... on the opposite end of the spectrum the forces of African conservative fundamentalism are horrified by this creeping trend: a man, a self-respecting African man, in the kitchen? Good grief. What will these insufferable liberals ask for next! Equal opportunities and basic human rights for all? The world is going straight to hell in a kikapu. They are right to be scared, I am afraid. The world as we have known it for generations is going to hell in a finely handcrafted vessel made of sustainable organic local materials. And I, for one, am happily waving it on its journey to oblivion.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
With great bemusement do I follow the debate about allowances in Parliament. So much ado about nothing!
Widespread reliance on allowances is a cornerstone of the TKP’s rule. The ability to hand out allowances at will creates loyalty. Lower cadres are motivated to follow their bosses in the expectation of being ‘rewarded’ with the opportunity to attend a lucrative workshop. Bosses, in turn, are loyal to their superiors for fear of losing attractive benefits associated with foreign trips and positions on the boards of parastatals or high level working groups. Allowances thus create obedience and allow dissent to be easily spotted and punished.
The downside of the TKPs reliance on allowances is that a culture has emerged where work evolves around creating opportunities for yet another workshop, training or trip. Delivering services has become of secondary concern. Loyalty clearly comes at a price. A price the TKP is happy to pay by the way.
The culture of allowances is so widespread that these days even university students demand allowances to ‘sit’ for lectures. The benefits are so lucrative that civil society –those who constantly moan and groan about the TKP, remain silent on this issue. They prefer to benefit from its spoils rather than to address it.
The power of allowances in forging loyalty to the TKP is well illustrated by the inability of opposition MPs to make any real progress on the issue. They make a lot of noise, certainly, but that is about it. This is what makes the current debate so amusing. Only one extravert youngster has dared to state publicly that he prefers not receive the allowances due to him since he is already paid! No other person has joined him. No MP, no journalist and no NGO employee!
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Please: go out and buy it. It is a labor of love, a love letter to the city of Dar es Salaam, and a coffee table book that will impress everyone who glimpses it with your cultural savvy. It will make you richer, slimmer and smarter and irresistibly charismatic. This book will give you mojo, along with a dose of that laid-back Bongo Cool you've always wanted. Go get your copy and support your Bongo creatives! And then pass by Sarah's to let her know how lovely you think the final product is :)
If/when we throw the party, I'll let you know.
"Still, the underlying point is a poignant one: what they are really asking is how can they hope to get out into the big bad world and earn a living without poverty rolling over them like a runaway upcountry bus. I do have an answer for those of us who are unemployed by our anorexic formal labor market: your creativity is your labor market advantage. Most of us are going to have to invent our jobs and ride our own brains on the journey from subsistence farming with a hand-hoe, to the bright lights and city smarts of the middle class lifestyle."
Also, I wanted to expose an interesting behavior: I'm getting asked for money by strangers. Sigh. Look: I don't believe in hand-outs. Charity for good causes? Yes. Constructive help? Yes. Mentorship? Any time. Collaboration? Sure, as time and inclination permits. Hand-outs just because? Not so much. I hope we're clear on that. If you don't like it, you can always report me to the socialists ;)
And then there was Vodacom or Vodanet or Vodacell or whatever the hell they call themselves these days. When they rebranded this year, their campaign translated the English slogan of "Power to You" to "Kazi ni Kwako" for the local populace. Which doesn't mean remotely the same thing, and has been quietly grating on my nerves for months now. Typically Tanzanian of me, being intolerant of the cultural faux-pas. Their local staff must hate the corporation if they neglected to inform the (obviously clueless) marketing team about this one little thing. In comparison to the ads that Zantel is putting out there, Vodacom is only showing itself to be out of touch with their consumers and frankly uninterested in their customers. You'd think that Big Telecoms would have a clue. Apparently, not these guys.
Monday, June 20, 2011
In the meantime I thought I would give you a little info on what kinds of responses I get from readers, since that is the first thing that people ask me. With regards to the East African articles: don't worry, Big Brother hasn't come a-raiding Mikocheni looking for me. And He won't: Tanzania actually is a society in which free speech is tolerated if not necessarily encouraged. Don't take my word for it, try it yourself and see. Besides, the Kiswahili media is far more dangerous, and critical, than English media.
Responders profile: most of you who write in are liberals. Hello, tribe :) Always good to meet you. Some of you are decidedly ujamaa socialists. I'm sorry for your ailment, I hope you get better soon but in the meantime thanks for visiting. Gender dynamics: you are all of you male, except for that one lady who got in touch last week about blogging tips. In fact, you are all male and either in your twenties or fifty and above. It is such an intriguing phenomenon that I have to comment on it.
I am of course obsessed by female voice in public debate. While in Nairobi, someone pointed out that when "disempowered" "minorities" such as women are given an opportunity to express their opinions publicly, they tend to decline. I have no problem with that since the flip side of freedom of speech is the freedom not to speak. Enforced participation is so Ujamaa, you know? Not my cup of tea. And yet... this gendered silence is making me wonder what the situation is. Even the anonymous commentators who reveal themselves in face-to-face meetings are male. You're killing me, here, ladies. Tell me- is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable? A feminist blogger without female online companionship is a sad and pathetic thing to be.
