by Martin Walsh

POPOBAWA: TANZANIAN TALK, GLOBAL MISREADINGS. Katrina Daly Thompson. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 2017. viii + 228 pp. (paperback). ISBN 9780253024565. $30.00.

In Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, the sites of Thompson’s research, there have long been stories of a mysterious shape-shifter called Popobawa (literally ‘bat wing’) which attacks people at night, mostly men but sometimes women, by sodomising them with its enormous penis. Such purported attacks can lead to panic and people seeking protection either by sleeping outside in groups or by recitation of the Koran, or both. Popobawa stories are not only recounted in Tanzania but have spread to other parts of Africa and beyond, including to a global audience interested in the supernatural.

In this book, Katrina Daly Thompson, Professor of African languages at the University of Wisconsin, who describes herself as a linguistic ethnographer, discusses her own research in the form of a series of interviews she conducted in 2009, as well as the available research of other people, academic or otherwise. One of her main arguments is that the telling of these stories need to be understood in a social context, with some knowledge of who is speaking as well as what they say. The failure of many outside commentators, including academics, to recognise this, is heavily criticised by the author. Single, overarching theories (meta-discourses) such as those which seek to explain the periodic panics in terms of political events are rejected. Thompson rather uses discourse theory to discuss the Popobawa stories at both the local and wider level, suggesting that understanding the meaning of the telling of the stories is rarely simple. Tellers of the tales may distance themselves, may claim to be sceptics, may claim to be authoritative. In short, people adopt different subject positions in their talk.

Thompson argues that the recounting of the stories, whether told seriously or in the form of jokes, breaks with local ideas about restraint and decorum, particularly in matters of sexuality, gender segregation and Islamic prohibitions on gossip. For these reasons, talking about Popobawa allows discussion around forbidden subjects such as male homosexuality or female sexual desire without apparently challenging them directly. It may thus be seen as subversive and solves the problem of customary silence on certain important matters. At the same time, such talk, with its many-layered meanings, fits with the way in which the Swahili language itself is most highly valued by its speakers, namely when it is allusive, full of metaphors and double-entendres – Kiswahili ndani (‘inside Swahili’).

In the latter part of the book, Thompson turns her attention to the global influences on the local: many Zanzibaris are well aware of western legends like Dracula and Batman, and capable of incorporating them into their own highly cosmopolitan culture. She also considers the ‘readings’ of Popobawa in films, tv programmes, websites and social media, even guide books, mainly produced outside of Tanzania, and particularly in the West. The tendency of most western commentators is to reduce the complexities of Popobawa to simple meta-narratives with single explanations.  Here the trap of ethnocentrism looms large: the premise is that westerners are rational and scientific, Africans are the antithesis of this. So there is a danger that a purported interest in and discussion of the phenomenon ends up confirming stereotypes about Africa and Africans.

Thompson thus argues that there is actually no difference between local speakers and western commentators since both recount the Popobawa legends for their own purposes. In her conclusion, she quotes one of her interviewees: ‘Popobawa yuko, kila mmoja anamchukulia anavyotaka’ (‘Popobawa is there, everyone interprets him as they like’).

This book provides a salutary case study for other ethnographers who might be tempted to take refuge in the simplistic, as in ‘some people say’. Thompson argues convincingly that ethnography must be dialogic and that the ethnographer should resist the temptation to impose his or her own authority, comments with which one can only agree. At the same time, I was left wondering: who was she for them? What did her interlocuters make of a white American, married to a Zanzibari, engaging in this particular topic of research?

Pat Caplan

Pat Caplan is Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has carried out research on Mafia Island, Tanzania since 1965 and written several books and articles about the area.


MIKIDADI: INDIVIDUAL BIOGRAPHY AND NATIONAL HISTORY IN TANZANIA. Pat Caplan. Sean Kingston Publishing, Canon Pyon, 2016. viii + 191pp. (hardback). ISBN 978-1-907774-48-5. £50.00

Pat Caplan has been prominent in the anthropology of the Tanzanian coast since the publication of Choice and Constraint in a Swahili Community (1975), based on her doctoral fieldwork in Mafia Island in 1965-67. Her reputation as an insightful interpreter of Swahili society and culture became firmly established through numerous scholarly publications exploring kinship and descent, land tenure, gender, health, socialism, modernity, and other topics.

One notable book was African Voices, African Lives: Personal Narratives from a Swahili Village (1997), an account of the lives of members of a Mafian family, presented largely through their own (translated) words. Like Marjorie Shostak’s Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman (1981) and Sarah Mirza and Margaret Strobel’s Three Swahili Women: Life Histories from Mombasa, Kenya (1989), it can be read as an attempt to ‘decolonise’ anthropological writing, that is, to let the subjects speak for themselves rather than to present their beliefs and experiences entirely through the anthropologist’s powerful theoretical lens.

Caplan’s latest book, Mikidadi: Individual Biography and National History in Tanzania, can be viewed as a further probe in this direction. Published first in a Swahili language edition (2014) and now in English, it tells the story of Mikidadi Juma Kichange, a Mafian whose lifetime spanned the colonial era, Independence, Ujamaa socialism, neoliberalism and the (still ongoing) transition to multi-party democracy. Mikidadi was both ordinary and extraordinary. His background and achievements were modest, and the values and beliefs he held were representative of his society. Yet he was unusual in his intuitive understanding – while still a boy – of Caplan’s anthropological endeavour, and also in the stubbornness of his drive to better himself, his relatives and his community.

The book is a gut-wrenching tale of thwarted ambitions and missed opportunities. At the same time, it is a profoundly hopeful story of survival, compassion, staying true to one’s principles and transcending cross-cultural barriers. It comprises excerpts from the sizeable correspondence between Caplan and Mikidadi that accumulated in the four decades before his death, supplemented by diary entries, interview transcripts and field notes. In between, Caplan puts the material in historical, cultural and personal context. She does not try to make herself invisible in this account, but instead transparently considers her role in Mikidadi’s life and that of the larger community. Nor does Caplan burden the reader with anthropological analyses that would use Mikidadi’s words and experiences merely to illustrate academic theory.

As Caplan explains, her priority in retirement is to disseminate what she has learned over many years to a wider audience that includes non-specialists as well as the subjects of her research. With that aim, she has produced a website about Mafia and participated in making documentary films for general audiences. Mikidadi is another product that aims to make Caplan’s work accessible to non-anthropologists, not least Mafians. The book hints at the challenges this involves. For example, when visiting Mafia, it had been Caplan’s practice to screen the 1976 BBC documentary she helped make about the village she worked in. However, decades later, community members became concerned that the film showed women dressed immodestly according to newer, more restrictive standards of Islam. One young woman remarked, “What was the matter with those people then? Didn’t they have any clothes?”

Mikidadi was similarly scandalised by a photograph of an underdressed infant in African Voices, African Lives. He felt that Caplan should not publicise the book locally because “Mohammed” – the book’s pseudonymous central subject – would, as Mikidadi expresses it in Mikidadi, “regret that things that were hidden or secret had been revealed. For example the burial of a corpse or the circumcision of a man are things that are not known to women.” Caplan’s research and publications had put formerly restricted knowledge into the public realm, potentially compromising the local reputations of particular individuals who were locally recognisable in spite of the use of pseudonyms.

Caplan and Mikidadi struck up a rapport early on and their relationship was carefully tended by each of them through the ensuing years. But in some respects, they were unequal partners. Caplan travelled easily between Europe and Tanzania, while Mikidadi’s life-long dream of visiting Europe never materialised. Many of the letters quoted in the book include requests for money or equipment that Caplan could only partially fulfil. Both Mikidadi and Caplan were opponents, in their own ways, of social inequality, while they also negotiated inequality in their own enduring and genuine friendship.

In the past, communities studied by anthropologists generally had little idea of the outcomes of their guests’ research and often did not benefit from it. Anthropologists today want to give something back, such as knowledge in the form of books or videos in the local language, material assistance of different kinds, even legal advocacy. Yet this poses practical challenges and moral dilemmas, which Caplan’s Mikidadi addresses but does not entirely resolve.

Helle V. Goldman

Helle V. Goldman did her doctoral fieldwork in rural Pemba, Zanzibar, in 1992-93. In 1996-97 she was a consultant with a conservation and development project in Unguja, Zanzibar, and since then has been publishing the results of collaborative research on the role of the leopard and other wildlife in Zanzibari culture. She was most recently in Zanzibar in the summer of 2017, when she and Martin Walsh served as advisers for a documentary film about the Zanzibar leopard.


IN SEARCH OF LIVING KNOWLEDGE. Marja-Liisa Swantz. Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam, 2016. xiv + 250 pp. (paperback). ISBN 9789-9877-53-40-6. £23.00.

Marja Liisa Swantz is a Finnish anthropologist who has been working on Tanzania since the 1960s. In Search of Living Knowledge is a kind of ethnographic memoir, a self-conscious reflection by the author on her life’s work over more than 50 years – as a researcher, a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam and later as an academic at the University of Helsinki involved in a number of Finnish-supported development interventions in Tanzania.

She is best known in anthropology for her work on Zaramo ritual and symbolism, first published in the 1970s. She is also a foundational contributor to the diverse body of practices which fall under the umbrella label of participatory research. This book is an attempt to bring both contributions together through an account of the author’s personal journey as a researcher seeking not only to understand the life worlds of those whom she is studying, but to engage with them in the process of understanding the issues they face as a collaborative endeavour which can promote change. Swantz shows how knowledge is not fixed but ‘living’, for researcher and those with whom they work. Cultural meanings change over time and there are important generational differences in the ways that culture is experienced. Much of this change is conscious. Critical reflection is thus foundational to cultural change and to the local instantiations of development, issues examined at some length in the text.

Swantz presents cogent musings on the problematic of anthropological methodology and the uses and beneficiaries of the kinds of anthropological knowledge generated through conventional practices of ethnographic fieldwork undertaken by an individual anthropologist. She is less clear about the ways in which the kind of inter-subjective engagement she claims to practice has affected her own perceptions and relations with informants in the longer term. We do get a sense, however, of the author’s longstanding engagement in Tanzania and her ideological commitment to an anthropology which prioritises informants’ understandings at the same time as it has to find ways of dealing with the ways in which these undergo inevitable change. Participatory research is important for Swantz because it offers a way of including research subjects as active agents in the process of knowledge production.

Swantz became involved in social research in Tanzania at a time when participatory approaches were being developed by diverse researchers within and beyond the country. This book presents a fascinating account of the history of participatory research in Tanzania and the intellectual struggles at the University of Dar es Salaam and beyond it over the place of Marxist analyses as the frame through which research was to be conducted or a potential analytical tool to be used according to the empirical findings research produced. These struggles came to a head in the first large scale participatory research project carried out in Tanzania, which Swantz directed, leading to irreconcilable splits within the research team, comprising a mix of Tanzanian and foreign researchers. Swantz shows how the Jipemoyo initiative informed the design of another participatory initiative supported by the Finns through a large scale rural development intervention in Mtwara, for which Swantz was a professional adviser. The successful use of participatory approaches to local level planning in these projects contributed to the eventual inclusion of a form of participatory planning within the local government system.

A limitation of the book is the inadequate presentation of context. There is very little background information which would help the reader situate the claims which Swantz is making or contextualize the historical accounts she presents. Despite this, the book is an important addition to the contemporary history of social institutions and social research in Tanzania, providing an insider account of the evolution of participatory research approaches in rural development and an insight into the political factionalism which structured social research and analysis in the 1970s and 1980s.

Maia Green

Maia Green is an anthropologist who researches issues of social and economic change and development organisations in Tanzania. She works at the University of Manchester and is the author of The Development State: Aid, Culture and Civil Society in Tanzania (2014).


by Martin Walsh

THE DELUSION OF KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER: THE IMPACT OF FOREIGN AID EXPERTS ON POLICY-MAKING IN SOUTH AFRICA AND TANZANIA. Susanne Koch and Peter Weingart. African Minds, Cape Town, 2016. xii + 384 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-1-928331-39-1. £40.00.

The aid industry has come under increasing attack in recent years. Indeed, use of the word ‘industry’ in this context already carries pejorative overtones. At first, large insufficiently supported capital projects were the main targets, leading to an increasing emphasis on technical support. In this book, however, the argument is that the latter is also inherently flawed. Are we to conclude then that all attempts to bring assistance to developing countries, no matter how well intentioned, are doomed to failure?

In fact, the authors’ critique is more narrowly focused. Their particular concern is the failure of expert advice to foster ‘the national capacity for self-reliance’. Rather, they argue, ‘the persistent interference by outside actors in our view undermines the development of young into strong democracies as it puts governments at risk of losing control over their own policy agendas (p. 2)’. Related to this, ‘we take it to be a core aspect of sovereignty that states govern themselves and define their own policies (p. 6)’ – shades of Brexit here! A sceptic might object that this rather purist position insufficiently recognises the possibility of governments (not just in developing countries) adopting and pursuing wrong-headed policies (think South Africa and AIDS during the Mbeki years) and that the democratic deficit in policy-making may be due as much to local institutional weaknesses as to over-influential foreign experts. Nevertheless, their ultimate conclusion that more should be done to harness local knowledge and to foster local institutions which can enable such knowledge to play a greater part in the policy process is well made.

In support of their thesis, the authors have carried out case studies in Tanzania and South Africa, covering policy development in education, health and forestry. These are fascinating and the extensive quotations from interviewees merit close study by anyone involved in technical assistance, whether as donors or recipients. In deference to TA readers, we focus here on the Tanzania cases.

In education, the conclusion is that the policy agenda in Tanzania has been ‘hi-jacked’ by the foreign experts involved in the Education Development Partners Group: ‘In a nutshell, the state of education governance in Tanzania could be sketched as follows: the need for foreign financing has legitimated an intense involvement of external actors in the policy space in which aid money has become the central preoccupation. The prevailing sentiment of being at the mercy of donors has paralysed leadership and administration which fails to set or refrains from articulating an agenda of its own.’ One consequence was over-enrolment in schools, beyond the available capacity of either buildings or teachers, leading to falling standards. In contrast, South Africa is found to have been more successful in exploiting outside expertise to create a local vision. This is attributed to: lesser financial dependence on donors; competition between donors, leading to greater responsiveness to local needs and priorities; the careful approach of the authorities towards advice and assistance; and participation of various local stakeholders to counterbalance influence from outside.

