Ilala MP and former cabinet minister Iddi Simba (who also has a seat on the CCM National Executive Committee (NEC), has reignited the debate on the sensitive and delicate issue of indigenisation in Tanzania. He has published a book on the subject which has stirred up considerable controversy. He believes that indigenous Tanzanians, as distinct from Asian Tanzanians, should be favoured under government economic policies. He was immediately accused of racism. However, on page 16 of the book he writes: “The process of indigenisation of Tanzania, and whatever means which the Government and civil society may devise to empower the disadvantaged groups, will be borne from a sense of common logic and benevolence, not racism…. He said that during the colonial period indigenous populations were marginalized and were not on an equal footing with other races, a problem he is determined to solve.

Summarising the background, Evarist Kagaruki, writing in The Express (July 3) pointed out that the debate initially emerged in the early 1990s following the commencement of the process of privatisation in the country.

Extracts: ‘In essence, the debate hinged on the modalities of divestiture of public corporations. It precipitated an impassioned plea for Tanzanians of African origin (the indigenous nationals, or “Wazawa” in Kiswahili) to be afforded first priority and to be financially enabled to acquire ownership of the enterprises being privatized. Coincidentally, privatisation began at the same time that the country was introducing multiparty politics. So, it was not surprising at all to see the issue of the indigenisation of the economy forming part of the political agenda of the main political parties. As we approached the first multiparty elections (in 1995) the debate on the issue of indigenisation became rather heated, frenzied and emotional, with some arguments reflecting strong feelings of racial hate and bias. At the centre was imbalance in wealth between African-Tanzanians and Tanzanians of Asian (Indian) origin, which indigenisation was ‘supposed’ to rectify ….. Simba has been one of the staunchest proponents of indigenization and has been consistent, forceful and candid in his views on the issue, and some of his arguments are intellectually persuasive. Whether one agrees with him or not, the fact remains that the man deserves credit for staying committed to his beliefs ….. However, Simba’s crusade for the indigenisation of the economy may be a wild-goose chase. He is pursuing a concept which is not acceptable to the ruling party, CCM, of which he is a senior member, with a rare seat on the Central Committee. The party has dissociated itself from his postulations about indigenisation, saying very categorically that the concept had never been part of its political philosophy! Strong opponents of that concept, in and outside the CCM, think that the logic of looking at the problem of the economic disparities between the rich and poor in our society in terms of the divisions between the races was perverted and carries with it the poisonous seeds of racial hatred, social tensions, disharmony and national disintegration. The Father of our Nation, the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, was perhaps the most outspoken opponent of indigenisation. He called it a ‘racial play’ and never hid his indignation about it. He cautioned that “when you start to sell these parastatals to a few people that you call ‘African-Tanzanians’ and hail such Africanisation, you will soon discover that Africanisation is not monolithic, but rather also balkanised; it has in it Christians and Muslims; in Christians there are Lutherans, Catholics and Anglicans. And in Muslims there are Sunnis, Shia, and Khoja. You will promote social divisions which do not exist today”. Certainly, Mwaiimu Nyerere was right, and he is vindicated by history.’

The ruling CCM party reacted quickly to Simba’s book and issued a statement banning the use of the concept of Uzawa within the party on the grounds that it had racist connotations.

A number of academics and politicians from the opposition then strongly criticised the CCM statement. Opposition leader in parliament, Wilfred Lwakatare, said that by banning discussion CCM was running away from its own shadow. NCCR Chairman James Mbatia and CHADEMA Chairman Bob Makani supported the policy saying the large majority of Tanzanians who were sidelined by colonial masters must be empowered in order to rectifY the injustices done over the years. President Mkapa reiterated CCM’s stand on uzawa insisting that the ruling party’s policy was geared towards empowerment of all Tanzanians economically regardless of race or origin. The uzawa attitude could fuel unnecessary hatred by segregating certain segments of the Tanzanian people.

Nipashe has reported a possible split in the CCM party between those who support the policy and those who are closer to the national leadership who oppose it. The paper said that those who oppose it mostly want to sideline former Commerce Minister Iddi Simba who is leading the struggle for uzawa.

On August 13 Iddi Simba said he still stood by his concept of indigenisation, but wanted to shift the emphasis to indigenous Tanzanian (Watanzania asili) rather than African Tanzanians (wazawa). A policy for protecting the economic interests of indigenous Tanzanians was yet to come out. He also said that Tanzania, being a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), would also fall under the proposed SADC customs union, but no preparations for protecting the economic rights of poor Tanzanians had been made. “Under the customs unions we will be talking about a free labour market meaning that our hawkers (machinga), food vendors (mamalishe), clerks and other labourers will have to compete on an equal footing with foreigners looking for the same jobs,” he said.


Former President Mwinyi, then entered the debate by reiterating his concept of ruksa (liberal thinking). Addressing young parliamentarians he was cheered when he urged them to spearhead the debates on youth participation in the development process. “I am saying you are free to grow. All youths are free to debate on this issue in whatever place in the country”. The former President was followed at the meeting by Iddi Simba who said in 15 years to come he and former President Mwinyi would not be around to advise and, if they would be, then they wouldn’t be strong enough to call the shots.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.