Friday, October 23, 2015

The Weekly Sneak: The Whole Statement

This is the last piece for The East African before my sweet darling country goes to the polls. I am posting it in its entirety here just in case The East African has any notions of editing the verve out of it, especially the part where I would like to take a verbal flamethrower to "journos" who can only comprehend Tanzania through the inappropriate of, uh, lens? of Kenya*:

"Excepting the early birds who know well enough to look online of a Saturday morning, by the time you read this article Tanzania will be deep in the contractions of rebirthing herself as she does every ten years. Like any kind of labour it's going to take a while and we all hope everything goes well, so take a magazine and make yourself comfortable for the next foreseeable. Might be a week or two before the dust settles.

Meanwhile? Party time. There is nothing like the anticipation of a bit of change to put a little pep in the step. Also, sweet freedom beckons. No longer will we have to look into the earnest faces of people reading off a teleprompter exhorting us to vote for them or their patron. It has taken all the strength and patience in the world not to spray windex on every screen in my vicinity and frantically scrape off the politics. The shrill flatness of bad speech delivery is also going to disappear as a feature of daily life, and perhaps we might rediscover colors without fear of unwittingly expressing political opinions.

Conversations will broaden again. Radio stations will no longer have to play nationalistic songs ad nauseum. There might be some small sensibility reintroduced to the policy aspects of public life. Advertisements might become entertaining again. And beautiful people with great enunciation reading the news off tablet computers might actually have something to say.

Of course it won't all come correct within the first few days. CCM and Chadema have upped the ante so much that they have left us no choice but to be cranky immediately after the elections. As I write this, Tanzanians are being stripped of their right to assemble and told that they can't gather together closer than 200 meters from a voting station.

This is excellent pre-emptive peacekeeping. It is also surprisingly dumb, unnecessarily stoking the fires of doubt and agitation. There's a reason people like to “guard their vote” and it would have been politic, CCM, to let people enjoy a false sense of security by allowing them to do so, amirite? As it is, there's some serious lady-hating happening. The Establishment is saying that women are likely to be prevented from voting because of threats of violence, blah blah blah. We are still going to vote, by the way, and who in their right mind threatens an African woman like so. I would look up an approprite Nigerian curse for this abomination, but who has the time.

What's that? Ah, the candidates, you ask. Sure. The real five-year prize is the legislature. A reasonable balance in the law-making institution is what we actually need if any of the campaign promises made so far have a chance at coming to fruition. Yes, zealots have been working hard to make us believe that the man makes the nation, but truth be told the issue is much deeper than two middle-aged Establishment veterans with questionable oratory skills.

If they were half the “warriors” they claim to be, we could all have settled this by letting their mutual former boss Mzee Ali Hassan Mwinyi challenge both men to a 5K walk. Whoever can talk/do pushups/explain education policy with coherence after that ordeal might be deserving of a disinterested shrug in their direction. Fine: we could throw in an overpriced bottle of water into that scenario, since you insist. That, folks, would have been the gentlemanly way to resolve a dispute nobody asked y'all to drag us taxpaying voters into in the first place.

To pass the time between the voting, the results, the anger at the results, the re-count, the intermittent incidences of bajaj-related skirmishes, execrable international press coverage et cetera I treated myself to a month-long supply of local TV stations. Mostly because I just want to hang out with my man Tido Mhando and a couple of other brilliant homegrown journalists. This election? Ha. Like any kind of labour it's going to take a while and we all hope everything goes well, so pick a good channel and make yourself comfortable for the next foreseeable. Might be a week or two before the dust settles.

PS: don't worry, we'll be fine. We really aren't Kenya."

* Don't. Even.

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