The story in health is somewhat different. A number of policy initiatives were taken in the 1990s to rescue Tanzania’s health services from the serious decline that had occurred under the structural adjustment policies of the 1980s. This culminated in most donors participating in a constructive ‘sector-wide approach’ with ‘basket funding’ under strong Tanzanian leadership. However, this benign arrangement was then disrupted by the entry of global health initiatives with massive financial backing, particularly in relation to HIV/AIDS. Up to this point, Tanzanian policy gave priority to prevention and mitigation measures. With hundreds of millions of dollars on offer, the Tanzanians had little option but to go along with the programmes and policies imposed by the Global Fund, PEPFAR and the Clinton Foundation, which emphasised treatment with antiretroviral drugs, despite practical difficulties in implementing such a policy. Moreover, one of the most problematic issues related to the entry of global health initiatives in Tanzania was that ‘they not only shifted the bulk of the HIV budget to treatment but also skewed the overall resource allocation in health towards HIV/AIDS at the expense of other crucial areas and prevalent diseases (p. 249).’ In addition, ‘While the dialogue forums in health and HIV/ AIDS were actually established to reduce donor influence and induce a more distant form of advice, it de facto brought aid actors closer to decision-making insofar as it entrenched their participation in policy development, analysis and evaluation (p. 257)’. Meanwhile, South Africa was more successful in harnessing outside finance and advice in support of its own agenda (at least, once Aaron Motsoaledi had become Health Minister).

The third case covered environmental policy, particularly forestry. Here external advice played a large part in mainstreaming environmental policy in Tanzania and helping to secure passage of the Forest Act (2002) and the Environmental Management Act (2004), which was regarded as a model of its kind. However, disillusion soon set in. A combination of low priority for environmental actions in budget setting, misappropriation of funds and insufficient administrative capacity resulted in a situation where ‘environmental policies and legislation are hardly put into practice (p. 290)’. In response, donor support either faded away or was redirected into the new international enthusiasm for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). Again, South Africa did better, thanks mainly to strong local expertise.

The concluding chapters of the book review the relative importance of financial strength, administrative capacity and the local knowledge base in the light of the case studies. They find that ‘it is insufficient to explain external influence on policy-making with a single factor.’ The final chapter heading nevertheless is ‘There is no substitute for local knowledge’ and the authors make suggestions to strengthen its influence. Evidently this cannot be a quick fix, leaving open the question how donors and recipients are supposed to work constructively together in the meantime. The case studies do however offer some pointers as to how the more egregious practices can be avoided. For those keen to learn more, the book includes a very full bibliography.
Hugh Wenban-Smith
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 research economist, with particular interests in infrastructure, urbanisation and transport.

THE ENDURING RELEVANCE OF WALTER RODNEY’S ‘HOW EUROPE UNDERDEVELOPED AFRICA’. Karim Hirji. Daraja Press, Montreal, 2017. 134 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-0-9952223-9-7. £8.80.

Karim Hirji argues succinctly that Walter Rodney’s inspirational book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (HEUA), retains its long-term relevance because it articulates a strategy for the total economic independence of Africa as well as the emancipation of Africa and its people. Hirji knew Rodney personally and he explains that as the struggles for independence matured, a Marxist strand of political economy which demonstrated that Europe has an exploitative relationship with Africa emerged. Rodney was not a mechanical borrower of ideas from other progressives. He was a critical scholar and classical Marxist whose theoretical framework of analysis was based on Marxist political economy.

From the 15th century onwards African societies came under the hegemony of western imperialism, and colonial policies prevented genuine capitalist development. Rodney thought that the African masses must take the control of state power, disengage from the global capitalist system, adopt socialism, and use its wealth to develop society. He proposed a strategy of integrated economic development for the liberation of African nations, but his book became a target for elitist right-wing intellectuals for its anti-imperialist stance. Its content, methods and conclusions were scrutinised by many, including some progressive academics. Because Rodney advanced the Marxist idea that economic factors are the primary motor of African history, he is accused of economic determinism by conventional historians who fail to see anything wrong with the cultural and demographic determinism that they adopt in their own analyses.

Another criticism of Rodney’s book is its explanation of the role played by external factors in the transformation of Africa during the slave trade and after. Rodney understood capitalism as a global system and imperialism as an economically-driven phenomenon facilitating the extraction of surplus, and so the underdevelopment of Africa. However, some African and Western scholars argue that Rodney’s thesis is not relevant for the postcolonial period, and that poverty in Africa cannot be attributed to imperialism but instead must be blamed on corrupt leadership. Their proposed solution is the adoption of neoliberal policies with economic liberalisation and the promotion of foreign investment. As Hirji points out, this is an approach that merely pretends to scientific objectivity.

Rodney wrote about a continent that had been exploited for centuries. His work had to be exceptional because he was breaking the silence that had been maintained by academia itself. And in order to expose the truth of Africa’s underdevelopment he brought in new ideas and adopted a unique style. Rodney was a committed Marxist scholar and activist who continually enhanced his perspective through study and struggle. While engaging with local realities on ‘The Hill’, his views evolved. By the mid-1970s he had realised that the rhetoric of Tanzanian socialism masked the neocolonial dependency being implemented in the country.

He mingled with both intellectuals and the masses. I first met Rodney during his lecture on the Cuban Revolution at the University of Dar es Salaam. He was a very powerful orator and captivated the academic audience. Together with Hirji, Issa Shivji and other comrades, we went with him to the Ujamaa villages in Bagamoyo and Dodoma to work with the peasants. Personally, I treasure the few days that I spent with him when he had fallen sick while on his way to Njombe with his wife Pat and children, Asha, Shaka and Kanini. He stopped over at our humble home in Mzumbe, Morogoro, and my wife Salha and I were able to spend a few days with him and his family while he recuperated.

Hirji points out that the main theme of HEUA remains as relevant for Africa today as it did in 1972 when it was first published. The book enables one to understand the continent’s past and the path it is taking, as well as the grave social economic problems that Africa has faced. The result was a ground-breaking work of scholarship. For the first time the real causes of underdevelopment in Africa were exposed, and Rodney’s book was widely read in Africa and the Caribbean.

Today, however, there are conscious efforts in some quarters to disqualify Rodney’s thesis. Indeed, most historians now studying African history hardly ever make reference to him. Even in the university seminar rooms, HEUA seems to be completely forgotten. Students rarely read a fair depiction of the contribution of Rodney’s Marxist approach: instead he is often misquoted. It is therefore timely for Hirji to remind us of his magisterial work. He discusses Rodney as a humane revolutionary and radical scholar who supported student activism and radical writing in the campuses of different universities. Despite determined attempts to silence Rodney, his inspiration to change the society for the better and fight for a just and non-racial future remains strong.
Georgios Hadjivayanis
Dr Georgios Hadjivayanis is a retired Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology. He did his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of Dar es Salaam where he was actively involved in student politics. His memoir of that period is published in Cheche which was edited by Karim Hirji. He did his doctoral studies at Pantheon Sorbonne in France. He was one the founding Directors of Haki Ardhi, and taught at Mzumbe and Sokoine universities in Morogoro prior to moving to South Africa. He is currently based in London.

JOHN THOMAS MHINA SEPEKU, ASKOFU MKUU WA KWANZA, KANISA ANGLIKANA, TANZANIA. Augustino S.L.Ramadhani. Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam, 2017. 287 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-9987-75-394-9. TSh. 25,000.

John Sepeku was one of the outstanding personalities in the first generation of church leaders following national independence. Born in Misozwe, Tanga, in 1908, he became first Anglican Bishop of Dar es Salaam in 1965, and first Archbishop of the Anglican Province of Tanzania in 1970. He was educated at St. Andrew’s College, Minaki, Kisarawe, one of the two best existing secondary schools. In his final year when Sepeku was Head Prefect, the Headmaster, Canon Gibbons, commented: “Has the courage of his convictions. Is a leader and has real ‘dini’ (that is, genuine religious faith). Cannot speak too highly of him.”

The author is himself an outstanding personality. Augustino Ramadhani was Chief Judge of Zanzibar from 1980-89, then Chief Judge of Tanzania from 2007-10, and finally President of Africa’s International Court of Human Rights. Before his retirement as judge in 2016, the author was ordained as an Anglican priest in Zanzibar in 2013. He knew John Sepeku very well, and this excellent biography has been written out of love and gratitude. It is now 34 years since Sepeku died. Inevitably there are a few gaps in the story, but the author has brilliantly succeeded in writing an extensive account of his life, by using a variety of written sources, as well as live interviews. As the author remarks, his book is more than a biography. It is also a brief history of the Anglican Church, tracing it back to the days of David Livingstone’s appeal, made to British and Irish universities in 1857, to send missionaries to rid Africa of the scourge of the slave trade, and to spread the light of Christianity. It was this historic appeal which led directly to the founding of the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA), which in 1965 was incorporated in the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG). John Sepeku was nurtured in this ecclesiastical tradition, but never restricted by it. He formed friendships across church boundaries, and both as bishop and archbishop sought to bring harmony and break down divisions.

In 1960 the Anglican Province of East Africa was inaugurated, bringing together for the first time the two different missionary traditions of the UMCA and the CMS (Church Missionary Society) into one autonomous body. When the diocese of Dar es Salaam was founded in 1965, Sepeku became its first bishop. From the start he welcomed and made provision for Christians from the evangelical ‘CMS’ dioceses, and co-operated closely with Gresford Chitemo, his neighbouring bishop in Morogoro. Then, in 1970, just two days before the nation celebrated its National Independence Day, the Church of the Province of Tanzania was inaugurated. John Sepeku was enthroned as its first archbishop, having been elected by his seven fellow bishops in Tanzania. Chosen by the Archbishop of Canterbury to preside at the closing Eucharist of the Lambeth Conference in 1978, he stepped down as archbishop in the same year, and continued as bishop until he died in 1983.

Often called the ‘farmer’ bishop because of his ‘hands-on’ commitment to developing diocesan land for horticulture, John Sepeku was also instrumental in providing urban land in the city for educational and social projects, such as the Kichwele Women’s Hostel for single girls, St. Mark’s Theological College, and a School for Deaf Children.

As archbishop, John Sepeku travelled widely throughout Tanzania, building on his knowledge of the different backgrounds and church traditions to bring about a sense of a genuinely indigenous Tanzanian church, diverse but essentially one.

A natural leader, who could be authoritarian and stern, John Sepeku was widely acknowledged to be at heart a humble pastor, compassionate and just, whose advice was sought not only by bishops and priests but also by government leaders. Judge Ramadhani has written a masterly book in which he brings out clearly the exceptional qualities of this great church leader. He has written a brief English synopsis. The book is now awaiting a full translation, but meanwhile it should be recommended reading for all current and aspiring leaders of church and state.
Graeme Watson
Revd Graeme Watson worked as a missionary priest and teacher in Tanzania from 1967 to 1977. He was Tutor at St. Cyprian’s College, Lindi, 1967-77; Vice-Principal of St. Mark’s Theological College, Dar es Salaam, 1969-73; and Rector of St. Alban’s Church, Dar es Salaam, 1974- 77.


by Martin Walsh

THE ART OF THE ZARAMO: IDENTITY, TRADITION, AND SOCIAL CHANGE IN TANZANIA. Fadhili Safieli Mshana. Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam, 2016. xiv + 190 pp. (paperback). ISBN 9789-9987-75-356-7. £28.00.

Mkuki na Nyota’s 2016 edition of The Art of the Zaramo: Identity, Tradition and Social Change is a well-produced (and more affordable) paperback edition of Fadhili Mshana’s doctoral dissertation, which he completed in 1999 with the original title Art and Identity among the Zaramo of Tanzania (State University of New York at Binghamton). Mshana is a professor of Art History at Georgia College and State Universty in Milledgeville, GA, in the USA. Although he completed his art historical education in Dar es Salaam, East Anglia and the US, Mshana started his career as a school teacher in Tanzania. Not only is he a visual art practitioner himself, he can also claim descent from a venerable blacksmithing lineage, so his identification with Tanzanian artistry runs deep and it is not surprising that his book is written in the voice of a culturally committed Tanzanian.

The Art of the Zaramo follows a standard dissertation format, with the first couple of chapters devoted to situating Zaramo wood carving practices within an historical and sociological framework. But the book also celebrates the resilience of these practices, and their responsiveness to new influences over time, within the rich cultural ‘mix’ of Dar es Salaam and of the wider Uzaramo area. At its core the book presents three themed essays on three respective forms in the Zaramo sculptural corpus. The first themed essay, on mwana hiti trunk figures, is presented in Chapter Four and deals with the way these remarkable, stylised, ritual artworks have retained their relevance as foci for female identification and articulation of female potency within the changing parameters of Zaramo female initiation rites. The second essay on figurative grave markers is covered in Chapter Five and discusses the role that widespread cultural change has had on memorial practices, focusing especially on the impact of the spatial and ideological upheaval instituted as part of the ‘villagisation’ programme which underpinned Tanzania’s post-Independence socialist policies. Mshana seems to suggest that the continuing survival and variety of figurative memorial sculptures in a context of spatial upheaval and, latterly, in contexts of proliferating cultural choices, is linked to the personalised forms of honouring ancestors and the continuing strength of family and ancestral ties. Chapter Six incorporates an engaging and enlightening discussion of Nyerere’s canny appropriation of the kifimbo (a short staff widely used by elders in many Tanzanian ethnic groups) to communicate and enhance his political authority.

But following this insightful discussion, Mshana’s cautious conclusion, with his predominantly object-focused approach, appears to leave more questions than answers on issues such as how individual Zaramo sculptors in Tanzanian contexts responded to new influences and experiences and how their artworks may accrue complex biographies and take on significances beyond the original contexts of their creation.

