Interlude 1

Open letter to Freeman Mbowe, spokesperson for Chadema and MP for Hai District, Tanzania

Dear Sir;

As the outspoken spokesperson for the opposition party Chadema in Tanzania you have often exposed the party in power – CCM – for its shortcomings and inadequacies. CCM has become well known in Tanzanian folklore for the reasons that, because it has governed since it’s inception after Tanzania’s change to multi-party democracy, it has become cumbersome and corrupt (mwalimu Nyerere would turn in his grave if he knew). This accusation also applies of course, to Uganda, to Zimbabwe, to South Africa where the ANC are coming under increasing criticism and no doubt to a few more African nations. And not just the African nations, as the new pope has reminded us during his recent visit to Brazil!

It seems that Chadema has been fighting a losing battle as CCM is entrenched and eager to maintain its hold on control. CCM members still have the power to ‘buy’ their re-election and because of their influence on police and security, to render serious damage to your party members if they become successful or too outspoken. That’s politics in Tanzania and in much of the rest of Africa, it seems. Part of the reason that CCM may now be losing popularity is simply because it has grown distant from the general public who, after all, keep electing them. What is it about power in Africa that distorts peoples’ perceptions of what is right? And yet Africa has produced leaders of exemplary compassion, Nelson Mandela and from your own people, Julius Nyerere to name but two. The people currently governing much of Africa think it’s their ticket to wealth and power while the electorate salivate at the prospect of proximity to such power. Will the same be true of Chadema if they finally win the mandate to govern?

I believe the problem lies with the awareness of self or lack of it and the association between our ‘selves’ and our community. As that other great leader of the twentieth century, John F. Kennedy said so eloquently “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Succumbing to self-interest and our compulsive selfish needs without regard for our fellow citizens are two present-day sins that prove very hard to overcome. How will you ensure that the powerful in your party do not fall into the same trap? You see, the flight from self-awareness or the refusal to recognise the self-interest trap are the main culprits of corruption. When we deny ‘self’ and its association with community we are in danger of allowing our self-interest to take hold. Our sense of what we need for survival becomes distorted and turns to greed. For Chadema to become truly successful its members must demonstrate a measure of self-awareness and a need for a truly altruistic, prosocial spirit of service.

Self-awareness does not come easily. Our evolutionary development has rendered self-awareness a luxury before the need to survive and to become successful procreators. As long as we remain in a state of personal development, never knowing who we really are, our inner ‘self’ remains hidden behind the overpowering ego-centric ruler that sits on our right shoulder and tells us what it thinks is good for us. You might think that CCM is no longer ‘good’ for Tanzania but its party ego-centricity sings a louder refrain. After all, why should they organise a free and fair election if they are in danger of losing that election?

Self-awareness, under a control tempered by an altruistic spirit allows for a calm understanding of events, constraints and weaknesses in people and communities. You begin to realise that what is good for your community is also good for your ‘self’. It is often said that politics is the art of the possible. When a politician replaces the art of the possible with the artifice of self-interest s/he loses the respect of the community, and consequently loses the mandate to govern.

From a concerned visitor to your fair country.


About johnderonde

UK-based charity worker in Tanzania
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