WHAT A FANTASTIC PLACE!
In its regular feature ‘My Hols’ in the SUNDAY TIMES (July 7) the well-known Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow wrote as follows: ‘… when I was with VS0 in Uganda I hitch-hiked on a wonderful holiday all round East Africa. Round Uganda, down Lake Victoria, round Tanzania, down to the coast and on to Zanzibar. What a fantastic place! Empty beaches, white Arab houses, graceful dhows, the smell of nutmeg …’
LAND LAW LEGISLATION AND RECORDS MANAGEMENT
The British Council’s ACTION IN AFRICA newsletter (June 1996) reported that two eminent land lawyers, Charles Harpum, a member of the Law Commission of England and Wales and Malcolm Grant, Professor of Land Economy at Cambridge University, were in Tanzania recently. They contributed to a workshop organised by the Ministry of Lands for lawyers scrutinising the draft land law legislation for consistency with the published National Land Policy before its presentation to Parliament later this year.
The same newsletter reported that the Council had hosted a presentation of the film ‘Towards Good Government: Records Management and Public Sector Reform in Tanzania’ to an invited audience of Principal Secretaries in the Civil Service and members of the Cabinet Secretariat. The film was made by the International Records Management Trust as one of the outputs of a workshop to restore order to the Tanzania National Archives which took place last year. The Ministry of Education has invited archives personnel to appraise records and reorganise its congested registry.
‘A VIBRANT REBIRTH’
This is how Mark Besire in the EAST AFRICAN (May 6-12) described a cultural renaissance now happening amongst the Sukuma. The centre of this rebirth was the Sukuma Museum, a ‘living museum’, at Kisesa 24 kms north of Mwanza which was being assisted by several donors including the Dartington Trust in Britain. New chiefs were being installed and others reinstalled. Many were collecting and researching shitogeljo – objects that played a significant role in traditional ceremonies. Some chiefdoms were returning to matrilineal succession as practised before the colonial period. The institution of chiefs was abolished at independence. But many chiefs were now taking active roles in their communities, more people were turning to traditional healers and there was great zest for traditional dance competitions.
THREAT OF EXTINCTION
A note of alarm was signalled in an article about a well-known Tanzanian tree in BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE in August 1996. It stated that, unless action is taken, harvestable stocks of the African Blackwood or ‘Mpingo’ tree which is used to make clarinets and oboes, the chinrests of violins and the wooden part of bagpipes – plus Makonde wood carvings, could run out within 30 years. An expedition from Cambridge University has gone to Tanzania this summer to get data to help the Flora preservation Society draw up a conservation plan for Mpingo. (Thank you Jane Carroll for finding this item. More on this subject in Readers Letters below – Editor).
The Bellagio Network Newsletter No 16 (Spring 1996) contained an article about the Pemba Public Library by Margaret Ling, Director of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair, Although the need for a library had been established 40 years earlier this one finally opened in 1994. Its initial stocking was helped by the British ODA and Council and there are now some 1,500 regular users of the 13,000 titles. Of these only 2% are from African publishers and Pemba, like 85 of the 104 districts in Tanzania, does not yet have a bookshop. (Thank you Pru Watts-Russel for this item – Editor).
GUARDIAN EDUCATION (March 12) revealed that the Leeds Development Education Centre (Tel: 0113 278 4030) has designed an interactive CD-Rom and accompanying teacher’s pack and video about a Tanzanian woman and her family for key stages 1 to 3 in schools. The cost is £49.
BIG ZOOLOGICAL FIND
According to the March/April issue of AFRICA – ENVIRONMENT AND WILDLIFE, a small chameleon spotted in the Mkomazi Game Reserve late in 1994 by entomologist Tony Russell-Smith has turned out to be a big zoological find. This was the first African pygmy chameleon seen by Dr. Malcolm Coe, leader of the Mkomazi Ecological Research Programme, in 40 years of studying savanna ecology. But Rhampholian kerstenti is a familiar sight in the coastal forests and in the Usambara and Pare mountains. The hills of Mkomazi are relatively undisturbed, offering what may in the future be a critical refuge for these eight centimetre-long reptiles.
