Back in the mid-1990s a group of us who served in parliament got into the habit of meeting old man Julius Nyerere at his Msasani home in Dar es Salaam for a chitchat.
The meetings were relaxed, cordial and full of bonhomie from the great man, though he had actually summoned us to see him on a matter wherein he believed we were very wrong by the stance we had taken as legislators on issues related to the Union.
Mwalimu was at this time deep in his retirement, but he still wielded far greater influence on the thinking of Tanzanians than did incumbent President Ali Hassan Mwinyi.
At this particular time, he was thinking of the 1995 General Election which would be the first since we had embraced multiparty politics, and he was busy, on many occasions, counselling Tanzanians to choose carefully when electing a new president.
Some of us knew that he was rooting for Salim Ahmed Salim, who was at that time secretary-general of the Organisation of African Unity in Addis Ababa, but Mwalimu was sparing no effort to have him back home to run for president.
Though he did not tell our group that Salim would be the right candidate for the ruling party, he stressed the importance of making the right choice, because, he said, ‘‘our heads of state in our little countries are too important and they cannot be compared with the leaders of more developed countries”.
‘‘You see these Italians,’’ he said, pointing his index finger nowhere in particular. ‘‘They have a new government every three months (this was the pre-Berlusconi era) but there is no crisis in government. If they choose a disc-jockey, he will go to government house and dance 24/7 but government business will carry on unaffected,’’ he said, doing one of his trademark chuckles
‘‘But if you the Waswahili make that mistake, everything will come to a standstill except disco dancing, and all of you will become disco dancers,’’ he said.
‘‘This is so because the Italians have systems that work: the civil service, the parliament, the think tanks, the chambers of commerce, the security and intelligence systems, the universities and research bodies… The prime minister can go dance himself lame, but government will deliver. Not you with your failed institutions and systems,’’ he did the dramatic pause for effect. ‘‘You will all become disco dancers because you have weak, inoperative systems, and whatever the big man does and says becomes the gold standard for all.’’
Long story short, Mwalimu did not get his Salim Ahmed; second-best Benjamin Mkapa became president, and the rest is history. But Nyerere’s words have remained with me ever since, and I sometimes experience great pain when I observe how spot-on the old man was.
There is proof of that with us right now: just fast-forward from old man Julius to President Samia Suluhu this last week. She was commending officials of the anti-corruption outfit for withdrawing close to 150 cases based on trumped-up charges, and directing the police authorities to follow suit.
That the anti-corruption people can now report that they have withdrawn scores of cases they had fabricated against innocent people speaks to the evil that President Samia inherited, and calls for an investigation, at the very least.
It indicates that her predecessor, just like Nyerere’s disco dancer, got everyone dancing to his tune, basically because we have no working institutions and instead we have zombified offices whose shameless occupants will do the bidding of their unscrupulous bosses without a thought for what is just and fair.
It is a crying shame that these people, who have now owned up to causing unnecessary suffering to people who had no fault, can be left to continue in their offices, only withdrawing a hundred-something cases that were no cases at all to begin with.
How shall we compensate those who lost so many years of their freedom simply because Magufuli did not like them? And how do we make the authors of these evil deeds pay for their villainy, as a deterrent for others of their ilk who are still hiding in dark government offices but will take any opportunity given them to torture other innocent victims?
The past five years under Magufuli have been hard for many Tanzanians because the most basic rules of engagement in a civilised society were ignored at the instigation of Magufuli, who publicly encouraged his subalterns to lock up people without due process called on judges to imprison accused persons on the sole excuse that he was giving them funds to run the Judiciary.
In many parts of the country, Magufuli sent individuals with no conscience to lord over people and enrich themselves in the name of eradicating the opposition. Now, the least that can be done is to have these malefactors investigated at least on issues pertaining to their record of resource plunder and people’s rights abuses.
President Samia must know that her people are applauding her for her bold moves to “demagufulify’’ Tanzania. She should gather more courage and get more people in her corner to unearth and sweep away the disco dancers she has inherited.
And, all patriots should support her.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]