The Tale of Two Identities- Moral Divide
"Tanzanians, aggrieved at the time, by the grand scale of corruption and widespread deterioration of the economy associated with that phase [Mwinyi's term] were led to believe that even this (grand corruption and failed state) was the result of Mwalimu's Ujamaa."
By the time Mwalimu Nyerere was signing out in 1985, Tanzania had one identity. We were, by most measures, ‘Wajamaa’. Having successfully rooted this identity as a ‘faith’ amongst the majority, Nyerere left office with one of the greatest achievements in modern day political history: uniting a people, inherently divided by tribes, ethnicity and religions and making us believe in an idea called Tanzania enough for us to consider it as our identity.
So what went wrong, in as much as so much went right?
I remember when I graduated from University, which was almost 2decades after Mwalimu’s retirement from office as Head of State and a couple of years after his untimely demise, the impact of his version of Ujamaa was still very real.
As a graduate then, I was expected to work for Government, either directly or through its various agencies or parastatals; irrespective of my passion or personal conviction, as proof that my education was of use.
Respect (authority), power (influence) and service (giving to others) trumped money (wealth accumulation) still as the main symbols of social achievement.
To work for the ‘private sector’ was viewed in a context quite relevant to the Ujamaa era; where one of the core productive engines of the economy, industry, was still primarily under government and not private ownership. The private business sector, at the time, comprised primarily of traders (merchants) like the ‘Mangi’, ‘Gabachori’ and ‘Wapemba’ to name a few; who were profiled as a group of people motivated solely by their personal pursuit when compared to their ‘more deserving’ ‘socialist’ counterparts; relegating the private sector to a lowly social status.
Consequently, as Mwalimu Nyerere was signing out, the country was at best divided between two key social groupings: the ‘Wajamaa’ - who were motivated largely by respect, power and service and these ‘merchant’ types ‘mabepari’ - who were motivated largely by their individual pursuit for wealth and service, whether it be by virtue of circumstance or desire.
When Mwinyi (the second phase Head of State) assumed political power over a regime that was the result of a movement within the grand old party, CCM, to unseat Ujamaa and liberalize the economy, this mercantile and previously socially inferior sector was afforded the, now coveted but still extremely controversial title of ‘private sector’.
This gave these ‘merchants’ the high ground in accessing resources and defining the fate of our nation’s most critical productive sector going forward.
This is the ‘private sector’ we modeled our economy around, albeit for convenience given the dynamics at hand; it was the private sector in existence then and in many ways still is the private sector in existence now.
The only challenge with this was that the rest of the world (and even our neighbors to the north, west and south) were and continue to be two centuries ahead us when it comes to overall economic modeling.
The twenty-first century ushered in industrialization on a large scale (mass production) and computing science, paving the way for investment logic (long term and sophisticated) to overtake merchant logic (short term and basic) as the standard for economic modeling in the world now spearheaded by the United States of America and changed forever even the way countries are governed.
For those familiar with the history of commerce, ‘merchants’, on a whole, represent an obsolete mode of wealth creation dominant during the Roman Empire and unseated by the British Empire’s imperial trade agenda and industrialization which followed soon after, redefining both production and trade itself. Merchants, in this era, were purely transactional: they don’t create wealth just transfer it; they did not add value to the goods they traded just mark ups; they didn’t manage businesses, they just managed cash positions and as a result could depend on family members to ensure controls and found it difficult to scale up beyond their physical reach.
Investment logic removes the owner from direct management, cash handling transactions and allows for scalability beyond the owners physical reach, which requires businesses to standardize their operations and employ professional management structures and systems that are removed from family dependency even if the family is still involved. This model, for many reasons, is more sustainable and has greater social impact (through not only creating wealth for the owners but distributing it by creating employment.
Sadly, politics got the better of us. The second phase government, popularly known for the slogan ‘ruksa’ (anything goes) invested in a ‘Roman Empire’ styled model (the merchant of Venice anyone) that capsized in equal style after less than a decade bringing the economy to its knees, while eroding on even the societal gains presented by Mwalimu’s Ujamaa.
