FORMER LEADERS’ BENCH WITH DAILY NEWS: Msuya: Administrator at heart, father of industries

…Ugandan govt tried to lure him

FORMER Prime Minister Cleopa David Msuya has recalled how he shun teaching to become an administrator.

Mzee Msuya gave an account of his professional career and how politics was a calling to him when he hosted a team of writers from the Tanzania Standard (Newspapers) Limited (TSN), at his rural home in Chomvu area, Usangi Division, Mwanga District, has given

“Having completed High School at Tabora in 1951, I sat for Cambridge exams,” he says.

Back then, Cambridge exams were sat by school students.

The then 21-year-old student passed with flying colours and made it to the prestigious Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, which started off as a humble technical school.

As a matter of fact, he was among very few Tanzanians, who made it to Uganda’s largest and oldest higher learning institution.

He enrolled at the college and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree of Arts in Political Science (Administration), in 1955.

At Makerere, Msuya was enrolled together with several other Tanzanian students.

The former longest serving Finance Minister has sharp memories, no wonder he still remembers his other two colleagues by names; Dickson Mkembwa and Jeremiah Byarugaba.

Mr Mkembwa, now deceased, would later head the civil service and also served as the Secretary to President Julius Kambarage Nyerere.

Like many of his fellow graduates back then, the zealous Msuya wanted to kick off his career as an administrator.

But the colonial government would not buy it.

“I wanted to start off as an administrative officer but the government of the day had other ideas,” he says with a smile.

True to its intent, the colonial government coerced them (Msuya, Mkembwa and Byarugaba) into becoming teachers, but as he puts it, they weren’t ready for it.

“We blatantly told them that teaching wasn’t our cup of tea.”

Mzee Msuya recalls how they were approached by the Ugandan government, which had expressed interest to offer them jobs in the country’s administrative system.

They were slotted for interviews and no sooner had they started working than they were recalled back to Dar es Salaam.

Upon his return to the country from Uganda in 1956, he was served with a letter, instructing him to report in Moshi as a Social Development Officer.

He stayed in Moshi before he was posted to Tabora the year after.

“There we were charged with developmental issues, particularly promotion of local produce which included tobacco and peanuts,” he says.

Mzee Msuya would later return to Dar es Salaam and be posted at a Local Government and Housing Ministry, at a time when the struggle for independence had reached fever pitch.

Mzee Msuya remembers serving under Rashid Mfaume Kawawa, who was the Minister in charge of the docket by then, but deputised by a white man from the colonial government.

Fast forward to Independence, the former Prime Minister and First Vice-President’s career path began to take shape.

“I was deployed at the Ministry of Culture Development as a Permanent Secretary before getting transferred to Lands, Water and Settlement, at the peak of Ujamaa villages,” recalls Mzee Msuya as his personal aide brings him a glass of water.

Tanzania’s effort to build Ujamaa villages has attracted the attention of leaders and scholars from throughout the world.

It has in fact, been the keystone of the country’s struggle for both rural development and socialist transformation.

Initially, it was applied to virtually every newly formed village, regardless of its characteristics.

In some areas officials categorised these Ujamaa villages according to the degree of progress they saw toward what they conceived to be the ideal form.

Because perceptions varied among officials, a “stage one” village in one part of the country differed from a “stage one” village in another.

Mzee Msuya’s tenure at the Lands, Water and Settlement docket was however short lived after Mwalimu Nyerere transferred him to the Finance and Planning Ministry, when the country was setting stage for the pre-Arusha declaration.

“A multi-faceted committee of experts had been constituted at that time…I was among them, my role was to coordinate the experts’ work per the country’s economic parameters,” says Mzee Msuya, who served as Prime Minister under two Presidents — Julius Nyerere and Ali Hassan Mwinyi.

His rise to the Ministry of Industry earned him the nickname of ‘Father of Industries’.

His unmatched performance in the portfolio is widely regarded as the best Tanzania has ever produced.

He, among other things, oversaw the establishment of an array of factories including tanneries, garment cashew nuts and agricultural equipment.

As he clearly puts it, the idea was to capacitate local industries by enabling them to produce from within the country.

“It is for this reason we expanded Cement factories of Dar es Salaam, Tanga and Mbeya,” he says.

The former MP and long-served minister of finance is quick to cite an example of the Medical Stores Department (MSD) on the huge costs it incurs in importing medical supplies into the country.

Mzee Msuya cites the defunct Ubungo Farm Implements (UFI), Urafiki Textile Mill, Tabotex and Sungura Tex as potentials areas that could have guaranteed the country a lot of wealth and generated enormous employment opportunities to the youth.

“If it’s possible to produce from within, so be it, rather than incurring huge expenses in importing goods and products from outside,” he asserts.

Unknown to many, Mzee Msuya was also the brains behind a number of industrial strategies that were bent on hastening agricultural development.

They include Tanzania Industrial Research and Development Organization (TIRDO), Centre for Agricultural Mechanization and Rural Technology (CAMARTEC), Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS), Tanzania Engineering and Manufacturing Design Organization (TEMDO) and TISCO.

Surprisingly, Mzee Msuya achieved all this when Tanzania was still reeling from economic hardship.

He is however quick to disclose his magic wand.

“I had to survey all the opportunities when Mwalimu asked me to head the Industry docket,” he recalls.

Unperturbed by the state of the economy back then, Msuya resorted to export guarantee credit.

An export credit guarantee ensures that an exporter receives payment for goods shipped overseas in the event the customer defaults, reducing the risk to the exporter’s business and allowing it to keep its prices competitive.

The use of export credit guarantees is, however, deemed controversial; critics allege that their existence negatively impacts international development, as developing countries cannot compete with such insured exports. Proponents argue that they enable developing countries to import products they otherwise would not be able to afford.

The export credit guarantee is for investors who wish to invest in export credit. This scheme was introduced in 2009, during the economic crisis, to rekindle the financing of export credits.

“This is how we managed to get ourselves out of the woods,” he discloses.

One of Mzee Msuya’s lowest moments in his administrative and political career was the hustle of constructing the Tanzania-Zambia Railway line (TAZARA).

“After numerous unsuccessful attempts, Nyerere and President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia had to settle for the Chinese support in building the line,” he reveals.

Despite the fact that they agreed to lay ground for the railway line construction, the Chinese still harbored the fair share of excuses.

“The major one was that theirs was a developing country and they wanted us to join efforts.”

Tanzania and Zambia weren’t against the grueling undertaking.

The line was built between 1970 and 1975 by TAZARA to give landlocked Zambia a link to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam, as an alternative to export routes via rail lines to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South Africa, and Mozambique.

The railroad was a turnkey project financed and executed by the People’s Republic of China. Total costs were about 500 million US dollars, making it the largest single item foreign-aid project ever undertaken by China.

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