(In order to make this part of Tanzanian Affairs as interesting and representative as possible we welcome contributions from readers. if you see a mention of Tanzania in the journal, magazine or newspaper you read, especially if you live or travel outside the UK, please cut out the relevant bit, indicate the name and date of the journal, and send it to the address on the back page. if you do not wish your name to be mentioned please say so. We cannot guarantee to publish everything we receive but if your item gives a new or original view about Tanzania we certainly will-Editor).
Under the heading ‘Hurrah for African Solutions’ Herold Tagama in the August issue of NEW AFRICAN praised the well-conducted and peaceful by-elections in Zanzibar and said that they represented a lesson for all Africa. It showed that African politicians could put their country’s interests first instead of personal aggrandisement. Back in October 2001 cynics had said that the agreement between the Government and opposition parties would not succeed. But three years on it was holding the -election laws that discriminated against the opposition had been repealed, CUF supporters persecuted during the days of political hostility had been compensated, CUF sympathisers who had been sacked had been reinstated and compensated and former ‘enemies’ now greeted each other as friends. Registrar of Political Parties John Tendwa was quoted as saying that a sense of political maturity was easily felt in Zanzibar.
The NCCR -Mageuzi party was reported (THE EAST AFRICAN, May 12) to want CUF Zanzibar leader Seif Shariff Hamad to be barred from running in the Zanzibar presidential elections in 2005 on the grounds that he was once detained. Article 69 of the Zanzibar constitution forbids any person who has been detained from entering any presidential contest. However CUF insists that Hamad was not detained but ‘put in remand prison’ -on a charge which was subsequently abandoned by the prosecution.
‘One of the success stories of Tanzania’s emerging private sector.’ This is how Vitalis Omondi in THE EAST AFRICAN (May 12) described the success of the Tanzanian founder of Precisionair, Michael Shirima, who had recently become the strategic partner of Kenya Air, which has acquired a 49% stake in his company. The agreement was said to have the potential of spawning Precisionair’s access to global markets through Kenya Airways’ comprehensive route network with its strategic partners, KLM and NorthWest Airlines. When he founded ‘Flight Africa Ltd’, the pre-cursor of Precisionair in 1987, Shirima had just two aeroplanes which he used as aerial sprayers serving large coffee and wheat farms. As his airline grew he went to the African Project Development Facility (APDF) which helped secure $333,000 in equity financing from the Tanzania Venture Capital Fund. He bought six new Cessna planes and started providing charter services to tourists. Later he borrowed $400,000 from the East African Development Bank and expanded his fleet. Today, the Arusha-based airline carries more than 76,000 passengers a year.
Michael Okema wrote in THE EAST AFRICAN (July 14) about what he described as ‘the heated debate which took place at the Zanzibar Dhow Festival recently.’ Participants were at each other’s throats over such issues as whether Swahili culture originated on the East African coast and whether the Kiswahili language had a Bantu base. The article went on: ‘Politicisation of history may help people build confidence in themselves. But it can prove harmful to the development of such things as a science of language…. African nationalism is behind this debate. There are people who feel uncomfortable acknowledging the Arab influence on Kiswahili given the historical Arab participation in the slave trade. There is a limit to which history can be rewritten …….. Today Africans are proud to differentiate themselves on the basis of their respective colonisers. A Ghanaian feels closer to a Tanzanian (because both are Anglophone) than to an Ivorian who is his next door neighbour. So, in spite of its negative motives, colonialism had some positive aspects. In short, there are two sides to a coin. This should apply equally to the Arab. There should be no difficulty in acknowledging Arab influence on Swahili culture …..