The Art of the Zaramo makes a welcome contribution to the field of East African art studies, but it can be over-cautious in places and sometimes seems averse to engaging in theoretically-informed interpretive analysis in favour of making ‘safe’ (p. 158) pronouncements that avoid, rather than engage with, complex realities. There is also relatively little in the way of direct Zaramo voices or voiced experiences in the book. Indeed ‘the Zaramo’ are referred to throughout as a homogenous block inhabiting an undifferentiated ‘Zaramo lived reality’

(p. 154). The author also defaults to other forms of generalisation at times and frequently seems to invest concepts of ‘modernity’ and ‘modernisation’ with active historical agency rather than human actors. Similarly, the author’s concepts of ‘tradition’ and ‘identity’ remain unspecified and un-problematised, which leaves them open to Frederick Cooper’s critique of being ‘putative’ and too ambiguous for rigorous analysis (Colonialism in Question, 2005, pp. 59-60). Finally, this reviewer cannot help noting that Mshana’s book perpetuates an old bias in African art studies in considering only the art of wood sculpture as a worthy object for study in a book about The Art of the Zaramo. Zaramo women’s ceramic arts are not considered in the book and other creative forms, like the commercialised blackwood genres, for example, are only briefly discussed.
Zachary Kingdon

Zachary Kingdon is Curator of the African Collections at National Museums Liverpool. He conducted his doctoral research among Makonde sculptors in Tanzania and holds a PhD in Advanced Studies in Non-Western Art from the University of East Anglia. He is the author of A Host of Devils: The History and Context of the Making of Makonde Spirit Sculpture (Routledge, 2002). He also coedited East African Contours: Reviewing Creativity and Visual Culture (HornimanMuseum, London, 2005).

FLYING SNAKES AND GREEN TURTLES: TANZANIA UP CLOSE. Evelyn Voigt. GSPH, Ottawa, ON, 2014. xii + 410 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-1-77123-055-1. $30 Canadian, plus shipping and handling (to order copies please contact Gordon Breedyk,

I’ll admit that when this 400-page tome landed through my letterbox, I had doubts. Biographies can go so wrong, and was the Fox story genuinely print-worthy?

As it turns out, it’s a real page-turner. Anyone who has spent time in Iringa will probably know of the Fox family and their thriving safari enterprises. If you have, you will marvel at their full life story. Even if you haven’t, this book is a fascinating window into pre-independence Tanganyika and the pioneering spirit of (exceptional) expats of the time. Accompanying the narrative are relevant text boxes with historical summaries (think Lonely Planet, but better). This worked really well, and I was grateful to finally know about Mkwawa and other parts of Tanzanian history that I should have read about years ago, presented in a personal and interesting way.

The book tells of Geoff and Vicky Fox’s incredible adventures in Tanzania from the late 1950s to the present day. Geoff arrives in Tanzania as an eager Brooke Bond bachelor and throws himself into tea plantation work and Mufindi social life. Vicky joins him, and they enjoy regular walking safaris around Mufindi and into Ruaha, which they continue even as they bring up their four children. The book is rich in anecdotes that make even the most adventurous parent look risk-averse. Baby Bruce bouncing out of the car boot on their road trip to South Africa, to be retrieved only when a passing car alerted them… their children diving into crocodile-infested waters to retrieve valuable fishing hooks, the thousand-bee attack, pregnant Vicky floating down the Ruaha river on logs back to their camp… and many more. Life must have been tough, but the Foxes’ quirky humour and Evelyn Voigt’s wonderful retelling of their escapades evoke idyllic family life with the children learning freedom, independence and appreciation of nature in the Tanzanian bush. I felt nostalgic for a life that was never mine.

The book will leave you full of admiration for the Fox family’s ingenuity and resourcefulness. Of course, this is Tanzania Up Close from a distinctly expatriate perspective. But there is no doubt that Geoff and Vicky, and subsequently their sons and daughters-in-law, have made a tremendous contribution to Tanzania, investing in its economy, creating significant employment, and succeeding in protecting precious wildlife, forests and reefs in the face of formidable challenges. I found myself getting nervous as their community development work approached in the story, especially with the mention of an orphanage. But their work was appropriate, very integrated with the local community, and seemed to be making a profound and sustainable impact.

It feels mean to critique this generous, heart-warming love story – any criticisms are minor. The slightly dated front cover is a bit off-putting. I wasn’t convinced by the poems (the narrative was richly descriptive enough as it was) and there was repetition that could have been better edited. However, overall, this was a great read and is highly recommended.
Naomi Rouse
Naomi Rouse has worked in education in Tanzania since 1998, initially in HIV/AIDS prevention, and then specialising in girls’ education. She advises NGOs and major agencies on girls’ education programming and Monitoring and Evaluation, as well as directly managing a pilot of digital learning in rural secondary schools in Iringa for Lyra (

TIME PAST IN AFRICA: MERVYN SMITHYMAN AND FAMILY RECOLLECTIONS. Anne M. Chappel. CreateSpace, 2015. 222 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-1517172275. £7.85.

ZANZIBAR UHURU: A REVOLUTION, TWO WOMEN AND THE CHALLENGE OF SURVIVAL. Anne M. Chappel. CreateSpace, 2015. vi + 314 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-1505511840. £10.00.

Anne Chappel, the author of these two self-published books, is the daughter of Mervyn Vice Smithyman (1911-2008), best known to historians for the way in which his all-too-brief tenure as a Permanent Secretary came to an abrupt end on the day of the Zanzibar Revolution, when he was forced to flee by swimming out to a boat in the harbour. In their very different ways, both of these books, one a memoir and the other a historical novel, help put that unforgettable incident into proper perspective, not least by providing the personal details and context, real and imagined, that are absent in the cursory published accounts. For Mervyn Smithyman was not alone that day, but before making his own escape, made sure that his family and others were safe offshore, among them the 16-year-old Anne. These complementary works of fact and fiction can be read as her own reckoning with the past and the shocking events of that day. The first embeds it in family history; the second is a sensitive reflection on its consequences for the lives of others, including those less fortunate than herself.

As a memoir, the richly-illustrated Time Past in Africa is also much more than this. Its first half traces Mervyn’s family roots and early life in South Africa, where he was born, and Nyasaland, where he spent the second half of his childhood. His parents, Fred Milner and Catherine Jessie Smithyman (neé Vice) worked their way up in colonial society from relatively inauspicious beginnings; the last of their ten children was born in 1933 and by the start of the Second World War they owned both a large family house with stables and a separate holiday home, and were running a hotel, a mineral water factory, and a brewery in Zomba. Mervyn had a job as a junior clerk in the Department of Agriculture, and repaired typewriters for the government in his spare time, work which gave him the time and means to travel around the world in the year before the outbreak of conflict. During the War itself he served as an officer in the King’s African Rifles, rising to command a battalion in India, and this experience stood him in good stead when he applied to join the British Colonial Administration.

The second half of the memoir details his subsequent career in Tanganyika and Zanzibar. His first posting was as Assistant District Officer in Mwanza; he went there in 1947 with his wife Audrey and son Michael, and they were soon joined by baby Anne. He was then posted to Bukoba and soon after to Biharamulo, where he was District Commissioner. In 1949 he was transferred to Same in Pare District, and stayed there until moving to the Secretariat in Dar es Salaam in 1953, where he worked in the District Administration Department and got to know the Governor, Sir Edward Twining. In 1955 he was appointed Senior District Officer in Mbeya, and that was his last tour on the mainland before being offered the post of Senior Assistant Commissioner in Zanzibar, a job he began in September 1956 by serving for six months as District Commissioner of Pemba, based in Wete. In early 1957 he moved to Zanzibar town, and began the period of his career that has attracted most scrutiny by researchers, coinciding as it did with the zama za siasa, the ‘time of politics’ and series of hotly contested elections that preceded Zanzibar’s Independence in December 1963. Smithyman agreed to stay on for a time as Permanent Secretary under the new Prime Minister, Mohammed Shamte. But, as we now know, this lasted for little more than a month.

The most gripping parts of this memoir are his and other family members’ recollections of what happened on that fateful day. They differ somewhat from previously published accounts, and add new details, for example about the disagreements between different expats and members of the government over how they should respond to the rapidly evolving crisis on the morning of 12 January 1964.

The novel, Zanzibar Uhuru, takes off from a fictionalised version of the same events. Like the memoir, it is written in different narrative voices. The first section, which focuses on the first weeks of the Revolution, even includes a few harangues and mad rambles in the hectoring and self-justifying tones that were typical of the speeches and writings of the self-styled Field Marshal John Okello. But the real stars of the story are two women who relate their struggles with the myriad consequences of the events that Okello set in train. The suffering of the first of these, a Zanzibari Arab orphaned during the Revolution, is very persuasively told in the middle section of the book, and carries the tale. The third and final section takes us back to the life of the daughter of a British official whose flight from Zanzibar recalls that of the real-life Smithyman, and brings us forward to the present, when the lives of the two women become intertwined again. Like all good historical novels, Zanzibar Uhuru leaves you wanting to know more about the events it is based on, and which of them might be true. It has been carefully researched, and includes references and a list of further reading for good measure. I only noticed a few minor slips.

Zanzibar Uhuru is boldly conceived and compellingly written. Critics aware of Time Past in Africa and the author’s background will accuse her of reproducing the worldview and political prejudices of her own family and class. But as a survivor of the Zanzibar Revolution herself, she has every right to tell and re-imagine her tale. Although more than half a century has now passed since the Revolution, the wounds it opened are still raw, especially for the women who live with painful memories of the brutality they and their loved ones suffered when their worlds were turned upside-down. Anne Chappel is to be congratulated for bringing part of that story to us, and I hope it will encourage others to do the same, in whatever narrative or creative form.
Martin Walsh


by Martin Walsh

REMEMBERING JULIUS NYERERE IN TANZANIA: HISTORY, MEMORY, LEGACY. Marie-Aude Fouéré (editor). Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam, 2015. xiv + 337 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-9987-753-26-0. £25.00.

I enjoy edited volumes on a particular theme or topic for three reasons: first, they sometimes include excellent work by previously unpublished researchers, edited by scholars with specialised knowledge of the theme or topic; second, they are a useful forum for established authors to account for this emerging scholarship in their own treatments; and third, read together, the bibliographies attached to each essay serve as an excellent cross-referencing tool to guide further research.

This collection is a good example of such a publication, gathering together a good deal of new research from emerging scholars on the topic of remembering Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s first president. Keen to develop a new perspective on this topic, the contributors’ essays explain their collective determination to break from an enduring scholarly tradition of valorising Nyerere, his political works and his significance in the history of African democracy. As Marie-Aude Fouéré points out, the essays she has edited in this volume focus instead on the production of a usable past for a contemporary (re)imagination of nationhood, in which ‘Nyerere’ becomes a ‘floating signifier’, that is, an unfixed political metaphor that is deployed in different ways in the course of debating and acting upon the present.

Many of the chapters in the book document and discuss this issue as it applies to Nyerere and his works. For example, Emma Hunter’s chapter suggests how the Arusha Declaration and Ujamaa were Nyerere’s way of winning back political power for himself and his party by formalising a pervasive anticapitalist and anti-corruption discourse in post-colonial Tanzania. Despite the failure of Ujamaa as a socioeconomic model for prosperity and equality, the policy allowed Nyerere to cement his reputation as an incorruptible figure of righteousness and social justice and, following his death, allowed others to transform him into a contemporary symbol of a more moral time in the past.

The essays by Kelly Askew, James Brennan and Mary Ann Mhina are all to some degree concerned with what might have been or might still be concealed or occluded by Nyerere’s shadow as it figures in literary, academic and poetic engagements with him in his guise as the hardworking, modest, self-effacing schoolteacher and as the august and preeminent torch-bearer of Tanzanian – and African – political self-determination and independence. After all, we must wonder about the reasoning behind Nyerere’s decision to establish a foundation named for himself that, according to Olivier Provini’s chapter, pays him a permanent tribute by disseminating his political thought through various media and the publication of his speeches.

In her chapter, Mhina points out that our view of discourse – and the signifiers and symbols it deploys – must not neglect the ability people have to perpetrate, penetrate, transcend or ignore it, depending on context and their own particular needs. Fouéré extends this point, explaining that whoever and whatever Nyerere the man might have been during his lifetime, the signifier/symbol called ‘Nyerere’ has become a polyvalent means of both operating upon the past in the present and of deploying the past in operations upon the present. Individual and corporate efforts to claim Nyerere in this fashion are also telling: those who vie for power over Nyerere’s meaning do so in the knowledge that their particular signifier can, through the power of the symbol, become a mirror that reflects the virtues they ascribe to it back upon them. If the signifier/symbol they have created is powerful and widely accepted, they may, by associating or affiliating with their symbol, draw upon its power to legitimate their own authority and projects.

The chapters by Aikande Kwayu and Kristin Phillips, for example, each present research data to explain how political legitimacy is appropriated by those who can present themselves as lineal descendants of whatever politically expedient version of Nyerere they successfully posit, while Provini and Sonia Languille consider how Nyerere’s educational legacy is honoured or ignored in the administraton of contemporary university and secondary education.

The essays in this book all touch on what I see as a particularly Tanzanian syllogism: Nyerere was all that was best about Tanzania in the past, while Tanzania remains all that its greatest son made it. Whether the conclusion of this logical expression is true or not, I expect that this volume is only the beginning of a much deeper study of the symbolic power of Nyerere-as­metonym-for-Tanzania, as well as a more wide-ranging consideration of his significance(s) in East Africa and further afield.
Gavin Macarthur

Gavin Macarthur graduated with a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Manchester in 2009. His doctoral research suggests that the islands of Zanzibar are imagined in multiple cultured modes, continuously resituating the Isles in differential historical, geographical and socio-political relations with the Tanzanian mainland and other places around the globe. He is currently developing a health-focused eco-adventure tourism project to implement certain of the UN’s sustainable development goals in Jeju island, South Korea.

A MONUMENT TO CHINA-AFRICA FRIENDSHIP: FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT OF THE BUILDING OF TAZARA. Compiled by the Policy Planning Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, People’s Republic of China. English translation by Chen Feng and Jarrod Williams. World Affairs Press, 2015. 256 pp. (hardback). ISBN 978-7-5012-5084-4. (No price given.)

A detailed report on the planning and construction of the TAZARA railway, from a Chinese perspective, is very welcome. For this was one of the largest and most complex infrastructure project constructed in Africa in the 1970s, and by far the largest turnkey project undertaken abroad by China at that time. As this book, compiled from interviews with the key people involved, shows, it was an eye-opener and learning experience for all involved.

