CURRENT AFFAIRS CORNER: Commemorating International Workers; Day 2024

Last week on 1st May was ‘International Workers’ Day’; which, at national level, was celebrated in Arusha, at the Sheikh Amri Abedi Stadium, which was, reportedly, filled to capacity.

Similar celebrations were held at the Regional and District Administrative levels, as is normally the case with all ‘Mei Mosi’ celebrations.  But most of us followed the Arusha events by listening to the radio, or watching television, I personally listened to the speech by the Vice President, Dr. Phillip Mpango, who represented President Samia at these celebrations.

He was responding to the requests presented earlier by the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA) leaders in their prepared statement, which were centered mostly on enhancing employment benefits, particularly salaries, and other conditions of service, for the workers.

In my case here in Ukerewe, we had our own religious celebrations. Our catholic Parish of Nansio had organized the usual, standard religious celebration of Holy Mass, in honour of ‘St, Joseph Mfanyakazi’.  Nansio Parish is named after St. Joseph, and one of our Parish choirs is also named after this famous saint.  We therefore had every good reason for celebrating this day as a Parish Christian community; which we joyfully did.

More on our own Union anniversary celebrations

Just before international Workers’ Day, we celebrated the ‘golden Jubilee’ anniversary of the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar; when a great deal of general information was made available to the public about the benefits that have accrued to the people of the partner States; especially the benefits obtained during the three years of Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan’s presidency.                                                         As was the case in all the other Districts, Ukerewe District leaders also organized a special workshop session of invited stakeholders, to reflect on this matter in relation to our District.  At this session, the District Commissioner, Christopher Ngubiagai, presented an extensive briefing on how our District has benefitted during the three years of the Union under the leadership of President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Ukerewe  being my own ‘home District’, I not only attended, but also actively participated in the proceedings of this session. I had been asked to give the key note address, in which I gave a succinct account of the pivotal role that I played in the whole Bunge process that led to the enactment of the statute which ratified the historic Union Agreement.

In his comments after my delivery, the District Commissioner conferred upon me the honorary title of “Mkunga wa Muungano”. The Kiswahili word “mkunga’ means ‘a person (usually a medical staff member), who assists a pregnant woman to deliver her baby safely. The birth of the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar can be likened to birth ‘by caesarian section’; because it had to go through a parliamentary law making process in order to bring it into life; and I was the principal operator of that process. I guess this is what justifies the relevance to the word “mkunga”.                                                                                  

What transpired at this workshop will be the special focus of today’s presentation. However before that, the essential preliminaries about Ukerewe.

Ukerewe District profile

Ukerewe District is a collection of some 38 Islands, mainly small ones, some of which are still uninhabited, scattered over a large area of Lake Victoria; with a total land mass area  of only 640 square kilometers, and is subdivided into the following Administrative Units:-                                                          25 Wards (Kata); 76 Villages, and 514 Vitongoji.                                                                                                                 Available records show that the first ‘Native Administration’ over Ukerewe Main Island was first established in 1635, when Katobaha I  was installed as the  Chief  (Omukama) of Bukerebe.

He belonged to the Wasilanga clan of people who migrated from the Bukoba side of Lake Victoria.  However, his rule did not extend to Ukara Island, which had its own Omukama. Our readers may be interested to know that this Ukara Island, which is part of Ukerewe District, is also the home of the famous “dancing stone”, which is better known by its tribal name of ‘Nyabagereka’. The Colonial Administration was subsequently established over these Islands in 1947, when Ukerewe became an Administrative District under Mwanza Province.

The Missionaries influence

One cannot avoid referring to the huge impact of the influence created by the Missionaries of the Catholic Church in Ukerewe, particularly with regard to the education social sector.  These Missionaries arrived in Ukerewe and established their settlement at Kagunguli Village, in 1895, which included a Primary School with four classes (Standard One to Standard Four).

That school became the spring board for the intellectuals who subsequently became leading personalities in Tanzania’s society; including, so far, three Bishops of the catholic church, and  a very large number of catholic priests, who include Fr. Celestine Kasisi Kipanda, the first Tanzanian  to be ordained priest;  and many other priests working outside Tanzania. They also included a large number of University professors, such as Professor William Makene, who graduated at Uganda’s Makerere  Medical School in 1959, even before the country’s achievement of independence.

We also have Beatrice Makoko, a pioneer female Marine engineer in this country; cabinet ministers; plus many other dignitaries in our country’s Public Service.

Reaping the benefits of Dr. Samia’s presidency

“For the past three years, President Samia Suluhu Hassan  has released a total of 33,478,165,981.20/- to our District Council, for the implementation of various infrastructure projects in our District”, so declared the District Commissioner to the workshop participants; and went on to show how the money was allocated to the various sectors, namely  Education, Health,  Agriculture/Animal husbandry/ Fisheries,  Road construction, and general Administration.

