Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Monday, July 19, 2010

Letter from Butiama: Surprise! Surprise!*

This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011. Publication date: 15th January 2006.

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I recalled an incident recently, which occurred in the late 1980's, when I was among a group that came together to discuss the formation of the Tanzania-Mozambique Friendship Association (TAMOFA) at the Institute of Finance Management in Dar es Salaam.

I must have been the one person with a pen and some writing notes because, in those few meetings, I took note of the proceedings up to the day of the inaugural meeting which elected the founding members of the Executive Committee.

Those assembled went through the list of vacancies, nominating a candidate for each. I was taken by complete surprise when the late Col. Andrew Shija stood up and nominated me TAMOFA's treasurer. I was caught totally unprepared and managed to only say, "Oooh!" And with that historic pronouncement I was unanimously elected TAMOFA's founding treasurer.

Going into the meeting, the only definite outcome I was looking forward to was that I would be one of the card carrying members of TAMOFA. To walk out with a title was a lot more than I expected. I can describe myself as having passed through an initial shock, in a small way, and later recovered to issue that historic remark.

When President Kikwete unveiled his new cabinet to Tanzania on 4th January and after naming Hon. Kingunge Ngombale-Mwiru his minister for Politics and Social Relations, he revealed that Hon. Kingunge was hearing that appointment for the first time, together with the rest of the world.

If I had been subjected to such an announcement and given the significance of the announcement I would have said "Ooooooooooh!" That high a responsibility would leave many lost for words. It does not matter whether a ministeral post is highly coveted, or whether it can be considered an immense civic responsibility. Hearing of a ministerial appointment 'live' is a potentially life-threatening experience for those with weak hearts. I recently met someone who was present in 1992 when the late Horace Kolimba was nominated by then party Chairman Mzee Ali Hassan Mwinyi and then elected by the General Congress of Chama cha Mapinduzi as its secretary general, apparently without having prior knowledge of the Chairman's intentions. Kolimba is reported to have become totally disoriented, and seemed to have attempted to sit down and stand up at the same time.

Given the number of new appointments in this cabinet, I imagine a lot of "Ooooooooooh's" or similar remarks were made on 4th January, not only from those who were appointed but more so for members of the public. Next to the World Cup, cabinet announcements rank high among events that attract a large audience in front of television and radio sets. People seem to be interested in not only who is in, but also of who is out.

Since Hon. John Momose Cheyo first used the word "out" to announce, a few years ago, the expulsion of some members of his political party, the United Democratic Party (UDP), from office, the word has been widely used by the media to describe all forms and manner of setbacks that have struck political figures.

Today "out" can mean anything from being fired from a job, to losing an election. In fact "in" and "out" was a convenient way to report the results of the just-ended parliamentary elections, particularly for the vibrant network of authors of text messages who spend time to report on every major event that gets coverage from the national press. President Kikwete's announcement also got some underground coverage.

On 4th January my handset was host for a while to a text message with the following details, "Chiligati in, Dr. Asharose out." In this case "in" referred to Hon. John Chiligati's Ministry of Home Affairs which is normally referred to as ndani, Kiswahili for "in", while "out" was referring to Hon. Dr. Asharose Migiro's Ministry for International Affairs and International Co-operation which is normally known as Nje, Kiswahili for "foreign" but also meaning "out", as was originally used by Hon. Cheyo, who is now "in" as Bariadi's member of parliament.

I am reliably informed that the message ended up in Dr. Asharose Migiro's handset, but thanks to a congestion of the airwaves, the message reached her hours after President Kikwete's cabinet announcement.

*First published on 15th January, 2006.

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