What follows is critical in understanding even our current context.
In as much as the ‘merchant-led’ private sector flopped, it created a precedent that was technically irreversible.
Being a closed economy up to then (1995), simple things like toothpaste were a rarity (not that anyone missed them as many didn’t even know them to be of importance until the time when the market opened), but through the narrow lens availed by these well intending merchants. I remember occasionally using a twig and charcoal to brush my teeth as far out as the late nineties and not because of its organic value (as the world now advocates) but because there was simply no better option readily available.
When we allowed these ‘merchants’ to transact on a large scale and take a lead role in mobilizing the creation of wealth, they also became readily associated with the gains of liberalization, glorifying their methods in the process.
Consequently the ‘Ujamaa’ types, mostly sitting in Government or working farms, started to take notice: “WAO these chaps can buy nice cars, cloths etc so this private sector must not be too bad?”
But instead of fully interrogating the dynamics of this sector’s growth, as our third phase president (Mkapa) moved into full swing with economic reforms, those in power used their positions to garner access to the forbidden fruit available on the other side of the economic divide.
Being forbidden as it was, many remained in public sector still (to retain power and respect in society that was much more coveted at the time then even the money they were pursuing), while conviniently reaching out to the other side to collect enough so that they could also enjoy the spoils of the burgeoning private sector resulting in what has now become a national staple - insider trading.
The players on the still frail private sector having gained access, if not, influence on government also felt the insecurity of having only money, so they sought the ultimate trophies previously out of their reach - power and respect. These efforts to capture State resulted into what has now become the infamously dubbed - ‘mtandao’.
Aware of Mwalimu’s influence and its moral implications (everyone was a Ujamaa watchdog at the time), apart from inroads made to control the economy, the same players took to colluding with some members of Government, not just to unseat Ujamaa, but also to ‘demonize’ Mwalimu’s near cult like influence of the still dominant social segment of ‘Wajamaa’ by associating the failed merchant-led private sector phase under Mwinyi with that of Mwalimu.
And in one fell swoop Mwalimu’s platinum legacy was in limbo in the face of a generation that could not know better since even schools no longer celebrate his unique and admirable nation building and liberation movement legacy.
Tanzanians, aggrieved at the time, by the grand scale of corruption and widespread deterioration of the economy associated with that phase [Mwinyi’s term] were led to believe that even this (grand corruption and failed state) was the result of Mwalimu’s Ujamaa.
Suddenly the moral divide shifted gears mid-air ( so to say) and everything Nyerere, including (if not mostly) Ujamaa was thrown into negative shade and associated with the grim poverty of the time. Worse off, Ujamaa was written off as a weakness as opposed to being a strength by seeding the impression that it was inherently incompatible with wealth creation. So the solution proposed by these few was to distance us from everything ujamaa including Nyerere - the soul of our nationhood?
In retrospect, Vietnam and South Korea up to then were comparable to Tanzania in terms of governance and economic trajectory, famously earning Mwalimu a lead role in the South-South Cooperation. These nations, now thirty years are powerhouses in their own right exporting to us mega brands like Halotel and Samsung. Could this have not be us?
But with this deliberate political confusion, exploding population growth and dwindling levels of faith in the once dogmatic philosophy that jelled us as a people and was at the core of our nation building efforts, Tanzania quickly became any mans land (shamba la Bibi) with no moral beacon in sight and at best its own biggest enemy.
The consequence was dividing the nation on a premise that pit Ujamaa and all its values (self reliance, hard work, integrity, people centered development) against anything else that went against the establishment including the not so privately owned ‘private sector’ of the season, in the process removing it (the private sector) from any moral or social obligation so long as it was opposed to Ujamaa and CCM as a result.
All historical evidence shows, the State (as in Nation State not even government) is the custodian of last resort for all sectors including the private sector. The British Empire paved the way for its private sector’s international ambitions with imperialism just as the USA has followed in suit with globalization and the list could go on, so where do we get the assumption that Tanzania should be the exception?