The speed of construction was incredible. The project was discussed by President Nyerere during his visit to China in 1965, only a few months after Ian Smith had declared UDI in Zimbabwe and prevented Zambia exporting its copper by the quickest route to Beira. Construction started in 1970 and was completed in October 1975. 50,000 Chinese and even more Tanzanians and Zambians worked on the project. The challenges were unbelievable. There were no recent engineering studies, no usable maps for parts of the route, the alignment had to be decided, there were problems causes by geology (including the risk of earthquakes, the difficult climb up into the Southern Highlands at Makambako, and the difficulties of construction in swampy land along the Kilombero Valley and elsewhere), sickness and especially malaria, wildlife in and near the Selous Game Reserve (the Tanzanian army arranged for the construction teams to be issued with guns), and the provision of supplies and
materials for such a large project.

This book shows how these challenges were overcome. It will interest students of the relationships between China and countries in Africa, and anyone interested in railways. But because it is based on reminiscences, it is also a fascinating study of relationships, and the meetings of cultures both in some of the most isolated places in the world and in the palaces and offices of world leaders.
Andrew Coulson

Andrew Coulson is the author of Tanzania: A Political Economy (second edition, 2013), and Chairman of the Britain-Tanzania Society.

PAINTED DEVILS AND THE LIVES OF ORDINARY PEOPLE. Tuan Marais. Storyline Studio, Western Cape, South Africa, 2016 (paperback). ISBN 978-6-620-60019-4. R185 (and various prices online)

This memoir is prefaced by Shakespeare’s ‘tis the eye of childhood / That fears a painted devil’ (Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 2). Memoirs are precious stories, carrying the words of ordinary people living through historically interesting times. Young Tuan Marais went to live in Zanzibar with his mother and her new husband. This was Zanzibar of 1956, when the popular Sultan Seyyid bin Khalifa still ruled a diverse population before the rush to independence had taken hold. Painted Devils is Tuan’s profoundly sensitive story of his childhood and young adulthood.

Tuan became immersed in the island’s exotic life. His halcyon days were spent learning the life of the seas. Local Zanzibaris befriended him and guided him in the traditional ways of fishing and negotiating the coral reefs. Soon he was a natural, weaving fishing traps and speaking Swahili. The family home was next to the Sultan’s Kibweni country palace and one of his memories is of rescuing the Sultan’s yacht during a storm. He recalled seeing the great dhow fleets arriving with the monsoon.

The English culture of Tuan’s family prescribed formal education and religious passage as necessary steps to adulthood. Most colonial children suffered the wrench that was boarding school. It was profoundly formative. It would be interesting to know what reflections those children would later have if, instead, they had been enrolled into local schools. Zanzibar before the Revolution had excellent primary and secondary schools based on the British system of O- and A-levels, and a rich and diverse cultural milieu. Tuan’s parents were not part of the British colonial administration and had no sense of the pull of ‘back home’ that characterised those families regarding their sojourn in Zanzibar as temporary. Tuan became conscious of racism, both in Zanzibar and at his Kenyan boarding school. Racism was taught to him through shame and ridicule. This was also the time that emerging political parties in Zanzibar, and across Africa, were demanding independence – Uhuru! The Cold War intensified this struggle. Tuan was hardly aware of the political wrangling, the escalating violent rhetoric as opposing sides grappled for the popular vote. The presence of Swahili, Shirazi, Manga Arabs, Goans, Indians and mainland Africans was taken as natural by his young self. Meanwhile the British were slipping away, having lost the will to invest in a troubled island. Tuan planned his future in Zanzibar: to offer diving and deep-sea fishing tours from a traditional fishing dhow. This was not to be. The Revolution of 1964 intervened. His parents were attacked on the day of the revolt when the infamous John Okello directed brutal mobs. They were taken to Okello’s headquarters and bound. Around them were the bodies of murdered Arab Zanzibaris. It is likely that they were saved by Okello’s order that no whites were to be killed – for fear of British intervention. Instead Okello whipped up his supporters into a genocide of Zanzibari Arab people. This is the dark history that the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar has never acknowledged.

The last section of the memoir is the story of Tuan’s life in South Africa. He was conscripted into the army and for a brief while groomed to be a South African spy. The Apartheid secret police wanted information on the Frelimo camps supposedly located in Zanzibar. He turned down this offer but did visit Zanzibar in 1966, finding the island miserable under the grip of its own brand of oppression.

In 1997, in his late middle-age, Tuan returned to Zanzibar but his Eden had disappeared and he struggled to find acceptance and resolution. Tuan’s memoir is poetically written, filled with the sense of those magic years when anything seemed possible. His years of youth were in Zanzibar and his depiction of life in the pre-revolutionary Sultanate is a charming tale of self-discovery. And perhaps it is with nostalgia that we might imagine how Zanzibar might have been had it not suffered the violence and despotism of those years.
Anne M. Chappel

Anne M. Chappel was born in Mwanza, Tanganyika, in 1947 and moved to Zanzibar in 1956 when her father worked for the British colonial administration, finally occupying the position of Permanent Secretary to Mohammed Shamte, the Prime Minister for the brief period of Zanzibar’s independence. Anne has written a novel, Zanzibar Uhuru, covering the last 50 plus years of Zanzibar’s history, as well as a biography of her father, Time Past in Africa. Anne lives in Adelaide, Australia.

Also noticed:
MIKIDADI WA MAFIA: MAISHA YA MWANAHARAKATI NA FAMILIA YAKE NCHINI TANZANIA. Pat Caplan. Translated into Swahili by Ahmad Kipacha. Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam, 2014. xxi + 162 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-9987-08-295-7. £17.95.

Anthropologist Pat Caplan’s fascinating account of the life and times of a villager on Mafia and their friendship over nearly four decades from 1965 until his untimely death in 2002. Describing her book as a cross between biographical history and historical biography, the author must be lauded for making it available to a wider readership. The longer and more scholarly English version has now been published under the title Mikidadi: Individual Biography and National History in Tanzania (Sean Kingston Publishing, 2016), and will be reviewed in a future issue of Tanzanian Affairs.

ON CALL IN AFRICA: IN WAR AND PEACE, 1910-1932. Norman Parsons Jewell. Gillyflower Publishing, Hove, 2016. 416 pp., with 145 photographs and 16 line drawings (hardback). ISBN 978-0-9931382-0-1. £35.00.
Described by William Boyd as “An absolutely fascinating memoir of a doctor’s life in Africa and an evocative and wholly authentic account of the East African campaign, 1914-18, a forgotten corner of the Great War”, this book comes highly recommended. It is based in part on Jewell’s personal diary and extensive photographic collection, and covers his wartime experiences in German East Africa as well as his colonial service in the Seychelles and Kenya (some readers will be familiar with his son John’s Dhows at Mombasa, 1969, revised edition 1976). The book’s website provides much more information (see


by Martin Walsh

CRACKS IN THE DOME: FRACTURED HISTORIES OF EMPIRE IN THE ZANZIBAR MUSEUM, 1897-1964. Sarah Longair. Ashgate, Farnham, 2015. xvi + 322 pp. (hardback). ISBN 9781472437877. £75.

Beit-el-Amani in 2010 - photo Jonathan Stonehouse (wikimedia)

Beit-el-Amani in 2010 – photo Jonathan Stonehouse (wikimedia)

Museums are extraordinary institutions, and it is not surprising that they are sometimes likened to places of worship. The Zanzibar Museum is no exception. It was opened in 1925 as the Peace Memorial Museum, named in commemoration of those who had lost their lives in the First World War. Its faux Arabic name, Beit el-Amani, was clearly intended to echo those of Zanzibar’s royal palaces, most notably the Beit el-Ajaib or House of Wonders. It was built in hybrid Saracenic and Byzantine style with a large dome, leading locals to dub it ‘Msikiti wa Bwana Sinclair’, ‘Mr Sinclair’s Mosque’, after its British architect. In the early days it was also referred to as ‘Nyumba ya Mizimu’, ‘the House of Spirits’, a fair rationalisation of its apparent purposes. It is now generally known as ‘Makumbusho’ (sometimes ‘Makumbusho ya kale’), the contemporary Swahili term for museums as sites of historical memory.

Sarah Longair’s Cracks in the Dome is a compelling account of the Zanzibar Museum’s rise and fall, weaving together critical history and biography to show how its functions were contested and ultimately undermined by officialdom in the colonial period. Following an introduction that provides historical and interpretive context, the first two chapters examine the prehistory and construction of the museum in detail. Three central chapters describe the museum in its heyday, when it was curated by Dr Alfred Henry Spurrier (1925­35) and Ailsa Nicol Smith (1935-42), both of whom were driven, in their different ways, to innovate and make the museum into an educational resource that was of value to the whole community. Smith in particular was frustrated by the lack of funds and colleagues who shared her vision, and eventually resigned her post. A final chapter outlines the resulting decline of interest in the development of the museum, and its replacement by a decolonisation-inspired focus on the selection and collection of the materials that were to be housed in the Zanzibar National Archives – and have made the writing of this history possible.

Although the archives survived, the museum did not fare well after the Zanzibar Revolution. The building and displays fell into disrepair, with the natural history specimens in the museum annexe looking particularly worse for wear. More recently, though, funds have been found to repair and restore the museum, and it was re-inaugurated under its original names on the 18th of May this year, International Museum Day. The Peace Memorial Museum is not quite what it was in its first two decades – some its contents, including the library, are now in the House of Wonders, itself closed for repair – but it is encouraging to see that its educational potential is being recognised once again. Let’s hope that history doesn’t repeat itself, at least not in all of the ways that this fascinating study reveals.

Martin Walsh

Lucian A. Msambichaka, John K. Mduma, Onesmo Selejio and Oswald .J. Mashindano (editors). Dar es Salaam University Press, Dar es Salaam, 2015. xxiv + 436 pp. (hardback). ISBN 978 9976 60 586 0. (no price given).

It is most welcome to find no fewer than 22 Tanzanians, mainly economists from the University of Dar es Salaam, engaging seriously with the challenges Tanzania faces in seeking to move towards middle income status. The broad approach is to frame the problem as a need to achieve structural transformation by moving away from relatively low productivity activities (notably agriculture, which currently occupies some 70% of the labour force) towards higher productivity activities (particularly manufacturing industry, currently about 10%).

Following an Introduction, the book is arranged in four parts: I. ‘Why Industrial Transformation Has Failed in the Past’ (Chapters 2-5); II. ‘Lessons from Other Countries’ (Chapters 6-12); ‘Utilising Natural Resources for Socio-economic Transformation’ (Chapters 13-15); IV. ‘Synthesis’ (Chapters. 16-20), leading to the final Chapter 21 ‘The Way Forward: Lessons and Recommendations’. In this review I will briefly summarise the key points emerging from the various contributions and then consider how far the final chapter offers a coherent blueprint for Tanzania to indeed progress from poverty to prosperity.

In Part I, the editors kick off (in Chapter 2) with a rather critical review of previous industrialisation efforts. There follows a substantial contribution (Chapter 3) by Joseph Simbakalia, an engineer and Director General of the Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZA). Flora Kessy (Chapter 4) reviews poverty reduction strategies, concluding that there was a set-back during the low growth period during the 1980s and 1990s, while subsequent better economic performance has been accompanied by rising inequalities. David Nyange (Chapter 5) then considers the contribution agriculture might make to economic transformation and job creation. He notes in particular the negative impact of rapid population growth but also potential positives if agriculture can respond to rising demand from urban areas and if more agro-processing can be developed. Overall this part of the book provides a useful overview. However, I missed any reference to John Sutton’s An Enterprise Map of Tanzania (2012), which documents major elements of the industrial development that has been achieved despite the difficulties.

In Part II we find a search for lessons from the experience of other countries: Vietnam (Blandina Kilama, Chapter 6); South Korea (the Editors, Chapter 7); Japan (Faustine Bee, Chapter 8); Brazil, India & South Africa (Jehovaness Aikaeli, Chapter 9); China (Suleiman Serera, Chapter 10); Malaysia, Singapore & Dubai (Abu Mvungi and Riziki Nyello, Chapter 11). The emphasis here is on how these countries have achieved industrialisation starting from a low base. While the disappointing results of some countries’ socialist industrial policies are noted, there is a divergence of opinion as to whether market liberalisation, central planning, strong leadership or other factors are what drives success, possibly because the range of countries considered is perhaps too diverse and not all appear immediately relevant to Tanzania’s own predicament. Also in this section is Chapter 12 by Damian Gabagambi and Andrew Coulson who argue persuasively for a more positive view of small farms in the Tanzanian context.

Part III addresses the potential of natural resources to drive economic transformation, with Tanzania’s recent natural gas discoveries in mind. Joseph Simbakalia (Chapter 13) considers how to avoid the ‘resource curse’, pointing to opportunities to develop upstream and downstream linkages, if Tanzania can address skill shortages and other constraints. Aloyce Hepelwa (Chapter 14) reaches similar conclusions, viewing Tanzania in a world energy market context. However, neither of them comments on the still considerable problems to be overcome in converting discoveries to viable production, not least the current weakening in world energy markets, with the risk of counting chickens not yet hatched. Nor do they give consideration to possible lessons to be learned from Tanzania’s own experience with gold and gemstone mining. Also in this section, Kenneth Mdadila (Chapter 15) reviews world industrialisation from a historical perspective, perhaps better read in conjunction with Part II.

Part IV explores a wider range of factors which may have a bearing on Tanzania’s economic transformation. Raphael Chibunda (Chapter 16) makes the case for a National Science, Technology and Innovation System for Tanzania. Jehovaness Aikaeli and Barney Laseko (Chapter 17) suggest that tackling informality in its various forms is hampered by lack of systems for registering people, land and businesses, although they may underestimate the size of the task. Reinforcing this point, Bashiru Ally (Chapter 18) documents the rise in land conflicts in Tanzania despite government reform efforts. Ally sees this as primarily a rural issue but equally important may be how to manage the acquisition of land to meet the needs of expanding urban areas. In a thoughtful contribution, Joel Silas (Chapter 19) takes up the theme of the impact of population growth on socio-economic development, concluding that policies to reduce fertility are needed if Tanzania is to reap any demographic dividend. Finally, Christian Gama (Chapter 20) argues that economic diplomacy also has a contribution to make.

