Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Weekly Sneak: Mwanza, Tighten Your Ndala Straps Already.

Yes, you, Mwanza. We sent UKAWA over to you so that they could wow us all with a big reveal about who their Presidential candidates were going to be and what did you do? Sent them right back to us, revelations unrevealed. We are busy in Dar trying to get the BVRs to work in a timely manner so that the deadlines set by the NEC do not fly past leaving us under-registered. Speaking of that, Mwanza, you know what else you underperformed in? That's right. 

"My fellow citizens of the hinterlands that serve the great Mother City of Dar es Salaam, jamani. You were supposed to help the NEC get it right before they got here. Yes, Mwanza, I am giving you the side-eye quite specifically. If you can't train them, what were we supposed to do with them by the time they got here? Because here they are now, being consistent about one thing and that thing is overwhelmed. There will not be any de-whelming happening here, have you seen how many we are?"

Sigh. I just, don't know Mwanza. You don't seem to be taking your responsibility as a Big Bad City very seriously. We might have to delegate to Arusha if you keep this up, Number Two. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Weekly Sneak: No Messiah.

Someone asked me on Twitter why Tanzanian politics are so inscrutable from outside the country. I had every intention of blogging about that* but this week has kept me busy being glued to various media, parsing what's going on in the wake of CCM's houseparty last weekend. Observing the losers. Listening to what the opposition parties are saying, and not saying, between the lines. 

I imagine meandering through some thoughts about silence of Edward Lowassa's resounding silence, Kingunge Ngombale-Mwiru's offerings, the varying shades of graciousness with which the defeated conceded defeat et cetera would have been a step in the direction of de-mystifying our politics. But the truth is, that's just some damn hard slog and tricky too. Just because I try to observe the currents of the ocean that is our political system does not mean I can be definitive about what goes on beneath the epipelagic zone. 

The current challenge, for example, is to peer through the thicket of gossip that has sprung up. Is UKAWA breaking apart? Is Lowassa going to leave CCM and join another party? Who exactly was that guy caught with the 700 million shillings (cash) going to bribe in Dodoma? Nobody buys the excuse that he was going to pay some local agriculturalists for their crops. Puh-leeeez. We're vaguely embarrassed on his behalf because being caught greasing palms is just so amateur-sad. 

Anyways, this week I kept the focus on what I believe will be my main area of interest for the coming elections. Talking about politicians is being done exceedingly well by other content producers, and besides I have no intention of being accused by the rest of the peanut gallery of having favorites. I might be easily seduced, but you know, that does mean that I am easily seduced. My voracious political promiscuity is a source of pride. So instead, let me focus on the media, and we the peeps.
"The opposition has by no means been neglected, especially not the coalition dubbed UKAWA that sprang up around defending the proposed constitution from CCM's greedy clutches. Having failed to produce Presidential candidates immediately after the GoP, they are being actively stalked by the Fourth Estate. As are all politicians: whoever dares to offer a statement does not lack for a forest of microphones and cameras into which to direct their efforts. There is also an abundance of wits to make short work of said statements, and where appropriate, the lack of any statements at all. Even the licking of wounds incurred in the battle for power cannot benefit from the safety of silence.
We The Votership have never enjoyed such a rich diet. Apparently politicians do taste good, and I sincerely hope that the media will keep on feeding us like this."  

*I am thinking of giving this one time. Ten years ago I wrote a thesis which ultimately resulted in a job where I could offer my unsolicited opinions to my government and society (yay!). Am thinking that every decade is a decent amount of time to accept the challenge of doing something like that again in the hopes of attracting opportunities to keep being a public bore. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Getting Settled On The Couch in CCM's Lobby: Some Media Reporting.

Chama Cha Mapinduzi didn't release the names of the 5 candidates who are made it through the first cut until the dirty little hours of this morning. This allowed for an interesting revelation about how the various media are performing with regards to election reporting. Let me start with the newspapers.

Millard Ayo has posted today's crop of rags, and there is some good variation in the headlines. Smart newsrooms decided it was worth the expense and effort to stay up, await the results and print and distribute late. Other newsrooms had a regular day and went to bed early. One of the newspapers apparently just can't, even: RaiaTanzania got the 5 candidate list completely wrong. I am going to buy it, it is a collector's item. 

On the cartoon side, Danni Mzena is continuing his 'Fun with Photoshop' series chronicling CCM's candidate selection process, alternating between the race metaphor and the hospital visit metaphor. I am waiting for Masoud Kipanya to update. Wondering if Gado's going to weigh in on this, or if he's saving it for the final selection so he can perfect the face. Kikwete proved to be a challenge to draw over the years for everyone, thank goodness he has that distinctive head-scratching habit.* 

Radio went to bed early last night, but this morning freshened DJs and newsrooms are circling. There is blood in the water. The news reports are dry, professional, neutral. The DJ comments are not. Even the slightest hint of pout on the part of a CCM member results in merciless teasing. And then the comedians move in and finish off whatever survived the DJs. All of which is somehow done without stating names and putting oneself in the path of an angry politician's far. 