Under the heading ‘Sleaze without end’ Lawi Joel writing in NEWSAFRICA (31st July) said that President Mkapa seems to be fighting a losing battle against graft and fraud, an evil he vowed to conquer when he took office for the second time in 2000. The article went on: ‘His Prime Minister seems to be the richest premier since independence, and the acquittal of former Minister for Works, Transport and Communications, Nalaila Kiula, has shown just how hard it is for Mkapa to crush corruption ….In a recent National Assembly sitting four MPs were suspended for falsifying Parliamentary Public Accounts. Many companies such as Independent Power Tanzania Ltd (IPTL) were being criticized. But many people were asking why only the small fry are taken to task while the big shots get away with it.. … However, not all big fish escape Mkapa’s net. A prominent businessmen was jailed for five years in December for bribery together with six officials of the Ministry of Lands ….. ‘
‘They left in dhows and came back on a plane. But the journey back took over 700 years.’ So began an illustrated article in THE EAST AFRICAN (July 28) describing the Zanzibar festival reported above. The article went on: ‘Along the way, they lost their language, their culture and knowledge of their native land. But they retained their music and dance. They are the African Sufis of Gujarat, whose musical group, the Sidi Goma (first ‘discovered by the late Rajiv Gandhi) made a historic visit to their ancestral land of Africa last month. Their history is rooted in the slave trade of the 13th century and beyond, when many Africans arrived in India as slaves to the Maharajas and Nawabs of the day. They have remained racially intact choosing to marry only among themselves …..
They received a warm welcome in Zanzibar. At the Bombay International Airport however the immigration officer was baffled to see people looking like Africans but with Indian passports and speaking Gujarati. In Zanzibar one shopkeeper told the group he could not let them pay for anything because they had “finally come home after 700 years.”
AFRICAN MINING reported in June that Williamson Diamonds Ltd has installed a $2.3 million jig plant at its Mwadui mine, the first of its kind to be installed in a diamond recovery project in Africa. It is scheduled to re-treat 20 tonnes of tailings that were deposited in the mine in the 1960’s and 70’s.
THE INDEPENDENT (19th May) in a half-page article on the animal survival crusader Jane Goodall explained how she first went to Gombe on Lake Tanganyika at the age of 26 in 1960 at the instigation of her then employer, Louis Leakey, the famous palaeontologist. The most remarkable finding came to her that October as she caught sight of a chimpanzee squatting on the ground and inserting a stick, stripped of its leaves, into a termite mound and bringing out the termites as a tasty snack. Until then it was thought that only man made use of tools. It was one of the definitions of our specialness as a species. “I telegraphed what I had seen to Leakey” she remembers. “He telegraphed back that we would now have to redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as humans.” Jane Goodall still spends 300 days a year on the road raising money and co-ordinating the work of her charity -the Jane Goodall Institute -which, inter alia, is fighting the battle to preserve the few remaining chimpanzees in Africa –Thank you Liz Fennell for this item -Editor.
The FUNDAY TIMES, the junior section of the well known paper, has been featuring for the last few weeks a cartoon series headed ‘Wacky races in Trekking to Tanzania’ in which ‘Peter Perfect’, already in bandages, battles against killer bees and other hazards in pursuing ‘Dick Dastardly’. The series continues.
It can be expensive climbing Kilimanjaro. The Australian SUNDAY TIMES featured on July 27 a £7,000 ‘Africa adrenalin safari’ which also includes Victoria Falls, bungee-jumping, whitewater rafting and game viewing. But those purchasing tickets still have to find their own way from Australia to Johannesburg to join the tour –Thank you Douglas Gledhill for this item Editor
THE ECONOMIST reported on July 26 that since 2000 Mafia island has been a testing ground for a joint effort by the government, WHO and a pair of drug companies to eradicate the limb deformity known as elephantiasis. Extracts: ‘An annual dose of two cheap drugs can clear away the parasites causing the disease….. The main trouble is persuading poorly educated farmers that the drugs are safe and useful. Women fear a government plot to lower their fertility. Men worry about their libidos …. If the project succeeds however 12 million Tanzanians who live in infected areas could eventually be covered -and one of the country’s scourges might be on the way to being eliminated.
‘Land and who gets it is becoming a hot potato in Tanzania according to NEW AFRICAN (June). The Government’s attempt to change landlords in favour of foreign investors is arousing passions in the country …. The World Bank wants Tanzania to change its land laws to attract investors in agriculture and fight poverty. President Mkapa, once a strident supporter of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s land reform policy, was reported to be yielding to persuasion …. ‘He has become a disciple of World Bank President James Wolfensohn’ but Tanzanians were said to be suspicious. Land grabbing by influential politicians, business tycoons, bureaucrats and foreigners was said to be wanton, with poor villagers evicted right under the nose of the authorities.
