Thursday, August 21, 2008

Exit from the Bimbo Bin

It was around the time of the PM resignation/cabinet reshuffle in February that the first signs of doom started to dog the Fourth Administration. The magic duo of Kikwete and Lowassa was broken up, what was the world coming to? Then Jay Kay quietly appointed a new team of ministers and business went on as usual, more or less, in time for President Bush to come by and say Howdy Y'all. Jaws of Defeat: zero, Victory Snatched: One.

Never one to give up, much of the press along with the perpetual opposition went on foretelling Kikwete's demise Any Time Now. It would be precipitated by Buzwagi, by the Muafaka mess, by the Muungano debate, by the death of Ballali, by the lack of action on EPA, by the silence on Richmond, by by by...I fell into step and was convinced that the end was nigh when Jay Kay gave his end of the month address in July, spending more time explaining his absence than commenting on the burning issues of the day.

Silly me. I forgot a couple of things: that our incumbent has been in the system since he was yea high and thus knows what's up better than we give him credit for. I also forgot that his pleasant demeanour is only the thin layer that sweetens his driving ambition to rule this country (as benevolently as he can manage). This is the guy who introduced the idea of effectiveness to our indolent executive through the use of reward (Ngurudoto workshops) and punishment (surprise visits culminating in instant job terminations).

Today, he pulled a new rabbit out of his hat: the mid-term parliamentary address. Another Fourth Administration innovation, and far less detrimental to the President than the live press conference of early days. It took him a few hours, and aside from the excessive gratitude (really, must he thank everyone and their grandma during state addresses?), turned out to be quite an impressive effort. Not to mention his exquisite timing yet again: he quelled an imminient strike, EPA speculation and the Zanzibar debate in one fell swoop.

In light of this, it seems churlish to claim any longer that Tanzanians made a mistake choosing Kikwete. He's the compromize guy, Mr. Don't Shake The Boat, Mr. Cross The River One Stone At a Time, Mr. Make it Work, and he does what he does very well. We Paradisans claim that we want immediate and explosive change, we think that we can get away forever with immature expectations of our government (that it can control the price of petrol, that every youth will be employed today). In truth most of us are far too comfortable to put up with anything that would disrupt our peaceful lives... although we insisted on the Zanzibar debate as though we don't know this could lead to blood on the streets. Wabongo bwana.

So sure: Jay Kay could have dramatically fired some people over EPA and Richmond as he did with the late Ballali. He could have sacrificed more public servants on the altar of public opinion, due process be damned. He could have gone head to head with his detractors and entered a shouting match. He could have done any number of reactive, shallow, expedient things. Instead he snapped on his pink soft-power tie, polished his smile and spent the day presenting his government's official progress report. Jaws of Defeat: zero, Victory Snatched: Two.

I will not be joining the Party (ptuh! ptuh! ptuh!), nor will I be less cynical about The Establishment. I will, however, give Handsome Boy his respect by taking him out of the Bimbo Bin. I think he has finally, finally earned it.

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