt about it by reading this carefully researched, fact-packed and detailed account of its origins (in Rhodesia), rapid growth (by 1982 it had infiltrated nine out of the 10 provinces of the country), its destruction of people and infrastructure (between 1980 and 1988 it had rendered inoperative approximately 1,800 schools, 720 health units, 900 shops and 1,300 trucks and buses), and its international ramifications, which included the involvement of Tanzanian armed forces in action against it.

The references to this Tanzanian involvement are few and far between but they are revealing. Several references are made to the very substantial contribution made by Tanzania in the original freedom struggle of FRELIMO against Portuguese colonialism – not the least of which must have been the patience needed by Mwalimu Nyerere in arbitrating between the unending series of FRELIMO splinter groups and coping with the internal and external intrigues described in the book.

We also learn that Tanzania is believed to have spent some US$ 3.5 million in aid to FRELIMO, that perhaps some 1,000 Tanzanian troops were stationed in Mozambique as long ago as 1983 and that the number increased later to some 5,000 to 7,000. Bulletin No 30 has further information on this. The troops were finally withdrawn in 1988 after a reported loss of some 60 lives.

RENAMO is said to have been active sporadically on Tanzanian soil. The author writes ‘It is thought that there is some sympathy for it amongst Muslims especially in Zanzibar and along the coast due to rumours of Islamic repression by FRELIMO. In 1984 the Tanzanian authorities foiled an attempt by Portuguese sympathisers to construct an airstrip in Southern Tanzania …… Tanzania was harbouring some 60,000 refugees in 1990’.

The author does not take sides and clearly aims, in a situation of continuing obscurity, to discover the truth. For example, in writing about the extent to which RENAMO’s support amongst the peasants might have been increased by the programme of Villagisation forced on them by FRELIMO, he states that this was true in some areas but not in others. “The issue that really lies at the heart of the villagisation policies is that they needed to be implemented with sensitivity especially in respect of geographical, regional and traditional structures….experiments were successful in the south amongst the Gaza-Nguni, who had historical experience of living in larger village units….but this was not the case in other areas. Here Villagisation actively encouraged the peasantry to support RENAMO (against FRELIMO’s over-centralised economy which displayed all the worst features of Portuguese bureaucracy and Eastern European central planning. While the programmes in health and education were dramatically successful the economic policies were ill-suited to a basically peasant society….” Shades of Tanzania perhaps?

Secrecy still prevails about Tanzania’s support of FRELIMO against both the Portuguese and RENAMO. Perhaps, if the negotiations which have taken place recently between FRELIMO and RENAMO, which are described in the book eventually prove successful, the wraps will be lifted and we can have another book like this in which Tanzanians would be able to express the same pride about their support to FRELIMO as they do about their destruction of the Idi Amin regime? – DRB.

LESSONS FROM TANZANIA’S EXPERIENCE OF RURAL LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM. M. D. Mutizwa-Mangiza. International Journal of Public Sector Management. Vol 3. No 3. 1991.

Nearly thirty years of time and a full swing of the pendulum from conventional local authorities, through a ‘deconcentrated version of decentralisation’ and back to local authorities – such is the story of local government in Tanzania since Independence. And in this article, remarkable for its combination of detail and brevity, we have the whole story in just six pages. Of course, Tanzania is not alone in facing problems in determining the most satisfactory form of local government – the poll tax issue has highlighted the extent of the differences of opinion in Britain. Perhaps we can all learn something from Tanzania’s generally rather unhappy experience.

The author explains that there have been three historical periods in Tanzania: 1961-1972 – the original British system modified after independence by the replacement of generalist officers by political appointees, the abolition of chiefdoms and the setting up of development committees; 1972-1982 – the ‘Decentralisation’ period during which elected district local authorities ware abolished and regional, district and ward development committees were established; and, post-1982, a return to classical local government.

