When a publication reaches 100 it is time to reflect about the past and the future.
In the case of Tanzanian Affairs, we hope to continue our policy of reporting facts and figures about developments in the country, as soon as possible after they happen. We do not want to preach to Tanzanians about what they should or should not do in their own country. We believe that our job is just to keep BTS members and other readers, who cannot find out what is happening in Tanzania elsewhere (in a concise form) informed about the latest developments there.
Maybe this policy is wrong. Perhaps we should take a more interventionist approach. Recent events in Britain (and Tanzania) including the scandal about the supply to Tanzania, by a British company, of inappropriate, out of date and over-priced radar equipment (with more than a touch of corruption on both sides) might, or might not, justify the expression of an editorial opinion. Especially when a British adjudication has ruled that the supplier should refund all the money to Tanzania, and then the supplier insists that it, the supplier, should determine how and when this money should be used by Tanzanians. Some might call this neo-colonialism!
What is the future of TA?
As editor I am often swamped with too much praise for my efforts. The work is shared amongst a team of volunteers, whose names are on the back cover of each issue. Jacob Knight, who edits the on-line edition and, for the main edition, selects the photographs and cartoons, writes quite a lot of the text, and, ‘puts the product to bed’ – or, more accurately, to the printer. He is especially deserving of thanks but the same applies to the whole team plus our numerous voluntary contributors.
There are some promising recent developments. The on-line edition of TA is attracting growing interest and the number of BTS members is also increasing.
However, there are also some danger signs about the long-term future.
Danger No 1 is that I, as editor, am not getting any younger. In fact there is plenty of evidence that I am getting much older! Yet, disappointingly, when an appeal was published in the BTS Newsletter for help in adding to our editorial team, there was no response. There are one thousand plus readers in our two editions!
If readers want TA to continue, and there is much evidence that they do, then someone who would like to be a volunteer reporter should please come to our aid. A phone call or e-mail from anyone interested and we will explain what we need in terms of editorial assistance.
Danger No 2. Letters to the editor no longer arrive. In the ‘old days’ we received many. Examples: A reader in No 38 was full of praise for a review by Alex Vines about the Swahili ruins in Zanzibar. Ronald Barton, in the same issue, corrected what he described as a ‘myth’, about responsibility for the establishment of the Rubondo Forest Reserve in Ukererewe. In No 46 there were two letters adding to an article we had published on the local manufacture of rifles in Tanzania. Paul Marchant, a regular writer in the nineties, was critical of many items he read in TA. In No 48 a Rwandan resident wrote about the naming of the Mjuru mountain in Morogoro region. The debate ‘English versus Swahili’ provoked many letters in the 1980s. In the nineties we had a letter from reader Ronald Munns in Australia questioning the genesis of the word ‘Mzungu.’ And so on.
Yet we have not had a single letter from a reader for almost two years! This is unfortunate as it must make our contributors wonder whether anyone reads the results of their efforts.
Why are there no letters nowadays? Perhaps letter writing is a dying art. People seem to prefer to Tweet or use Linkedin or Facebook. Maybe there is some fear about commenting on politics. Yet we have many Tanzanian readers who show no such fear in writing to Tanzania’s own remarkably free press.
So readers – give us a bit of encouragement to continue and if possible, give us a bit of help.
David Brewin (Editor)