Tanzania: The Clown in City Hall - These Governors Are Good for Laughs, If for Nothing Else


I have for long held that our governance system, which gives our head of state the power to appoint regional and district governors, is a waste of time, resources and opportunities. My thinking has been, for quite some time, that the citizens of these local places should elect their own governors to allow for accountability and responsibility.

It is thinking that is anchored in the conviction that all politics is local, and that it is in the locality where the real people live and work, and where development takes place or does not. It flows from the realisation that the people at the lowest, most basic areas know their potential leaders because they have lived in close proximity with those who vie for leadership positions, rather than the big man a thousand miles away.

The actual process of choosing hundreds of rulers to be posted around the country involves long lists of names drawn up by bureaucrats who take the opportunity to insert their relatives and lovers into the lists, knowing full well that the ultimate authority will have zero chances of knowing even a quarter of those proposed.


I have also argued that leaders of local places cannot emanate from the centre; they have to rise from among the people. Those who are sent by the centre can only hope to be rulers, and often very bad rulers at that.

I am beginning to have second thoughts concerning that kind of thinking after realising that the intention behind the colonial system we have preserved all this long is nothing to do with development. It is a system designed to ensure total control across the land, a system of patronage running all the way from State House to the district.

And I have since discovered that these individuals, whose job description contains little more than harassing opposition party members, have so much time on their hands that they resort to clowning to entertain themselves -- and us -- which can only do all of us some good. They provide the much-needed comical relief from the atmosphere laden with the heavy construction programmes of President John Pombe Magufuli -- standard gauge rail, Stiegler's Gorge hydro dam, aeroplanes -- as campaign tokens for next year's election, in which he will be looking to be re-elected.

To be fair, it is not every local governor who has become our Falstaff. Many of them are as boring as lampposts, but some have shown talent that could stand them in good stead if they chose to retire and join Bollywood. One of them, the governor of Dar es Salaam, the largest city, is simply an ace. He has promised to help abandoned babies and their mothers by forcing delinquent fathers to behave, after which he has done nothing. He has promised to stamp out prostitution, but the ladies of the twilight have stayed put; etc., etc.


Now he has come up with a new one, apparently timed to coincide with the summit of the Southern African economic bloc, SADC. The governor is aggrieved that too many men deceive women, get them pregnant and abandon them, even when they have promised to marry them. So, the chief of Dar says he is going to establish a national database - yes, national, not regional - with the identities of all married men so these men don't continue to make false "I'll marry you" promises.

It is not clear how this would help, but I can imagine the database would be accessible to all women who date men they are not too sure about. It would be like, "Okay, I accept your proposal, but let's meet tomorrow after I have consulted the governor's database."

In comical things like this, our rulers tend to share. The Dar es Salaam chief took a page out of the book of the Nairobi governor, who has announced his intention to come to the rescue of damsels in distress in like fashion. In addition, he says he will consult with his visitors from the SADC countries to find out how they handle such weighty matters in their respective countries.

He has not said anything about the ladies who promise to marry you and then ditch you. Shouldn't we men demand that there be established a database of all married women so that when they come to dates with the sweet nothings about marrying us we would be armed with solid info about their tricky and dishonest ways?

Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam.

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