Saturday, January 29, 2011

PEN and MIC First Edition

What: The inaugural PEN & MIC event ( featuring readings by FidQ, Langa Sarakikya and Walter Bgoya, all punctuated by the sounds of jazz.

Plus, there will be performances by Mzungu Kichaa and other contemporary writers and musicians.

And there will also be an open mic for anyone who would wish to share their work or that of their favorite writer, both poetry and prose.

Where: Saffron Restaurant, Quality Plaza, Nyerere Road (map available on request)

When: Wednesday 2nd February, 7:30 pm onwards.

Spread the Word

Friday, January 28, 2011

The King's Diary: The Kingdom's Power Company

Dear Me:

Things seem to be falling apart as the TKP is deeply divided. What an opportunity to demonstrate what I really am: a visionary leader.

Of course the infighting within the TKP is nothing. The newspapers waste a lot of paper by failing to understand that the infighting is just for show. No one in the inner circles of the TKP wants to be kicked out. All those so called leaders are too comfortable where they are to risk their privileged positions. What I don’t like though, is the lack of direction my people demonstrate. This is a challenge to my leadership!

The TKP officials consistently fail to see that our popularity is waning. The Kingdom has to grow economically to avoid that people become really restless. At the same time, the TKP needs to reward its officials for their help during the election campaigns. Still this does not mean the Government should cough up what it has been ordered to by the tribunal for this power deal. I appreciate that powerful TKP officials are behind it. I appreciate even more that they intend to channel money received from this deal into the TKP. But we need to stop doing business this way. For starters because the Government’s coffers are empty. More importantly because the Kingdom needs a well functioning Kingdoms Power Company (KIPOCO), if it is to grow. Sucking more blood from it is not going to help!

So I have decided: we won’t pay and will return the generators instead. If in addition money needs to be paid I will propose a solution that strengthens KIPOCO. For instance by giving the complainants shares in the company. That aligns their interests with those of KIPOCO. The shares are worthless now but they could well become valuable in the future once KIPOCO starts to perform. When that happens, money from those shares could be channelled into the TKP. Till that time the TKP officials will need to wait for their reward. Or better, they should be encouraged to start businesses themselves.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Poll: Does discipline work?

As a follow-up to the last post, there is a new poll side to help the King make up his mind. Do you think that corrupt public servants can be disciplined, and if they can what would happen? Vote on the right hand side.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The King's Diary: Have I Been Too Soft?

Quick Note: I asked His Excellently Handsome Highness about how he would like to handle questions/discussions. HEHH prefers that all queries and comments be directed to the comments section where he will answer on occasion, and perhaps even deal with weightier issues in other Diary entries. So please feel free to use the comments button.

Dear Me

When I looked out of my bedroom window this morning, I counted 17 ships waiting to dock. The sight spoiled my mood. In January 2009 I ordered the port authorities to find ways to ease the congestion and for a while the situation improved. Now I realize this may not have been the result of their hard work but of the global economic downturn. Either way, the situation is as bad as it used to be.

My orders are being ignored and the more I think about it, the angrier I become. The port authorities are not the only ones to defy my orders. The other day the Prime Minister even felt compelled to reiterate to the regional leaders the need to follow my directives. How insulting. Nobody should have to be reminded to follow my demands!

Have I been too soft? This tradition of impunity may be good for maintaining peace and quiet, the TKP loses legitimacy as a result. I recall a survey from 2008 in which 68% of the respondents state that the government does badly in improving the living standards of the poor and 62% state the government does poorly in creating jobs. 50% even considers I handle the economy badly. Well, the latter may be true. Creating opportunities for my supporters to grow rich is not necessarily good for growth. But maybe the situation got out of hand.

I recall how the representative from the Empire of the East mentioned that in the Empire officials can be corrupt but that they are disciplined if they do not deliver economic growth. So why should I allow my officials to be corrupt AND hinder growth. In the Empire they hang indisciplined people but this is not our custom. Yet stripping officials from their citizenship and confiscating their assets I could do.

Question is, can it be done without harming myself. It would be unwise to go after the former King for instance, because the day I step down I might receive a similar treatment. Nor should I go after those who supported me to become King: they still have the power to push me out. But what if I go after some less influential officials? Like the port people? Hmmmm .... something to consider.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The King's Diary: A New Year

A month ago I posted a link to The Choice by Neema Kwamamlaka, a great tongue-in-cheek story about contemporary Tanzanian politics at the very top level. Then Neema came up with a suggestion: how about if she showed us the King's Diary entries every so often? Brilliant. Would I care to host them on the blog? Um. Does a fat man belch?

TMR is happy to introduce to you The King's Diary. This will be a regular feature (time permitting) of the blog, a column in which His Most Excellently Handsome Highness the unnamed King will let us read his intimate thoughts on the trials and tribulations of governing a poor but pretty country somewhere on the East Coast of Africa. I think that he might even be persuaded to answer a question or two from his loyal subjects in the comments section.