The author mentions some of the lessons to be learnt from these changes. They might be summarised as follows:
– party politics and local government can only work together if they maintain separate identities and legal accountability;
– the financial dependence of local authorities on central government needs to be reduced;
– it is not true that central government knows it all, can do it better and can do everything;
– provision of adequate finance is essential and there is danger in leaving central government to obtain donor assistance for projects which local governments then have to maintain; – the fact that Tanzania has been able to experiment boldly (in an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary way) because of its political strength and stability, its willingness to admit mistakes and to chart new directions when necessary – DRB

LOW COST URBAN RENEWAL IN TANZANIA. COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION IN DAR ES SALAAM. Sababu Kaitilla. Cities. Vol 7 No. 3. August 1990.

This 11-page paper begins interestingly with the story of the historical growth of Kariakoo (a phonetic Swahili pronunciation derived from the ‘Carrier Corps’ who were stationed in the area during the First World War). Kariakoo is an area of 130 hectares immediately to the west of the Dar es Salaam harbour and the city centre. It developed from what used to be, in the 19th century, one of the coconut plantations of Sultan Seyyid Majid of Zanzibar. After Dar es Salaam became the headquarters of the German East Africa Company the population increased rapidly to 5,000 and Kariakoo was carefully planned on a rigid gridiron street pattern. In subsequent years Kariakoo became more and more densely populated and by the 1980’s the author describes it as having roads and drainage in a very poor state of repair, with erratic and irregular garbage collection, a very old water supply system widespread use of pit latrines, lacking totally in open spaces and suffering from environmental vandalism and the uprooting of any trees that were planted.

The paper then goes on to give the results of an interview survey of a small sample of inhabitants of Kariakoo – l18 owners and 337 tenants – in which, surprisingly, most people seemed to be well satisfied with their housing conditions. Amongst the complaints were of lack of space and privacy (an average of 2.3 persons occupied each room) and the need for repairs and maintenance.

The main object of the survey however, was to find out the extent to which the inhabitants would be willing to participate in urban improvement. 78% of landlords and 65% of tenants were willing and able to make financial improvements to housing conditions but only 30% were willing to contribute financially or through ‘sweat equity’ (an original turn of phrase!) to improvement to the neighbourhood. A quarter of the landlords insisted that the maintenance of urban areas was the sole responsibility of the Dar es Salaam City Council to which they paid monthly charges -DRB.

TANZANIA: DEMORACY IN TRANSITION. H. Othman, I Bavu and M. Okema (eds). Dar es Salaam University Press. 1990.

Readers of the Bulletin will be aware that Tanzania is currently conducting a Presidential Commission into whether it should abandon its one-party system and allow a multiplicity of political parties to operate. Haroub Othman, one of the authors of this book, is a member of that Commission. A long-awaited study of the 1985 elections, it asks on its very first page, ‘Can democracy be defined only as the right to have a vote, or the existence of a multy-party system?’ No answer is forthcoming, but the authors’ position seems to be that, within the one-party system, electoral policy and practice did allow for the exercise of a degree of democratic choice. In 1985 there was a high election turn out, considerable competition for election as candidates, and a choice of candidates for the electorate, even ministers being unable to stand unopposed. In this election 42% of MPs lost their seats, including one minister and several long-standing members. According to two of the contributors to this volume then: ‘the 1985 parliamentary elections must be seen as a serious democratic exercises; elections were not “stage-managed affairs in which the party hierarchy decides who will win”.

What is of especial interest in this set of studies is its focus on the response of the electorate: thwarted in Mbozi when the locally favoured candidate was not allowed to stand, the number of spoilt votes was the highest in the country; brutally frank in Rombo where allegations were made openly about one of the candidates appropriating the school Lorry to ferry his crops illegally across the border to Kenya; more generally cynical, believing that the real motive of candidates was to eat at their expense.

Set against the assertiveness of the electorate there is evidence of the way the electoral system under one-party rule rendered opposition illegitimate, or defused it within the Party embrace. Only 10% of the electorate were members of the Party but its ‘choice’ was limited to candidates chosen by the Party. The electoral process worked effectively to stifle debate on policy issues, with Party control over the questions which could be asked of aspirant MPs, and a ban even on applauding or jeering a candidate. As one study notes: ‘The state expects a docile audience’.

