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Yes, Singling Out Leaders’ Ethnicity For Support Or Opposition Is Unacceptable

The president is just a president, and they need to be criticised as leaders, not because they’re Tanganyikan or Zanzibari.

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In relation to last week’s article, I would like to address what I see as massive distractions that only confuse the issues and foment further division.

Of course, I am not in favour of having to carry a passport when I travel to the other side of the Union, i.e., Zanzibar. It doesn’t make sense, even within the context of Africa as a whole, when we have been arguing that Africans should be allowed to travel to any part of the continent without restriction, sembuse within one nation!

It also seems the rationale behind the suggestion doesn’t make sense either. Will a passport really prevent someone from the same country from owning land or getting a job on the other side of the Union? 

And in whose interest is it to insist on a passport as some kind of hirizi, or a magic wand when huge chunks of the same land are being handed over to foreigners from different continents, euphemistically called ‘investors?’ 

At the same time, even on this side of the Union, i.e., Tanganyika, have we not been, under successive presidents from both sides of the Union, handing over huge chunks of land to outsiders from other continents while we jealously guard our land against our nearest neighbours? 

READ MORE: Should Tanzania Include ‘Samahani’ in the New Curriculum?

What kind of contradiction is it that we fear local takeover but encourage distant takeover? I don’t think I want to hear the answer to that question, but I see it reeks of hypocrisy and the filling of hip pockets.


Also, singling out the ethnic origin of leaders as the basis for support or opposition to their decisions is, to me, very dangerous. 

The president of a country is the president of a country and, in accordance with the Constitution, however flawed that Constitution may be, and however much we need a new Constitution, has the powers and the duty to make decisions that affect the whole country, whichever side of the Union she or he comes from. 

Certainly, he or she can be held accountable for favouritism or misuse of power, but not for merely exercising his or her constitutional powers as leader of the whole country. 

The logic of that argument is that a Sukuma leader should not be allowed to make decisions affecting the Wangoni, and the virus of division continues to eat away at our land. On this, I think Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was very clear. The virus of division and discord does not stop. It grows and grows.

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

Then, from those status quo proponents, the if-you-do-nothing-it-will-blow-over-like-Hidaya brigade, it is clear that some issues do not go away. 

Maybe people thought Tanganyika was buried alive under the Articles of Union, but it kept re-emerging. To use the word of one politician about another who seems indestructible, Tanganyika ipo, or it is still there. This and that happens … ipo. It is denied, and history books are changed, but … ipo

Surely, we need to recognise that since it is there, this elephant in the room, i.e., Tanganyika, should be addressed jointly and amicably before the virus of discord drives us further apart. 

It is not just a question of shouting Muunga-no or Muunga-yes. We must come together and discuss what we want in an ever-changing environment, not just politicians.

Spurious argument

On this issue, the cost argument against a three-government structure also seems spurious and disingenuous. If, for example, there were a federal solution, the extra costs of a union government would be more than offset by the money saved elsewhere. 

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

There would be no two MPs for each constituency on the other side, i.e., Zanzibar, huge savings in the posho, or allowances, salary, and Maviii 8 sector, which would more than cover the costs of a small Union Parliament with, for example, 20 MPs from each side to deal with Union matters. 

Maybe it would even force us to reconsider the whole concept of whether our wawakilishi are not just wajilishi.

Finally, with regard to ethnicity, I fail to understand why we obsess over the colour or the ethnicity of our exploiters. Either they are exploiters, or they are not. 

When referring to the development of China, Deng Xiaoping, regarded as one of the most consequential Chinese and world leaders of the 20th century, famously said, “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.” 

He was referring to ideologies; the important thing for him was not the ideology’s nature but whether it contributed to economic development or not. However, if we apply this to our own situation, who are the mice? Unfortunately, we are the mice, and we should be aware of all cats, as they all eat mice. 

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

Thus, it doesn’t matter where the cat comes from – the United States, Europe, China, Dubai, inside our own country, wherever – and it is foolish to go for one cat over another when they are all cats. 

Rather, we should treat each cat with great caution and ensure that our land, lives, and livelihoods are not threatened. 

Mice of the world, unite!

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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