NEXT week, October 14 is the 18th anniversary of the passing away of the Father of our nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. In the run-up to this date and from time to time, Tanzanians enjoy listening to speeches of this founder President during his lifetime.
Simply, Nyerere is just too sweet to listen to and one never tires listening to him! He was, and still is, a comprehensive textbook for generations to come. Eighteen years is a span of a lifetime because one is talking of teenagers.
The other day, I interviewed, for my TV talk show, young people who have even constituted themselves into ‘Jukwaa la Wajamaa’ – a revolutionary group of socialists- who adore the socialist agenda of the founder President who steered the country into the ideology of Socialism and Self-Reliance in 1967; only six years after this country’s independence.
Yet these young people constitute the majority of our population today. But invariably, as I noted, they all seem to marvel at the quality of leadership and vision of founder President, Mwalimu Nyerere.
For some of us who were around during the tenure of office of Dr. Julius Nyerere, as journalists, in his lifetime have difficulty in fighting back tears when we look back at those old good days. Mwalimu Nyerere single handedly, thanks to his vision and courage in a bipolar world those days, put this country honorably and firmly on the international political map.
Everywhere Tanzanians went abroad those days in the days of the tenure office of Mwalimu Nyerere, people in those distant lands always asked the Tanzanian visitors: “Tanzania? Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania?”
The people in those distant lands always shook their heads in gracious approval in welcoming a visiting Tanzanian! Why did men and women abroad those old days rate the name of the founding leader of this country that high? It was because Mwalimu Nyerere embodied the aspirations of the people everywhere in his struggle for genuine independence and human dignity.
Mwalimu was no body’s shadow or puppet leader to be beckoned on by the big boys of this world, only to run towards them; even forgetting to wear one’s shoes! Indeed this factor was to be proved throughout his term of office.
Every Tanzanian in those old good days knew that his orders came from Msasani (Mwalimu’s residence in Dar es Salaam) or Butiama, Mwalimu’s home village and never from London or Washington as was the case with other leaders in Africa and elsewhere.
At home, thanks to the Arusha Declaration of Socialism and Self-reliance, Mwalimu set about to build a public sector, complete with national banks, public enterprises, and most important of all, industries.
A predominantly agricultural country then, with cotton and sisal on the top list, Tanzania set up textile industries which were predominantly state owned or publicly owned. So in the old good days we had in place industries such Urafiki Textile Mill, Mwatex, Kiltex and so forth, which produced clothing for our people here.
Those reading these lines, old enough will recall that most of our young men and women had jobs assured at school end, with most of them directly recruited into public enterprises. Frankly, we were doing very well, from an economic standpoint.
Had it not been for an invasion subjected to this country by neighboring Uganda’s dictator Iddi Amin then, this country’s economy had roundly taken off, thanks to a strong and vibrant public sector.
And in fighting off that invasion, it was necessary to deploy our own resources; that is our national income-empting our treasury. Here then comes an interesting factor.
Given Mwalimu’s steadfastness in safeguarding our national independence, refusing to be a puppet or marionette of any foreign power, economic difficulties that unfolded after fighting off the invasion, some powers, namely western powers, via their carrot and stick institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank moved to exploit our weak spots– thus imposing economic conditions in favor of massive privatization.
With all due respect, perhaps the succeeding leaders had no alternative given the low economic situation the country had found itself at the end of the war with dictator Iddi Amin. But certainly, there should have been a little resistance to these IMF and World Bank conditionality for aid to protect public enterprises in place then that ensured employment of the youth of this country.
If privatization was really the “engine of economic growth”, where are we today? The fact is that 30 years on, an army of the jobless of this country is growing by the day!
The only “industry” one can talk of these days is the “boda-boda” transport trade, with thousands of young men combing every town in this country riding motorcycles - and this as their only means of making ends meet! Now, let us look at the present and the future.
Fortunately, the economy of this country seems to be diversified or is now a twin- economy – agriculture and mining. And the fifth President of this country, Dr. John Pombe Magufuli has a priority economic agenda: industrialising this country.
Excellent! But he has to have a starting point. Firstly, the President deserves commendation for what appears to be a good vision on his part: talking and appreciating the need for public enterprises, like the need for a country to have a national flag carrier, which is an airline, owned by the state.
The other day he flagged off two jet planes, Canadian made ‘bombardiers’ bought by his government; saying without mincing words that the government has enough cash to buy two more for our national flag carrier, Air Tanzania.
Everyone who had listened to the President say these words was beaming with national pride: it appears gone are the days when we seemed to be walking around with a bowl asking for alms as if we were a nation of beggars! What appears to have made a sharp u-turn for us is the financial discipline at strategic points, where public money is due and where that money is now flowing directly into public coffers instead of corrupt public hands.
A landmark action by current President Magufuli has been to put a stop to the daylight robbery of our immense mineral resources, which were being shipped out of the country by sea and for a considerable period of time, that is from 1998.
Invariably all Tanzanians have been shocked by this level of theft of their mineral resources not to speak of their disgust at the peanuts they have been paid as “royalties” by the global multinationals in lieu of their minerals.
“The land is ours and the minerals are in our land. How do we land with royalty?” I heard one of them say. Now, If the President moves to ensure that what the country gains from our mineral and gas resource is not royalties but equity shares, we will certainly be in position to revive the public sector, especially the industrial sector like in the old good days which will ensure and guarantee the employment of our people.
Clearly, President Magufuli is treading on the honorable path of the founder President of this country, restoring its erstwhile honor and dignity thus resurrecting the old good name of this country at global level.