Which brings us to the final chapter, ‘The Way Forward’. This is difficult to summarise. Nine ‘Key Observations’ lead to 15 ‘Key Messages’ and then 29 ‘Recommendations’, covering ‘Strategic Thinking’ (4), ‘Policy’ (13), ‘Good Governance’ (2) and ‘Human Capital and Infrastructure’ (10). Most of the points have some validity but many of the recommendations are pitched at a rather high general level and so need further fleshing out to become operational. The rather large number of observations, key messages and recommendations also suggest that prioritisation has proved difficult – indeed, in the Introduction, the editors state that “they are all of equal weight and importance”! Given that resources and government capacity are limited, the government may need to focus, as far as industrial policy is concerned, on those things that only government can do – macro-economic stability, good governance (including appropriate decentralisation), law and order and infrastructure provision, thereby creating a framework within which domestic as well as foreign enterprise can prosper. Related to this, it is only intermittently that one glimpses ‘the real Tanzania’ beneath the generalities, and what should be the proper balance between industry and agriculture remains unclear. To make an even greater impact, the authors perhaps need in future work to grapple more directly with the current situation in Tanzania so that their recommendations can be more precisely targeted.

Nevertheless, the volume provides much food for thought and it is to be hoped that Tanzania’s policy makers will take notice of it.
Hugh Wenban-Smith

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 research economist, with particular interests in infrastructure, urbanisation and transport.

THE WINDS AND WOUNDS OF CHANGE: THE MEMOIRS OF DICK EBERLIE. PART 3: 1961-65. Dick Eberlie. Privately printed, 2016. viii + 266 pp. (paperback). Available from the author.

This is the third volume of Dick Eberlie’s memoirs and the second dealing with Tanganyika, subsequently mainland Tanzania (Part 2, dealing with the period 1950-60, was reviewed in TA 111). Returning from UK leave in January 1961, Eberlie had hoped to be posted as a District officer to a rural district, instead of which he found himself pen-pushing in Dar es Salaam. This was a time when government and politics were moving rapidly. Sir Richard Turnbull, having been appointed Governor, was negotiating with both Julius Nyerere and the Colonial Office. It emerged in the end that Nyerere was pushing against an open door to achieve independence for the country.

With all the changes in government, many European civil servants were departing. So Eberlie, served in different ministries – Commerce and Industry, and Legal Affairs. During this time, he volunteered to help young District Officers pass their law exams; indeed references to his voluntary work occur throughout these memoirs, as, for example, when helping the Society for the Blind to raise funds, and later on, as editorial member of the Tanzania Society.
At last he got away from the enclosed atmosphere of Dar es Salaam and was posted as Staff Officer in Morogoro, effectively acting as Deputy to the Provincial Commissioner and being closely involved in the organisation of famine relief and local government developments. Pleased to be posted to Kisarawe again, he put much energy into applying government policies to ensure that famine relief was regulated and basic funds or food-in-kind paid out, as well as carrying out court and administrative duties.

Amidst all this vital work Eberlie was quite suddenly called to Dar is Salaam to be Aide de Camp (ADC) to the Governor, who, together with Lady Turnbull, he had already had contact with. Events crowded in as Tanzania became a Republic, Turnbull’s office closed, Eberlie’s parents came on a memorable visit, and Eberlie himself left the country when his job ended. There is some account of the Zanzibar Revolution and then the Tanganyika army mutiny in 1964. Characteristically, Eberlie offered himself as acting ADC to the British Army commander who had just landed to restore order in Dar.

Eberlie, however, had been invited by the Tea Growers Association to be its Assistant Secretary and completed a first contract with them. Despite being hospitalised in London mid-term, he was offered a new contract, which he reluctantly declined. Later he accepted an invitation to be Private Secretary to his old boss, Turnbull, who was then Governor of Aden. In an Appendix there is a detailed and interesting description of the tea growers scattered about the Usambara Mountains, Mufindi, Njombe, Tukuyu and Mount Rungwe. Being the third largest employer of labour in Tanzania, the tea producers were up against many difficulties including the changing political climate and Union pressures.

The book ends with a gloomy epilogue assessing the Tanzanian government at that time. But there is a good selection of maps and illustrations, all attractively wrapped in a panorama of Dar es Salaam harbour and redolent of his sailing and social days there.
Simon Hardwick

Simon Hardwick was an Administrative Officer in Tanzania, 1957-68, and Chairman of the Britain-Tanzania Society, 1995-2000.


by Martin Walsh

THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF AID AND ACCOUNTABILITY: THE RISE AND FALL OF BUDGET SUPPORT IN TANZANIA. Helen Tilley. Ashgate, Farnham, Surrey, 2014. x + 157 pp. (hardback). ISBN 978-1-40946442-6. £95.00.

This short book adopts an institutionalist or functionalist approach to foreign aid, in which governments are controlled by corrupt elites, donors make resources available to support their domestic agendas or to achieve foreign policy objectives, and procedures and practices have grown up to facilitate this while largely concealing what is going on from the public in both donor and recipient countries. The formal processes of accountability, including monitoring missions and end-of-project reports have little impact when the recipients have different objectives from the donors. This theory is supported by two chapters on the politics of foreign aid in Tanzania, mainly in the Mkapa and early Kikwete years, drawing on the author’s experiences as an ODI Fellow in the Ministry of Finance and as a consultant working for various donors.

The author follows Mustaq Khan who shows that corruption can sometimes be functional, but gives little attention to its downsides – cynicism and a loss of faith in the capabilities of the state and of politics generally. There are indeed possible benefits, in the short term, if corruption leads to economic activity which otherwise would not take place. But if resources are syphoned off and little or no investment in productive activity takes place, there are no benefits from corruption, only disbenefits, and a general loss of morale in which the whole political class becomes discredited. The author is much too generous to the aid professionals (both academics and consultants in the private sector) who have connived in this and made it possible for government-to-government transactions to continue when they were aware that they were achieving little that could be described as development.

The analysis is strangely static. It does not deal well with the pressures that build up on a political party that has ruled for 50 years, the creation of structures and movements outside the formal political processes, or the abilities of populations to grow and survive, and sometimes prosper, without much useful support from the state. It made me long for more specific case study material, for example the stories of a small number of aided projects or programmes told from both sides of the divide (together with the perspective of the supposed recipients) showing how weasel words and low-key reports and presentations were used to cover up or play down failures, or the distribution of the spoils from what was presented as good works, and how this was justified. Studies of that sort would have been fun to read, if still depressing, and at least have offered some hope and challenge for whoever gets involved in these activities in the future.

Democracy is presented as a process in which political parties survive by making promises to voters which they will deliver if elected. Since most taxes are indirect – import and excise duties – voters are not made aware of the consequences of more government spending rather than less. So accountability passes to external agencies – donors and bankers. But their leverage is less when interest rates are low, banks and donors are looking for opportunities to place their money, and where a new tranche of donors from the East are less demanding. But the experience of elections in Tanzania shows that it is also a judgement on the past, especially if promises made last time have not been delivered, and even the most entrenched elite cannot take victory for granted.

The case study does not present statistics showing the quantities of budget support (or its cousin, basket funding) negotiated in Tanzania, and focuses on the relative power of the two parties in a bargaining situation. But a note in passing demonstrates the limitations of this kind of functionalism. The author notes that “allowances and workshops, with the associated benefits of per diems, meals and transport funding” were in 2009/10 estimated to cost “the equivalent of one third of the government wage bill and 11 per cent of the government’s total recurrent spending” (p. 112), and then comments that the Government was unable to control this. No doubt that was how it appeared at the time. But cutting this kind of posho was one of the first acts of President Magufuli – showing that at least one leading figure could see the contradiction and was willing to take the political risk of trying to do something about it. Aid that does little more than prop up dysfunctional and often oppressive regimes is a fraud on the publics in both donor and recipient regimes, and academic writers should take care not to give the impression that this is inevitable or acceptable to any of them.
Andrew Coulson

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD – LAND, AGRICULTURE AND SOCIETY IN EAST AFRICA. A FESTSCHRIFT FOR KJELL HAVNEVIK. Michael Ståhl (editor). Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Uppsala, 2015. 240 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-91-7106-774-6. £13.90. Also available for download at

Rural communities in East African countries face many challenges: high population growth, increasing land scarcity, intensification of land conflicts, climate change, persistent food insecurity, rural-urban migration, and largely stagnant agricultural productivity levels. After decades of neglect, the question of agricultural transformation in Africa is back on the policy agenda, and there is a heated debate on whether this should be based on developing the productive capacities of smallholder farmers or on enrolling foreign direct investments to nurture large-scale farming. This holds true for Tanzania, which has been one of the prime frontiers of what has been labelled the “global land grab”. At the same time, it is an exemplary case for the rise of a commercially oriented agricultural policy agenda in Africa, which manifests itself in pro-large-scale farming initiatives such as Kilimo Kwanza, SAGCOT and Big Results Now.

Against this backdrop, it is welcome that several of the contributions to this book, published as a Festschrift for renowned agrarian scholar Kjell Havnevik, focus on the issue of agrarian change in Tanzania. Most outstanding here are the historically rich contributions of Deborah Bryceson (‘Reflections on the unravelling of the Tanzanian peasantry, 1975-2015’) and Andrew Coulson (‘Small-scale and large-scale agricultures: Tanzanian experiences’), on which the remainder of this review will focus. Both deal with the changing positionality of smallholder farmers (or “peasants”) within the politico-economic and agricultural policy landscapes of Tanzania. Both agree that promotion of large-scale farming favoured by sections of the Tanzanian political and business elite may lead to new enclosures of land and the dispossession of rural populations. However, they differ on how they imagine the future of the “peasantry”. Bryceson provides us with a rather pessimistic agrarian history of Tanzania, which starts with the “Tanzanian nation-state […] originally founded on and designed with peasant’s political, economic and social aspirations in mind” (p. 10) and ends with the “disintegration” (p. 24) and “self-liquidation” (p. 26) of the ‘peasantry’. After three decades of neoliberalisation that did away with Nyerere’s egalitarian vision of development, as well as in the wake of the neomodernist promotion of large-scale farming, Tanzanian peasants seem to be bound to become a “distant memory” (p. 26). The recent discovery of natural gas and the shifting policy priorities potentially associated with it will only accelerate this decline. This pessimism is familiar from Bryceson’s earlier work on the same subjects.

Coulson is equally critical, but much more optimistic about the potential effectiveness of a smallholder-oriented development strategy. The strength of Coulson’s contribution is twofold. First, unlike Bryceson, he engages critically with the term “peasant”, dismissing it as an empty signifier that is anachronistic and imbued with developmentalism. Second, he tests the theory that “small farms can, in appropriate circumstances, compete with or outperform large [farms]” (p. 65). Given past experience, he cautions us about the current craze for large-scale farming schemes: “Tanzanian planners have exaggerated the potential of large farms and the easy availability of land, and underestimated the challenges they face. In particular, they have exaggerated the potential for irrigation” (p. 67). Coulson argues that farm productivity levels could be increased significantly by ensuring that farmers have access to sound marketing arrangements that provide them with fair prices, credit, inputs and agricultural expertise. Cases such as Vietnam or China, which heavily relied on a smallholder-oriented development strategy, could serve as models.

Both authors make valid points, but Coulson’s nuanced account is much more useful for constructive thinking about the current agricultural impasse in Tanzania and other African countries. However, two crucial issues seem to be largely absent from every Tanzania-focused contribution to the book. First, I miss an account that addresses the question that Prosper Matondi raises in her excellent chapter on ‘Land reform, natural resource governance and food security’: “What type(s) of governance institutions and mechanisms will lead to improved livelihood outcomes and environmental sustainability in rural Africa?” (p. 209). Second, we still need a more thorough engagement with the question of how the shift towards large-scale farming in Tanzania is related to changes in national class relations and how in turn these relations shape the dynamics of agricultural policy-making, implementation, and investment. The frictional implementation of Kilimo Kwanza and SAGCOT suggests that such relations are much more multifarious than a crude political economy analysis suggests.
Altogether, this book is a mixed bag. The contributions differ in scope and depth, and many do not match the quality of Bryceson’s and Coulson’s chapters. Several of them also lack a clear theoretical framework.
Stefan Ouma

THE GROUNDNUT LINE: THE STORY OF THE SOUTHERN PROVINCE RAILWAY OF TANGANYIKA. David Burton. Published by the author, Telford, 2014. 48 pp. (paperback). £8.99. Available directly from the author at 53 New Church, Wellington, Telford, Shropshire, TF1 1JX (UK cheque or postal order), or via eBay (item no. 131689627186).

Illustration on the cover of “The Groundnut Line”

Illustration on the cover of “The Groundnut Line”

The Groundnut Scheme planned for Tanganyika in the late 1940s has gone down in history as one of the worst financial decisions made by the British government in its overseas colonies. Following the end of the Second World War there were severe shortages of consumable oils and fats, and a proposal to clear and farm large areas of bush to produce groundnuts in Tanganyika was pushed forward with little idea of the difficulties involved. Poor planning, unsuitable equipment and incompetent personnel compounded the poor choice of location and lack of rainfall. The major site chosen for the planting was Nachingwea, 90 miles inland and with no communication either by rail or road. A railway was planned with the initial starting point at Mkwaya at the top end of Lindi town creek, but this proved unsuitable for the planned port, which was later built at Mtwara, 40 miles away. Tanganyika Railways were tasked with the construction of a metre gauge railway which was begun in 1947.

The massive expenditure of £35 million on the Scheme with little return caused the government to abandon it on 9 January 1951. Despite this, Mtwara port was built and the new rail link between there and Nachingwea completed in 1954. This used steam and diesel locomotives and became known as the Southern Province Railway (SPR). The two major types of steam locomotives were the NZ Indian 4-8-0 Class built in 1915, and the 22 (G) 4-8-0 Class dating from a year later. The diesel locomotives were shunters seen in other parts of the East African system, namely the 80, 81 and 83 Class as well as three Wickham passenger railcars. The latter had been ordered by the Kenya and Uganda Railways before the war but the Swiss Saurer engines did not arrive until after its end. After use on a line in Kenya they were transferred to the SPR. The envisaged tonnages of groundnut and other freight on the line never materialised and despite the backing of the East African Railways organisation and an additional extension to Masasi the line was closed on 1 July 1962 with a huge loss.

