Edited by John Cooper-Poole
As a contribution to this celebratory issue John has reflected on the job of ‘Reviews Editor’:
ON BEING REVIEWS EDITOR
Being Reviews Editor involves two parallel searches, one for relevant books and another for suitable reviewers.
Lists come from publishers, and the internet is helpful. Equally helpful are suggestions from readers of Tanzanian Affairs who have come across books which they think are worth reviewing. I am always very grateful for such suggestions.
The Membership Secretary tells me of people who have said they would be willing to write reviews, and this is a great help. Over the years I have built up a list of helpful people in university departments who are willing to review themselves, or are sometimes able to recommend colleagues who may do so. The difficulty is to suit the reviewer to the book, especially in the case of the more academic titles.
In all this I have had the invaluable help of Marion Doro in the U.S.A. who has searched out interesting publications on that side of the Atlantic and helped in the search for reviewers.
There are frustrations. One is that not all publishers seem eager to have their books reviewed and sometimes ignore requests for review copies. Then there are the new kind of publishers which seem to exist only in cyber space – I sometimes find likely-sounding titles at such publishers, but have never yet succeeded in getting a review copy from them. I wonder whether they ever actually sell books?
Then there are the occasional, fortunately very occasional, reviewers who fail to produce a review and don’t return the review copy. Doubly irritating, because without the review copy I cannot ask anyone else to write a review.
And, of course, I have to pass on to other people interesting and/or attractive books which I would rather keep longer to browse or read myself.
The pleasant thing about the job is that I see a lot of interesting books and have contact, even if only by email, with interesting people.
URBAN DESIGN, CHAOS, AND COLONIAL POWER IN ZANZIBAR William Bissell, Indiana University Press, 2011. ISBN 13 978 0253355430. p/b. 328pp. £16.99
Overcoming initial prejudice (American academic faults colonialism: Yawn), I quite warmed to this book. At its heart is the story of the failure of town plans for Zanzibar, particularly those formulated in the 1920s and 1930s, to have much influence on its actual development, then or since. The author has immersed himself in archival records in Zanzibar and elsewhere, as well as absorbing much of the relevant historical literature; and he lived there for a time developing, it seems, some affection for it. Hence, no doubt, his evident exasperation that over a century of effort should have done so little to improve the condition of the poorer parts of Zanzibar Town.
Chapter 1 provides a lively account of the historical development of Zanzibar and how it has been perceived by outsiders: “a curious and haphazard jumble of misleading lanes and provoking culs-de-sac” (Robb, 1879). Chapter 2 moves on to the imposition of a British Protectorate in 1890 and the gradual relegation of the Sultan to a position of dependency, while real authority came to be exercised by the British Resident and his Chief Secretary. It then behoved the new authorities to demonstrate improvement in the administration of this new territory, and Chapter 3 tells how planning became part of this agenda. However, as Bissell notes (p. 113) “Establishing even the barest rudiments of a municipal order was challenge enough: the paucity of officials, difficulties in consolidating rule, and lack of external investment left little room for authorities to contemplate grand urban schemes.” This essentially is the tale told, with a wealth of detail, through Chapters 4, 5 and 6. From Prof. Simpson’s sanitary improvement plan (1913) through H V Lanchester’s first town plan (1922) and its various updatings (the full plan was never published), and indeed on to post-WWII plans by Henry Kendall (1957), the East Germans (1968) and the Chinese (1982), all foundered because of an inadequate legal framework, lack of staff and (most of all) lack of money. Instead, a process whereby plans were endlessly revisited but never implemented became institutionalised.
It’s a sad story. Was there an alternative? Bissell clearly shows that the ambitions of the town planners went far beyond what was feasible in a resource-strapped colonial outpost. As one Chief Secretary, S B B McElderry (this reviewer’s grandfather, as it happens) remarked on the Lanchester plan: “It is difficult … to disentangle the idealistic from the practical elements in these recommendations”. But while the disjunction between intention and reality may have been particularly stark in Zanzibar, Bissell notes that “similar examples can be found throughout the colonial world and beyond … cities large and small moved to embrace planning as a tool of spatial regulation … what is most striking is the extent to which these plans have failed.” The problem seems to reside as much in unrealistic planning as colonialism. Bissell hints at a better way in his concluding Chapter 7: “focusing on the available means at hand and relying on local resourcefulness and indigenous creativity”. But, while a strong case for community involvement in planning can be made, are there many examples of bottom-up activism successfully leading to urban transformation? Therein lies the dilemma (see also UN-HABITAT’s 2009 report “Planning Sustainable Cities” for similar problems facing contemporary planners in Dar-es-Salaam (p. 67) and Moshi (p.76)).
