It was December 1975 and the big news in Bulletin of Tanzanian Affairs No 1 (12 pages A4 size) was that on October 22nd of that year the first passenger train had left Kapiri Mposhi station in Zambia for Tanzania with representatives of China, Zambia and Tanzania aboard. It had drawn into Dar es Salaam station on Friday October 24th 1975. The great TAN-ZAM Railway had been born. The Chinese construction camps, once a familiar sight along the route, had gone. So had the doctors who had dispensed free medical treatment and the engineers who had provided new water supplies and roads to remote rural areas.
The other big news? In August 1975 the TANU Party had published a booklet which claimed that 9,140,229 people had been resettled in villages. Not everyone was happy however, according to the Bulletin, and there had been widespread reports, including many in the Tanzanian press, of resistance to villagisation. President Nyerere had insisted at the Party Congress that the policy of pressing ahead had succeeded; people were settling into their new homes and services were being provided.
The then editor (Dr T. O. Ranger) stated the aims of the new Bulletin, which was to appear twice a year. He wrote that it was difficult for even the most industrious and persistent to obtain information about Tanzania from the British press. Things haven’t changed? Dr Ranger hoped to bring to the attention of readers material of real interest which they might otherwise not see. He assured readers that the Bulletin would not consist entirely of ‘official handouts’ and that material critical of aspects of Tanzanian policy would be included on occasion. Subsequent editors have endeavoured to follow these first guidelines.
The first Bulletin and many of those which followed contained extensive extracts from the highly readable speeches of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. One, quoted in Bulletin No 1, had been given in the Guild hall in London: “…some very flattering things have been said about me since I arrived in Britain as the guest of Her Majesty the Queen….other things have not been said; in polite company it is not necessary to dwell on a guest’s errors or faults or the failures of the country he represents. I can assure you that I appreciate this convention – and propose observing it in reverse !”. But later in Oxford the President had himself dwelt on Tanzania’s weaknesses: “We call ourselves a democratic and socialist state. In reality we are neither democratic nor socialist…. democracy and socialism require a mature and popular awareness of the dignity and equality of men and women; a dynamic and popular intolerance of tyranny; a degree of maturity and integrity in those entrusted with responsibility for the institutions of the State and Society; and a level of national and personal affluence which Tanzania and Tanzanians do not possess….”
Bulletin No 4 (January 1977) announced the formation of the ‘Chama Cha Mapinduzi’ (Society of the Revolution) combining the two ruling parties – the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) and the Zanzibar Afro-Shirazi Party and this Bulletin also contained news of the collapse of the East African Community.
Bulletin No 6 referred to the release from detention of Mr Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu and three others who had been condemned to death in Zanzibar, in absentia, for their alleged part in the assassination of the first President of Zanzibar, Sheikh Karume, in 1972.
Issue No 7 contained even more dramatic news, The Idi Amin regime in Uganda had invaded Tanzania in October 1978 and Tanzania was mobilising for war. And the Bulletin had a new editor – Mr John Arnold – and it had grown to 18 pages. The state of the economy has always figured prominently and Bulletin No 11 in December 1980 was a special issue devoted to the subject. Tanzania’s long period of negotiation with the IMF was under way.
No 15 recorded in some detail the story of the hijacking of a Tanzanian aircraft and the subsequent arrest of the hijackers in Britain. A tragic sequel to this event is described on page 4 of this Bulletin.
No 19, now under the present editor, recorded the untimely death of Tanzania” popular Prime Minister, Mr Edward Sokoine.
For the design of the cover of Bulletin No 22 we were fortunate in obtaining the services of an experienced artist (Richard Moon) and we have used his design ever since. This issue came down in size to A5 and was very special indeed. It included a 44-page booklet entitled ‘The Nyerere Years’ and featured appreciations by President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Shridath Ramphal, UN Representative George Ivan Smith, first Principal of the University College of Tanganyika, Professor Cranford Pratt and many others.
Subsequent issues have contained articles under such headings as ‘Tanzania After Nyerere’ , ‘The Maasai by a Maasai’, ‘Entire Cabinet Told to Resign’ ‘Witchcraft and Psychotherapy’, ‘The New Investment Code” ‘A Queen’s Scarf’, ‘The Makonde Carving – Its Essence’, ‘A Franco-Tanzanian Occasion’, ‘From Nyerere to Neo-Classicism’ ,’Why no TV?’, ‘KAR to TPDF’, ‘Tanzania and China’, ‘The Greatest Spectacle on Earth’, ‘Nine Holes in Mufindi’, ‘Digging Up Zanzibar’…..
Who are the readers? First and foremost, all those 600 odd Tanzanophiles who belong to the Britain-Tanzania Society. Plus some 110 individual subscribers and 44 university and other libraries in 18 countries around t he world.
And now we have reached No 40. We would very much like to hear from you readers about how you think we are getting on and what we should do in future to change or improve the Bulletin. Maybe it will eventually reach No 100. Who knows?