David Leishman has sent us a remarkable article by Nick Gordon published in the South African BUSINESS DAY recently under the sub-heading ‘When cash-flush Gulf businessmen baled them out, marginalised Tanzanian Muslims did not ask questions.’ (Thank you for sending this -Editor) Brief extracts: “The extraordinary sequence of events that unfolded in Iringa holds deep resonance for the developing world and the West. The town was quietly subverted by incomers from the Gulf.. .. In the 1990s, and more than a century after slavery had been abolished, Iringa -which had been an Arab slave trading centre -had a Muslim population who were feeling isolated. The town’s mosques were decrepit and lacked funds; the congregations in those mosques were dispirited. Muslim schools were decaying…… But for another set of proselytizers, Iringa was fertile ground. When AI-Qaeda -or, as they were known locally ‘the men from the Gulf -arrived, they offered local Muslim businessmen loans under the informal hawala system. The loans came in cash in hard currency ……… What was the quid pro quo?
Businessmen who ‘signed up’ soon prospered as did the Muslim community in general, the mosques, the religious schools. Within a year preachers were arriving in Iringa and other towns …. As these proselytisers gained ground and confidence they began to use far less subtle techniques to seduce the population. Some families were being offered about $130 to convert to Islam. …. Meanwhile, messages from the newly invigorated mosques were becoming more militant… After the bombing of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam ….. the trail of subversion led back to Iringa. A welding workshop in the town was pinpointed by the FBI investigators as the place where the pipes that contained the explosives used to devastate the Dar embassy had been manufactured. The owner claimed that he had no idea they would be stuffed with plastique. He was never charged. Fears of further infiltration were triggered by the discovery of containers of black market uranium which were being offered for sale in Dar Salaam ….’
‘These weapons were not made of radioactive materials or armed with killer bacteria’ the writer went on. ‘They are far more resilient and damaging. The raw material they are manufactured from is easy to come by: poverty, dirt, despair, social and political exclusion. And the subsequent explosion, when it inevitably happens, goes off inside people’s heads, not merely in Iringa, but on any continent, anywhere’.
REPORTERS SANS FRONTIERES has reported that the first worldwide index of press freedom had some surprises. The USA came lower in the scale of press freedom than Costa Rica. The countries with least press freedom were North Korea, China, and Burma. Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands were top in Europe but Britain and Italy came lower in the scale than Benin. No Arab country was among the top 50. Eritrea and Zimbabwe (18 journalists were in prison there at the time of the survey) were found to be the most repressive countries of sub-Saharan Africa and Benin came out top in the 21st place out of 139 countries. Tanzania is in the middle of the table in 67th place ahead of most other African countries.
The CATHOLIC HERALD (13th June) added to other obituaries published on the death of the late Dr Leader Stirling (see Tanzanian Affairs No. 75). Extracts: ‘He had a lifelong interest in the scouting movement and was the Chief Scout of Tanzania for many years. His interest in the movement was with him to his death and it was appropriate that his coffin should be carried by a party of Tanzanian scouts. He was dressed in his Scout uniform and the coffin was draped with the Scout Flag …. His commitment to Tanganyika and then Tanzania was immense and it was his Christian faith that gave him this commitment….. Stirling’s involvement was with Africans and with the Catholic Church…. He married at a mature age a nurse but she was to die, sadly childless. Later he married a widow with six children and proved an admirable stepfather …. Thank you John Sankey for this item -Editor.
