The late Paul Sozigwa

Makwaia Wa Kuhenga

Dr. John Magufuli, President of the United Republic of Tanzania “Usiwe kupe; Jitegemee! (Do not be a parasite; be self-reliant) “Ujamaa ni Utu; Ubepari ni Unyama!” (Socialism is humanity; capitalism is beastly) Paul Sozigwa’s Radio Tanzania slogans in the midseventies and eighties.

THE bad news there was last week was the death of Paul Sozigwa, one of the best-known media icons in this country who was also a close aide to the founder President of this country, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

Sozigwa, buried at Kisarawe in Dar es Salaam on Monday this week was singularly synonymous with the ideological political heartbeats of this country as he doubled as both chief executive of Radio Tanzania and commentator after the news.

Those around in this country in the seventies before the introduction of television would agree that Radio Tanzania, Dar es Salaam (RTD) was predominant in broadcast communication and news. For one to follow the political mood and development strides in the country, RTD was remarkable.

And those who were around during those early days in the seventies may comment with certitude that they were not disappointed.

The basic role of the media: to inform and educate was performed vigorously countrywide. Singularly remarkable was how the state-owned RTD was able to inform and interpret news developments within the context of the ideological thrust that this country was once embarked upon: to building Socialism and Self Reliance.

As could be seen above at the launch of this perspective, Tanzanians used to enjoy ideological slogans waking up people to hard work and reminding them on the superiority of socialism as opposed to capitalism.

Oh! Good Lord! Those were the old good days. What was even more remarkable was following the commentaries after the news over Radio Tanzania. Those commentaries were not boring at all. One would listen, most often than not, they were telling the concrete situation on the ground and showing the people the way forward.

And when it was the voice of that author of the commentaries, Paul Sozigwa himself, one was sure of the talk to reflect formal views of the ruling party and its government high above.

Going by those who have eulogized about his death, Ndugu Sozigwa -- If I am to address him by that formal title we used to address each other across the board ‘ndugu’ -- regardless of one’s position, whether president or minister which simply meant “brother” or comrade -- Sozigwa was ethically upright, distancing himself from amassing wealth and other vices.

He became not only a member of the ruling party’s National Executive Committee but Central Committee as well, doubling as Chairman of the Party’s Disciplinary and Ethics Committee.

He had earlier served founder President Mwalimu Nyerere as his Press Secretary, most likely having supported Mwalimu Nyerere in the liberation of the country from British colonialism much earlier since he was an official of the colonial government in the Dar es Salaam coast area of Kisarawe. He deliberately chose to join the battle against British colonialism as he was born in 1933.

But since Ndugu Sozigwa’s life was more remarkable during his days at Radio Tanzania, it is now time to give a bird’s overview of the Tanzanian media today, which is more developed numerically in terms of the electronic and print media.

What is the qualitative difference between the media during the days of the one party-state here and those in the pluralistic times of this hour? Is the media’s basic role -- that is to inform, educate and entertain being performed better today than in the old good days of one party rule when men like the late Paul Sozigwa performed? But to look at the media’s past today is to look at a country, which was mobilized in an ideology.

But to look at the current day media landscape in this country is to look at a media whose country has no political ideology except to claim to belong to “market forces”. This implies running newspapers whose headlines “sell” in the market and the element of enlightening or educating the public is coincidental if not secondary!

Of course, this assertion is arguable. But the emergence of the “social media” today, implying a deepened electronic media which takes in its stride handset phones today known as smart phones has meant loss of public interest in the mainstream print media.

Most often than not, most people are glued to their mobile phone handsets following the “news” as posted in the social media!

Clearly, this is a much complex theme to be tackled in a column but the message one would have for the print media today, especially those in the mainstream print media, is to play up news analysis by thoughtful writers that tell the concrete situation on the ground rather than compete for headlines that sell!

As did Radio Tanzania in the old good days, slogans like those quoted above; at the launch of this perspective tell people the truth, albeit in a slogan.

Isn’t it true that capitalism is beastly, “unyama”? (Hahahahaha!)

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