The King’s Diaries by Neema Kwamamlaka

Dear Me,

Now that my new year’s resolution is to act more strategically, I have decided to keep a diary. By putting my thoughts to paper, I may be able to think clearer about what my options are.

What a mess I have landed in. Sure, The King’s Party won the elections hands down. This was expected. But what an operation to clean up now that the campaigns are over: promises made to supporters need to be honoured and the opposition party believes it stands a chance to win the next election. On top of that there are demands for a new constitution. I need to manoeuvre carefully if I want to remain where I am now.

Before I strategize on how to deal with the post-election rigmarole, let’s start with a list of what I want to achieve this year:

  1. 1. Stay in power
  2. 2. Become richer
  3. 3. Become an historical figure, admired by its people.

That was easy. I believe that is about it. Now to work!

Obviously the TKP will need to honour promises made in exchange for votes and money during the election campaign. Shop owners need to get something in return for their support to our candidates. But I doubt whether it is wise to oust hawkers from the Empire of the East. Yes they operate illegally. Most do. And of course, they don’t vote, so they are a sitting duck. In fact they are a better target than the ambulant traders who we kicked around after the last election. That cost the TKP a lot of goodwill. Better not to repeat that.

But traders from the Empire of the East have a powerful ally in their government. I do not want to upset our relations just when we are getting along so well. There must be other ways to reward the shop keepers. What, for instance, if the city’s’ infrastructure is improved by building some flyovers? At present the city seems perpetually stuck in a traffic jam. I should be able to sell this idea to the shop owners and create opportunities to make money on the side at the same time! Moreover, if I tell the city authorities to initially put more pressure on the traders and to almost make their business impossible, maybe I could come to their rescue by agreeing with the Empire of the East to make an end to the harassment of their traders in exchange for the flyovers! Sounds like a plan.

Hurray for myself.

20 January 2011

Corruption Studies.

So, I was linking from the Beeb in my last post and I noticed another link in the sidebar. It's an interesting to investigate the relationship between voting habits and general malfeasance.

Not to be cynical or anything, but why on earth would general elections directly and permanently affect something as deeply embedded in our social system as corruption? Patronage and "borrowing" public goods is a way of life for us, as burdensome and inescapable as the rules that govern our wedding planning committees and our propensity to garland new graduates in Christmas tinsel. It's not like we can conjure a clean government out of thin air and stick them in the corridors of power (where their morality is likely to decay anyways). Because the new government would be made up of Tanzanians and we like to keep our ethics loose and easy.

I would contend that corruption per se, while immensely annoying, isn't really why most of us are pissed off at the government. The chafe, the burn comes from observing inequality which is aided in no small part by the growth of our economy. Someone somewhere at one time or another told us we are all entitled- entitled!- to "development" and prosperity. Schools, roads, fair wages and straight roads, western medicine, the works. Heh. As Tanzania discovers more and more ways to exploit her natural and human resources, she's also discovering all the classic methods of avoiding redistribution: dodgy contracts, overpaid politicians, a shameful lack of public accountability, obfuscating language, brown-envelope journalism, pyramid schemes, briefcase NGOs, the bottomless pit of donor funds, our predatory Tanzania Revenue Authority...

Man, in the 1980s and early 1990s when no one had anything of course we got along well. Nyerere did get that right as rain: across-the-board poverty makes for excellent social cohesion. No one was going to snitch on the one person in the street who had a TV/VCR because we'd all go there to get news of the world/watch smuggled tapes of The Cosby Show.

These days Tanzanians are learning that it's hard to love thy neighbor when thy neighbor has managed to accumulate enough money to be oppressively rich while you flail around in your maze of economic destitution lamenting every rise in the price of petrol. Does it matter to you if thy neighbor's money was earned legitimately? No, because the socialist hangover means that we don't believe in such a thing as legitimate wealth. Besides, until TV and edutainment came along there was a certain element of invisibility to our inequality. Now we can watch each other and simmer with resentment. And the downside is, that socialist hangover has given us a sense of entitlement that is stupendous in its scope. No one milks a relative/slight acquaintance/complete stranger with less shame than a Tanzanian. Many of us believe that actually working for your money is an oppressively bourgeois capitalist exploitative concept. Squish the rich, let us all languish in egalitarian mediocrity seems to be the underlying philosophy.

Here's a bit of fun. Next time you are sitting next to someone who is frothing at the mouth about corruption, ask them politely when was the last time they bribed a traffic cop/bought goods that "fell off the truck" at Shoprite or Game, got an obscenely lucrative contract or job because their uncle's cousin's sister's best friend was in the selection committee... and watch the diatribe fizzle out. We're all in the mix somehow, complicit to the teeth and guilty as charged. It's a particularly fun game to play with civil servants, by the way :) No one squirms harder than a Tanzanian government employee deflecting insinuations of dirty deeds...