Mary Soderstrom who is working on a novel called ‘The Violets of Usambara’ filled two pages in a recent issue of the NEW YORK TIMES on her search for the source of these small, famous, blue-violet flowers. Extracts: ‘For years I’ve struggled to keep at least one African violet in bloom through Montreal winters, but it wasn’t until I started working on a novel about a Canadian politician and his wife who was passionate about African violets that I began to wonder about the origins of the pretty little flowers. In French, one of its names is la violette d’Usambara ….. Their story intrigued me, and when I got a chance to go to Africa last October I decided to check them out.. …… the mountain’s known as the East Usambaras, which were recently named as one of the world’s biodiversity ‘hotspots’, were densely forested until the beginning of the 20th century when Tanganyika became the centrepiece of German colonial aspirations in Africa….. the scientific name of African violets -Saint Paulia -reflects this German colonial past. Baron Waiter von Saint Paul found the plants in 1892 when he was Commissioner of Tanga province. He sent seeds back to his father, an amateur botanist in Germany, and within 10 years African violets had become a horticultural sensation throughout Europe …..Recently, Saint Paulia have played a key role in safeguarding what is left of the East U sambaras’ natural splendours. Most of them grow in damp, shady places and when the forest is cut down, they vanish. Commercial logging continued into the 1980’s but some 250,000 acres of the mountain forests have now been declared a ‘UN Man and Biosphere Reserve.’ The writer went on to explain that the nature reserve is a bargain. Open year round, its rustic wood-panelled lodge sleeps 20, with simply furnished single, double and triple rooms and shared bathrooms. Full-board -3 generous meals -and lodging is about $10 a night. (Thank you Elsbeth Court for sending this item -Ed.)
‘He is one of Scotland’s forgotten heroes: the man whose maps of Africa made David Livingstone one of the most famous explorers of the age. But unlike Livingstone, who was buried in Westminster Abbey, the remains of Keith Johnston still lie where he succumbed to dysentry and was buried on 28th June 1879 in a shallow grave somewhere near the village of Behobeho in deepest Tanzania. Now, 124 years later, a team led by cartographer Mike Shand of Glasgow University is planning to retrace the route that Johnston took in an attempt to find his grave …. In October, using satellite technology, he plans to locate the site and turn it into a fitting memorial. For Shand, Hon. Secretary of the Society of Cartographers, the search is a labour of love. “Johnston was a mapping genius” he said. “He was one of the first to map the continent and probably the most important to do so.” In 2000, Johnston’s dusty calf skin-covered diary was discovered at the Royal Geographical Society in Glasgow. Amid the minute spidery writing, the extraordinary story of his last expedition was revealed. In July, Jim McCarthy, a former Forestry Officer in Tanganyika will publish a book on Johnstone’s final trip entitled “Journey into Africa” -This is an extract from an article in the Scottish SUNDAY HERALD (May 11). (Thank you Jim McCarthy for this item. Please ensure that our Reviews Editor receives a review copy when your book is published -Editor).
‘The old man is drinking coffee in Stone Town. He sits on his baraza, a traditional place for sitting and chatting that can be found outside many Zanzibari homes. Like a lot of home-grown culture in Zanzibar, the baraza is fast becoming an endangered species. “This building used to be a dispensary and that house was once a stationery shop. Now everybody’s selling souvenirs. Tourism is cutting into the fabric of our close-knit society.’ So began an article in the VSO magazine ORBIT (June) which delved into the pros and especially the cons of tourism in Zanzibar. The article went on: ‘The tourists bring money, which the wood carvers and trinket sellers are only too grateful for, but along with it -much to the annoyance of some devotees … there are also the uninvited forays into the mosques and the sight of skimpy clothes and over exposed flesh, which are all too often interpreted as an affront to the strict Islamic beliefs prevalent on the island …. traditional livelihoods like fishing are no longer as attractive as they used to be. Social problems such as drugs and prostitution also go hand-in-hand with the tourist trade …. Some, like Mohammed Haji, 23, have chosen to add to their earnings by selling sex to female visitors. Hadji is known locally as a papasi, just one of the many gigolos who now patrol the beaches for business. “They (the tourists) stay with us and we make money. No one cares about cultural erosion,” he says ………. ..
In response to criticism, the Tourism Commission has now issued a sevenpoint code of conduct aimed at potential visitors to Zanzibar. This focuses on nudity, consuming alcohol in public, kissing and fondling in public, photographing locals without their permission, entering mosques as well as eating, drinking and smoking in public during the holy month of Ramadan …… .