A lot has been said about Mandela this week and if I attempt to put one more word about him, I will only be repeating, at best. Nevertheless, as we are celebrating our 52nd year of independence today, it is inevitable not to relate what the independence of Tanganyika in 1961 meant to freedom fighters in Southern parts of Africa – in this context South Africa’s struggle against apartheid.
Since there are already good articulate accounts of how Tanganyika assisted Mandela and his fellow freedom fighters (e.g. Ulimwengu’s column in this week East Africa, and in the History Matters Blog), again , I will not try to say anything about it. In short, however, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere paid enormous personal and national sacrifices for the freedom of other countries in the Southern region of Africa. In connection to that, it is crucial to remember our values as Tanzanians. Values come with responsibility. And asking ourselves questions such as “Why did Mwalimu Nyerere continued to struggle for independence in other countries while Tanganyika was already free?” could help us to understand what we stood for as a nation and the price paid for that. The free Tanganyika became the centre for the liberation struggle of the Southern countries.
For Mwalimu Nyerere, true independence would only come when all African countries are free from colonial rule and/or apartheid regimes such as those of South Africa. In this regards, struggle for liberation went up to 1990s. Even after the release of Nelson Mandela, Mwalimu saw the need to continue with the struggle. Many Africans were still not free. In 1993, for example, Mwalimu warned that the struggle against apartheid must continue. Although Mandela was free, Mwalimu saw the need to continue breaking up apartheid era socio-economic institutions embedded in South Africa’s society over decades. In a speech in London, 1993, he said:
We still have to say what this Movement (i.e. anti-apartheid movement) said in 1959: “Apartheid Must Go”. There is work to be done. The people inside South Africa know it. Their struggle is intensifying as they even now continue to die in the freedom struggle, and in violence resulting from 45 years of apartheid or still incited by apartheid.
Mwalimu understood the institutional hindrance to change and the need to continue with the struggle even with Mandela out. He captured this so well especially the international rhetorical means to sustain the same institutions under the cool water. He lamented:
There is almost a rush to build up relations with, to invest in, or to seek investment from South Africa: I regret to say that many countries of Africa (including my own) are succumbing to their great problems and joining this rush as if it somehow provided a solution to their immense economic difficulties. Those who question this relaxation of pressure receive the reply “de Klerk has problems. He must be encouraged and helped. He must be able to show rewards for the reforms already made”… On the contrary, while the negotiations drag on to the accompaniment of more and more suffering, Nelson Mandela and his collogues are urged to realize the “the difficulties de Klerk has with the Conservatives.” Or, the ANC is told that the problem is Inkhathat, the very existence of which is a product of apartheid policies but which has taken on a life of its own
Unfortunately, such international rhetoric that hides the real issues is still ongoing. Even as people are paying tribute and pouring out their ‘hearts’ and ‘thoughts’ on Mandela, they are only talking about his unifying talent and courage, which is indeed what made Mandela different more than anything else. Nevertheless, there are many things that Mandela fought against and these are not voiced out. Even after he came out of the jail, became president, and then after a statesman, Mandela spoke against some of international policies that were unfair. For example, Mandela was against the Iraq War and associated it with oil. He openly rebuked President Bush. He aired his view against man-made poverty that we are witnessing now and some would like to pose it as something natural- i.e. some people are meant to be poor.
The rhetoric is also meant to overshadow the voices of those who stood up with Mandela through thick and thin. We see ‘powerful’ people wanting and trying to associate themselves with Mandela at this point. Showing off pictures of them and him. Explaining a few minute experiences they had with him in good times. But those who fought along with him are not in the highlights…these are people like Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, et al. Those who tirelessly demanded for his release throughout his jail period such as Mwalimu Nyerere should be acknowledged at this point. Tanzania, for example, did not trade or even allowed its citizens to travel to South Africa during the apartheid regime. Trade and other economic benefits were not a priority. They were meaningless without realization freedom and dignity. Please do not get me wrong, it’s right for everyone to celebrate Mandela because he was indeed a special man and a hero. But I want people to speak about what made him…what was he fighting for? To get into honest discussions and ask questions such as ‘have we accomplished what he was against? Is the world a fair/ equal place for every race?Literature has it that the place where you are born almost determine your success in life!!! What does this say about the world we are living in? Why is it that a child born in Africa does not have the same opportunities as the one born in Europe? Why are people treated on the basis of their passport??
As we are celebrating Mandela those are the kind of questions that we need to ask and challenge ourselves. I think that’s the best way to honour him.
Rhetoric that is designed to cover up exploitative institutions is ongoing on many levels. For the example, Africans are restricted to questioning the unfair neoliberal policies with the excuse that problems are internal such as conflicts, corruption, etc of which if you look very critically those problems are partly the product of neo-liberalism. For example, neoliberal arrangements such as tax havens encourages corruption, illicit money flow, and tax avoidance and tax evasion. Money obtained through conflicts (e.g. resource conflicts) is deposited in offshore accounts or in top secret banks in Europe.
Thus, we need to continue with the struggle- i.e. the struggle of liberating Africa from anyone that is pulling it down and its people. We, Africans, need to continue with the liberation struggle. We cannot, for example, be complacent with the labeling of ‘third world’…we have the right to be ‘first world’ and in equal terms with every other race and continents. Our children must have equal opportunity with any other child born out of Africa. Our passports must be a sign of pride and power. Our struggle must be against ‘new security’ threats such as diseases, rampant rural poverty, illicit money flow, etc, as well as ‘traditional security’ agenda such as conflicts, border,
Now for Tanzanians, as we are celebrating 52nd year of independence, let us remember our national values and ideals. Who are we as Tanzanians? The values that Mwalimu Nyerere sacrificially held need to be remembered and lived. These are : freedom, unity, dignity, solidarity, and accountability (Uhuru, Umoja, Utu, Uzalendo, na Uwajibikaji). Human equality is what founded our nation. The 1967 Arusha Declaration, for example, engraved these values under human equality and self-reliance. Where are these values now?
Equality is now an illusion in Tanzania. As the economy grows, poverty rate persists. As a result we see rising inequality. The difference between urban and rural is day and night. Where is our human equality value?
Self- reliance! is another dream at its best. As an independent state we are now 52 years old, yet our country is still dependent on foreign aid to the tune of 30% of the whole budget hence allowing significant external influence on internal policy decisions that satisfy donors’ interests and those of an elite clique.
I urge all Tanzanians to sit back and reflect. In fact, as you are reading this, please have a moment of self-reflection and see what we can do to bring back our values. Corruption is rampant, our education system has become a polarization variable more than anything else, there is no trust among people. Where are our values? how do we bring them back to save our nation?
As we are reviewing our constitution let’s remember who we are. Party politics, differences in creed, and other polarization factors should not be allowed to interfere in our nationhood and the spirit of helping our neighbours to enjoy peace as we do!