What I found lacking in this book was any attempt to arrive at conclusions in the debate over ‘democracy’, given the initial questions raised, or even to set this debate in a wider theoretical context. If, as many have argued, democracy is more than ideological posturing, if it requires a degree of economic development and relief from grinding poverty to allow the poor to do more than ask unpalatable questions, or sink into the paralysis of cynicism, then searching queries about social inequality and political participation need to be put on the research agenda. These issues are not entirely neglected here – and the evidence in the political domain was contradictory, On the one hand the proportion of peasants, workers and trade unionists amongst MPs was infinitesimal, but businessmen (sic) were also poorly represented; the government had undermined the capacity of MPs to abuse their position for personal enrichment, although this still remained the major complaint of the electorate. Women were guaranteed a proportion of seats, but as candidates they could be subjected to chauvinistic assumptions and ridicule. (In Morogoro Urban where this appears not to have been so, and where an Asian woman candidate won the election, the issue of gender inequality is not even raised). What is missing is an analysis of this data in relation to the question of democracy; will the Commission do better?
Janet Bujra

STATE INTERVENTION, CONTRADICTIONS AND AGRICULTURAL STAGNATION IN TANZANIA – CASHEW NUTS VS CHARCOAL PRODUCTION, B.C. Nindi, Public Administration and Development. Vol 11. 127-134. 1991.

The stagnation which characterised Tanzanian agriculture for many years is not a simple problem nor does it stem from a single cause according to the author of this paper. Prof Nindi describes what happened in Rufiji District when the government tried, on a number of occasions, to arrest the serious decline in cashew production (it fell from 6,500 tons in 1973/4 to 1,276 in 1977/78 – for a variety of reasons which are explained in the paper). In 1975, after the failure of an earlier attempt to increase cashew production, a by-law was passed which prohibited the burning and selling of charcoal to force peasants to concentrate on working on their cashew nut farms. Marrket places were closed down, and restrictions on movement were instituted. 90 peasants were taken to court for not tending their cashew fields. But there was no increase in cashew production. However what happened was that peasants started to produce charcoal for storage until the cashew campaign ended and the ban on sales of charcoal was lifted. Thus, as the author points out, on the surface the peasants seemingly acquiesced but in reality they managed to avoid government directives. There is more in this paper than this particular series of events but this case does illustrate the unwisdom of organising agricultural development through civil service controls – DRB

LANGUAGE PROMOTION FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES: THE EXAMPLE OF TANZANIA.
Casmir Rubagumya. International Review of Education Vol 37 No 1. 1991.

This is a very valuable discussion paper for all those who are interested in the problem of whether to use English as an official language in Africa, or indeed for those who want to consider the use of English as an important second language anywhere. Unfortunately it raises far more questions than it answers, but that in no way invalidates its conclusions.

The historical analysis which the author gives is scholarly and well written. In the last part of British rule Kiswahili was still being devalued; indeed there were still instances of pupils being punished for speaking any language other than English in schools. This of course was by no means confined to the African colonies. In the earlier years of this century Welsh children were regularly beaten or otherwise chastised for the same ‘crime’ of speaking their own native Welsh.

During the 1969’s and 70’s however, under the impulses of a resurgent nationalism in Tanzania, Kiswahili was much improved. Then things changed. Tanzania had run into economic difficulties and the 80’s saw a great boosting of English as the language of economic advancement, even salvation. All this raises fascinating questions. Firstly, it really is essential in any consideration of this entire subject to lay what I would call the colonial myth. It may well be true that the Coloninlists down-graded the native language, in this case Kiswahili. But constant playing on this theme in no way helps towards a solution of present problems. The truth is that many other countries, especially relatively small nations and economies, are in the same difficult boat and they were not Colonial at all. Finland, for example, finds that, with few people outside its own borders speaking Finnish, its professional people literally have to possess a very good working knowledge of English for the country to survive in the modern world.

Secondly, one can’t evade the economic facts of life. The major fact is that for most technological and professional research over two thirds of the world (and that is probably an under-estimate) speaks either English or American English. The vital questions for countries like Tanzania are when you should step up your instruction in English and how many people should be affected. There is clearly no point, for example, in forcing peasant farmers to become fully professional in English if they are never going to need it. The whole question comes down to one of balance – and I freely concede that it is a difficult balance to strike.