That said, most of your correspondence is about politics and governance and what it does to your individual lives. We're all in this mess of a national project together, aren't we, and talk is therapy. Once in a blue moon someone gets in touch to feed me info about a cause close to their hearts: don't take it personally if I don't put your suggestion on the blog. Sometimes it is off-topic, sometimes I simply don't know enough, sometimes the information is compromized and sometimes it involves a fight that I have decided not to join. But I do try to respond anyways. So, you know, if you have something you want to say feel free to holler. If you use a female name you'll really make my day :)
So to conclude, I have to agree publicly here with fellow Mikocheni resident Kato Lukaija who has been emailing me his campaign to get the issue of male circumcision discussed in the print media. There is something a little bit coercive about the current drive to get men to circumcise so as to minimize the risk of HIV infection, although massive public health drives tend to have that approach. Still, you have a point sir: men are just as entitled as women to defend their bodily integrity and no one should chop anything off you that you intend to keep. Good luck with your endeavors, although you know that the papers will not print such well-researched, explicitly detailed argumentation about the advantages of the foreskin. Sadly, neither can I. Maybe you should start a blog...
Friday, June 17, 2011
I did ask a few questions when I got the email, just to get a feel of who is behind the initiative. Turns out that it is a reader-led project by a group of people who love the medium and want to boost blogging in Tanzania. A people's choice award, basically. Quite apart from the nomination, do check out the award website for the most comprehensive current blogroll I have seen in a long time, and please do look at the nominees in the various categories. There are a quite a few decent blogs out there and it will make your day better.
And sincerely: thank you to whoever nominated The Mikocheni Report. You have reminded me that just because the comments section is not on fire, it does not mean we aren't in the middle of a long conversation. I'll be putting the vote badges up later today, Tanesco permitting. High Five.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
"Ten years ago this would have been impossible to imagine: few of us under the previous regimes had a clue about what these parliamentarians of ours did with themselves. They were like exotic birds who migrated to roost in a mythical capital far, far away from Dar called Dodoma several times a year, where they would coo at each other in a language we weren’t likely to understand. The national budget was an even more obscure undertaking than Bunge, and something that we were happy to leave to the ones in charge. After all they supposedly knew exactly what they were doing. That must have been such a fantastic time to be a politician. Sure, you were likely poor but then you commanded respect."
Sunday, June 12, 2011
But I only got a third of a night of excellent jazzical entertainment. Props to Sauda Simba who frontlined for Hugh- nice selection of standards, and I would be interested to hear her personal take on a few more of the classic tracks. But by 9:30 the songstress was done and the concert that was supposed to start at 8:00 was beginning to look a little flaky. Then the rep from the main sponsors strolled up to the microphone and told us that the concert was cancelled. Haha, we responded. So funny, joke yes?
Not so much, no.
The concert, which was full to capacity with people who had forked over between 50,000 TShs and 100,000 TShs (that's real money, folks), had been summarily cancelled. Just like that, my lifelong dream to see Hugh perform live, my deep pleasure at the thought of listening to him riff while enjoying the cool breeze off the Indian Ocean, the anticipation of treasuring that memory forever- pouf. Up in smoke.
Yeah, I was disappointed. Even worked up a modicum of anger. Some more cynical friends had held off their excitement with the argument that they would believe it when they saw Hugh on the stage. I spent weeks in a fever of anticipation. Guess who had it right? But I wasn't nearly as disappointed as I thought I would be, and finally figured out why: this is Bongo. Everyone expects to get swindled at some point by a service provider. Because it happens. All the time. With this particular producer, I believe I still have a ticket for Freshly Ground hanging about that I did not get a refund for... knowwhati'msayin'?
Anyways, listened yesterday to the EA drivetime show where the DJ was explaining what happened and sort of asking the audience whether it was Hugh's fault or the producer's fault. First up: DJ couldn't pronounce the man's name. How can any working African DJ in East Africa not know who Hugh is?! Second, half the callers thought that Hugh came from Zambia or Uganda or some such nonsense. Made me want to kill myself.
But most importantly: Soweto String Quartet: mishandled. Freshly Ground: mishandled. Hugh Masekela: manhandled. We seem to be earning a reputation here, knowwhati'msayin'? Mh hm.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
The other day I visited a secondary school. Expanding access to secondary education has been one of my favourite policies. It has made me popular with parents because many pupils who complete primary school can now continue their studies. At the same time my supporters benefit from the construction required.
Having pushed this policy for so long, I was curious how successful the project really was. While inspecting the building I decided to do a small investigation. I asked a Form 3 student: “How will your secondary education be of use to you and to Tanzania?”
His answer left me with little doubt: “In my secondary education used to find the political in swahili. I dont know why dont you find all subjects in secondary in Swahili others in English. I think if the subjects we can find in swahili the secondary it is their happy to enjoyed the subject except eny reason”. The answer was clearly incomprehensible.
Then I switched language and asked the same question in Kiswahili. This time I got a sensible answer: “Elimu yangu nitakayopata katika shule ya sekondari itaninufaisha mimi pamoja na taifa langu. Nitashiriki kikamilifu katika kazi ya kujitolea nafsi yangu kuondoa ujinga, magonjwa, nitashiriki kikamilifu kuwafundisha wazee ambao hawakupata nafasi ya kusoma” (The secondary education that I will get will benefit my country and me. I will participate fully in volunteering in person to eradicate ignorance, disease, I will participate fully in teaching the old who did not get the chance to study).
I was very pleased with the results of my research. More than 1.4 million students are enrolled in secondary schools. As a consequence there are at least 1 million families who are proud of the achievements of their offspring. By implication these families are grateful to me, the King, the one who has created this opportunity. At the same time these students do not learn much because they do not understand the language of instruction. And that’s wonderful too.
Parents are happy because their offspring made it into secondary school. Teachers are happy because they have jobs. My inner circle is happy because the children educated by the public education system will never form a threat to themselves or their positions. Even their children (who go to private schools) will never be outcompeted by these uneducated ignoramuses.
That night I slept really well. Rarely perform projects as satisfactory as this one.