PERHAPS THE GREATEST MUSICIAN TANZANIA HAS EVER PRODUCED
This is how the EAST AFRICAN described Mbaraka Mwinshehe Mwaruka on what would have been his 52nd birthday. He died in 1979 aged 35. ‘He was a singer, guitarist, performer and composer – East Africa’s most prolific all-round pop musician’, the article said. ‘Although he said that he only wanted to sing and dance he was an amalgamation of different things to different people – a poet to some; to his family a cutting satirist; to the country’s politicians a lavish praise singer; to the nation, a musical ambassador (he was with the famous Morogoro Jazz Band at the Expo ’70 Exhibition in Japan and later formed his own band, Orchestra Super Volcano); he was a witty social commentator in the East African oral tradition’. A commemoration was held at the newly opened FM Club in Kinondoni on January 12 this year.
ENGLISH VERSUS SWAHILI
Herald Tagama of Gemini News writing in the Uganda MONITOR (May 6-7) featured the revived debate in Tanzania about the language to be used in schools. The Chairman of the National Swahili Council, Prof. Herman Mwansoko, was quoted as having started the debate by leading a delegation to President Mkapa to press for a ban on English in all subjects in schools from primary level to university. President Mkapa deflected the proposal but said it was worth debating. And a debate began. Particularly vociferous were those parents who send their children to Kenya and Malawi to avoid declining standards in Tanzanian schools. Tony Ngaiza, the editor of Majira attacked this ‘fanciful’ proposal and accused the Kiswahili Council of frivolity when the quality of education was nose-diving. Mwansoko returned to the fray, calling the objectors ‘colonial minded’. Others noted that European countries had no difficulty in continuing to use their local languages in schools and also learning English. Eventually Mwalimu Nyerere, who had made Swahili the medium of instruction in primary schools so that he could put his message across to ALL the people, said that “What we have done for Swahili is enough. Now we have to give English its vim. It is the ‘Kiswahili’ of the world”.
“YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE LAST WEEK”
This, according to British TV personality Jeremy Paxman is what you always hear when you go on a fishing holiday. But, according to the WEEKEND GUARDIAN (January 27) when he went fishing at the Pemba Channel Fishing Club on the Kenya/Tanzania border he was greeted with the unprecedented words “You are going to catch fish. We’re having the best season for years”. Marlin fishing, Paxman wrote, is the macho end of angling – it is to fly fishing what arm wrestling is to chess. ‘The longer the search went on the more I began to dread what would happen if and when we found one. Then suddenly complete commotion… when the fight began it was every bit as exhausting as I’d feared. The fish tore off 400 yards of line and then leapt from the water… within five minutes I was soaked in perspiration and had lost most of the skin from my index finger. In 10 minutes my left arm was aching as if it couldn’t move any more. It took about 15 minutes. “Do you want to kill him?” the boatman asked. I couldn’t see the point and so we tagged him in the hope that the next time his aggression led him to attack a bait, the boatman might think it worth $5 to send back the tag and we’d learn a bit about how these beautiful fish migrate around the world’.
SUSPENSION OF REGISTRATION OF NGO’s
The EAST AFRICAN (June 17-23) reported that the government had suspended the registration of new NGO’s (non-government organisations) until September pending amendment of the 1953 Association Ordinance that governs the operations of such bodies. Each of the 850 NGO’s registered in Tanzania since 1953 would be examined amid rising suspicions that many were not following the law.
CLEANING UP LAKE VICTORIA
WORLD BANK NEWS (August 1) announced that $77.6 million $35 million from IDA is being invested in a project designed to conserve the lake’s biodiverity and genetic resources, control the water hyacinth, generate food and provide jobs and safe water in a disease-free environment.
NO SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
VSO’s quarterly magazine ORBIT (No. 61) reported what it described as an unwelcome jolt. Volunteer Jennifer Semahimbo, who had married a Tanzanian while in the country, was refused social security benefits on her return to pending ‘reestablishment of her habitual residence’ even though she had kept her home in Birmingham and VS0 had paid her national insurance contributions. The Department of Social Security claimed that a Tanzanian tax clearance certificate in her passport indicated residence there.
TEA RESEARCH INSTITUTE OF TANZANIA
The EAST AFRICAN (August 19-25) reported that Tanzania has inaugurated its own Tea Research Institute in an effort to reverse the decline in the country’s tea production. Malawi was said to have the same acreage under tea as Tanzania but produced twice as much tea.