Beggars can’t be choosy? How come our ministers travel first class?By JENERALI ULIMWENGU | Tuesday, November 15 2011 at 09:44
If I were to dwell on the endemic disease of donor dependency, I would point out that it’s an infection that you catch from your government. The Tanzania government, for instance, has checked into intensive care ward with serious terminal symptoms of this debilitating cancer, and pundits are putting their smart money on imminent collapse.
This is a government that knows that it rules over an impoverished population that is growing in numbers and diminishing in wealth, becoming poorer every year, hemmed in between galloping demographics and an incompetent, corrupt and clueless leadership.
There have been innumerable unresolved cases of theft in government departments. No sooner has the latest scandal become a debating point than a new one emerges to compete for attention. It seems someone is experimenting with the camel’s back, trying to discover that straw that will break it.
Amid this thievery, our government has deepened its reliance on donor assistance, becoming a veritable beggar, a word you will nowadays hear routinely if you are talking to a slightly tipsy diplomat. It seems there is nothing our rulers will not beg for or accept as a gift, even when demeaning, such as the offer by a corporate entity to do four toilet “holes” for a school.
While travelling abroad to beg, our ministers travel first class, and see nothing wrong if on the same plane the ambassador of a donor government is in economy or business. Who’s the idiot who said beggars can’t be choosers?
Part of Dar es Salaam’s road congestion is caused by all the huge monsters from Japan bearing government number plates. Each one of these cars is the equivalent of a small factory employing 10 people. Once I heard the prime minister complaining about these gas guzzlers, and believed that he was about to take action to stop their importation. But the joke, as usual, was on me.
The spendthrift government is now busy throwing a bash to mark 50 years of Independence, celebrating that we’re still alive, I suppose. Even in the gloom of the plunging shilling and soaring costs, some people in government institutions are wallowing in tenders to provide commemorative T-shirts, kitenge and khanga wraps, brochures, fliers, diaries, calendars, banderols, posters and all sorts of unnecessary and wasteful items for celebrations that, seriously, should have been replaced by a little cerebration.
Tenderpreneurs — that’s what they call them in South Africa — have never had it better.
And yet they will go begging again, even when they are insulted by fatigued benefactors. They will continue to beg even when they have large mineral deposits that they have gifted to foreigners for a song.
The infection takes place when the citizens of this beggary imitate their government. A commoner feels the urge to behave like a royal prince, so he decides his son’s wedding must cost $20,000 — Tanzanians count in dollars these days — which he does not have. He sends cards to people, including some he hardly knows, demanding contributions, sometimes even fixing a minimum.
Then he will badger, harass, press and cajole till you buy your freedom by sending your contribution. The millions of shillings are blown up in one week in which a series of weddings — kitchen party, send-off, wedding proper, post-wedding, etc — are organised in sumptuously decorated venues and the food and drink are just regal. Six months after the royal wedding, the couple is separated, and soon divorced.
You could also mention the hordes of young people who own expensive Android phones but have to beg for airtime; those who buy cars but expect uncles and sugar daddies to buy fuel…
Blame it on the government.
Jenerali Ulimwengu, chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper, is a political commentator and civil society activist based in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Another politician for the Kenya Cabinet
- Why Obama is visiting Tanzania
- Kisumu, where some folks are eating well, while others are going hungry
- The girl who met Gaddafi 'in hell'
- Achebe’s body arrives home
- Kenyan call girls go high-tech
- Eritrea's Afeworki: reviled and revered ex-rebel
- After Berlin Man, two reported cured of HIV in Kenya
- Equatorial Guinea to finance key Liberian projects
Beyond the ballot