The Groundnut Line by David Burton is an excellent addition to the East African railway enthusiast’s library and tells the story of the earlier Lindi tramway built by the Germans before the First World War and the background to the SPR and its expansion until its closure in 1962. It includes numerous illustrations and maps and three specially commissioned works by the railway artist David Charlesworth, including a delightful colour cover depicting an NZ 4-8-0 steam locomotive running along the shoreline near the town of Mikindani. The book is divided into two sections, the history of the scheme and the railway up to its closure and subsequent dismantling, and an appendix of diagrams and photographs of the steam and diesel locomotive motive power. A detailed glossary of names, bibliography, additional reading and index complement a well-produced and interesting history of one of the lesser known railways in East Africa.
Kevin Patience


by Martin Walsh

WOMEN, LAND AND JUSTICE IN TANZANIA. Helen Dancer. James Currey, Woodbridge, 2015. xxiv + 192 pp. (hardback). ISBN 978-1-84701­113-8. £45.

Having seen the author of this book present her work, I had high expectations, and they were not disappointed. This is a well-grounded and carefully thought through study of the difficulty women experience establishing and defending their rights to land in present-day Tanzania. Focused on material from Mount Kilimanjaro, it provides useful reviews of the literature on a number of urgent current issues, relevant far beyond Tanzania: the evolution of land rights in Africa in the context of increasing demand and ‘land grabs’; the rhetoric of human rights and women’s rights in the NGO sector, the internal diversity of that sector, and (more country-specific) the functioning of the court system from local dispute settlement mechanisms upward.

Dancer demonstrates the dearth of easy answers to the many difficult issues raised, such as how to mediate between plural understandings of law and how to ensure equitable outcomes from under-resourced legal institutions. She notes, for instance, that while empirical studies indicate that land titling campaigns often work to the detriment of women’s land claims by vesting land formally in male family heads and marginalising women’s ‘customary’ entitlements, feminist lawyers in Africa are among those who continue to lobby for the use of formal legal mechanisms, such as titling, to assert women’s rights. At the same time, the conclusion makes clear that there are ways of legislating constructively and of working with flawed institutions.

Following a sample of cases through the courts, the book makes clear that the Tanzanian government’s commitment to furthering gender justice is not purely rhetorical; that legislation has over the years succeeded in providing certain legal means for women to assert their rights, and that legal disputes concerning land may well be decided in favour of women claimants. At the same time, it also emerges clearly that it takes guts and perseverance on the part of a woman plaintiff for her case even to reach court. Formal judicial proceedings are typically a late stage in a dispute that has probably already been through several rounds of mediation, formal or informal. The pressure exerted on women to settle, quite possibly to their detriment, within these forums can be great, extending all the way to physical violence. The book brought to mind the Swahili saying kikulacho kiko nguoni mwako; what bites you is in your clothes. The people most likely to imperil a woman’s claim to land are typically close relatives, of her own or of a deceased husband.

The historian may take particular interest in Dancer’s exploration of the interaction between successive layers of legislation. The colonial ethnographer Hans Cory’s summary of patrilineal customary law, for example, remains the official interpretation of customary law for areas considered to be patrilineal, and women have to mobilise the more recent constitutional commitment against gender injustice against it, with varying success. One point that it would have been nice to see pursued further is the connection between land claims and economic stratification, or class. But one book cannot do everything, and this one does quite a lot as it is.
Felicitas Becker
Felicitas Becker is Lecturer in African History at the University of Cambridge, and author of Becoming Muslim in Mainland Tanzania, 1890-2000 (Oxford, 2008), as well as articles in African Affairs, the Journal of African History, African Studies Review, and the Canadian Journal of Development Studies.

IN SEARCH OF PROTECTION: OLDER PEOPLE AND THEIR FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL IN TANZANIA. Helmut Spitzer and Zena Mnasi Mabeyo. Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam, 2011. 141 pp (paperback). ISBN 978-998708-080-9. Available from African Books Collective, £17.95.

Older people in Tanzania tend to be invisible – and the poorer and more rural they are, the less of a voice they have. Not only is it clear that many older people are marginalised by their own communities, but also their plight has been neglected by NGOs and international agencies, who may prefer to concentrate on more immediately appealing areas such as children, women, water, health, forests, and so on.

This book lifts a corner of this invisibility, providing an informative summary of the situation of older people in Tanzania, against a backdrop of the largely ineffective global, regional and national policy environment. It contains a detailed account of fieldwork done in two locations in Tanzania which usefully highlights rural-urban differences and brings out the considerable gender-based disparities. While older people are generally marginalised, discriminated against and socially excluded in their communities and further afield, older women face even greater discrimination and difficulties. Older people are vulnerable to chronic poverty and in recent years this has been exacerbated by the additional burden thrust upon them by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, that of looking after sick family members and in particular taking on orphaned children.

Spitzer and Mabeyo’s account resonates with the research I did in Tanzania with older people over a decade ago, depressingly showing that not much has changed. However, I was disappointed not to see greater coverage of more nuanced social aspects of old age for women, such as widowhood, polygyny (when the older wife is pushed aside in favour of a younger one), and the significant issue of witchcraft, with its links to inheritance of property rights, and HIV/AIDS, and where older women (as witches) may be blamed for untimely and apparently unexplained deaths.

The book ends with a range of recommendations. Older people in Tanzania lack adequate formal social protection, and are experiencing diminishing family and community support, but the authors argue convincingly that the introduction of a universal non-contributory pension is both fiscally affordable and sustainable, and could play an important role in poverty reduction, if there were ever the political will to implement it.
Kate Kibuga Forrester
Kate Kibuga Forrester lived in Tanzania for 15 years, working as a freelance consultant chiefly in social development. She carried out several research assignments for HelpAge International, focusing on the situation of older people in different locations in the country. She now lives in Dorchester, where she is active in community and environmental affairs.

BUILDING A PEACEFUL NATION: JULIUS NYERERE AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF SOVEREIGNTY IN TANZANIA, 1960-1964. Paul Bjerk. University of Rochester Press, Rochester NY, 2015. xvii + 374 pp (hardback). ISBN 978-1-58046-505-2. £75.00.

The immediate tasks facing those African governments which took power of newly independent states during the 1960s were to establish political control and limit neo-colonial interference; in other words to establish sovereignty. This was not easy. Economic and administrative capacity was limited, and creating a stable political consensus was difficult in the absence of unpopular colonial rule. To complicate matters, external threats were posed by instability in neighbouring countries and by increasingly interventionist superpower policy in the context of the Cold War. The way in which the TANU government under the leadership of Julius Nyerere was able to negotiate these challenges and create a foundational sovereignty during the period 1960-64 is the subject of this new book by Paul Bjerk, an assistant professor of history at Texas Tech University.

One major limitation facing any researcher investigating post-independence Tanganyikan government policy is that many of the official records from this period remain confidential. In addition to interviewing dozens of key protagonists, Bjerk has attempted to bridge this gap by presenting the contents of a wide range of diplomatic correspondence in which key issues are often discussed frankly. Indeed, the fact that the references and bibliography in this book run to almost 100 pages is testament to his substantial archival research across several countries.

In the introduction, Bjerk states that his book is not intended to be a biography or evaluation of Nyerere. However, sections on Nyerere’s education and his development of Ujamaa ideology – and indeed the book’s subtitle – at times create a contrary impression. Although other figures such as Oscar Kambona and Rashidi Kawawa receive plenty of attention, Nyerere is firmly situated as the book’s key figure, perhaps inevitably given the central role he played in policy formation during this period.

Bjerk’s work is structured thematically, starting with a focus on domestic sovereignty. He evaluates, in turn, measures to limit the threat posed to Nyerere’s government by opposition parties and labour unions, the origins of Ujamaa ideology, early attempts at villagisation, the 1964 mutiny and, finally, the creation of the national youth service. Throughout this section, Bjerk skilfully shows that sovereignty is not simply imposed from above but rather it is the product of social mediation in which both elite and non-elite discourses play important roles.

Bjerk then turns attention to the projection of external sovereignty through foreign policy. He discusses the way in which the Tanganyikan government sought a balance between its principled positions, for example its support for independence movements in Southern Africa and its desire to maintain a non-aligned position in the Cold War. This section also contains a chapter on the Zanzibar Revolution which shows that an American intervention had been imminent before Union with Tanganyika was finally agreed.

Casual readers may find the more academically complex parts of this book off-putting, for example the theoretical sections contained in the introduction and conclusion. However, Bjerk’s work will provide an invaluable resource for those engaged in the academic study of the immediate post-independence period in both Tanzania (Tanganyika) and Africa more broadly.
Robert Macdonald
Robert Macdonald is a PhD student at the Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh. He is currently in the final stages of writing up his thesis on voter behaviour in Tanzania.

Also noticed:

THE STORY OF SWAHILI. John M. Mugane. Ohio University Press, Athens,
OH, 2015. xiv + 324 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-0-89680-293-3. £20.99. This vibrant overview by the Director of the African Language Program in Harvard University has something for everyone interested in the development of Swahili language and literature, including sections on kanga sayings, Swahili soap operas, and the use of Swahili in African American life.

ALISI NDANI YA NCHI YA AJABU. Lewis Carroll. Translated by Ida Hadjivayanis. Evertype, Portlaoise, 2015. xv + 135 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-1-78201-122-4. £10.95.
Undaunted by the linguistic inventiveness and sheer Englishness of Lewis Carroll’s classic, Ida Hadjivayanis has produced the first Swahili version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to appear in 75 years. This is a must for all lovers of Swahili translation, and with any luck it will find a good market in Tanzania too.

POCKET GUIDE: INSECTS OF EAST AFRICA. Dino J. Martins. Struik Nature, Cape Town, 2014. 152 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-1-77007-894-9. £7.50.
Dino Martin’s pocket guide is the first of its kind, illustrated with superb colour photographs of the insect groups and species that it describes. So little is known about insects in the five East African countries it covers that readers are encouraged to send in their own observations, photographs and records.

THE KINGDON FIELD GUIDE TO AFRICAN MAMMALS (Second edition). Jonathan Kingdon. Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 2015. 640 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-1-47291-236-7. £27.00.
Kingdon’s handsomely illustrated field guide, first published in 1997, has now been revised and updated to take account of new information, including developments in the classification of African mammals. Both despite and because of its various idiosyncracies, it is perhaps the best guide to carry around Tanzania.

Publishing, Kew, 2015. 520 pp. (hardback). ISBN 978-1-84246-371-0. £80.00. Described as “a record of some 2,700 people who have collected herbarium specimens in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, […] a supplement to the now complete Flora of Tropical East Africa.” This comprehensive survey of East Africa’s plant collectors is accompanied by line drawings and more than 250 black and white photographs.


by Martin Walsh

MOBILIZING ZANZIBARI WOMEN: THE STRUGGLE FOR RESPECT­ABILITY AND SELF-RELIANCE IN COLONIAL EAST AFRICA. Corrie Decker. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2014. xiv + 254 pp. (hardback). ISBN 978-1-137-46529-0. £62.50.

Those familiar with Decker’s earlier publications will know the rich oral his­tory she has accumulated through extensive research with women of various generations in Zanzibar. This book builds upon her previous work to present a thorough investigation into the development of women’s education and pro­fessionalisation in 1920s and 1930s Zanzibar and the emerging significance of women within the public sphere in the post-war and late colonial period.

Central to the argument is an exposition of the processes by which women, and female teachers and professionals in particular, shaped prevailing notions of heshima (respectability) in the early colonial period into what was by the post-war period ‘a symbol of the publicly active, self-reliant, middle-class profes­sional women’ (p. 2). Women’s literacy was a key element in their manipulation of heshima. That many Zanzibaris describe the late colonial period as the time of maendeleo ya wanawake (women’s development) underscores the indispensabil­ity of women’s education and professionalisation to more general social and economic development the 1950s and 1960s. Decker uses the term ‘self-reliance’ to encapsulate the Swahili concepts of faida and nafuu (benefit or profit) and other factors to describe ‘the goals – economic and social, individual and com­munal – that professional women set out for themselves and their families’ (p. 13). Women’s mobility and action is contrasted throughout the book with the attempted ‘mobilization’ of women in male-authored discourses, including those by the colonial government, elite Arab figures and nationalists.

The decision by the colonial government to support women’s education in the late 1920s was related to the drive to improve standards of living. Although the colonial government sought ‘to produce “good wives and mothers” not profes­sional women’ (p. 80), generations of educated women delayed marriage to continue to work as teachers or nurses. Decker demonstrates that this was far from a top-down movement – aspirant scholars and educated women reshaped notions of heshima to gain greater social and economic freedom. Furthermore they were essential mediators who established acceptable methods for dissemi­nating colonial policies, such as those related to health, which were often seen as invasive interventions into the domestic sphere.

These insights into the domestic alongside the official make this a particularly engaging study, as Decker interweaves of archival records and oral history. Al­though these sources are used in tandem throughout, each chapter has a pe­nultimate section focusing upon an individual whose experiences provide a personal perspective on key issues. As such we learn of the diverse outcomes of women who through education gained greater ‘self-reliance’ and also the ways in which they articulate these memories. These narratives elucidate how such women negotiated the public and private sphere – we cannot understand their professional experiences without also locating them in the domestic setting as daughters, sisters and mothers.

This book is vital reading for scholars of 20th century Zanzibar, and education and development in the global perspective. Decker’s final point clearly demon­strates the wider significance of this work. Evident in her interviews with men and women was the ‘refusal by women to see explicit political gains or losses as the only lens through which to understand their history. Instead they high­lighted the continuities in women’s education and work between the colonial and postcolonial period as the message to take away from our conversations.’ (p. 161). Such fresh perspectives, which occur throughout the book, challenge the prevailing histories of colonial, revolutionary and post-colonial period in Zanzibar and as such the book makes a vibrant and important contribution to scholarship on East Africa and beyond.
Sarah Longair
Sarah Longair is currently a Leverhulme Research Fellow at the British Muse­um, where she has worked for 10 years. Her research explores British colonial history in East Africa and the Indian Ocean world through material and visual culture. Her monograph, Cracks in the Dome: Fractured Histories of Empire in the Zanzibar Museum, 1897–1964, will be released in August 2015. She has also published several book chapters, articles and edited volumes, including Curating Empire: Museums and the British Imperial Experience (2012), co-edited with John McAleer.