I believe that Mr Rubagumya’s strong plea for secondary education to be conducted in the vernacular is probably sound but I would add a number of important caveats. English instruction should be available even in primary schools wherever possible. At secondary level the quality of English teaching must be enhanced and that does mean including at least one period of English instruction per day for all those pupils likely to pursue a professional career. Moreover, doctors, lawyers, and many businessmen (and all those training for such careers) are going to need more instruction than that, and some scheme should be worked out for such students in the top classes of secondary schools and in higher education. In short, there is no reason why you should not preserve your vernacular and keep it as the first official language, AND also make yourself fairly proficient in English, but if you fail to do the latter, it may well have permanent and damaging effects on your economy and international relations. Its a hard world, but those are the ground rules at the moment.
We mush, be grateful to Mr Rubnaglarnya for opening up such a vital subject with enthusiasm and skill.
N. K. Thomas

THE STATISTICS OF SHAME. Clive Sowden. Geographical. September 1990.

In this highly informative and concisely written 3-page article an analysis is made of some disturbing recent UNICEF statistics, particularly as they apply to Tanzania. The author first contrasts Tanzania” poverty as measured by Gross Domestic Product Par Capita – ‘Tanzania is getting poorer with that of other countries in Southern Africa, GDP in Tanzania in 1988 was S160 per person. In 1987 the figure had been $210. But in ‘Welfare Indices’ (eg: % of adult females literate, % of pregnant women immunised against Tetanus, % of one-year old children immunised against Polio) Tanzania compares well with many of its neighbours. But, the author notes that for one key indicator of development – the under-five mortality rate, the figure is high – l79 per 1,000 Live births compared with 11 in Britain.

UNICEF’s ‘Statistics of shame’ are selected indices of female welfare. Particularly grave is the gap in maternal mortality – Tanzania 370 per 100,000 livebirths, industrialised countries less than 10. The author refers to the contributory factors – the double disadvantage of being female and poor… the placing of women’s nutritional needs second to those of men…the lack of contraception…the burden of food production. Fertility rates are high in Tanzania – an average of 7.1 in 1987 but there are regional differences.

The article goes on to discuss the effects of malaria, marriage custom, religion, education, and population growth. The author points out, however that statistics are often unreliable – for example, many infant deaths and births are not recorded in Tanzania – DRB.


INTERNATIONAL CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS IN TANZANIA.
Nigel R Mansfield and Salum Mkulumanya I Sasillo, Project Management. Vol 8 No 2 May 1990.

This 5-page article, which summarises the results of a survey made in 1987 amongst private local contractors/consultants, international consulting engineers and the University of Dar as Salaam, may not contain much which is new to readers of ‘Project Management’ but, for others contemplating investment or construction activities in Tanzania it provides useful check lists of the problems likely to be faced and also some clear recommendations on possible solutions.

Problem are summarised in order of priority as follows:
– lack of funds, local and foreign;
– shortage of building materials, spares and fuel;
– disbursement procedures;
– lack of coordination during execution of the project;
– lack of proper establishment and failure to mobilise equipment at the early stages;
– poor performance by the contractor;
– bureaucracy;
– donor’s policy requirements;
– increased quantity of work.
After a discussion of these issues and the problems connected with currency restriction and joint venture the authors then go on to suggest improvements in which they put particular stress on the need for clear definition of various elements in the “engineering manpower spectrum” and strategies of technology transfer. They recommend inter alia complete package deals, enforcement of contracts, fair financial arrangements, avoidance of the awarding of contracts to contractors and consultants from the same country, greater recognition after on-the – Job training and a more businesslike rather than public service approach – DRB.

1 Comment »

  1. Tanzanian Affairs » LETTERS said,

    January 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    […] COLONIAL MYTH? I was intrigued and puzzled by the reference in Dr Thomas’ book review (Bulletin No 40) to Kiswahili being ‘still’ devalued in the last part of British rule. I would question […]

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