Yet, Tanzania is in a dilemma as politicians over generalize the private sector to make us believe that the private sector is dominated by the likes of Vodacom or Stanchart and operate on a moral high ground that is above judgement. The truth is that these (the likes of Vodacom and Stanchart) are international businesses that represent the investment logic (that we side stepped) of the more advanced economies and in most cases are more obligated to governance standards of their countries of origin as opposed to the local governance standards, which until recently have reflected the ‘mercantile’ business culture we have nurtured by default for the last thirty odd years.
More so, we have gone as far as to seed a moral divide that uses a different yardstick to measure the performance of government when compared to when we measure the performance of private sector. We consequently celebrate entrepreneurs as opposed to entrepreneurship, completely unperturbed by the inherently rogue nature of the majority businesses that are locally own.
This has the effect, of not only denying government taxes, but more critically, it denies many Tanzanians quality and sustained employment forgetting that employment is the most dignified and sustainable method of wealth distribution. Investments create wealth and employment distributes wealth.
Yet in the name of politics, those who sit on the opposing side of the establishment, whether it be within or outside the ruling party (as it’s becoming harder to see the difference in recent times), choose to club it all in a one size fits all bundle of blame, pitting, now even this ill-designed private sector against government without offering any form of reservation.
This moral divide has breed subjectivity allowing something that is good to be bad or something that is bad to be good depending on the side of the moral divide you are on; so long as you oppose the establishment you are right even if you are wrong.
I always wonder, how Tanzania, with all its current wealth (GDP and tax collections), is less a Nation than the Tanzania of Mwalimu and even less an economy (in terms of sophistication and equitable wealth distribution) then the Kenya of even the eighties.
I think I now know. The economic model we adopted is inherently less inclusive and lacks in objectivity.
The wood dilemma. In Swahili there is a saying “tugawane mbao jahazi lizame” which basically means dividing the (boat) wood between ourselves even if it means the boat we are in will sink. This is what I call ‘the wood dilemma’; what do I do with the wood? Wood represents resources.
Building an economy is basically a function of how we choose to divide the wealth of the nation - its resources. Building a nation on the other hand is complex because it requires organization of people and getting them to accept their role in the process of building etc. to build a boat out of wooden planks is complicated but to sell the same wooden planks without a thought for building is easy.
When we rejected Mwalimu’s Ujamaa, we poured out the water with the baby from the basin, so to say, as the Swahili adage goes. Forgetting that Ujamaa did its part in building our nation: answering the question of our identity ‘who are we?, which frankly is key in keeping us united as we ask ourselves economic question that inherently divide us ‘how do we survive?’ This is a key factor in sustainable development. And as we are quickly learning now ‘huu mchezo hauhitaji hasira’ - Communism, Socialism and Ujamaa can, in effect, do coexist hand in hand with capitalism (Jack Ma of China anyone).
In my last article before this one, titled “The Age of Light”; I divulge on this topical matter on a broader scale: a society must motivate individual pursuit (Human beings are by nature capitalists) while committing these same individuals to a collective good (Societies are by circumstance socialist) and in order to keep these often competing ends in balance; must submit to a greater power (The fear of God, above all, is extremely empowering as it removes us from the fear of man and the environment cultivation inquisition and influence - the two i’s of life).
Ultimately all political parties reflect the same interest - assuming administrative power and the ‘mid-air-gear-changing’ of 2015 that led UKAWA to embrace the canditure of a man they once demonized simply because he was on the other side of the moral divide and even Magufulis candidature for a party that naturally did not support it, are evidence enough where the real money in politics lies - numbers.
But chasing numbers has its consequences.
As a result of such, over time, you are guaranteed to have at least two perspectives in the political space - pro establishment or anti establishment
Tanzania is a more civil/objective political space then we often like to take credit for; we are unique, if you asked me, by large, due to the universal face of CCM, our founding party (post TANU); our political landscape allows us a more objective premise for discourse than most in Africa; CCM, in all its might, is not representative of any single tribe or religion. This is yet another important but much less touted gift left behind by Nyerere ensuring that our political landscape is informed by the values that made us one nation before he permanently bowed out of active politics.
