By MAKWAIA WA KUHENGA, 22nd December 2011 @ 16:00, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 1258
THE other day I had guests on my weekly TV Show on Channel Ten: Je, Tutafika? (Shall We Make It?) broadcast on local Channel Ten. These guests of mine were not those with big names people are accustomed to, but persons who are 'big' in their own right.
Self-made persons, they have made, to my judgment, immense contribution in their career of choice in forging national social cohesion and mobilised our people for national development. Not only that, they had in the past, in no small measure, played their part in sensitising the Tanzanian people towards the liberation struggle in southern Africa - hence extending the frontiers of independence of this country.
These were no other than Shakila Saidi and Patricia Hillary. I am sure these names have immediately clicked in the memory of those Tanzanians who are reading these lines who have been around since the 1970s.
The two persons are far from big names in the polity or other branches of the state. They are mere singers - specialising in Taarab - the kind of music favourite in the Middle East and in the east coast of Africa.
As we spoke in the course of the show, one of them, Shakila immediately exploded in a song she used to sing as this country supported the liberation struggle against Portuguese colonialism in the 1970s: "Viva Samora," to which song we all joined in clapping and singing!
At this juncture, I told them: "You two belong to the tomb of the unknown soldiers." You have played a substantial role mobilising for the development of this country and in the struggle for the independence of our neighbours to the south beyond the borders of this country. As it happens, it is always others who 'eat' or are recognised when the chips are on the table!"
Now if I have singled out this particular show of the many shows I do weekly, it is in the light of the controversy arising from the medals President Kikwete awarded to a number of individuals for distinguished services to this country at the State House in the last fortnight.
In the intervening period, there have been press reports of some people questioning what they consider "appropriate persons" who should have been awarded but were not in the list.
And those honoured were more or less in the same category as former Prime Ministers and other "big shots" in the polity. So, by and large, those who have qualified for award are those who have risen to high public office and not otherwise. But is it really true that it is only those who have been such and such, that prime minister or that judge and so forth who should really be considered for national honour?
What about other people in other sphere of activities? Do we have to necessarily honour people who have risen to high office in the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature alone?
What about men and women in the fourth estate - the media? Like their counterparts in music, art and so fourth men and women in the media in this country have made and continue to make immense contribution in national development, forging and inculcating unity in diversity for the good of our country.
Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, for example, used to call editors of media institutions in his tenure of office when the country had to grapple with immense problems of development not to mention support to the national liberation struggles in southern Africa as "my commanders." Some of these media men and women are still alive today. Who has thought of honouring them?
Names of Costa Kumalija, one of the editors of the pioneer TANU nationalist party organs, The Nationalist and Uhuru newspapers and Robert Makange of Mwafrika newspaper immediately come to mind. The latter was a very lively tabloid in the anti-colonial struggle in the fifties up to independence in the sixties when Makange edited it. Both men have since passed away. Why not a posthumous honour?
Who is looking back at the tomb of the "unknown soldiers" or even recognising that these tombs do exist, which keep the remains of such courageous souls 'unlucky' to make prime ministers or what have you in high public office?
If you asked me, I will say our problem in this country in so far as honouring persons who have made selfless contributions and sacrifices is structural.
Now that we are poised to write a New Constitution, this factor could be one of the factors to be addressed. But we don't have to wait all that long, should we?
An initiative can be taken right away. The first step would be to de-mystify the whole process of coming up with the names that deserve national honor. If you asked me, if I know the names of those constituting the committee short-listing names being honoured today, I will tell you, I do not know. But may be it is better this way!
But we are talking of the Tanzanian version of the Nobel prizes here. Why can't we look beyond our noses to see how that internationally famous Nobel Peace Prize committee is composed? Why then can't we come up with the Tanzanian version?
I need not over-emphasise the fact that this country must equally also grow up in sophistry. We have to grow up qualitatively and sophisticatedly as a nation 50 years on. Our prospective national committee for the Roll Call of Honour must be all embracing to include all disciplines from literally work, arts to leadership.
The committee should comprise of men and women of integrity who are incorruptible. These will scout for the men and women - even simple ordinary citizens - who have distinguished themselves in their careers to qualify for the national honour.
Makwaia wa KUHENGA is a syndicated Columnist. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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