GROWING UP WITH TANZANIA: Memories, Musing and Maths. Karim F. Hirji. Mkuki Na Nyota, Dar es salaam, 2014. 302 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-9987-08-223-0. Available from African Books Collective, £17.95.

Karim Hirji grew up during the dramatic years before and after independence. He is an Ismaili whose parents came from the Indian subcontinent and this memoir provides a rare view of how Indians made the future Tanzania their home. Hirji begins by depicting provincial life in Lindi during British colonial rule where many Asians of different communities were engaged in trade and commerce, and he reflects on the hierarchical relationship between the colonial rulers, the Indians and the Africans. The family moved to Dar es Salaam when he was in his teens in 1961. The Ismaili community were mainly living in Upan­ga where their Jama’at Khana (mosque) was located and he describes playing cricket and attending the Aga Khan Boys’ school. This is when Hirji fell in love with numbers, anticipating his later life as a professor of mathematics in the US. The memoir is sprinkled with mathematical concepts, presented in a thought­ful but fun way (readers who are not mathematically inclined can readily skip these pages: they are not essential to the story).

Hirji went to Dar Technical College for his secondary education and found him­self in an environment where the majority of students were Africans. This had a transforming effect on his outlook, and he began to see himself as ‘a member of an emergent nation unified and guided by a noble leader’. During this pe­riod he attended a ‘nation-building’ camp at Kinondoni for a month, where the majority of students were again African. At that time not many Asians were exposed to the wider world because they tended to remain segregated within their own communities. His discovery of mathematics led him to move next to a boarding school at Kibaha to complete his schooling. Ujamaa was in full swing and all school leavers had to do national service prior to going to university. Hirji attended Ruvu camp for six months and during this period he reflected further on social and racial equality.

This was a challenging time for Asians in the country, and they did not always perceive the transition from colonial rule as positive. Hirji manages to capture how many of his friends reacted to these changes. Asians had come from India to Africa under the umbrella of British colonial power, and cultural separation from the local population was embedded in their mindset. Africanisation in the 1970s led to the mass exodus of many Asians because they felt insecure. The nationalisation of property after the Arusha Declaration led the Aga Khan to negotiate with the Canadian government to allow the Ismaili community to leave Tanzania and resettle in Canada. Hirji captures the early euphoria be­fore nationalisation and reflects thoughtfully on its consequences. He notes that many of his family and friends (of Indian origin) are scattered all over the globe, including in the US, Canada and England. He himself spent 20 years in aca­demia in the US, but does not reveal how this came about.

This memoir is very much a personal journey seen from the eyes of an Asian growing up in Tanganyika/Tanzania during a period of great change. It pro­vides a rare glimpse of the Ismaili community and its cohesiveness. The Aga Khan has played a fundamental role in directing the life of its followers and there is no doubt that Hirji is very much a product of that community. There is much to recommend his account, particularly his musings on education and mathematics.
Shamshad Cockcroft

Shamshad Cockcroft grew up in Zanzibar and is a professor of Cell Physiology at University College London.

The Development State: Aid, Culture and Civil Society in Tanzania. Maia Green. James Currey, Woodbridge, 2014. xi + 227 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-1-84701-108-4. £19.99.

Readers familiar with Tanzania will find much of interest and much to ponder in this book. Tanzanian development and development politics has a long, rich tradition from the socialist policies and experiments of the Nyerere years to the changes heralded by structural adjustment and beyond. Notwithstanding some excellent historical work, there have been very few book-length studies of development in Tanzania in recent years. For this reason Maia Green, a social anthropologist with considerable knowledge of contemporary Tanzania, is well placed to write a comprehensive study.

The Development State comprises an introduction, eight chapters (all but one pre­viously published) and a conclusion. The introduction sets out her general ap­proach, which focuses on the effects of neoliberal development on forms of gov­ernance. This donor-driven ‘discourse’ legitimises and supports a very specific agenda of trade liberalisation, macro-economic stability and fiscal discipline. It has important consequences for developing countries like Tanzania: aid rela­tionships are framed in the language of partnership and local ownership, which in turn are underpinned by limited forms of donor support in the expectation that a state will empower its citizens to achieve development. This is a world away from the 1970s when the state was the political actor which defined and implemented development.

Green argues that Tanzanians have, for a variety of reasons, come to accept and pursue a neoliberal vision of development even though this has delivered very little for the majority of citizens. In Chapter 1 she defines ‘development states as those that are materially and ideologically sustained through development re­lations’ (p. 15). That Tanzania is such a state is reinforced by her view of the his­tory of development from the British mandate to the present. Chapter 2 looks at the ‘participatory’ rhetoric which has dominated Tanzanian development from the 1990s, and argues that participatory planning is the form through which development is organised at all levels. Chapter 3 examines the ubiquitous plan­ning workshops that rely on logical frameworks and participatory methods to identify and agree ‘manageable projects’. In the next chapter Green critiques notions of participation, which, she argues, is a tool ‘to enrol divergent inter­ests’ into supporting a common enterprise.

While Green states that there is little evidence that participation delivers real benefits, she does not ask why Tanzanians fail to question this way of thinking and pursuing development. Subsequent chapters focus on civil society actors who claim to represent local ‘communities’ to ‘anticipate development’, obtain funding and become development agents. Green argues that this process cre­ates inequalities because these people, who have tenuous links to communities, are in fact ‘privatising development’ even as they attempt to enrol local people into a project through workshops aimed at ‘capacity building’.

Chapter 7 provides a fascinating account of ‘anti-witchcraft services’ which, Green argues, are modelled on modern, neoliberal forms of governance and ser­vice delivery. Chapter 8 examines the cultural logic of neoliberal development for Tanzanians, by which she means the small urban-based middle class. This class is largely the product of policies which created and maintains the public sector; in Green’s view it is parasitic in that its access to education, modern housing, IT technology and modern forms of consumption are underpinned by exploitative arrangements with poor rural households. Green concludes, rather unsatisfactorily, that the state has prioritised forms of development which pro­mote the capitalist transformation of the economy (which will benefit very few Tanzanians), while using participatory planning to reinforce the message that ordinary citizens are responsible for their own development.

This book is problematic for several reasons. The various chapters do not fit together to provide a coherent analysis of development, and despite the book’s claim to speak about the whole of Tanzania, Green’s research and analysis is largely focused on Morogoro region. While her insights are interesting, we learn very little about how ordinary Tanzanians participate in or experience development. Finally, the terms and language used by the author make the book difficult to read and her arguments hard to comprehend. Her focus on ‘discourse’ obscures an understanding of the complex social and political re­lations and networks that underpin development, the diversity of actors and institutions with an interest in development, and, critically, what two decades of pursuing neoliberal development policy has or has not delivered.
John R. Campbell

John R. Campbell taught sociology in the University of Dar es Salaam in 1980-84, following which he worked at the University of Wales, Swansea, where he was involved in development in Ethiopia, Botswana, and Kenya. In 2000 he joined the anthropology department in the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.


by Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh has taken over as editor of the TA reviews section from John Cooper-Poole. The editorial team would like to thank John again for the wonderful job he has done since 2002. Correspondence about past, pending and future reviews should now be addressed directly to Martin (kisutuvirginmediacom).

COTTON IN TANZANIA: BREAKING THE JINX. Joe C. B. Kabissa. Tanzania Educational Publishers, Bukoba, 2014. 338 pp. (paperback). ISBN 9789987070077. Available from African Books Collective, £24.95.

The right strategy for cotton in Tanzania has been a key issue for the agricultural sector both before and after independence. The question is complex and many observers and participants have contributed analyses which were specific to their time. Dr Joe Kabissa has now written a comprehensive account of the growth of the industry since German times up to the present day. Kabissa is uniquely qualified for this task, being an entomologist who has served both as head of cotton research at Ukiriguru and Ilonga and as Director of the Tanzania Cotton Board, retiring in 2012, He has a very broad knowledge of the global cotton sector and is also that rare ex-civil servant who is prepared to criticise in public his former political masters.

The challenges facing the industry have always been both scientific (pests, viruses and yields) and institutional. Alongside these has been the critical issue of farm-level cropping options: what are the relative margins of cotton, maize, and rice in an ever-changing world and domestic market? These issues have not prevented nearly half a million small farmers growing cotton in a ‘good’ year, such as 2005/6 when a record total of 376,000 tons of seed cotton was achieved.

The potential value of the crop to the national economy was first recognised by the German colonial government which saw the eastern belt (Moshi to Iringa) as the principal home of the industry, with plantations linked to compulsory labour. The British government pushed the industry into the Lake Zone, focusing research at Ukiriguru, managed by the British (later Empire) Cotton Growing Association. In the1950s, with high commodity prices, this policy was largely successful, with rising yields and an increasingly viable institutional structure in the Victoria Federation of Co-operative Unions (VFCU). This owned its own ginneries, exported most of the crop to the UK and was led by luminaries like Paul Bomani.

For the first decade after independence this format was preserved and production continued to rise. However, the big changes mandated by CCM in the structure of co-operatives in the 1970s proved immensely debilitating to the VFCU (now the Nyanza Co-operative Union, NCU). The donor-led ultra­liberal reforms of the late 80s and 90s reduced the NCU to a rump organisation and created destructive competition between about 30 ginners, eventually leading to a five per cent discount on the world price for Tanzanian cotton lint. A parallel history had taken place in textile manufacturing, with substantial investments in joint ventures by the National Development Corporation and seven foreign companies, nearly all of which were privatised in the 1990s with similarly disappointing results. However, at least two new private companies have emerged and perform impressively.

Kabissa deals with both the detail and the broader policy issues in an impressive way. He is very clear that high quality research in the 1950s and 60s facilitated the development of improved varieties with resistance to the critical pest and viral threats from bollworm and Fusarium wilt. This created a potentially powerful springboard for the sector. However, the national co-operative reforms of the 1970s were disastrous for the NCU and its members and underinvestment by government in research and development from the mid-1970s was grossly negligent. The lack of a policy on genetically modified cotton, embraced by Tanzania’s competitors, was an opportunity lost (for the time being). He shows how the cotton growing and textile manufacturing sectors have not been developed in recent years with any form of real interdependence in spite of a long-standing goal that 70 per cent of cotton should be spun and woven within Tanzania. In practice the low quality of lint supplied by the ginners and with its implications for yarn quality has locked the three or four weaving companies into production of kanga and kitenge cloth for a largely captive market.

Kabissa’s central point is that the huge potential of the cotton sector both from the point of view of farmers and the national economy has not been realised over more than a century of opportunity. With regard to the recent past he blames the lack of an effective strategy on government with its failure to build up the Tanzania Cotton Board as a regulator and driver of change. In particular he shows how repeated changes in the system for distributing inputs has created disillusionment among farmers who depend on an efficient system and for whom this a matter of economic survival. His conclusion, captured in the book’s subtitle, is that there seems to be a ‘jinx’ on real change, although he sees major possibilities in recent shifts to contract farming. Cotton in Tanzania is not only a courageous book, but sets an excellent precedent for seasoned professionals in Africa to take apart the failures of agricultural policy which continue to hold back output and rural security. This is a pioneering study, which deserves to be replicated in other sectors and countries.
Laurence Cockcroft

DISTRICT OFFICER IN TANGANYIKA: THE MEMOIRS OF DICK EBERLIE. PART 2: 1956-60. Dick Eberlie. Privately printed, 2014. 309 pp. (paperback). Available from the author (eberlie@vigomews.orangehome.

This book about Dick Eberlie’s colonial service in Tanganyika is the second volume of his memoirs (the first was about his early life). He attended the Oxford Devonshire Course in 1956 when there were eight of us on the course, and towards the end of the year we held a riotous dinner in Oriel College at which we gave ourselves the whimsical name Haidhuru, ‘it doesn’t matter’. What none of us knew then was that Eberlie was minutely recording his daily life, and from this he has skilfully put together a coherent and interesting narrative of the period up to 1960 and the work that he did as a young District Officer.

We sailed to Tanganyika in July 1957 before dispersing to our various districts. Eberlie spent some months in Handeni District, where he had an amusing encounter with Governor Twining. He describes the extraordinary responsibilities given to him as a new DO when he was left on his own at district HQ. He then moved to Nzega District, where his work included the development of local water supplies, trading centres and the development of local government.

Then his health began to fail and he was moved to Ocean Road Hospital in Dar, having been diagnosed with TB. From this point on his account reads more like pages from the Tatler than that of a recovering patient. He began to get involved with Government House, and describes his first meetings with Lady Turnbull and later the Governor. When pronounced reasonably fit, he was posted to Kisarawe District, 1,000 feet higher than Dar and healthier. Reading about his safaris there I particularly admire the thoroughness of his work, which makes me feel quite idle. At different times he and I were presiding officers in the national elections at Shungubweni. In 1958, I waited all day for the twelfth registered voter to turn up and read the whole of Robert Graves’ Good-Bye To All That; Eberlie had much more usefully employed himself dealing with the sub-chief and local people.

This book will have a much wider appeal than to those of us who served together (only five of our original group of eight Overseas Service Course students now survive). It has been printed privately, has an attractive wrapper depicting palm trees, and includes excellent maps and numerous photographs.
Simon Hardwick

CAPITALISM AND CLOVES: AN ARCHAEOLOGY OF PLANTATION LIFE ON NINETEENTH-CENTURY ZANZIBAR. Sarah K. Croucher. Springer New York 2015. 256 pp (hardback) ISBN 978-1-4419-8470-8. £90.00.

