Watching the election campaign this week got me thinking: can the whole election be summed up by the way the parties and candidates are addressing the problem of electricity?
Here are three ways in which this might be the case:
1. Little difference between the main candidates / parties:
From the Citizen on Wednesday:
Edward Lowassa yesterday said he will clear the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) of irresponsible officials who contribute to power woes if elected the next president. He said the ongoing power cuts were unbearable and that if elected in October 25, his government would not hesitate to take serious measures against Tanesco officials who fail to fulfil their duties and affect government operations negatively.
Magufuli cautioned Tanzania Electricity Supply Company (Tanesco) over erratic power services, warning that if elected he would fire executives of the power utility whom he claimed might have a conspiracy aimed at frustrating voters.
2. Failure to engage with the issue in any depth:
Problems with electricity at the moment are largely the result of low water levels in Tanzania’s hydroelectric power stations, according to Tanesco, reported here in Nipashe.
The article reports that out of 571MW generating capacity at six dams, low water levels mean that only 105MW are currently being generated. There may well also be difficulties related to getting new gas-powered electricity generation online following the opening of the new gas pipeline.
But none of the reports of the leading candidates’ campaign speeches on electricity mention these issues at all. Both candidates propose simply to hold the leadership of Tanesco to account, not to get to grips with long term problems of investment in power generation and transmission, water resource management, etc. (Indeed, neither candidate saw fit even to discuss the fact that the energy sector has suffered from major corruption scandals over the past ten years, or more.) And if we don’t even know how many people currently have access to electricity …
3. Unrealistic promises
Lowassa, reported on 2/9/15:
“We will solve the electricity problem within a year”
(“Tutamaliza tatizo la umeme ndani ya mwaka mmoja”)
Magufuli, reported on 10/9/15:
His government will ensure that electricity reaches every village so that citizens can use it in their development activities
(Serikali yake itahakikisha umeme unasambaa katika vijiji vyote ili wananchi wautumie kwa shughuli za maendeleo)
Lowassa, reported on 13/9/15:
He also expressed his intention of supplying electricity in all villages across the country.
CCM Vice Presidential Candidate, Samia Suluhu, reported on 23/9/15:
She also promised voters that electricity will be connected to all villages in the next two years
Lowassa, reported on 2/10/15:
He mentioned another thing as dependable electricity across the whole country
(Alitaja mambo mengine kuwa ni umeme wa uhakika nchi nzima)
Magufuli, reported on 3/10/15:
Magufuli added that if elected to lead the fifth phase government he will also ensure that every village was supplied with electricity.
I could go on. But I doubt very much that even Magufuli and Lowassa (and Suluhu) really believe that it is possible to provide everyone in Tanzania with access to electricity within a year or two, or even five.
Further, see point 1 again. And point 2. Is there any difference here? And where’s the depth of analysis?
And on other issues?
Let’s do a very quick scan, starting with water:
- Magufuli has said that if elected the country’s fifth President he will ensure water is available across the country.
- Lowassa promised to end water problems nationwide within 100 days.
- Magufuli said upon his victory free education from primary to lower secondary school would be his top priority.
- Lowassa said that his government would cover the cost of education from primary up to university level, and no-one should ask where the money is coming from as there are billions being wasted on unnecessary expenditures.
- Magufuli said his government would build a clinic in every village, a health centre in every ward, a hospital in every district and a referral hospital in every region.
- Lowassa said one of his missions, if elected president, would be to improve the health of Tanzanians by constructing referral hospitals in every district.
And that’s without even looking at promises of new roads or factories, of which there have been many.
Indeed it is starting to look like my initial fears might be right, that electricity might actually be a very good summary of the election campaign so far. And for all the wrong reasons. Let us hope that I am wrong. Because if not, this election will end up as one huge missed opportunity.