Of course the English people are renowned for that kind of mannerism which prevents picking up a quarrel in the course of discussions. No wonder, you will find them grinning pretending to smile while in the real sense they are trying to appease the situation.
Precisely the British are the best diplomats because they have mastered this art of playing with the words, even if they do not mean what they are saying. But some of them have also been victims of using derogatory remarks as you may remember some members of the British Cabinet were forced to apologize, including the British Prime Minister himself, Mr Gordon Brown on the apology letter of condolence to Jacqui Janes, the mother of a soldier who died in Afghanistan. All what is required here is diplomatic or political brinkmanship to smoothen the situation.
In our contemporary world of politics, politicians should be well versed with this approach in order to woo their supporters into coming to terms with difficult decisions or situations. Last week, the Minister of Works, Dr John Pombe Magufuli came on a head-on collision with the Kigamboni residents when introducing the new tariff for the Kigamboni Ferry connecting Kigamboni and Magogoni. This is an all important linkage to the city centre for the Kigamboni residents.
While it was a genuine move to hike the tariff, it appears the minister lost his temper and went on vituperative language with Kigamboni people when he said they can swim across the sea if they cannot afford to pay the hiked two hundred shillings, or else they should go back to their rural villages! Was it a joke? Then it should have been a misplaced joke that he will have to pay heavily on his brilliant emerging career as a politician. The timing of the pronouncement was equally wrong and the language of the minister was even more disturbing to the already angry people.
Two hundred shillings might appear to be very little but coming at the wake of the severe economic crisis that includes skyrocketing prices of staple food is unbearable. With the increased tariff these residents will not only pay high on the ferry but will also include all the merchandise sent through the ferry to their markets! So, Kigamboni residents are putting all these hikes in one basket making them shouldering the heaviest burden. It is said that hungry people are always angry, and you need selective words to talk to them. Regrettably our politicians are either naïve or are deliberately ridiculing the intelligence of our people. Apparently this is not the first time to get such remarks from our politicians. I
remember in one of the African countries, (not Tanzania) there was a hot debate on the purchase of the Presidential Lear Jet which was very expensive. In an unprecedented response, the President of that country rebuked his people by saying, “You should not expect your President to be carried in a wheelbarrow”. I know most of the Tanzanians must have read that story, which came from one of the Southern African countries, but I was surprised when a similar story came to Tanzania;
The Minister of Finance by then, Mr Basil Mramba had the temerity of telling Tanzanians to get prepared to eat grass to let the President have his new jet! Do you remember the former Prime Minister, John Malecela, that time when he was the Minister of Communication? There was hue and cry on the inefficiency of the railway service, and people were demanding for his skin. He just told them that those who were not satisfied with these services should go to hell! As a seasoned politician, he weighed his words and had to bow down to the public and the apology was accepted, but it will take another generation to forget that.
The other Prime Minister, David Cleopa Msuya, also had a bad taste on the derogatory remarks he made sometimes in the eighties. It was during that time of transformation from our socialist economy to what we are now. That was the time when the word cost sharing in terms of hospitals and schools was the key word in our approach to the current liberal economy. At the height of dissatisfaction from the people, Prime Minister Msuya came up with that phraseology of everybody will have to carry his own cross! This caused mayhem from the people and the government was accused of forsaking the poor and embracing the rich. I do not remember to have heard Prime Minister Msuya apologizing for this.
How about Mzee wa Vijisenti, the former Attorney-General, Andrew Chenge? When the Press was trying to probe on his offshore money, he just quipped, “That is peanut, vijisenti.” However, in an apologetic manner, he said as a Msukuma, he had a problem with his Kiswahili and did not mean what he said. To our energetic Dr Magufuli who has a good track record of performance; I am sure he must have been pushed into a very narrow corner by his audience and found himself uttering such unpalatable words. Probably on that day he was run out of statistics. Was he displaying his intellectual arrogance to the wrong people? Did those people deserve such utterances? And after all, do we need such arrogant (wababe) leaders! Please Dr Magufuli, come down and apologize to the public, I can assure you that they can forgive you but they won’t forget.
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