Today. I witnessed something that I have never seen in my entire life. Lowassa, the presidential candidate for CHADEMA, was having a campaigning rally in Moshi town. Since morning, the town stood still with only noises of people chanting his name and bodaboda running across the town with very big CHADEMA flags. My office is adjacent to the Moshi main Bus Terminal and it’s on the 2nd floor so I’ve a very nice aerial view of what is going on there. From morning, youths were singing and celebrating the coming of Lowassa. Production must have been very low today apart from those people who are selling CHADEMA/Lowassa badges, huts, t-shirts, flags, stickers, etc.
Well, since I came back from my many travels, I decided that I will attend every presidential rally that will come to Moshi. I feel truly lucky for the luxury of not travelling out this October as I can observe and follow up on campaigns. One of my favourite research method is participant observation, so attending rallies and be some sort of active attendant gives me lots of data and insight. I went to CCM’s Magufuli rally two days ago. I posted my observations on Twitter with a series of tweets- which generated marathon of mentions – sadly showing how uncritical Tanzanians are- we only want to hear what pleases us.
Well, so I respected my decision and went to Lowassa’s rally today despite the crowd- that could discourage or scare one. I started driving there but after a few turns I realized that I cannot move any closer with my car, so I took it back to the office and decided to walk. I still couldn’t get to the main ground easily, because the crowd was packed to the main streets. People had climbed trees, roofs and even the toilet roofs. It was madness. I got there when the Chairman of CHADEMA was ending his speech, then it was followed by Kingunge, and finally Lowassa came to actually say how much he has appreciated the crowd acknowledging “mahaba”, asked for the votes, outlined a number of promises, and apologized that he has to rush to Karatu. I had reached on the ground at around 15:40, by 16:10, Lowassa was already taking off on his helicopter. I was shocked. Disappointed. Some people started to leave but the crowd was still massive. It was actually, I thought, good that some are leaving to make space. I also decided to leave. I left a cheer full crowd now being “inspired” by Lema (of Arusha) et al.
So I went to my mom’s office, which is in Boma Road, one of the outlets to the town centre and other high density residential areas (Njoro and Majengo) from the field were the rally was held. At 18:00ish, the crowd had left the rally was walking down the street – the police force (FFU in particular) had to be around to control the crowd and traffic. I swear I’ve never seen such before.
I looked at the people. I can see they truly want change. Because they are tired. You can see all sorts of tiredness – materially and emotionally. But I asked myself, do they really know what change they want? What is change? I hoped to ask.
For some reasons, my soul bent. I don’t know why. But I think there’s some sort of exploitation. Exploitation of the public’s entrenched desire for change. Change from the status quo.
Further, what saddens me was the brief talk given – after a whole day of waiting- why are the electorates not given space to discuss this change?
This focus on #Mafuriko has truly watered the whole idea of election and change in Tanzania. CCM and UKAWA are not competing on agenda, but on Mafuriko- whose rally attracts most people? (I think in Moshi today , UKAWA won with 95% mark against CCM 30%) . BUT THIS IS NOT IMPORTANT. MAFURIKO IS NOT IMPORTANT. IT’S CHEAP POLITICS.
As I’ve written a number of times on the #PoliticsOfImage and Ideological Vacuum. I think now since both parties – CCM and CHADEMA – are equally (national wide) attracting, editing, and producing similar Mafuriko images, CCM has of late tried to distinguish itself with another image – push ups (aka Magufilika). CHADEMA, I think has not yet found a distinctive image for differentiation- but it has remained with Mafuriko with claims that it does not need push ups. I saw lots of signs today crushing push-ups – written words such as “push-ups kwa mkeo”…uugh!!
Tony Blair once said, “democracy is not about numbers, it’s the way of thinking”. In the current campaigns, am sad to say- there’s very little thinking. Mostly, the thinking is on how to have massive rallies and if not, edit photos.
Nyerere understood the Blair’s take of democracy before even Blair said it. In 1992 while reforming our system from a single-party to multi-parties – only 20% of Tanzanians were in favour of multi-parties system, 80% preferred the status quo- single party system. Yet since Nyerere knew that democracy is best served under multi-party, he went with the “thinking” and not the “numbers”
It is very unfortunate now there’s no thinking on policies, constitutions, etc – it’s about Mafuriko. Discussions that were ongoing in the entire week here in Moshi has not been on who will have better policies for Moshi but who will attract a bigger crowd between Magufuli and Lowassa.
Before I finish, I think for those of us who are bothering/trying to analyze these things- we have to ask “are such crowds healthy”? Today I thought so much about this…and I tried to revisit all Political Science theories I know of- yet I still failed to discern. Only Populism came to mind – then what are the pros and cons of Populism? May be I do this another time…but the expectations that the people are having are truly a variable that needs a serious analysis…and whatever government that will come in- will have to wisely plan on managing both “disappointment” and “expectations”. Tanzania is probably boiling…and the fire needs to be wisely controlled.
I beg all Tanzanians…and now praying that – in these two remaining weeks- we focus on the “thinking” instead of the “numbers – aka Mafuriko”.