Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Friday, 29 November 2013

Letter from Butiama: CCM at thirty

This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011. Publication date: 4th February 2007.

The political landscape has changed since then, but I believe that some of the points I raised in 2007 could still be valid today in light of the leadership battles that have recently surfaced in one of the opposition political parties. 
Tomorrow Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), the ruling party turns thirty.

In those thirty years Tanzania has changed considerably. The most significant of the changes is the fact that when the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) merged with Zanzibar’s Afro Shirazi Party (ASP) to form CCM in 1977, Tanzania was a one-party state.

Today, CCM shares the political platform with several other political parties after Tanzania adopted a pluralist political system in 1992.

That after we adopted a multiparty system CCM has won three general elections suggests that it is doing something that the opposition parties cannot.

CCM members will say that their victories are a measure of the strength of their party, and the articulation of their policies to the electorate, which finds meaning with the voters. They will also say that it is a measure of the weakness of the opposition.

CCM’s results could also be explained by an event from the past. Only 20 percent of CCM members told the Nyalali Commission, which was mandated by President Mwinyi to collect the views of Tanzanians on their preferred political system, that they want a pluralist political system. CCM decided that it was significant enough to warrant adoption of a multiparty system, given the fact 56 percent of those who preferred a singly party system had some reservations about CCM’s performance.

Although skeptics always maintain that CCM’s views are not representative of the wider views of other non-CCM Tanzanians, election results seem to suggest that CCM member’s views are decisive.

I suspect that the 80 percent against and the 20 percent for pluralism ratio from the Nyalali Commission findings remains constant. Those views remain in the subconscious of voters; when they are dissatisfied with CCM they shift allegiance to the opposition, but when CCM seems to live up to their expectations, they shift back to CCM, showing their true colours – green, yellow, and black.

There is phenomenon in the soft drinks market that suggests that when a new soft drink is introduced in a market, consumers temporarily switch to the new drink, and after the novelty wears off they return to their usual drink.

I have no intention of belittling the opposition parties, but I believe that the same analogy applies to Tanzania’s political landscape. I recall the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding the first multi-party elections in 1995. It looked like CCM would loose.

CCM mounted a counter campaign that included recalling to active duty some retired cadres, including Mwalimu Nyerere, and succeeded in winning the Mainland presidential elections by more than 60 percent of the vote. It also won 214 parliamentary seats compared to the opposition’s 55.

The opposition parties have never recovered from the gains registered in that first election in 1995. The leadership in the opposition parties spent a great deal of their time squabbling between themselves, the voters went back to the party they had been used to since 1977 and the voter’s political choice was limited.

The Mainland presidential elections results in 2005 saw CCM emerge the winner, capturing over 80 percent of the vote. The opposition seats in parliament were reduced to 43.

Even if the influence of Takrima, campaign hospitality, is taken into consideration, with CCM candidates usually taking the larger blame for throwing the more lavish parties, the results, in my view should not have been different. In fact, if it is generally accepted that Takrima was widely used in the recent elections then it is fair to say that it was a multi-party phenomenon. CCM candidates did not have a monopoly in their generosity to voters.

Winning elections is one thing, and probably the easier part. Transforming that victory to improving the lives of the voter is the difficult part.

In some African countries where political parties that won independence have been removed from power through the ballot box, those countries have gone through periods of turbulent politics, with the new governments, formed out of coalitions of differing political groups, turning on each other and turning the task of governing to one of infighting and of betraying the trust of their electorate.

To wish that such political turbulence should not unfold in Tanzania is to wish CCM should rule forever. It’s not an easy choice.

It would be radical to suggest, particularly in this newspaper, that it is in our national interest that the organizational and leadership capacities of opposition parties should be strengthened. But I believe it is wise to try out this suggestion.

Such a provision would be an insurance policy for the majority of Tanzania’s voters that should they decide to do away with the usual and try the new that the change will not spring up unpleasant surprises.