Social media is fresh. I have settled on Twitter because everything shows up there right quick, if you need to conserve energy I suggest you do the same. The curating of other media products (website content, cartoons, sound bites, videos) is going efficiently, with a credible range of options being offered. And with this much material to work with, online commentators/comedians are crucifying everything that breathes. It hurts so good. 

As for @ccm_tanzania: huh. They released the candidate names as soon as possible. They have kept their responses to direct tweets polite, frequent enough to look alive but not enough to crowd the stream. Irritations are ignored, the tone is cordial but not overly friendly. Although a sense of humor is yet to manifest itself, I don't get the sense that the wetware has been forbidden to play. I am surprised, yes. Did NOT expect the GoP to hire competence in this field, thought they would just roll with some sad "mtoto wangu kasoma kompyuta" strategy but nope. Silly me, considering 2005 and 2010. 

A note on language: I work in English, but let me tell you. There is no way to transmit even 10% of the richness of the media coverage of our 2015 election in this language. I'm being generous with that estimation. This is important because: 

a) I anticipate being completely irritated by the lack of nuance with which the international press will approach our elections. They have budgets but do they send anyone to learn Kiswahili? No. There are hundreds of millions of people who speak Kiswahili, but no. Even the election observers might be thrown into this space without basic Kiswahili. AU, please keep this in mind.  

b) It makes me sad that the rest of the world can't join our party. We're having so much fun with this, but will only make "breaking news" when someone gets macheted. Nobody's going to pick up on the nation-building aspects of using humor to get through political tension. This is sad-making because we have such excellently funny satire and the world is missing out.  

The three topics to watch out for today are:

1. Edward Lowassa: his reaction to getting cut, his supporters' reactions, what happens now, et cetera. At the time of this blogging, the Team Lowassa Twitter account is completely silent and the man himself has only been quoted declining to comment.  

2. CCM's progression to the 3 candidate stage, which will be televised and also livestreaming, I can't remember. There's a video featuring Nape Nnauye on their Youtube account that explains all that. 

3. UKAWA is meeting today, and will announce which party will offer up the opposition coalition's Presidential candidate as well as finalize how they are dividing up the constituencies between them. Yes, I think it is hilarious that CCM has snatched up the word Umoja and made it hard for the coalition to use it for their campaign without looking derivative. I really want the opposition to do well, and offer this as constructive criticism: never underestimate the green and gold, they are good at campaigns. Bring your A game early, in fact just start working on 2020 now. Now now. 

Anyways, the post title is a 'goodjob' to CCM. The GoP has opened itself up like never before, inviting the media to Dodoma and extending that invitation to the public via its #karibudodoma work. I feel like I am sitting on a couch in the lobby of their socialist architectural leviathan in Dodoma, waiting for my cup of Chai Bora and eyeballing delegate fashions. **

It is strange to see this creaking old institution that smells of black hair dye and diabetes medication get this right. 

So, all politicians, heed. This is the business. Open-ish and responsive, live. Hire professionals. I hope the other musty lefty-ish Revolutionary Parties still hanging on by their yellow fingernails in fellow African countries are taking notes. 21st Century? Yes, you can. 

*my whorl also itches like whoa, all the time. is this a common problem? should we form a club? 

scritch. scritch. aaaaaaaah. 

** Speaking of fashion. I now believe that CCM cadres save their humblest, most lived-in uniforms for the big party meetings. The more senior the man, the more laundry cycles his shirts has been through. What the party elders were wearing last night was straight-up humblebrag. Vintage sana, even Fidel Castro probably can't bring out that level of "this old thing from 1985, it was just hanging in my closet" swagger. This 'noon I am going to sit back on CCM's virtual lobby couch and smirk at all who show up in crispy-shiny made-for-the-occasion shirt with the creases still in from the tailor's shop. Hot new outfits are strictly for the women, and they better represent. It can be hard to come up with something non-frumpy, but Migiro and Ali had better dig into that closet and triumph. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Weekly Sneak: The Evolution Will Be Televised, And Tweeted Too.

Finally. *Yawn* *Stretch.* It has been a long wait for this week to come. The extended goodbye of the Fourth Administration is underway, kicked off by Kikwete's address to the Parliament yesterday. Considering the fact that he couldn't say everything that needs saying in that one address it was fine.

This election year my presents came early: Tido Mhando is back thanks to the Azam conglomerate. All the parties have social media accounts so I don't have to rely on intermediaries to find out what they actually said about an issue. 

Speaking of which, I am settling in for a hopefully entertaining Furahi Day night stalking @CCM_Tanzania on Twitter. #karibudodoma #5bora and #dodoma also hold promise. Before I go, coming to the (still banned in Tanzania) East African this weekend:
"The evolution will be televized, and uploaded too and it is time to embrace it. Mr. Chairman is admittedly busy this week and I wish I could send him enough duct tape and valium to hold the party together throughout it's candidate selection ordeal. But somewhere in there he needs to find the time to sit The Establishment down for a workshop on How To in this brave new world of citizen and media liberties for the health of the nation. And thrown in a couple of one-on-ones with whoever survives to win it all on Sunday. The Chosen One is going to need it now, and forever more."
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A little birdie told me...

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