Title: Our Leadership and the Destiny of Tanzania
Author: Julius K. Nyirere
Year: 1995 first published in Kiswahili in 1994
Publisher: African Publishing Group, Harare, Zimbabwe
Reviewed by Kondwani Bell Munthali- The article was published in the Nation Newspaper of August 12, 2008
Tanzania though it does not make news frequently is a model of democracy. Unlike any other African country except for Botswana, it has now almost three-ex Presidents. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who became the First African Head of State to voluntarily relinquish power and has been followed by Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa.
Mwalimu however believed he owed Tanzanians and the World at large an explanation on how Tanzania which is union of Tanganyika mainland and Zanzibar Islands came about and survived even in the early 1990’s when there was a talk of a split between the two.
Nyerere touches the fundamentals of unity, which includes surrendering of sovereignty by the two States to the United Republic which happened on 26th April 1964.
Mwalimu’s account of the Union of Tanzania is very relevant to Africa today than in the past, especially after the election fiasco in Kenya and Zimbabwe and any other budding democracy that wants to build itself a strong foundation.
Two themes emerge in his book, Unity of purpose and adherence to the rule of Law as the basic tenets of consolidating a democracy and enjoyment of human freedoms and dignity.
Nyerere reminds early in his book the oath of office that President, Vice Presidents and all others who take oaths of office that they are bound by it throughout their actions and daily deeds.
It is of vital importance to the peace of this country, and to the possibilities of harmonious development, that all the provisions of the Union Constitution, as it stands at any one time, should be respected and honoured by all authorities in both parts of the Union.
He calls it the prime responsibility of the office with another emphasis; The President and his Government must endeavour to prevent any violation of the constitution, or any other action which brings the Union into danger; in so far as the fail to prevent such violation, the must call to account and discipline the offenders against the constitution and the laws.
The revered politician writes that the responsibility on leaders is great and adds the media to the equation to report accurately and intelligently what is being done by Government leaders and all other social, civic and economic leaders in society.
The Mwalimu observes; Tyrannies and dictatorships do not have constitutions (or if they have them on paper, the constitutions are disregarded and irrelevant to practice.) Countries which are trying to have accountable and democratic governments do work out constitutions appropriate to their conditions, histories and cultures. Their constitution is the bulwark or fortress of their continued existence as a democracy; if their leaders once allow it to be disregarded, the democratic system of the nation is at the mercy of charlatans and crooks; the country has set foot upon the slippery path to dictatorship.
In Nyerere words, even a single disregard of the constitution and the laws set a country on a course towards dictatorship. Malawi today is embroiled in many constitution battles that it would not even make space available to characterise the arguments either in the interest of the people or the politicians themselves.
However, Nyerere acknowledges that there is no perfect constitution in the World as practice reveal as their drawbacks and give rise to disputes and even when they are products of the country’s long history and have been subject to amendments and interpretation throughout.
For Malawians having battled out dictatorship and life Presidents, someone believes it is time to re-debate the question of how much power and how long one can be a President. The constitution is a product of long history as Nyerere writes, meaning even Malawi’s history would be a factor to someone returning to power after the presidency or someone ignoring the constitutional provisions just because it does not suit his political agenda.
He has two factors that he says how a constitution can work; Yet experience shows that any constitution works well or badly for the welfare of the people and the stability of the state according to the two factors: first the integrity, the commitment to democracy, and the loyalty of leaders of that country; and secondly the vigilance of the people-and their chosen representatives-in defence of the constitution’s provisions and especially its basic principles.
The Mwalimu goes through the period of describing the developments in Tanzania and in defence of a United Republic than a split of Tanganyika and Zanzibar.
He returns to the subject of Unity, at party level and national level in the closing chapter, from which many African politicians can draw lessons from.
Nyerere writes; serious parties are founded in order to achieve serious objectives. We cannot say as long as our Leaders want a particular thing we must support them, although only yesterday we supported them in something diametrically opposed to that which they are asking us support today. And in particular, we cannot support them if we know that the issue on which they want our support is illegitimate, and is contrary to the basic stand and direction of our party.
He says Leaders cannot go against basic decisions and the stand of the whole party and then demand the support of the lower-level Leaders or of their members in general.
In fact, we expect that such Leaders would be vehemently opposed, and if necessary removed. That is the meaning of responsibility. Without it, our Leaders will do whatever the want to do, with impunity. They will twist, ignore, and breach the decisions and positions of the Party without fear. It will be less-senior Leaders of the Party and the ordinary members who will be fearful-afraid to take the risk of opposing the principal leaders because this would make them appear as rebels and trouble makers, and thus legitimate subjects of discipline.
The Mwalimu might have written for Tanzania, but lessons can be drawn by many of African leaders who pretend to be democrats at heart while suppressing intra-party democracy and extending the same to the whole country. Just as they shun their Party constitutions with impunity, once the assume power, the adopt the same habits!-ends.