The only problem is how to stem the one-way traffic flow of opposition party converts to Chama cha Mapinduzi.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Students from Musoma visit Butiama

Students whose parents belong to the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church of Kamunyonge, Musoma, paid a visit to Butiama yesterday and toured both the Mwalimu J.K. Nyerere Museum and the mausoleum of the late Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.
Butiama is a popular destination for students from around Mara and Mwanza regions as well as from Kenya and Uganda.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Opportunities for all is a fable

It was a young George W. Bush in the documentary Fahrenheit 911 who laid down the reality on the significance to overall business success of who you know in business and the relative insignificance of what you know. He said; "When you're the president's son, you've got unlimited access...In Washington DC people tend to respect that. Access is power."

It's difficult to disagree with George W. Bush in this instance.

President Jakaya Kikwete has also made statements that support this position. At least on one occasion, to justify some of his frequent foreign visits, he said his presence in the meetings he calls abroad to woo foreign investors is critical to the success of those meetings. Those who attend do so because he is there; they might not if a mere minister or the director of the Tanzania Investment Centre called the meeting.

The point is taken; most humans pursuing a particular goal prefer the shorter route to success. If that shortcut goes through hell and there is a possibility of making the return trip and achieving those goals then chances are that most reasonable people will go through hell. Preferably these goals are easily achieved by connecting with the right individuals. For the Saudis then that individual was George W. Bush. For other times and countries there are other well-connected individuals and they do not always have to be the president's offspring.

But here's the problem: there aren't many of these individuals around. And they do not connect with everyone. Which is why we should question anyone who suggests there are equal opportunities for all in Tanzania today. In recent times when the government gradually abdicated from its duty to ensure that some semblance of "opportunities for all" remained within society, the vacuum created by this abdication necessitated a new shift in political terminology.

Socialism was replaced by market-driven policies where individuals were encouraged to take advantage of opportunities that chance, favourable policies, and an enabling environment provided. The reigning slogan became, chagamkia fursa [crudely translated: grab the opportunities]. Implied in this statement was if you don't succeed it's your fault.

Both George Bush and President Kikwete know only too well that opportunities find their way to the privileged. Which is why it should not be out of the ordinary for those potential investors who attended President Kikwete's investor meetings abroad to first seek an appointment with him once they land at the Julius Nyerere International Airport so he may help them to get straight to business in as little time as possible. How many Tanzanians are able to provide those connections? A tiny fraction.

At any one time in any country there is a handful of individuals who hold the critical success factors to a particular business venture. Sometimes education might level out the playing field and serve as a means for reducing the disparity among individuals of these critical success factors. But where education could be the saviour, it has become the very factor that worsens the disparity. Members of the political and economic elite can afford a better education for their children while the poor strata of society continue to receive a substandard education that only serves to entrap them inside a cycle of poverty with little chance of moving upwards.

What does this mean? In general, it is the minority affluent well-educated "connected" class that will have the chance to take advantage of these touted opportunities while the majority poorly-educated class will remain within the clutches of poverty and destitution.

It might be fair to say that I am outlining what is true of most countries in the world, not just Tanzania. Then again it should also be fair to ask why politicians keep parroting these fables about the existence of opportunities for all.

Monday, 18 November 2013

allAfrica.com: Tanzania: Kigoma Wary of Poor Harvest As Aliens Sent Back Home

allAfrica.com: Tanzania: Kigoma Wary of Poor Harvest As Aliens Sent Back Home

Just back from a visit to Kagera region, I heard similar fears expressed by some of Kagera's residents. One resident said that a great majority of the expelled foreigners were employed by Tanzanians in pastoral and farming activities.

He added: "We do not do this work. We normally entrust cattle with them and we agree on sharing the benefits. They keep the milk and we retain the the cows."

He expressed similar outcomes in agricultural activity. He feared that agricultural output will fall drastically.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Deputy minister January Makamba visits Butiama

During a speech he delivered on Nyerere Day (14th October 2013) in Butiama, Deputy Minister for Communication, Science, and Technology January Makamba said he would explore steps to link the village of Butiama to the National Fibre-Optic Network.