The strength of this book then lies in its documentation of how and why town planning failed in the Zanzibar case rather than pointing to better solutions. Methodologically it is a study in urban history from an ethnographic perspective. Indeed the book opens with a lengthy methodological introduction which non-academics might find a bit tedious (a pre-emptive strike against fellow academics who might suspect the author of straying too far from current ethnographic orthodoxy?). But once into the main story, there is plenty to keep the reader interested. A minor complaint is that none of the several maps is easily legible, making it difficult to pinpoint the location of many of the districts mentioned in the text, but otherwise the book is well-produced with copious notes and references.
MEDICINAL PLANTS OF EAST AFRICA, by Kokwaro, John O. Third Edition, pp478, 2 maps, colour figs. 195, University of Nairobi Press, 2009 ISBN 9966-846-84-0
The fact that this is the third edition of a work first published 32 years ago, must say something about the demand for it. But who would want to buy and use a book about traditional medicines in this scientific age? The title page clearly states that it is “Not intended as a ‘prescription book’ for use by the general public”, and that is certainly a worthy warning. However, the text contains a wealth of information for scientific researchers, linguists and historians, to mention only a few.
Kokwaro’s enlarged third edition follows the previous ones by arranging the plants in alphabetical order by family, genera and species using their scientific names. Local Swahili and tribal names are clearly set out, followed by information about their traditional uses and applications. This edition is said to include 35% more information than the second one. It also has a colour section of photographs of a wide selection of the species. The author sets out in the introductory pages the values and problems in a way that is essential reading.
In former years, settlers considered native medicine as suspect and unworthy of consideration. True, there were and still are medicine men of bad repute who mixed medical treatment and bewitchment, partly because it had to be kept secret lest someone stole it. But others use traditional knowledge for the healing of diseases in people who cannot afford western medicines. Over the generations the bark of certain trees or the infusion of leaves of wild plants continued to be used at a fraction of the cost of commercial medicines. Wild plants were readily available in places where, unfortunately, they now no longer grow, so the ill person now has no option but to turn to more expensive treatments. Here is a good case for encouraging nature conservation. Chemists are now analysing such plants to find their active principles, which are in turn providing leads to further research. This book is one of those excellent resources that provide basic information, some of it rescued in the nick of time.
F. Nigel Hepper
DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION IN RURAL TANZANIA AND ZAMBIA: THE IMPACT OF CIVIC EDUCATION. Satu Riutta. ISBN 978 1 935049 14 2 Lynne Rienner Publishers. 219pp £49.95
This is a book for the expert thoroughly immersed in the minutiae of measuring the impact of civic education on democratic participation – in this case isolated rural communities in Tanzania and Zambia (Mtwara and Luapula respectively)
Satu Riutta is meticulous and thorough in preparing for this project both in surveying previous related literature and developing his methodology and questionnaires to ensure consistency and accuracy in any conclusion that his study offered.
The text is supported by a wealth of tables backed by a high level of statistical analysis. One quote will suffice:-
The effects of civic education on cognition “begins with a bivariate correlation of each dependent variable with CE exposure”.
In broad terms he shows civic education does enhance understanding and participation – though with some interesting contrasts between Tanzania and Zambia. Tanzanians were much more sympathetic to government and politics than Zambians, and Tanzanian women in particular gained more from CE than Zambian women.
In lay terms, donors to CE programmes can be assured that there are positive outcomes for democratic participation, though the impact on understanding and participation is affected by complex variables within the Tanzanian and Zambian communities’ studies.
RULE OF LAW versus RULERS OF LAW; JUSTICE BARNABAS SAMATTA’S ROAD TO JUSTICE. Compiled and edited by Issa Shivji and Hamudi Majamba. Mkuki na Nyota Publishers Ltd, Dar es Salaam 2011. ISBN 978 9987 08 055 7. 257pp. Available from African Books Collective Ltd, P.O. Box 721, Oxford. £24.95
During years of change and challenge Tanzania has been well served by its judges, their stories largely untold. They were led and inspired by successive distinguished Chief Justices. The late Francis Nyali held that position for over two decades and made a seminal contribution to the development of the judiciary and nation, not least in presiding over the Presidential Commission which was instrumental in ending one- party rule. When he retired in 2000, his was a hard act to follow. The mantle fell upon Justice Barnabas Samatta who, in more than thirty years of public service, had been Director of Public Prosecutions before his appointment in 1976 as a judge of the High Court and later of the Court of Appeal.
