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Should Tanzania Include ‘Samahani’ in the New Curriculum?

Samahani is not just an admission of guilt; It is an admission of truth and a commitment not to repeat the same mistake.

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I watched a programme on Kenya’s NationTV about the spillover from a dam that has caused death and destruction. Tanzania, we are not alone. El Nino and its relatives have caused havoc in our two nations, and we still struggle to recover. 

But I still wonder whether we had to suffer so much. Of course, significant catastrophes like the ones we have faced over the last few months cannot be wholly contained, as can hurricanes and tornadoes elsewhere in the world. 

But one wonders how much the disastrous impacts could have been reduced if emergency departments and programmes had done more to prepare. After all, we were told months in advance that there would be a serious El Nino this year, but it was only last week that I saw people coming to clear the gutters on either side of a very new road, which was already filled with soil and flourishing grass before El Nino itself. As a result, significant repairs will be required on many roads.

However, what impressed me about that programme on NationTV was the in-depth analysis of what went wrong and how a dam could spill over and cause such death and destruction. 

The programme was willing to probe, talk to experts, officials, the affected, and others, and cast a critical eye on what had happened, including the possibility of corruption and embezzlement causing such a disaster without attempting chawacracy. 

Afraid of the truth?

Why, I wondered, did we not have such programmes ourselves? Are we afraid of the truth? Are we afraid of those who are afraid of us knowing the truth? Are we afraid to question official versions of what happened? Or are we just so enamoured of our leaders’ and experts’ expertise and commitment that there is no need to question? In that case, we are lucky indeed.

READ MORE: Without Organised Citizenry, Strong Institutions, Tanzania’s Democratic Ambitions Will Remain Far-Fetched

Let me emphasise that I am not talking about any specific incident but rather a general situation that does not only apply to disasters. Why are we so enamoured of the curtain they hang before us that we don’t want to know what is behind it? That may be the wrong question. 

People do want to know, and since there is so little analysis and discussion out in the open, we fall prey to clandestine analysis, rumours, and conspiracy theories. No wonder the Bible says, “The truth shall set you free,” as without the truth, we are prisoners of false narratives, which can often lead to false actions, misplaced anger, and maybe more disasters.

Another disturbing tendency is related to this. I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic schools, and I was always troubled by the Pope’s doctrine of infallibility. How could a human being be infallible even if he had a hotline to God? 

I was comforted when I discovered that a whole series of conditions must be met before a Pope’s statement is considered infallible. In fact, since the declaration of papal infallibility, such a statement has only been made once in more than 100 years, back to humanity.

Leaders’ infallibility

But now we have developed a doctrine of leader infallibility that goes way beyond that of the Pope, and I am not only talking about government or ruling party leaders.

READ MORE: Surely Tanzanians Do Not Want to See Their Beloved Leaders Being Humiliated on Their Behalf, Do They?

1. Leaders never make mistakes.

2. Leaders never admit mistakes.

3. Followers of leaders will always deny such mistakes and divert attention to the mistakes of others.

4. If they ever make a mistake (God forbid!), refer back to 1 and 3.

And we accept that! Of course, we are trained from the moment we enter school to accept teacher infallibility and ole wako if you question it. Authority is always right. Indeed, even in the family, parents are always right; a father is never a farter! 

Even when I was head of a small NGO and wanted my co-workers to discuss and criticise my own decisions, they were highly reluctant to do so, claiming I was older and more experienced than them. It was a real effort to convince them that I make mistakes –and I certainly did!– and their views were essential to our work.

At higher levels, I don’t see such acceptance of fallibility at work. Question a top leader, and immediately, the Wachawa are out in force, now expanded to Wadudu as a whole, duh! What they don’t realise is that by vigorously defending their leader, they are actually undermining him or her, as people are fully aware that uchawa ni uchawa


People itch from the bites of machawa, and they scratch and scratch, causing themselves more pain. I truly believe that there is no word more powerful in Kiswahili than samahani. It is not just an admission of guilt. It is an admission of truth and a commitment not to make the same mistake again. 

It is an admission of humanity and a desire to reconnect with fellow humans after making a mistake. However, instead of admitting mistakes, we turn to self-justification and justification of whoever is on our side. 

READ MORE: Can We Please Concentrate on Developing Our Own Spirituality Instead of Imposing It on Others?

Worse still are those with the power to silence anyone who has the audacity to speak the truth, although, honestly, I feel sorry for them. You can silence the person who speaks the truth, but the truth is like pictures on the internet. It never goes away.

Connected to this is the other tendency I see getting stronger and stronger in our society. The Bible says: First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

But most of us are only concerned with furiously attacking the specks in the eyes of others. And, of course, the very existence of the beam in our own eyes makes it impossible to see the speck in the other. So we have a situation where those on one side defend their massive beams and attack the others for their specks. 

On the other hand, we have a permanent litany of all the specks of the others –and there are certainly massive specks or even more than specks– but we only see specks and nothing else. And no recognition of beams in their own eyes at all.

This is not very conducive to development, but worse still, it creates the erection of walls on both sides. We hide behind our walls and fire verbal bullets at the other side. I long for a little more introspection, self-criticism, and awareness that it is not as simple as I’m right and you’re wrong. 

Can we inaugurate a Samahani month?

Richard Mabala is an educator, poet, and author. He is available at or on X (Twitter) as @MabalaMakengeza. These are the writer’s own opinions, and they do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at for further inquiries.

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2 Responses

  1. It is masterpiece read. We should cement our humility by less lies and more samahani.

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