Nineteenth-century European visitors to Zanzibar were wont to wax lyrical as they described the approach to Unguja (Zanzibar) by sea. First the scent of cloves, which had the explorer Richard Burton quoting from Milton’s Paradise Lost (“Sabaean odours from the spicy shore”); then the verdant island itself, which in the words of the second British Consul, Lieutenant-Colonel Rigby, “presented the appearance of an unbroken forest of cocoanut, mango and other trees, with the clove plantations on the hills forming the background”. Rigby continued to enthuse over the beauty of the rural landscape, though he left no doubt that this was a man-made scene in which the “country-houses of the Arab proprietors, and the huts of their slaves, are thickly dotted over the surface”. The larger part of his Report on the Zanzibar Dominions (1860) was about the iniquities of the slave trade and the need to suppress it. Happily, this was eventually achieved, though slavery has left an indelible mark on the society and politics of Zanzibar as well as the agricultural landscape of the islands. The smell of cloves still lingers around Zanzibar’s wharves.

As the Zanzibar government struggles to revive the fortunes of a crop that once dominated the economy, this is as good a time as any to begin digging into its past. Sarah Croucher’s Capitalism and Cloves is a brave book. It is based primarily on a surface survey of clove plantations in four areas of Unguja and Pemba islands, and the excavation of an Arab plantation owner’s house near Piki on Pemba. Chapters describe the regional context, Zanzibar’s plantation landscapes, the archaeology of slavery, plantation households, and the global trade and local ceramics associated with them. Croucher’s central argument is that the plantation economy of Zanzibar has to be understood on its own terms, not least because of the way in which slaves assimilated into Swahili society.

Croucher found that slavery is now relatively invisible in the archaeological record, while the presumed descendants of slaves have mostly forgotten the fact, and can only recite generalised narratives about the bad old days. As a result, she had far too little material to work with: the archaeology is thin, its interpretation often too speculative. The book is padded out with more information (and jargon) about the archaeology of the Atlantic world than many readers will be comfortable with. The author might have made much more use of recent anthropological and agricultural research on the islands. I was also surprised to find no reference to historical sources like Henry Stanley Newman’s Banani: The Transition from Slavery to Freedom in Zanzibar and Pemba (1898), or Robert Nunez Lyne’s Zanzibar in Contemporary Times (1905), which includes a nice description of the house of one of his Arab neighbours in Dunga. That said, Capitalism and Cloves is an original study that has much to recommend it. It raises important questions about Zanzibar’s past and its interpretation, is replete with interesting observations, and will no doubt be consulted by students and researchers for many years to come.
Martin Walsh


Edited by John Cooper-Poole

John Cooper-Poole, who has run the TA reviews section since 2002, covering 38 issues, has decided it is time to hand over the role to someone new. The TA editorial team wishes to express its gratitude to John, who – as we’re sure you will agree – has done a wonderful job.

This means we are now in need of a volunteer to take on the role of reviews editor. Please contact David Brewin or Ben Taylor if you are interested.

UJAMAA – The hidden story of Tanzania’s economic development from the grassroots Ralph Ibbott, Crossroads Books £15.99 In the 1960s the Ruvuma Development Association (RDA) was formed by new villages that were being run as genuine cooperatives. The villagers grew their crops by collective work and the villages were run democratically through open meetings and elected officials who had no payment.

Development in the RDA villages was slow but real, with improvements in food supply, health and education and most significantly in the confidence of the villagers as they learned to manage their affairs. The villages exemplified the policies that Julius Nyerere was expounding in his ‘Socialism and Rural Development’ and he gave the RDA his personal support.

RDA villages were probably the most successful of the various forms of collective farming being attempted across the country and the RDA attracted support from international aid agencies.

Although collective villages and cooperative farming were party and government policies, in 1969 the TANU National Executive decreed that RDA be dissolved. Why? Andrew Coulson gives an explanation in his ‘Tanzania, A Political Economy’: TANU regional and national politicians became fearful that their position and power would be undermined if independent, politicised villages became the norm. Ibbott provides detailed experience to support this conclusion. In addition he has evidence that at least one minister and member of TANU National Executive was not just opposed to the RDA but also to Ujamaa, which was supposedly party and government policy.

Ibbott was an advisor to RDA and lived in Litowa, the first RDA village. He was closely involved with the work and life of the villages until the dissolution of RDA and on his return to Britain was invited by the Commonwealth Secretariat to write a report of his experience with RDA which they intended to publish. However, his report was never published, perhaps because the Commonwealth Secretariat did not want to offend the government of a member state or possibly it was the victim of a change in personnel. The report has been available to academic researchers, and now becomes accessible to a wider readership.

Ujamaa is Ibbott’s record of events, reports by visitors to RDA villages, sections on specific topics and Ibbott’s letter to Nyerere after the dissolution decision (to which there was no reply). He has added a recently written Epilogue which brings together later research on the subsequent history of the ex-RDA villages.

The original report “The Origin, Growth & Disbanding of the RDA” has severe criticism of successive Ruvuma Regional Commissioners. They did not understand the philosophy on which the villages were based and became opposed to something that they could not control.

The last of the sections on specific themes is a profound critique of Nyerere’s failure to turn his political ideas into practical policies. He passed implementation over to party and government officials who had no understanding or experience of promoting voluntary small- scale collective villages. They wanted quick results from large state-organised schemes and were all too ready to fall back on compulsion. Nyerere must have known this.

This is a report prepared to inform and guide those involved with rural development and is probably a unique source for researchers and historians. The general reader who is not familiar with the background might struggle with, for example, the references to Peramiho, the Catholic mission complex near Songea.

Ujamaa makes uncomfortable reading for those of us who uncritically and enthusiastically championed Tanzania through the 70s and 80s. It also has a harsh message for those who are “not interested in politics, I just want to help” – effective development is always political.
John Arnold

(John Arnold, was Regional Secretary, Ruvuma Region, 1963-4.)

NYERERE – The Early Years, Thomas Molony, James Currey 2014. ISBN 9781847010902 £25.00

This book from the pen of the Lecturer in African Studies at the University of Edinburgh aims to present “the first truly rounded portrait of Nyerere’s early life”. There has been little opportunity to learn accurately about the development of Mwalimu’s early thinking and this is a valiant effort to fill the gap.

Even here descriptions of the background to his early upbringing rely on much anecdotal evidence. The need to include even the smallest detail, in an effort to lend more substance to the narration, can give the early pages the air of a doctoral thesis.

This improves in value as the narrative progresses, so that the inferences which are dependent on other studies of the social mores are increasingly replaced by facts more relevant to Nyerere’s particular circumstances. Nevertheless there are many statements asserting that much more evidence about incidents cited must exist somewhere.

The key question that is always asked about great men from humble and at first sight unpromising origins is “Who first realised that this exceedingly bright, above-average young person was not after all destined to blush unseen?” With hindsight we might say that Nyerere would probably have fought his way out anyway, but this book reveals how he caught the eyes of the White Fathers, with their paramount influence and encouragement, and followed this when in relatively privileged positions in Kampala and in London.

The final chapter of this book, titled “Legacy and Reappraisal” is lucid and authoritative. After several pages which may appear “sparsely informed and predominantly uncritical”, the author can rightly claim that this is a valuable piece of research which clearly amplifies the little that was previously published about Nyerere’s early progress. Ending as Nyerere moved away from teaching to active politics, it lays the basis of our understanding of what he came to regard as significant for his country: education, agriculture – and independence.
Geoffrey Stokell

(Geoffrey Stokell first went out to the Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1953, serving there for thirteen years as an “old-style” merchant trader. After qualifying as an accountant and building an internationally-successful career, in 1983 he went to Tanzania as a missionary with the Moravian Church and was later head of finance for the Tanganyika Christian Refugee Service. He became Treasurer of the Tanzania B-T S Chapter and on his return to the UK in 1996 and was TDT Treasurer.)

HADZABE: By the Light of a Million Fires, Daudi Peterson, with Richard Baalow and Jon Cox. Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam, 2013. ISBN 978-9987­08-212-4, 230 pp paperback (with music CD). Tsh50,000

It is difficult not to be fascinated by the Hadza, speakers of a unique click language and one of the last remaining groups of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania. It is easy to sympathise with their struggle to retain control over their customary lands in the Lake Eyasi basin, near Ngorongoro. By the same token, it is not hard to like this handsome volume, which is much more than a coffee table book with excellent photos; it strives to give the Hadza a voice and support their right to choose their own future. The window it opens onto the world of the Hadza is enough to make you envy the ethno-tourists and researchers who visit Hadzaland , if not the hapless folk who have to entertain them.

Hadzabe: By the Light of a Million Fires was compiled by Daudi Peterson with the help of a number of Hadza and Hadzaphiles, including the venerable anthropologist James Woodburn. A limited hardback edition has been sold to raise money for the Dorobo Fund and Ujamaa Community Resource Trust, established by the Peterson family’s eco-tourist enterprise. The paperback and accompanying CD of Hadza music that have now gone on sale are very good value. They are not without their flaws: a tendency to romanticise the Hadza and to demonise their neighbours and an uneven mixture of topics and styles, including a Swahili paean to Nyerere and villagisation on the CD. But I would much rather possess this engaging book and its vibrant music than not.
Martin Walsh

(Martin Walsh is Oxfam GB’s Global Research Adviser. His seminar presentation to the Britain-Tanzania Society on ‘Tanzania’s (agro)pastoral headache’ is available online at

VIOLENT INTERMEDIARIES – African Soldiers Conquest and Everyday Colonialism in German East Africa, by Michelle R Moyd, Ohio University Press, 2014; ISBN 978 08214 2089 8, 328 pp, softback.

The author of this exhaustive and authoritative account of the German colonial years in East Africa was indeed an acknowledged expert on the period even before this book was published. Now the reader has the full story of those years from 1891 to 1918, with the emphasis on the locally-recruited askari, who fought for the Germans almost as if they were of them.

The askari take centre stage throughout the book, indeed from the cover onwards, with an askari, rifle on shoulder, about to take his leave from his family to return to the Schutztruppe, the German colonial army. Chapters show how and where the askari were recruited; the military training and “socialization”; the wars fought by the askari (such as the Maji Maji conflicts of 1905-7); life on the stations within the country; and the inadvertent role of the askari in German colonialism. We learn, among myriads of facts, how many Sudanese initially became askari but how eventually all tribes became merged within the askari hierarchy; how the “legal” wives of askari detained for transgressions were given an allowance for their “household stability”; and how the scorched-earth policy adopted by the Schutztruppe during Maji Maji rebellion disrupted crop cycles and led to labour movement away from the Southern Highlands.
The author takes us through the 1914/18 War from the first campaign to the final 1,200 askari who surrendered to the British in November 1918, effectively closing a definitive chapter in the history of German East Africa and signaling the end of the Schutztruppe.

Although the book is, relatively speaking, hot on the heels of Anderson (2004), Paice (2007) and Samson (2013), it provides not only a great read but a quite different slant on the history of the period. The three maps – produced by Brian E Balsley, an American cartographer – are very illustrative and useful. An extremely full bibliography is of considerable fascination in itself. The index runs to a mere six pages, this being more an observation than a criticism. This work is a marvelous example of how long-term research can come to fruition in a superlative way.
David Kelly

(David Kelly has been involved with East Africa since he wrote the first history of cricket in the region in the 1960s. He is now a book dealer, with Africa a speciality subject; still researches cricket; and is a director of a Dar-based company in the beverage sector.)

TRANSITIONS OF A LIFE, printed and published for private circulation by J K Chande KBE

I first met Sir Andy Chande in the late 1980s, since when, though we now meet less frequently than before, he has become a close personal friend. Transitions is his own collection of speeches on an immense range of topics, all reflecting the dedication he continues to bring, even in retirement, to the management, in its widest sense, of enterprises and organisations with which he has been connected.

The volume is self-published, and to that extent it could probably be classified as a vanity publication; but it deserves none of the sneers which that title often evokes. It naturally lacks the fascination and raciness of his autobiography A Knight in Africa, but it underlines the way the author has been able during his lifetime, modestly but effectively, to participate in and influence some significant social decision-making. Sir Andy has been appointed to at least 100 public positions; his support for the Britain-Tanzania Society has been exemplary; and it comes as no surprise that the most significant chapters reflect his summons to all to dedicate themselves to community service. This is a celebratory volume exemplifying the practical application of two battle-cries of great public principle: Rotary’s “Service above Self” and Freemasonry’s “Love, Charity and Truth”.

TANZANIA; Strength in Unity, Strength in Diversity, published to mark the 50th Anniversary of the United Republic of Tanzania by FIRST Magazine 2014., 56 pages.

This is a glossy publication which the publisher tells me “was promoted by the Tanzanian Government and High Commission in London but financed by FIRST via advertising sponsorship. It is being distributed by the High Commission/Foreign Ministry and agencies such as the Tanzania Tourist Board. It is intended for presentation to VIP guests, distribution at investment fora/conferences etc. It will also be printed in FIRST magazine which is made available, on a complimentary basis, to first class passengers on British Airways and other airlines”. I quote this at length to explain why, unless you fall into one of these rarefied categories, you are unlikely to see a copy. Which is a pity.

There are articles by many different people, ranging from President Kikwete to the manager of the Kilimanjaro Hotel in Dar es Salaam – who incidentally is still an expatriate 40 odd years after the hotel was built. (Not the same person!). Some contributors rely heavily on unexplained TLA’s*. None the less, a proud story can be extracted, which is perhaps best summed up by John Malecela when he says “During the 50 years of existence, Tanzania has been a centre for peace and liberation in Africa. All in all, the role played by Tanzania in international and African affairs has been commendable beyond imagination”. Malecela’s piece is perhaps the best of the lot, as one might expect from someone who was at or near the centre of affairs for most of the relevant period.

Professor Mwesiga Baregu writes a thought-provoking piece about the challenges to be faced in working out a new constitution. Another is the last in the booklet, by Walter Bgoya and appropriately titled “The Last Word”. He warns of the dangers currently facing publishing in Tanzania, particularly of school text books; he fears a possible return to the state monopoly arrangements of the 1960s to 1980s, when in rural areas there could be one text book for every 15-20 pupils, and even in urban areas there might be one book for three pupils.

Our own David Brewin has a useful feature about the army mutiny and the Zanzibar revolution of 1964, the “two shocking events which triggered unity”. Incidentally it is a pity that throughout the publication the Britain-Tanzania Society does not get a mention.
*three lettered acronyms, in case you wondered.