He was responding to a request made by Emmanuel Kiondo, the director of Butiama's Mwalimu J.K. Nyerere Museum who underlined the importance of Butiama as a historical and cultural destination and having pointed out the proximity of the Fibre-Optic cable to Butiama (11 kilometres) stressed the importance of linking Butiama to broadband connectivity.
On Nyerere Day, Deputy Minister for Communication, Science and Technology January Makamba, second from right, with Mama Maria Nyerere, first from right.
In stressing his point Kiondo spoke in his and the deputy minister's native Sambaa dialect: Uhemuonea Zumbe, nee uhemuighushi (translation: when you meet the Chief/King you greet him and tell him all your problems).

It worked; the deputy minister responded positively and said he would explore steps to ensure Butiama also benefits from the Fibre-Optic network.

When writing a weekly column for the Sunday News (Tanzania) between 2005 and 2011 I was made aware on many occasions of the importance of a reliable Internet connection. I frequently drove to Musoma, an 80-kilometre round trip to file my articles. On a few occasions I even drove to Tarime, a 200-kilometre round trip to spend a few minutes at an Internet cafe' and file the week's Letter from Butiama.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Ross Methven: Ironman cyclist from Edinburgh to Cape Town

By the time he reached Butiama on 14th July 2013, Ross Methven had cycled through 12 countries and covered some 15,000 kilometres. He is on his way to Cape Town, South Africa, and I am informed he is in Botswana now.

Why? That was the first question I had in mind when I heard from Dr. Thomas Molony of Ross' epic voyage that began in Scotland in January 2013. Ross is raising money for the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF).
If you want to donate to Ross' cause please follow this link:
He entered Tanzania from Kenya through the Namanga border post and rode to Arusha. From Arusha he initially planned to ride south towards Babati to Dodoma, then to Iringa and to the Malawian border. That was before I told him I would accompany him to Dodoma if he chose to ride from Butiama through Mwanza and to Dodoma through Shinyanga. He did and I serviced my mountain bike and accompanied him to Dodoma between July and August. Read about our ride to Dodoma here:

On our way to Ukerewe island, curious children gather around Ross' camera to view their photos.
While resting in Butiama I asked him a few questions:

Q: Are you normally a physically active person?
A: I played rugby a lot while in Scotland. But when I moved to work in London my lifestyle changed. I had long working hours and was not as active. When I started cycling I was pretty unfit and overweight. Experienced cyclists say it normally takes a person 2-3 months of continuous cycling to become bike fit.

Q: What has been your biggest surprise?
A: The unexpected generosity of people I come across. In Albania, people don't accept money for coffee or water.

Q: When do you expect to reach Cape Town?
A: At the end of this year, around Christmas.

Q: Give me some vital statistics of what you have done so far.
A: I have cycled 80 days until now. The longest I have cycled is 88 miles (140.8 kilometres). The coldest day was 12 Celsius, the hottest 29 Celsius. The fastest I have cycled is 48 MPH (76.8 KPH). The longest time without washing was 4 nights. I drink about 8 litres of water each day.

Ross carries all necessary items on his bicycle: tent, food, clothing, water, and spares.

Q: How much total weight do you carry?
A: When I left Edinburgh the total weight, including myself, was 150kgs. I weighed 85kgs; I now weigh 70kgs.
Near Dodoma, with his bicycle, less the 15 kilos he lost along the way.
 Q: What have been your highlights so far?
A: The small acts of kindness that I mentioned and reaching the top of a mountain. Also, the cold beer at the end of a day.

Q: Have you had a what-am-I-doing-here?* moment?
A: All the time, especially while cycling uphill. When I reach the top I get a great feeling that makes the pain and agony of uphill worthwhile.

*It is a term I use to describe my challenging moments while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Related link: