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Reflections on Public Service: A Nap Interrupted by Governmental Appointment

Does Tanzania, as a nation, genuinely aspire to establish effective governance structures? If so, what mechanisms are in place to facilitate this ambition?

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A friend of mine stopped by around 2020 or 2021, I cannot exactly remember, and caught me having a nap. This happened at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when striking a work-life balance became a thing akin to Kazi na Bata

Working remotely from home, I developed a regimen in which, after several hours of work, I took a midday siesta. Why not? There were no prying eyes, supervisors, colleagues, or surprise client visits to be concerned about.

My friend’s approach to awakening me from my nap was pretty unique. He exclaimed, “Kennedy, wake up! Did you see the press release? You have been appointed.” However, the specifics of the appointment remained ambiguous, leaving me bewildered and terrified. 

I nearly passed out; the alarm for a heart attack was sounding. As I lay there, my life flashed before my eyes, each memory a glimmer of light receding into the darkness that loomed ahead. It was as if time had slowed to a halt, allowing me to see the fulfillment of my dreams in a succession of fragmented moments.

While news of appointments usually elicits excitement among people with aspirations for public service and political activism, my reaction differed from this pattern. My reaction was not motivated by a desire not to serve, but by a genuine concern about the nature of appointments in the public and political sectors.

A series of questions

This incident sparked a series of questions within me. Do we, as a nation, genuinely aspire to establish effective governance structures? If so, what mechanisms are in place to facilitate this ambition? 

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Moreover, what about the recurrent hiring, firing, transferring, and reassigning of public servants and political appointees, often without affording them the opportunity to devise and implement strategic initiatives?

Some may argue that the presence of technocrats, experts, or what some call professionals, such as central bankers, permanent secretaries, and department directors in government ministries renders political appointees’ objectives and visions insignificant or less vital. 

However, if this is the case, why do these roles exist? Why appoint people to positions when plans can be developed and implemented without their involvement, costing billions of shillings?

A crucial problem is whether these appointees are given the opportunity to create and implement work plans to accomplish certain goals. It’s impossible to believe that this is a widespread or sustainable practice. 

Are regional or district commissioners, for example, given specific Key Performance Indicators and tasks when they begin their roles? How can we, as citizens, assess their effectiveness when their objectives and responsibilities are not transparent?

Fundamentally ineffective

Deeper investigation reveals that this strategy is fundamentally ineffective. Constant appointments and transfers destroy continuity and stability among government institutions, stifling growth and compromising governance effectiveness. 

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This predicament is evident even at the highest levels of power, as changes in presidential administrations can either catalyse big improvements, exacerbate existing problems or even lead to regression.

Consider the following scenario: a newly appointed department head is tasked with implementing a significant public policy project or an institution, such as the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (TANESCO) or Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC). As a citizen, I believe that both of these roles should be technical rather than political. 

Meaningful progress, in my view, is elusive without a thorough understanding of the objectives, stakeholders, and available resources in both roles. Again, this would require either hierarchical climbing or enough background understanding of the sector, as well as enough time to plan and implement certain plans or strategies, which would require long-term thinking. 

Furthermore, frequent leadership changes cause demotivation and disillusionment among personnel, lowering morale and productivity enough for someone to even consider whether outcomes, or rather output, are required from them in the first place.

Another view is that the absence of accountability compounds these issues. When appointments or dismissals are dictated by arbitrary criteria or political affiliations rather than qualifications or performance, trust in the government diminishes, eroding public confidence. 

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For instance, replacing a highly competent civil servant with someone lacking experience solely due to political allegiance, or some arbitrary reasons jeopardizes ongoing projects and perpetuates a culture of patronage and cronyism. 

This, even though I did not want to point out, could potentially be the case with the Tanzania Telecommunication Corporation (TTCL) and the Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit Agency (DART)

I wouldn’t go into specifics to avoid being so wrong, because I probably am already, since I know I may get a message saying, “You are wrong” and “You don’t know what you’re doing or talking about,” as if the challenges we generally bring up in these areas are the inverse, such as whether they’re genuinely successful or efficient!

Some proposals

What do I propose? I think the contrast is that effective governance hinges on a merit-based approach to hiring, transferring, promoting, and retaining personnel. 

Empowering qualified people with trust, time, and necessary resources fosters innovation, efficiency, and accountability, as evidenced by successful implementations in other sectors other than the public sectors. 

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Countries like Singapore and Finland serve as exemplars. They have instituted robust meritocratic systems that prioritise competence and performance in public service appointments, thereby attracting top talent and facilitating sustained economic growth. 

Here in Tanzania, in the private sector, why would TTCL struggle in terms of market performance, while the private sector is thriving? Or why should we be rendered incapable of running Mwendokasi after investing nearly a trillion shillings, while Daladala owners are thriving, adding a couple daladala to their fleet every single year?

In my view, the incessant cycle of hiring, firing, and arbitrary transfers of public servants without affording them the opportunity to formulate and implement strategies undermines the effectiveness of governance. 

To cultivate resilient and responsive institutions, governments must prioritise meritocracy, continuity, and accountability in their appointment and management practices, retaining only those capable of delivering results. 

Only then can they fulfill their mandate to serve the public interest and ensure sustainable development and prosperity.

Kennedy Mmari is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Serengeti Bytes, a Dar es Salaam-based communications, public relations and digital media agency. He’s available at and on X as @KennedyMmari. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please get in touch with our editors at

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2 Responses

  1. Your Eloquence on matters of the state is undoubtedly clear. You speak the minds of many Panafricanist, in fact you give the means and ways of how a developed nation can be reached. My Note: keep it simple and let it flow in your veins no matter the billions that will be offered to you. No matter the position you will be promised in the state Affair. We have a problem of Many African Elites who cling into power and continue the normal of the day ” Business as Usual” and forget who they were before the appointment. The other problem with our state is that it is too deeply linked to its political party. There is no way you can separate a state activity and the political event.

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