Celebrating annual Saba Saba Day: Fervent appeal for its restoration to its original glory

WITHIN the next three days, that is to say, on Saturday 7th July, 2018, the country will observe a public holiday which is commonly known as “Saba Saba Day”. However, very unfortunately, apart from those few Tanzanians whose age has enabled them to enter the category of the ‘older generation’, that is to say, persons who are above the age of fifty years.

The majority among the present day generation of Tanzanians cannot accurately describe the political meaning and purpose of Saba Saba day. This is due to the unfortunate situation which has been created by the worrying trend to ‘neglect our history’.

In my article which was written for this column in commemoration of the ‘Saba Saba’ Day festival of last year, I made a fervent plea, for the restoration of Saba Saba Day, to its past glorious historical position, as the birthday of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), and thus the official commencement date of the struggle for Tanganyika’s independence, which is a very important piece of our country’s political history.

But that was last year, and one year is a long period of time. Peoples’ memories have traditionally been alleged to be short. It is now one year later, and such short memories are likely to contribute to the obstruction of clear recollections of the contents of that article.

Furthermore, there may be many among today’s readers of this column, who may not have seen last year’s presentation regarding this matter. It is for these reasons that I have taken the liberty to revisit the contents of last year’s presentation in today’s article.

In order to highlight the original political meaning and purpose of the ‘Saba Saba Day’ festival, and also to restate my plea to the relevant authorities, for the restoration of this festival to its originally intended meaning and purpose.

This is, in effect, an open letter to the new Secretary-General of Chama cha Mapinduzi, Dr Bashir Ally. The origins of the Saba Saba festival. “Saba Saba’ is the Kiswahili equivalent of the ‘seventh day of the seventh month’.

That particular date is of immense importance in the political history of Tanzania. It is therefore truly saddening for some of us, to see that date’s political significance seemingly being ignored, or overlooked; and being replaced by other mundane events (like the trade exhibition in Dar es Salaam), which is of course very good commercial business, but has no historical significance whatsoever!

This has led to a situation where the vast majority of Tanzanians, and even others, to regard the once politically famous ‘Saba Saba Day’,merely as the climax of the now popular ‘ Saba Saba trade fair exhibitions’, which are being held annually at the Saba Saba grounds, along Kilwa Road in Dar es Salaam; to the total exclusion of any attention being paid to its original purpose and significance, of commemorating TANU’s birthday way back in July 1954.

And it is indeed for that reason alone, that right from the year of independence in 1961, ‘Saba Saba Day’ of every year has consistently been celebrated as a public holiday, at least until the introduction of multi-party politics, when it was considered inappropriate to grant public holiday status to the birth date of only one among the large number of registered political parties.

That is when ‘Saba Saba day’ was changed to celebrate‘Farmers’ Day’, in honour of the country’s large majority peasants ’; and the eighth day of August (Nane Nane) was introduced as a public holiday in honour of the country’s workers.

This was done in order to give recognition to the fact that Tanzania is a country predominantly of peasants and workers (Nchi ya Wakulima na Wafanya kazi). That was, indeed, avery good decision, which fully justified the shifting of attention from having to celebrate Saba Saba as TANU’s birthday,in the changed multi-party political setting.

However, that fact alone cannot prevent Chama cha Mapinduzi (the lawful successor to TANU) from celebrating TANU’s birthday, in a way that draws public attention to the political significance of that date.

It is readily conceded that in today’s objective conditions of multi-party politics; political parties tend to be regarded primarily as ‘electoral organizations’, designed and operated solely for the purpose of competing in general elections, in order for the winner of that competition to acquire state power.

This is totally different from what it was during the period of the One-Party political system, when the sole political party which was in existence, was generally accepted as the country’s supreme political entity, which had the sole constitutional mandate to rule the country.

And on its part, TANU was impressively able to demonstrate its ability to solve the country’s political problems, particularly in respect of its success in eliminating the ethnic obstacles, which have effectively prevented many other African countries from developing as one unified nation. One such example is Nigeria.

In his book titled “There was a country”, the renowned Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, recounts the long and pretty rough road along which Nigeria has travelled since its independence, in the following words:- “ In 1960 when Nigeria gained its independence from British rule, it was like a giant aircraft on the runway. The country had a large population, with many educated people, plus having many natural resources, including oil.

The Nationalist movement which was agitating for independence had tried to establish the idea that the words ‘nation’ and ‘tribe’, are in opposition to each other; a strategy which they believed was important for building a new unified nation.