After his retirement in 2007, this book was compiled to record and honour Chief Justice Samatta’s impressive contribution to the law. It includes tributes from judicial colleagues, and account of his “Life Journey” and a perceptive summary of major themes in his jurisprudence by the academic editors. However, most of the book reproduces the words of Justice Samatta himself, in a selection of his judgements over the years; most of these involved difficult legal issues, carefully analysed and probably of most interest to lawyers. They include one of the judgements which he delivered in the High Court of Zimbabwe, where he spent three years (1984-1987) on loan from Tanzania. This reviewer remembers Justice Samatta well as the outstanding student in his classes at the young University College, Dar es salaam and forty years later was privileged to see him in action as Chief Justice, the genial and hospitable host of his fellow African Chief Justices at their conference in Dar in 2004. (An occasion recalled in one of the photographs from his career which conclude this volume).
The editors rightly emphasise the principles which Samatta maintained and the concerns which motivated his judicial reasoning: the importance of constitutionalism and the rule of law, manifested in the protection of human rights, in judicial review of government actions and in maintaining access to justice for all. They show how he also pioneered judicial intervention to protect the environment, not least in promoting improvements to the environments of the courts themselves. Above all, as befitted a member of the Judicial Integrity Group of international jurists who authoritatively defined standards of judicial conduct, Chief Justice Samatta practised and demanded the highest standards of ethical conduct by all the judges.
The text ends with some of his extra-judicial statements: on environmental justice, on Tanzania’s constitutional order and his farewell speech, “No one is above the law”. The volume ends with his characteristically well argued disagreement, in a lecture in November 2010, with the recent unanimous decision by a seven-judge Court of Appeal, in what he terms the most important constitutional case ever before a Tanzanian court, upholding the validity of constitutional amendments which prevented independent candidates standing in elections.
LETTERS FROM HELGA 1934-1937. A teen Bride writes home from East Africa by Helga Voigt. Translated by Evelyn Voigt. ISBN 978 1 897508 121. p/b. 239pp CA$24.95
60 YEARS IN EAST AFRICA; life of a Settler 1926-1986. Werner Voigt. ISBN 1 896182 39 9. p/b. 267pp. CA$29.95 2nd printing. (Previously reviewed in Tanzanian Affairs in 1997). Both published by General Store Publishing House.
In 1963 in Mufindi I saw a European lady unloading sacks of tea. It was Helga Voigt. The factory manager told me that Mr and Mrs Voigt were German and had had their own plantation confiscated in 1939. When they returned from internment in 1948 they had to buy it back.
These two book should be read together to put Helga’s letters from Mufindi to her relations in Germany into an understandable context. The books are illustrated with black and white photographs.
Werner Voigt went to Tanganyika as a young man and then entered a “penpal” correspondence with Helga whom he had not met. In 1934 Helga left her comfortable life in Germany to marry a man she had merely corresponded with, because although she was a Lutheran, her mother was Jewish by descent. On arrival in Mufindi Helga lived with Werner’s parents near where he lived. As Werner says “well one day she arrived. We married and she became my dear wife”.
Helga’s letters, which are to her relations in Germany, cover the period August 1934 to September 1937. They have been translated by their daughter, Evelyn, who has written a prologue and epilogue as well as footnotes. Unfortunately there is no map.
Both Helga and Werner lived varied lives and were separated for much of their sixty year marriage, internment in South Africa because of the war, and for long periods when Werner went to other places to earn money. He was in Rwanda when I saw Helga on the tea lorry. They managed to enlarge and develop their plantation, Kifulilo, trying various crops. It is now a tea research station. Helga’s letters clearly show that she was enjoying her experiences, in the mountains, on Lake Nyasa, meeting big game and going to search for gold.
Their first child, Werner, was born in February 1937. Helga evidently also enjoyed developing a household and learning to live a completely different kind of life. There was a German club and they celebrated Hitler’s birthday, although there was marked tension between Nazis and non-Nazis. She apparently had “colossally bad teeth”, and yet somewhere in the Mufindi area a German dentist did root fillings and crowns – a contrast to the situation in later years.
