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Wednesday

Ulimwengu: Heaven knows where we are going...

By Jenerali Ulimwengu
THE EAST AFRICAN

Posted Saturday, June 25 2016 at 21:25

In the increasingly constipated political atmosphere ushered in by the excessive populism of President John Pombe Magufuli, Tanzanians are learning to swim with the tide and to roll with the punches, without necessarily knowing where they are headed.

It kind of reminds one of the old songs by the Osibisa group, “We are going/Heaven knows where we are going.” With all the good deeds the new president has enacted, and with all the great declarations he has uttered, Magufuli has earned so many plaudits that there is a real and present danger he may have started to believe he can walk on water.

It’s alright to force people who should be paying taxes to pay them, and to punish those who are found to be criminally culpable, and to get rid of the corrupt, lax and inept, and to plug holes through which the national exchequer is haemorrhaging.

Still, one would like the action taken to be taken in a manner that is legal, transparent, universally applicable and predictable. It will be a sad day indeed when we sacrifice legality and transparency to the expediency of achieving short-term gains that may not be sustainable going forward.

We all know something about the MBWA style of government, Management by Walking About, which people in this country practised many years ago, but whose measures -- though hailed by a gullible populace at the time -- have left no positive legacy.

There is no substitute for robust systems and tested implementation strategies and processes, all anchored in a philosophical outlook that mobilises popular support and voluntary adherence. But that, I admit, may look like a tall order, involving hours and hours of reflection and consensus building.

The easier way is for whoever happens to be at the top of the food chain to get up in the morning and, depending on what their dreams were last night, give orders for this or that to be done, this one or that other one to be hired or fired. That is easy but costly in the long run, not least because it lends itself to perennial fresh starts.

Politics is king in all matters pertaining to governance, and all who aspire to governing others must be versed in the art of politics, which -- when practiced by those who understand what it means –boils down to the ability to marshal ideas against other ideas, to pit arguments against other arguments, and by a process of distillation, to extract the best for a given society for the given moment.

For the moment, I say, because today’s heresay may become tomorrow’s dogma in the ever-dynamic interface between ideas and philosophies.

Otherwise, after killing Corpenicus, the Catholic Church would have gone on to kill Galileo as well. Much earlier, after Socrates had been made to drink the hemlock, the Athenians should have gone on to wipe out the whole tribe of troublemaking questioners. And, much closer to us, Madiba should have died a terrorist.

Tied to what I’m saying is an idea I’ve heard so many times before but which has made a new appearance with advent of Magufuli. University students are being told that they went to college to study and not to engage in politics, which to me, is, honestly, hogwash. If you do not do politics at university, then maybe you should be barred from entering politics forever.

University is that space when you are coming of age, and your mind is going through the pressure cooker of new and exciting learning that may have been denied to you in lower learning institutions. Even in those schools, progressive teachers introduce their boys and girls to elementary critical thinking, guiding them in techniques of argumentation and disputation.

That’s where true politicians are born. To me, anyone who discovers politics after they left university is either a fake looking for a job in the political industry, or he is the champion of late bloomers.

To the students who may be confused by what our rulers are telling them, I say, do politics if politics is your thing, and don’t listen to all the statements designed to turn you into unquestioning zombies doing their bidding. Do politics as if your life depended on it, because it actually does.

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Jenerali Ulimwengu Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail:ulimwengu@jenerali.com

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