Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Point One Percent.

Had to post this on FaceBook last night when the results came out since Blogspot started acting funny precisely around the time that the Zanzibar Presidential Election results were being broadcast.

Now that the elections are over and I don't have to play my cards close to my chest, I'll just come out and say it: I am crushed that Maalim Seif did not win. It's nothing personal, like most folks I think that Shein is a gentleman of the old-school variety which is an excellent thing to be. But nonetheless, I'm crushed.

Also, I'm overwhelmed with a bitter-sweet joy at Hamad and Shein's handling of the situation. Zanzibar is a particularly machiavellan part of Tanzania, and we're plenty squirelly to begin with. This might be a sweetheart deal amongst Zanzibari politicians, who knows? But if it isn't, and Maalim gave that concession speech in order to preserve the lives of his countrymen and the peace, stability (and economic viability) of his beloved Zanzibar... well, in that case I must salute him with a deep and genuine respect. That's what it means to sacrifice for your country, all too often.

Heshima kwako, Maalim. Wanazenji, nawatakia heri na amani. Mnatufundisha.


  1. Elsie, It was the bitter pill I had to swallow. I hope I will survive with it inside me. I agree with you Maalim busara yake ni dhahiri and I think we all know and Shein + those around him walielewa vizuri Maalim's comments. Mailand we have to learn the value of human lives and with that I respect His exellence Maalim!

  2. The clip of Maalim's concession speech and Shein's acceptance is historical material now. We'll probably be looping it in 2015 in a similar manner to the Nyerere clips. I don't know if he's going to run again in 2015, there is only so much that a person can put up with, and he's no longer young.

    But, you know, there's something quite unique about Zanzibar. Politicians from there tend to be amazingly dignified under pressure. Is it the water?

    January Makamba raised the idea of Tanzanian exceptionalism in an interview, as an ideal of our country and her capabilities. Instances like this make me wonder if there's something to the notion. Gotta do some thinking.

  3. I think the most important challenge for Maalim to convince his followers that they are in the right direction. i believe he would have be close to being declared a saint if he were catholic this old man.

    The future of the GNU is gonna depend so much on how much Dk. Shein personally engages in the process. His personal character is vital in this regard. It will take a little extra effort for Dk. Shein to control cynics from his own party and that can only happen if he chooses to display a character in him we have yet seen. Unless he is able to exert that control over his party we are headed towards a collapse of the GNU in the lines of the MDC-ZANU stalemate.

  4. Any views on this?
    Internal opposition from CCM did quite well over the last five years on the mainland, I thought.

  5. Thanks for that Steve. It is a great discussion from a theoretical perspective of what democracy should look like when it is functioning well, with checks and balances etc. But there is always a gap between theory and practice and democracy is an ideal, not a tangible commodity to be picked up like one buys a car. You know my position: I don't believe that anyone can understand Tanzanian politics by studying Zimbabwean, Kenyan, Ugandan or other African countries. Our particular social contract, which is a very large part of what supports Tanzania's stability, is a finely negotiated thing of beautiful complexity. Most of the intellectual appeal of studying Tanzanian politics is the time and effort that it takes to learn how to read this country and understand her.

    Also, the post implies that the veteran politicians of Zanzibar, extremely intelligent men who have been at their jobs for several decades, are not excruciatingly aware of the consequences of every choice and compromise and negotiation. They are not amateurs.

    Talking about intellectual conflict is one thing, and Zanzibar is an excellent place to hone one's political debating skills. But Zanzibar is not an easily-read place. And that debate misses out on one crucial insight: Zanzibar is fiercely independent and managed to find a way to solve a potentially explosive political situation in a non-violent way. They are by no means uninformed about checks and balances, they just found a way to move forward that suits them for now. He might not like it, but this GNU is a step towards the democratic ideal that anchors his discussion. And since Zanzibaris like to run things their way, I would invite him to do a lot of talking to the wo/man on the street before drawing conclusions about the balancing act that they are currently trying to pull off. A lot of talking and learning.

  6. Oh, and on the CCM internal opposition comment- I am in observation mode for the next few months. Let's see.

  7. @Deus: mh-hm, I feel you there, I feel you. I don't know how much "control over his party" will be a result of personal endeavor as opposed to calibrated GNU bipartisan consensus dancing. I am certainly curious about the part: "if he chooses to display a character we have yet to see." Potential. Observation mode on that too.

  8. I'm certainly with you in favouring what works in practice over theory. And no theory can approximate the huge complexity of social interractions. But principles are not unimportant, and Ranil, I thought, raised some valid concerns, albeit maybe slightly over stated. (Btw Ranil is a long term resident on ZNZ, so not an uninformed distant commentator.)

  9. @Steve: Yes, principles are not unimportant. I am aware that some principles that I consider flexible are not so flexible for others. Some of the principles that I hold dear are unimportant to others. The struggle to understand and compromise and sometimes compete with others who are passionate about the same interests is all part of the fun of debate. It's pretty obvious that Ranil knows what he is talking about, but he did kinda diss the Zenji politicians. In light of the hard work coming their way, I am keeping far away from that discussion maanake you know how conspiracy-theory we can get. Selective reticence is part of the Tanzanian social contract maintenance toolbox.

    But you and Ranil have made me think, and here's something I'd like your opinions on: considering that GNUs seem to be cropping up all over the place (was just watching BBC this morning, Iraq is a recent joiner), is there perhaps a blind spot in our modern democratic theories? Has anyone studied that phenomenon? After all, the US is a mature democracy that only superficially changes leadership by passing the baton across the political aisle. Are they a GNU in drag? Is the GNU the next frontier, or a necessary step in the political development of any polity that has serious fractions to bridge? Can compromise be used wisely and deliberately by otherwise competitive monopolistic parties to support state-building over the alternative? Is the US system even competitive? On the same scale as, say Zanzibar?


  10. Hi, firstly on the point of principle, I fully agree with you. I get slightly worried about the debate on human rights which can take upon a slightly religious character, which brooks no argument. How exactly universal are these rights? Of course, as an indoctrinated westerner, I fully support said rights!

    I am no political scientist so really cannot say whether anyone has studied GNUs (but a search on Google Scholar turned up plenty of results). I certainly think they have their place, especially in helping a country overcome deep divisions, as is applicable to Zanzibar (altho other players in this game have been recovering from even worse - generally violent - splits). I don't, however, get your argument re the US. The policy differences may not always be clear (especially internationally), but there is plenty of confrontational politics and vigorous arguments, which I think was Ranil's original concern would be missing on Zanzibar.


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