ON Tuesday I witnessed an interesting scene in our legislative Assembly they honourably refer to as the August House. Tanzania house of law makers was sitting to elect its representatives to the East African legislative Assembly (EALA).
In the race were many candidates contesting for the nine positions. It was a battle for which the most dreadful weapon to swing things to one’s side was English.
It was a contest that, regardless how otherwise one was stronger than their opponents, the ability of one to speak the language well contributed most to winning the contest.
Given the fact that they all were Tanzanians, their facility in speaking English depended mostly on their educational level. That was why those who could best express themselves in the language were those who had apparently read much – the well read ones like the lawyers.
East Africa has some of the most well read, highly educated and good English speakers. Of course our country Tanzania too has. But in the august House it was apparent many struggled to speak English the common medium they would use at the East Africa Legislative Assembly.
As I watched, I thought to myself that what was happening proved us wrong in saying that English is not everything and ability to speak it fluently had no importance at all.
There can be no doubt that English is not everything, no language is. Still, what happened underlined its importance and underscores the importance of knowing well any language you depend on to communicate with other internationally.
At the EALA extensive and in depth discussions of various crucial issues are held in English. In whatever language international discussions are held, speakers ought to be good speakers of the language.
Others may argue that in our case good knowledge and fluency in the English language does and indeed did not matter since Kiswahili is an international language and at the EALA there will be an interpreter who will enable others to understand what a member speaking in Swahili is saying.
If that is the case, then there is no reason why the EALA aspirants are subjected to English speaking competition. They should be allowed to speak in Swahili since and there will be an interpreter to put their comments in English for those in the House who happen not to understand Swahili.
The need for our nation to have representatives at international fora is not for their self-aggrandizement, but for national interest and honor. That honor is not possible to have with people we believe or know outright are educated considerably but cannot argue their case convincingly because of poor English.
Whereas some of our neighbors have their politics and economic partnership or job opportunities riddled with tribalism, our politics know not that divisive factor of tribalism. Ours is a society of close brotherhood.
Still, we cannot sent to such a house as the EALA gathering. No doubt the language of a scholar is different from that of a person who is a native speaker of that language.
Nearly all the EALA contestants that evening were people who learnt English at school who were at the time punishing their tongue in English. Now, who then were elected to represent us at the EALA? Did they really win? Wonder maybe that some of those left as presumed beaten would have made a better representative at the EALA.
If that is right, then we built a weak foundation for the fight for something or anything for our country or the EA community at large. There some things which will be best for us if they have our nation first.
But others must come with the EA interest first for the best interest of all EA residents. Representatives of poor speakers of an international language, particularly of their international language reflect poor regard their nation gave to the language concerned.
And such a person as the nation’s representative is pure embarrassment at best. Taking lightly an opportunity like that of electing the nation’s representatives to lock horn with their counterparts from economic giants like Kenya with highly advanced educational system is disastrous negligence.
Whatever transpired at the august house in Dodoma last Tuesday or however the elections went, it all proved that our country, young though it may be, has well leaned people who can do us honor at international for a or offices.
You remember the lawyer working in South Africa, Ngwaru Jumanne Maghembe. Serious issues with some legal tug needs such heads as His Honor maghembe. In him we have a reliable representative.
By and large the elections revealed a serious and indeed embarrassing weakness. Much as men in the house may learned enough to stand on international for a with their chest forward, some of them proved to be so old fashioned that they should have left the house with their heads bowed in shame.
They booed women as the courageous ladies much from the lectern at the front or as they walked away from it. It was an uncivilized act which the Speaker of the House John Ndugai scolded severely.
Our women have been left behind in nearly forms of development not because they are inferior, but wholly because they were denied opportunity.
Everybody, I presume, would love to their daughters to have good education and a good job. When they are striving to achieve that they not only need us to be behind them, we should stand there with all form of assistance and support them every step of the way.
Our daughters were throwing a shot at what has mostly been a preserve of men. The ladies need a friendly environment to succeed, not hostility to despair.