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Compared to the ID project, census is a flop!

It is reasonably conspicuous location as are my neighbours’ dwellings along the feeder road.I have just sent a text message to my next door neighbour who is also yet to be counted asking him to inquire for the phone number of the Chairman of the ‘serikali ya mtaa’ of my area so that the census chaps could come.

And here we are talking in terms of an extended week of head and residential census exercise! But why has this exercise been so sloppy and sluggish?The other day I followed on television a statement by the census agency authority that was bragging that the exercise has been a success “by 95 per cent”! Has is it, really? Oh! My foot!

Those reading these lines must be shaking their heads in disapproval! All along this exercise, there have been complaints by the census clerks of poor remunerations and, in some cases, failure to pay the clerks. There have been also widespread complaints by the clerks of inadequate census questionnaire forms (madodoso).

The relevant questions here are: when did the powers that be conceive the need for a National Census Exercise? What preparations did they make to embark on this exercise? How long did they prepare for this national wide exercise?
Before we respond to these questions, let us look at an interesting parallel exercise, which has taken place in the heels of the census exercise.

We have had an identification (ID) exercise geared to issue identification cards (IDs) to all citizens and non citizens resident in this country undertaken by the National Identification Authority (NIDA).Exactly as I began this perspective, let me recount how the clerks contracted by NIDA operated.

One afternoon, a certain girl wearing a special T-shirt for identification was admitted past the gate into my residence by a member of my family. Apparently, as I came to realize later, she was on a ‘scouting’ exercise of the ID project.I responded to her questions accordingly and she left, leaving with me her contact mobile phone.

She told me I would be informed when and where I should go with my family eligible for the IDs to the spot that would be chosen for phase two of the ID project exercise.When I got wind that the exercise had begun, I called her. She informed me of the spot I should visit for the registration, which I did.

I know the last and final phase for the ID would be taking ID snaps and handing over the IDs. Fair enough!But what about the Census exercise? Hahahahaha! But there is also something else to the credit of the ID project as carried out by the NIDA state agency.

The Director-General of this agency, NIDA, Mr Dickson Maimu is an innovative, thoughtful and practical man. His first impulse upon embarking on this project was to take media men and women on board. He immediately created a media task force to sensitize the importance of the ID project, the first since independence.

The second step he took was an ads foray in the media, both the print and electronic media to sensitize the public on the exercise. The third and most critical phase was the resource and manpower account. Mr Maimu ensured he had printed adequate stationary for the exercise and equipment.

But most importantly, he had a budget for remunerating the ID operatives and ensured to it that they were reasonably remunerated and on time, ensuring there was no “monkey business”! I guess you have sensed what I mean and must be allowing yourself a discreet grin or giggle - considering today’s unfortunate trend when and where everyone has a short cut to make easy money known in the Kiswahili slung as “kuchomekea”! 

Eh! Bwana! This is the Tanzania of today! Taking NIDA as a paradigm, clearly one sees the problems that have faced the census exercise. Apart from sporadic mention here and then in the media, there has been no focused and sustained media campaign on the part of the census agency.

Thirdly, even assuming that the Census project was on the agenda of the government of the day, empirical evidence on the ground has revealed quite to the contrary. Most often than not, the public has heard of a ‘madodoso’ (questionnaire forms) shortage!

Those chaps involved in the exercise give one an impression that they were very poorly managed and organized!While I have not been registered to date, the census chaps have visited some of my neighbours in the same neighbouring vicinity! What is worse is the immediate post independence ten-house cell leaders (balozi wa nyumba kumi) are as good as dead in this era of multi-partyism. This has compounded matters even more!

The most sensible thing for the Census Agency to have done had it foreseen this problem would have been to deploy the media, advertising phone numbers, both mobile and otherwise of officials that one could contact in the event the census chaps were no show. This has not been done!

So the claim that the exercise has been 95 per cent a success is self-pretentious at most! The only census snag that could be said could have been out of control by the census agency was the campaign by some Muslim hot heads urging Muslims not to cooperate in the census exercise.

But most Muslims are intelligent people – they know that this country is not an Islamic state for one thing. For another, it is a secular state. And census is not alien to Muslims because even the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) ordered census to be carried out in Medina at the triumph of Islamic forces then.

And by the way, what prevents Muslims or Christians to conduct their own census just to know their respective numbers? They are organized in respective NGOs, aren’t they? Whose eyebrows would be raised if this were done? In conclusion, what has happened in so far as the sluggishness of the census exercise is concerned is that the government should have ensured there was a coordinatory mechanism for its two agencies.

The success of NIDA in the ID project could have been emulated by the census agency, evoking inter-agency expertise and networking; since both are state-owned agencies.

Website:   www.makwaia.com

E-mail: makwaia@makwaia.com

A FORMER sports editor with the ‘Daily News’ ...

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Author: Makwaia Wa Kuhenga

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