Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dude. How do You Mean It?!?!

Teasing politicians is fun. Comedians have always known that politicians are the gift that just keeps on giving. The Fountain of Eternal Material. Besides, it is it's own form of public service because sometimes leaders need a little ego management to keep their feet planted firmly on the ground. Someone has to be the court jester, the griot, the little boy who asked his mother why the Emperor is walking around with his wobbly bits hanging out. We all need that friend who lets the air out of our pomp and circumstance.

But, sometimes, the problem is a little bit bigger. Tanzanians have been spoiled rotten by our Presidents: they have been so far rather accessible people. Mwalimu established a Presidential culture that is wonderfully healthy and very democratic, so we are used to demanding our President's personal time and attention. It gets a little cloying at times, and Jay Kay occasionally forgets himself when kidding around with his adoring public. Still, it is far better than the alternative: being subjected to rulers so closed off, so protected, so far outside our reach that there is little commonality to bond us in the mutual endeavours of nation-building. Since we are a presidential political culture, our other politicians and public servants tend to align their behaviors to the president's. The public performance of humility and accessibility is an important part of our social contract with our leaders.

Joji asked in a previous discussion what intelligence has to do with anything. Well, here's my real opinion: we are all gifted and cursed with a talent. Some of us enter the world through our brains, others do it through music, some through movement, others through their sight. Some do it through their spirituality, some through their infinite curiosity. Some have a lot of talents, some have just the one. But you have to understand the gift to understand the curse that comes with it. Most successful politicians are highly intelligent people. Some of them need help managing their egos. If we don't help them, they can run amok on us and next thing we know we'll have our own version of Jean Bedel Bokassa trying to coronate himself at the National Imperial Stadium of the United Empire of Tanzania and All Her Surrounding Territories.

So, for the most part, our leaders have been pretty well-behaved. However, occasionally we are faced with a real threat. I will never forget the sheer force of Edward Ngoyai Lowassa's resignation speech. Towering rage, bitter humiliation... and the latent threat of resurgence. And now, we have Andrew John Chenge asking for his peers' votes so that he can become Speaker of the Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania. Andrew Chenge, Mr. Vijisenti, Mr. Viji-tendencies, is asking his peers to let him head the most important and democratic branch of government? Yeah, I don't think so.

I think someone is having a little trouble recalling the terms of the Tanzanian social contract between the citizenry and the leadership. It looks like that old joke is quite appropriate in your case, Mr. Chenge. Old lawyers never die, they just lose their judgement... It's going to be an interesting session.

*I totally stole the expression in the title from my joyously irrepressible mischief-making grrrl. Name-check. What, what. Sorry, you know it is too good not to appear on the blog ;)


  1. The last time I checked Tanzanian television, Ze Komedi folks (then at EATV) were a hit in some quarters for providing satirical material about politicians. I wonder how they are holding up.

    It would be great to watch a Tanzanian version of this: http://www.zanews.co.za/

    Won't it?

    I guess for Tanzania, the volume of content for satire on leadership increases as our democracy matures (in age). At least so far to me it seems so :D

  2. Well, Joji. Ze Komedians had a fall-out with EATV over money and other management issues, and decamped to... TBC of all places. Where they promptly lost their credibility, drive, courage and material. Now we have a couple of copycat shows and Ze Komedians are stuck in the special hell that is reserved for artists who realize that they kinda sold out and have to find a way to make it back to the good place. In brief, just another Tanzanian artist self-destruction tale.

    Zanews TZ edition would be awesome... but you know that's one of those donor-gift thingys? French money/and/or/technical support behind it's inception, I believe. Les Guignols, satire, a fine tradition from the land of Vive la Revolution. I believe the Kenyans have one too, not sure how many episodes. Can't remember the name either but they are on youtube.

    Maybe someone will win that tender for Tanzania and we'll see. But really, it's a replicable format and eventually someone will make the connection between the business/money side and the concept...

    ...as our democracy "matures in age" eh? ouch :)


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