There is an obvious cure for corruption actually. We could all live a little more ethically and stop blaming the nebulous "They" for our troubles. The cumulative effects would probably be quite radical. But thousands of years of religion, philosophy and politics haven't managed to iron out the kinks of human nature and social competition so... maybe science will manage it?Bring on The Matrix!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vive la Revolution!

Had a bit of an Evil Moment with La Dee where we indulged some inappropriate humor. When we were kids back in the Stone Age, the World Health Organization set its resplendent African HQ in Congo- Brazzaville. When those natives got restless (un petit coup par ici, un petit coup par la), the WHO had to move and so it picked it's next solid destination: Harare.

So there we were the other day shaking our heads about how the AfDB was well settled in the "Paris of Africa"- Abidjan- before Cote d'Ivoire collapsed under its own weight. AfDB moved to another civilized part of La Francophonie: Tunis. At this rate, karibuni Arusha, aisee- it is the Geneva of East Africa. Mh, what's that? Riot? Enhe he he, ignore it. Just a little trouble with the natives...

A Little Help From My Friends

Sorry- I didn't mean to be so offline in the first weeks of January but somehow they always get away from me. Like, the year officially starts in February which is great because it's also the shortest month of the year...

... right, you're here for content. Let's get to it then. First up, a bit of discussion on the issue of the Constitution. As you may know from the papers, Jay Kay has listened to the recommendation of his Grand Vizier and his government will set up a Commission to Review the Constitution. Commission my African Heritage! That's the kind of "maybe" that really means "no, dear." Anyways, I am in favor of a review but I have to admit that talking to a few brainiacs here and there and reading a little bit has made me wonder about how well-prepared I am to even broach the subject. Swahili Street has a very valid, fundamental point to make about the simple issue of Which Constitution Are We Talking About, for example. Since I gotta do my homework am gonna be quiet on this until I have more of a sold platform to rant from.

According to the recent TMR poll on said Constitution, 3/11 have read the whole hog (well done!), 5/11 of you haven't (why not?) and another 3/11 of you have read bits and pieces (i'm with you there). Big deal? I'm not sure what to make of these numbers yet except to say that obviously the majority of us have bumped up against the constitution at some point. I wonder if we wouldn't benefit from that interesting exercise that happened in Congress recently...

This is an interesting article on the issue of governance, or rather the role of politics in development. It's amazing that something so self-evident actually has to be "discovered" or discussed as thought it is new thinking. When did humanity forget that "Good" Government= Agreed Results= Happy, Amenable Citizenry? I suppose I should be pleased that this train of thought is getting attention from the Men in Suits rather than sarcastic. But, you know? Africa works exactly the same as anywhere else, dude.

That demonstration in Arusha that ended in violence? We can expect to see more and more violent conflict erupting as we wrestle our way out from under the sweaty thumb of the state. We're the same people who stone ministerial and presidential motorcades. I hate this bullish attitude, and as a pacifist I don't believe in (and will not be convinced to believe in) violence as a reasonable agent of positive change. Not one bit. But as an indicator of frustration- especially young male frustration? It doesn't get any more explicit than that.

Question is... what's The Establishment going to do about it? We're watching you...

One final point, appetite whetter. Remember this great story? I know some y'all read it even if you avoided the comments section like the plague. Well, I am happy to announce that TMR may be hosting a few more of Neema's writings in the very near future! Keep tuned in.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Thanks to La Dee and Steve: I understand that the link from the Christmas Allegory post is irretrievably broken. Fickle intertubes. I have gone back to the source email and found another link that should work. Holler if it doesn't.

Next: I have been heavily caned by a couple of readers - yes, you Silent Mob - about my volte-face viz Jay Kay. Just want to point out a few things: this is not a change of heart on my part so much as an admission that I cannot justify holding on to my optimism in the face of evidence to the contrary. I still like the individual- sorry :) While I intend to hope against hope that my man Jay to the Kay will surprise us all with a magnificent unleashing of his hidden potential in the next few years, let's just say the odds have changed. Eat crow? Bring it. Me loves the flavor.

And also, more feedings back: I have been notified that the occasional political headtrips into theoryland can get a bit tedious. You know, I have to agree. I'll try to ease up a bit on that when I remember to do so and use words with fewer syllables*. But I can assure you that however annoying, the headtrips are a permanent, if occasional, feature of the blog. In so far as they serve to muse on some issue publicly and invite discussion, and they give an outlet to the "political is personal" they're not going anywhere. Still, am amenable to suggestion: if you want to see more or less of a certain kind of content/topic on TMR, just let me know.

*even though I know you can understand all the Big Words, sunshine :) heh.

A little birdie told me...

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