Helga and Werner left Tanzania in 1986 after a violent attack on them on their plantation. The German government eventually helped them to sell their farm and they moved to Canada to be near Evelyn. Helga died in 2010.
These books, read together, are an unusual source of the history of some Germans in Tanganyika, and tell the story of a very long and successful marriage.
EAST AFRICA AND THE INDIAN OCEAN. Edward A. Alpers, Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2009. 240pp. ISBN 978 1 55876 453 8, p/b £25.
Over his career, Ned Alpers has authored an influential array of publications that champion East Africa’s often overlooked place within the larger history of the Indian Ocean World. In the volume under review, nine articles or book chapters previously published between 1976 and 2007 are brought together to showcase Alpers’ body of work. This is not a total history of an oceanic society bound together by monsoon rhythms, but instead a set of largely East African case studies in which the Western Indian Ocean provides the main context. “East Africa” here is long and mostly coastal, running from Somalia to the Mozambique Channel, and this book’s temporal focus is largely on the nineteenth century.
Alpers first came to this subject in the 1970s through his command of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Portuguese sources that he used to produce his first monograph, Ivory and Slaves in East Central Africa (1975). Like Ivory and Slaves, each chapter of the present volume shows the author’s irrepressible curiosity and enthusiasm for questions of micro-level social and cultural organizations, which in turn, he argues, have shaped macro-level networks and trends. These local case studies range from an examination of the cultural peculiarities of Gujarati merchant households in Western India, to the specific textile appetites Somali consumers, to the spiritual possession cults of Zanzibari women. Such anthropological attention marks Alpers’ important departure from the imperial “trade & politics” focus which transfixed earlier scholarly generations of the Lusophone Indian Ocean. Slavery emerges, appropriately enough, as the volume’s central topic, never far from any given chapter and oftentimes at its center. The nineteenth century was a time of enormous expansion of slave raiding, trading, and production along the continent’s eastern coast, paradoxically coinciding with its decline in West Africa. Perhaps the most impressive contribution of this volume emerges from reading the book’s final chapters on the Mozambican Channel as a single section. Here, Alpers demonstrates how slave trading runs through the history of violence and dislocation throughout this region during the nineteenth century, and shows how the Mozambican Channel—despite enormous cultural diversities between the Mozambican coast, the Comorian Islands, and Madagascar—forms an important historical unit in its own right, created out of a shared history of commercial violence.
The combination of geographical range and scholarly erudition displayed in these chapters makes for a book that is rewarding to read as a single collection or, alternatively, to be dipped into to satisfy one’s geographical or thematic preference. Although each of these chapters has been previously published, those that touch on contemporary matters have been helpfully updated since first publication. Handsomely produced by Markus Weiner, this volume reminds us not only of the impressive geographical and thematic range of Alpers’ career, but more importantly offers a timely overview of those resilient cultural and social networks straddling the Western Indian Ocean that continue to constitute vital elements of Tanzanian life today.
James R. Brennan
James Brennan is Assistant Professor of History, University of Illinois and Research Associate at School of Oriental and African Studies, London University.
Win Griffiths taught at Mzumbe Secondary School 1966-1968 and then in the UK. He was an MEP for South Wales 1979-1989 and MP for Bridgend 1987- 2005. In 2002 he visited Sierra Leone as part of an attempt to persuade party leaders to respect the outcome of impending elections. He maintains contact with Sierra Leone by linking the Health Board in South Wales which he chairs, to the Ola During children’s hospital.
F. Nigel Hepper, was formerly at Kew Herbarium.
Professor Jim Read is Emeritus Professor of Comparative Public Law, University of London, (SOAS). He was Senior Lecturer in Law at University College Dar es Salaam in the 1960’s and is Joint General Editor, Law Reports of the Commonwealth.
Dr Hugh Wenban-Smith was born in Chunya and went to Mbeya School. His career was as a government economist (mainly in Britain, but with periods in Zambia and India). He is now an independent researcher, with particular interests in infrastructure, urbanisation and transport.
Alison Redmayne went to the East African Institute of Social Research at Makerere in 1963 and later carried out research in the Southern Highlands of Tanganyika where she lived off and on from 1963 to 1998. She visits the Iringa area for about ten weeks most years.