So much so, that now even CHADEMA has assumed a ‘universal’ face reflecting its generally objective resistance to CCMs rule (in as much as it was perceived to be tribal at the outset like CUF was perceived to be religious at the outset) until most recently when it embraced CCM members whose moral authority they themselves had once put in question. Basically, by circumstance, forcing opposition to apply double standards in their judgement to justify opposing an evil that they effectively were embracing at the same time.
Political parties use levers to ‘manage’ public opinion in their favor. ‘Conservatives’ are more pro establishment and put focus on institutional frameworks while ‘liberals’ put focus on individual liberties and are perceived to be more progressive as a result; in as much as depending on the situation moderating between the two is the ideal.
In a perfect world, CCM and CDM ‘should’ represent the dueling ‘ideas’ that inform how we want to move ahead as a people. CCM is deeply informed by tradition, in particular the nation building and liberation struggle and associates strongly our continued development with how we value and stay true to this past. CDM on the other hand rejects this sentiment, primarily on the premise of CCMs presumed failure.
This, if you ask me, is where our opposition falls short. With CCMs recently increased clarity in its narrative as a party on its intention to approach the future while keeping the past in tac, CDM needs to demonstrate why disarming CCM and potentially the past, in the process, is just as important as embracing the future for it to be a pre requisite for embracing this future we desire.
For far too long the opposition, and in particular CDM, have benefited from CCMs own efforts (either by omission or commission) to undermine its own premise for existence and dominance and have ridden the movement for change wave but has never really taken ownership of it (which is genuinely hard to do outright anyway).
Sadly, unlike CCM, CDM is not structured to behave like a national party with its own identity (it’s still structured to ride a wave/movement/ undercurrent but not organically cause one per se) and as a result it’s failure to sustain this high ground so soon after the 2015 elections in a structured manner, even under the current circumstances, where the President’s methods almost purposely pit him and his party against a base which has traditionally belonged to the opposition (CDM).
CDMs dependency on anti establishment sentiments with no real alternative to the establishment is what’s putting them in a fix in the face of an establishment that is genuinely against ‘itself’ only this time in a way that reinforces its founding premise.
This explains why CCM sustains its acceptance rating at 63% (TWAWEZA 2017) as CDM slides in acceptance in as much as the opposition, overall, has doubled its presence in parliament - sadly more voices less impact?
The TWAWEZA 2017 survey results that, at face value, seem damning to the President of nearly two years now, simply serve to show that Magufuli:
1) is not the ‘populous’ president that people like to make him out to be
2) his target is much clearer than we generally like to believe and it’s following him closely as the themes that he touches have turned into political gold (at least to his target)
3) his pragmatic approach is also another spanner-in-the-works as this is a progressive quality much more natural to ‘liberals’ than conservatives, which basically means that he may over time even appeal to the CDM audience especially if people in cities hit hardest by the monetary dry spell like Dar, start to see some form of financial relief.
71% acceptance (TWAWEZA 2017) after 2years into the most scathing development interventions since Mwalimu’s Ujamaa, coupled by droughts and famine scares and an overall slow down in global economic growth (until recently) is also very telling of how significant his target (the marginalized) is to his political survival and how smart, politically, his choice to focus on this marginalized target (traditionally a CCM stronghold) may have been given our overall economic and political context of ‘hapa kazi tu’.
A truly democratic state, at best, proactively divides its populous in a way that inherently keeps them united. So the integrity of a Head of State and other political elite starts and ends here - how do we divide the people without undermining the premise for our longstanding unity as a people. Magufuli’s methods, in as much as they have subjected him to scathing criticism from certain corners, may prove to have successfully created the framework to ignite the first morally sound division in the history of this country since the Ujamaa era - that is the divide between those who create or better yet own wealth and those who they are obligated socially and economically to distribute their wealth to. Hence two variables will be a core and real part of our narrative going forward: tax and employment.