But the politicization of ethnicity after independence created a vicious Regional power struggle. The fear of domination of one Region by another was everywhere”. Achebe also recalls what he describes as “the war between brothers”, which is otherwise known as the “Biafra war”, which almost destroyed the country of Nigeria as one nation.

Thus, the successful efforts by TANU under the leadership of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, in eliminating the problems relating to ethnicity or tribalism which could have faced our country, need to be constantly remembered (and appreciated) by every succeeding generation of Tanzanians; and this can best be done through such annual events as celebrating TANU’s birthday, if they are properly organized and carried out by Chama cha Mapinduzi. And that,in fact, is the principal purpose of this ‘open letter’ plea to the new CCM Secretary-General, Dr Bashir Ally, and his colleagues of the CCM Secretariat.

I am, in effect, requesting them to consider giving appropriate instructions to the CCM Regional and District Political Committees, directing them to take such appropriate measures that will restore the ‘Saba Saba festival’ to its original political glory, of commemorating the birthday of TANU in 1954, and the commencement date of the struggle for Tanganyika’s independence; such as was commendably done by CCM at the national level, on the occasion of commemorating the 50th anniversary of Tanganyika’s independence in 2011. The Saba Saba celebrations of 2011.

On that occasion, Chama cha Mapinduzi organized special celebration events in Dar es Salaam, to commemorate that year’s ‘Saba Saba Day’.

This was a welcome demonstration of action taken in appropriate recognition of the historical significance of Saba Saba day. What happened on that day, is that a special meeting of all the CCM grass-root CCM leaders (the ten-cell leaders) of the entire Dar es Salaam Region, was organized and held in the morning of that day.

This colourful gathering was also attended by the Party’s national Chairman at that time, President Jakaya Kikwete, plus all the other CCM leaders at the national level, plus the leaders of all the Regional, and District levels of the party structure in the Dar es Salaam Region.

One of the 17 founder members of TANU who was still alive (now the late Mr Costantine Milinga), was invited to give a live account of what actually happened in TANU’s inaugural meeting which was held on 7th July, 1954, a task which Mr Milinga performed with great gusto, to the delight and excitement of all of us who were present at that function.

These morning events were subsequently followed by other equally colourful events which were held in the evening of that same day, at the mnazi Mmoja public grounds in the center of Dar es Salaam.

In that innovative way, this particular day, which carries great significance in the political history of Tanzania, was appropriately remembered and given the recognition it deserves.

The importance of a country’s history. The dictionary definition of the word “history” is given as follows: “The study of important past events, especially those relating to the political, social, and economic development of a country, or nation”.

It is presumably common knowledge, that right from the time of Tanganyika’s independence on 9th December 1961; this country’s political, social and economic development was all the time managed by the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), as the sole ruling political party(until the time of its merger with the Zanzibar Afro-Shirazi Party on 5th February, 1977 to form the present Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which has also continued to be the ruling political party to date.

This is what makes it important for our nation to continue celebrating TANU’s birthday, if only in recognition of its political historical importance. Evidence of its true significance being neglected, is to be found in a recent educational publication (2016), titled “The comprehensive Secondary School ATLAS for Tanzania”.

(Longhorn publishers (T) Ltd, Dar es Salaam). This publication gives, at page 3, a list of Tanzania’s public holidays, plus describing their significance, with the statement that these holidays help to maintain “the history of our country”. But while it correctly describes the 8th day of August (Nane nane) as “Farmers’ Day’; it wrongly describes the historical ‘Saba Saba Day’, only as a ‘Trade fair day’ !

I am therefore closing this presentation with a re-statement of my passionate plea to the relevant authorities of Chama cha Mapinduzi, to please take such measures as may be appropriate, to facilitate the restoration of the ‘Saba Saba festival’ to its original political glory as the birthday of TANU; by, for example, organizing selected events which will keep alive the original spirit and purpose of ‘Saba Saba Day’;but, of course, without interfering with the obviously lucrative commercial business of international trade exhibitions in Dar es Salaam.

A wise man once said that “History is too important to be left to historians alone”.The political history of Tanzania is surely ‘too important to be left to (the learned) historians alone’.

The above mentioned ‘Secondary School ATLAS’ clearly denies our students the opportunity to learn and appreciate the importance of ‘Saba Saba Day’ in the political history of Tanzania, which is so monumental, that the act of carelessly ignoring it should be viewed as a ‘political crime’, whose commission must be avoided.

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