- Published on Friday, 17 August 2012 02:36
- Written by Makwaia wa Kuhenga
- Hits: 1402
Hon. Anne Makinda MP. , Speaker, Parliament of the UR of Tanzania, DODOMA,
Madam Speaker, By now, you seem to be accustomed, madam, to those interventions by our honorable Members of Parliament who would most often than not rise to seek your ‘guidance’ [Mwongozo wa Spika] when, in effect, it is quite something else – and that something else most often turns out to be an opinion rather than a plea for guidance from you per se!
As for me this time around when I was debating within myself how to effectively present this nagging question to you and the public at large, an issue which has been troubling my conscience for a considerable period of time, I have finally settled for a direct open letter to you as one way of achieving productive results rather than simply discussing it in perspective via this column.
But before addressing the question, which is the subject of this note to you, let me, first of all, congratulate you for trying as you have, in tackling the enormous challenges of your office as Speaker of a multiparty Parliament of Tanzania in place today. For some of us in the general citizenry, we consider your seat as one of the hottest in this country! That you have tried thus far is a reflection of your courage.
But since we are in the heat of a debate today towards a new Constitution, consensus may build up that an appropriate Speaker of our August House of the Tanzanian National Assembly in the future may as well be non-partisan – not a card carrying member of any competing political party on the ground. This may help achieve maximum impartiality in the exercise of the office of the Speaker.
But for now, as things look like, you and your Deputy, albeit both from the ruling party, are trying and are fairing reasonably well. Keep it up! Now moving to the question, which is the essence of this note to you, Madam Speaker. Please urgently move to introduce as soon as possible a new Parliamentary rule or regulation.
This rule should read explicitly that “the language to be used in the August House must be plain Kiswahili” and not an ad-mixture of Kiswahili and English or better known by the slung of ‘Kiswa-English.’ The rule should stipulate further that since Kiswahili is the national language of this country, one way to underpin the respect we have in the language is for Members of Parliament to speak it plainly and fluently without mixing it with any foreign language.
‘Kiswa-English’ in Parliament will therefore be unacceptable. Once this rule is enacted, it will certainly be a good beginning and a message well sent to all and sundry that there is a lot of prestige for one to start and end one’s speech or normal talk in Kiswahili if one has thus decided to communicate in Kiswahili.
Much as the British never mix their language with French as they communicate with each or the French mixing up their language with English when communicating in normal conversations or respective national councils, so should be the Tanzanians with their Kiswahili.
You may agree with me that this disease is now real and has spread like an incurable cancer from the top to bottom of the Tanzanian leadership, professional groups and all. Unfortunately nobody is showing any concern – who will - when all of us don those western suits even when it is humidly hot!
We all seem to entertain the wrong concept that chipping in here and there a sentence in English when in normal conversation in Kiswahili with each other may serve to reflect that one is an “educated” person! Is it really the case?
I do not know, madam Speaker, if you have heard of cultural imperialism. There is a school of thought that colonialism also goes hand in hand with colonialising a given people culturally too. As one media scholar has written: “The process of cultural synchronization implies that a particular type of cultural development in the metropolitan country is persuasively communicated to the receiving countries.
The whole process of local inventiveness is thrown into confusion and is definitely destroyed. A unique dimension in the spectrum of human values, which evolved over the years rapidly disappears.” The British were here. They may have contributed in our present state of affairs. But it is 50 years on today. We cannot continue blaming them, can we?
We tried to redress the situation, thanks to the Arusha Declaration of 1967, which simply was an attempt on our part to reassert our national sovereignty, politically, economically and culturally. We had made considerable progress in regard to cultural independence. But our revert to market forces – which bluntly means capitalism – with imperialism as a driving force; all seems to have been lost!
We are all sweating it out, in manner, attitude and even speech to look “educated” or to look like the ‘wazungu’ and consider that we are understood better in a foreign undertone! Good Lord! About eighty per sent of our people are peasants, the ones who have elected our honorable MPs to Parliament.
Do they really enjoy seeing us speaking that way in Parliament? We go as far as saying things even in ordinary conversation like this: “Wewe! Unanigambira stupid mbele ya my wife…!” I know you have allowed yourself a little giggle madam, but this is certainly a disease that all of us must try to cure!
The other day, I kept laughing the whole day when I watched on television when Parliament switched to English to interview candidates for the Pan-African Parliament. The same people who are fond of mixing Kiswahili with English in speech faired very poorly when it came to addressing the candidates in English.
I won’t repeat here in this column what I heard for reasons of civility, but suffice is to say that being a jack of all trade and master of none is awfully embarrassing. So let us please reassert our cultural independence by respecting in plain and fluent speech our national language, Kiswahili.
We should be guided by the counsel of outstanding Third World leaders like the late Mahatma Gandhi of India who is quoted to have asserted in defense of the cultural values of his country and people: “I do not want my house to be walled on all sides and windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible, but I refuse to be blown off my feet by any one of them.”
Indeed, madam Speaker, we should refuse to be blown off our feet by any foreign culture. One way of reasserting our political and cultural independence is to uphold and value our national language, Kiswahili, which is immediately reflective of our cultural liberty.