Thereafter the DC proceeded to narrate the details of these benefits, sector by sector; starting with    the Education sector which. he said, had received large amounts of funds (he disclosed the figures)  for the construction of  classrooms; dormitories;  laboratories; plus the necessary school furniture and equipment.

Ukerewe’s main economic activity is the ‘blue economy”, namely fishing in Lake Victoria. This sector has also received its fair share of the benefits, in terms of the amount of money received.  The story is the same with regard to the road infrastructure, which, because of the small size of our Island amounts to a total of only 660.33 kilometres, that are being serviced by TARURA and TANROADS; which have received enough funds for their maintenance.

Then there is the good news regarding the availability electricity from the national grid, which was that the Island of Ukara will soon be supplied with grid electricity.

All of this information augurs well for CCM’s success in the forthcoming Local Authority elections later this year; as well as the national elections next year.

Regarding next year’s Presidential election

An important point to be noted regarding next year’s Presidential election, is that within CCM, it is designated as a “mid-term” election.  This means that the incumbent President Samia Suluhu Hassan, will be the ONLY person standing for that election.  This is in accordance with a long standing CCM convention, which provides that any CCM President is entitled to the constitutional two-term period in office; there is therefore no need for internal competition within CCM to take place at that mid-term stage. Thus, any aspiring CCM candidate for the Presidency, will have the opportunity to try his/her luck in 2030; when President Samia will have completed her second term, according to article 40 (4) of the Constitution of the United Republic.

However, all the other elections that are scheduled to take place, namely the parliamentary election, the election to the City, Municipal and District Councils, and the lower level Local Authority elections  (the Villages and Vitongoji elections) are all end-of term elections. Hence, it is expected that full  competition will take place in relation to those elections.

The National Electoral Commission, (now re-designated as the Independent National Electoral Commission) has, traditionally before very general election,  been giving licenses to certain select groups, authorizing them to carry out what is known as “voter education”; which prepares the voters for the proper implementation of this important election exercise.

I have  considered it proper and appropriate, for me to join this “voter education” endeavor, by sharing my experiences of the negative aspects, which have marred the election process in the past; a repetition of which, I humbly suggest, should be avoided.

The major negative aspects include: (a) ‘apathy among the electorate’; particularly at the lower-level Local Authority elections, which may not generate as much enthusiasm as will be the case in next year’s elections at the national level.  This lack of enthusiasm may lead to rather low voter turnout at the polling stations. Hence there is a need for greater mobilization of potential voters by their political parties, in order to overcome this ‘apathy’ among the electorate.

But such ‘apathy’ is only one of the negative aspects which should be eliminated. There others, namely:  (b) candidates being “elected unopposed”; (c) the harmful effects of “election boycotts”; and (d) the problem created by the “no-show” political parties on election day.

Candidates ‘being elected unopposed’ actually creates an ingenious “paradox”.  The dictionary definition of the word ‘paradox’ is given as “a situation that has opposite features, and therefore seems strange”. In this case, the paradox arises because, on one hand, it is provided for in the elections law; as well as saving a lot of time and money that would have been spent on carrying out the election process.  But on the other hand, it has the negative effect of disenfranchising the electorate of that constituency, thus creating a serious “democracy deficit” in that constituency.

It is therefore an immense relief, that the reforms that were recently introduced by President Samia Suluhu Hassan, have  done away with the possibility of any candidate being “elected unopposed”

‘Boycotting elections” is not only a ‘democratic deficit’, it is also a violation of the Political Parties Act (no. 5 of 1992), which provides the following definition of a political party: “Political party” means ‘any organized group of people, for the purpose of participating in elections, by putting up, or supporting candidates for such elections’. Participating in elections is therefore the raison d’etre (the reason for existence) of any political party.

This means that any group of people which is formed not for the purpose of participating in elections, does not qualify to be called a ‘political party’.

It is appreciated, of course, that election boycotts by aggrieved political parties, are generally regarded as essential protest ‘weapons’ in the fight against genuine injustice (where such injustice has occurred).  But that notwithstanding, it should also be realized that such boycotts have their ‘down side’ effects even on the boycotting parties themselves, who end up being ‘left out in the cold’;                  with no chance at all  of influencing the decisions which will be made in the relevant Legislative institutions, the  Parliament, or the Local Government Authority Councils, as the case may be.

Finally, there is the peculiar problem of the ‘no-show’ parties, especially by those political parties which have very small numbers of members, popularly known as “small parties”. Their ‘no-show’ action becomes a problem, simply because their participation is important for the general success of the electoral exercise; in which the numbers of voters who participate (voter turn-out) is normally taken into account in assessing the success of this exercise.  This practice of ‘no show’ on election day, should therefore be completely abandoned. /  0754767576..

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