On image and open minds in Tanzanian politics – links I liked

Two fascinating articles attracted my attention this week, both on aspects of Tanzanian politics that don’t get as much attention as perhaps they should. I encourage you to read both original posts in full, but I have pasted some highlights here.

First, from Aikande Kwayu, Politics of Image, or can we call it the Image Strategy? #CCM vs #Opposition:

“CCM’s party secretariat has been on a “subtle” country tour meeting citizens, carrying out rallies, and engaging with them. The party General Secretary, Mr. A. Kinana has been busy out of office in the field talking to people on various issues. As I said, I don’t read much of what they tell people but I do look at the pictures. I must admit, I admire the pictures because I’ve seen him and other party secretariat staff taking the central rail train, building with people, farming with people using hoes, etc. Today, I peeped in Michuzi Blog and found pictures of them eating ugali on plastic plates and on benches with wananchi…

“Now, let’s turn to our new “coalition of hope” (bringing several (major) opposition parties together) –UKAWA! So on Wednesday UKAWA had a rally in Moshi town. The main speaker was Dr. W. Slaa. What struck me again was not the message, but the flamboyance of the helicopter, the cars surrounding and all that “big man” image displayed to perhaps “attracting” the mass to attend the rally or was it to make them “happy”…i.e. “partying mood”? Well, the next day while driving down from Machame to Moshi town with my brother, we met the convoy of UKAWA going to Arusha…the protocol was perfectly observed! There are no traffic jams in Moshi-Arusha roads but the convey was moving slowly…with not less than 3 “kilimo kwanza” V8 and one double cabin new modern Toyota decorated with flags of the parties.”

This picture, which has been going around on social media for some time (and I have no idea who it should be credited to), sums up the issue: is it better to appeal to an aspirational sense of modernity, or to demonstrate connections with “ordinary” wananchi?

Modernity, or the common touch?

Modernity, or the common touch?

Second, from January Makamba, a short essay on Civility in Public Discourse, which he posted on his Facebook page following a raucous event he had attended with students in Tabora – that sounds to me like a live version of Jamii Forums.

Again, here are some excerpts:

“Each presenter made impassioned speech, and each was both cheered and shouted down by a section of the audience. To my amazement, it was chaotic. Students cheered what they wanted to hear and booed views different from theirs. Whistles filled the hall and presented a very intimidating atmosphere.

“I made this point to them when I got to speak – that these days we simply shut down the speaker with whom we disagree. It is simply easier and convenient than the horror of listening to new and strange and different notions about our world. I told them that when and where I went to university it was admirable to be radical, to take non-mainstream views. But we also allowed for an opportunity and a possibility to change our minds. And that can only happen with the exposure to different ideas and views. I told them that we in politics have already decided – alas fallaciously – that we have all the answers. But it would be tragic for a university community to behave the same. How fantastic would it be for a 22-year old to have all the answers, to know everything, to choose what to hear – to have an option of refusing to encounter difference!

“A vigorous public discourse is always healthy, but we must rid ourselves of the impulse to not let the other person finish before we respond. In fact, these days in the Parliament, we listen to respond not to understand. This much change.

Is that what statesmanship looks like?

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