Fearing for a possible backlash in the wake of rising cost of living and the opposition party CHADEMA's newly launched campaign to widen its membership base, dubbed Vua gamba, vaa gwanda, the ruling party CCM selected a couple of ministers and held a well attended rally at Jangwani grounds in Dar es Salaam on June 4, this year, to spell out its short term plans for new development goals.
On the list of speakers were ministers, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, Dr John Magufuli, Prof Anna Tibaijuka, Prof Jumanne Maghembe and Mr Stephen Wasira. Confidently, the ministers spelt out their priority areas in the hope that these would breathe new life into some ailing sectors of the economy as the country gears up for the 2015 general election. In this, nobody wants to take chances. After all 'the early bird catches the worm.'
While Prof Anna Tibaijuka was emphatic the government would not take private land without compensation and warned landlords against charging tenants a one year rental in advance, Water Minister Prof Jumanne Maghembe promised Dar es Salaam residents that water blues would soon be history. Intake capacity at the Upper Ruvu was being enhanced while four more intakes at the Lower Ruvu Pumping Station would boost water supply.
Minister of State in the President's Office for Social Relations and Government Planning Coordination, Mr Stephen Wasira, hinted that 100,000 hectares of paddy would be cultivated in the Kilombero Valley, Morogoro region and Dr Mwakyembe vowed to clear the rot in the transport sector, starting with city bus owners who overcharge passengers and the Port of Dar es Salaam which he said was notorious for vandalizing imported transit cars.
Dr Magufuli's plans would ease traffic jam in the city of Dar es Salaam. Thereafter, there was fanfare as people sang and danced. Some opposition party members tossed their membership cards and defected to the ruling party. Well, the CCM strategists (the ministers), had their own perceptions about campaigns, the timing and the expected outcome. I venture to suggest that I sense danger in such early campaigning strategy, relying on hopes, expectations and promises rather than the actual delivery of goods.
Basically, CCM and the government in particular, have all it takes to make this country a better place to live. However, it needs to play its cards right. When a minister like Dr Mwakyembe decides to ride on a daladala from Mwenge to Tegeta because he needs first hand information, you know that the time for mere words is over, people want to see actions.
Indeed, Colonel (irtd) Abulrahim Kinana, a member of the CCM's Central Committee made a point when he told his stalwart supporters: This is not the time for singing ...it is time to deliver. If CCM opts to make promises at this point in time, the opposition will lay its strategy bare on the table and punch holes, many of them. Their one million dollar question would be: "Hasn't the party been saying the same things for the last 50 years?
Give them 100 years and the song will be the same promises." Again, what will happen if, unfortunately, those promises and plans flop? Would CCM go back to people and ask for forgiveness? Who would listen? In one of his many speeches, the former Prime Minister the late Edward Moringe Sokoine said: "People don't eat words; they eat the fruits of labour." Some strategists may not want to hear this.
However, the bitter pill could allay the fears for a backlash and help lead to the road to recovery. The present scenario, especially the people's concern on their welfare which is worsening each passing day, should send a warning signal to CCM strategists that the honeymoon is over; it is time for hard work.
Like Dr Mwakyembe, the other CCM strategists need to see things for themselves, rather than rely on written reports, some of which are carefully crafted to hide the decadence in some government departments, agencies, authorities and parastatals and more to it in the private sector. The rot is what is causing anger to people who feel that a fraction of the population has unfairly misappropriated the country's resources and are now living in paradise while the rest have been made second class citizens !
How I wish Dr Mwkayembe had time to visit incognito Ubungo upcountry bus terminal in Dar es Salaam, to see for himself how rules and regulations are defied with impunity. Bus owner have devised their own system of charging fares in total defiance of regulations laid down by (toothless bull dog) Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA). Consider this example. Last month I travelled from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya and paid 30,000/- as bus fare.
Surprisingly, a friend who joined me in Morogoro (about 200 kilometres away) was charged the same amount. On our way back, the same bus charged us 35,000/- . When we asked why, we were rudely told to either pay or take another bus! Worse still, a passenger heading to Same, in Kilimanjaro Region, is charged the same rate paid by those travelling to Moshi (over 100km). These are but some of the thorny issues which the strategists cannot afford to ignore.
There is also the issue of women and youth empowerment. According to the 2002 population census, Tanzania has a total of 34.4 million people, 17.8 million of them being women while 16. 6 million are men. The census shows that 40 per cent of the population was under the age of 15. By simple arithmetics, the 15 year-olds have now attained the age of 20 and above and will go to the polls come 2015.
Fortunately, many of them are healthy young men and women, but with no reliable sources of income. Thousands have flocked to urban centres, earning their living as petty traders and domestic workers, while others have resorted to drugs or formed organised gangs of armed robbers, muggers and burglars. In the midst of this sad situation, the country is endowed with vast tracks of arable land which could be turned into terrains of orchards and vegetable gardens.
Forget about other natural resources like minerals and forestry reserves. Farming is enough to rid the people out of abject poverty and one only needs to take a glance at Israel and South Africa as exemplary. Sokoine University of Agriculture dons say that 70 per cent of Tanzania's underground water which is suitable for sustainable irrigation is untapped. Much of it only needs drilling and pumping into gardens where tonnes of vegetables including, green peppers (hoho), paprika, tomatoes, eggplants, okra and fruits like water melon, may be produced, sold locally and outside the country.
What else do we need? As for the women, the only thing they need is financial support. By their nature, they are very hard working but lack sufficient capital to help fight poverty. They feed their children, husbands, the sick and the old. Empowered women are capable of undertaking viable income generating activities like poultry, beekeeping, gardening and many others which do not require formal education.
Indeed, ours is a country of milk and honey, a pearl in the middle of sands and rocks in the East African region. But someone out there needs to see it the way I do. That said and done, if CCM strategists will take up this challenge as a tall order and serve the most important groups of society, all of us will sing and dance, not at Jangwani grounds but all over the country, for the 2015 'second liberation.'