Life is the great teacher
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MY PATERNAL GRANDMOTHER was born in Zanzibar in the year 1896. It was also the birth place of my parents. Later they moved to the southern region of mainland Tanzania where I was born. I first visited the island in 1959, a visit that forms one of my fondest childhood memories (See GWTZ). My second trip to Zanzibar was in 1969, this time as a member of the UDSM TANU Youth League. As it was a short, officious trip, I did not get to see much of the place.
The forced marriage saga of the 1960s gave the government of Zanzibar much negative publicity, especially in the Western media. Besides, its bilateral ties with the socialist governments of the Soviet Union, East Germany and China made it an automatic, Cold War driven target of the capitalist nations. In order to remedy that image, it invited the Tanzanian academic staff of the University of Dar es Salaam to visit the island for a week and see what was going on there. Three trips, with some twenty academics per trip, were organized. I was in the second trip, which occurred in May 1971.
I maintained a daily diary during the trip. Each evening, I wrote down a summary of what we saw, whom we met, and other events of the day. We were taken to both parts of the island nation, Unguja and Pemba. We visited villages, townships, farms, factories, health centers, youth camps, housing schemes and educational institutions. We talked, collectively and individually, not just with officials but also ordinary people in all walks of life. An eye-opening visit, we saw a face of Zanzibar outsiders rarely see.
Many historians and scholars have written about the 1964 revolution in Zanzibar and the subsequent developments. The revolution was a product of the injustice and inequalities established during the British colonial era and the fact that the attainment of political independence largely left these feudal, racial and economic structures intact. For an overall, integrated history of Zanzibar up to 1964, the book Zanzibar Under Colonial Rule (Sheriff and Ferguson 1991) has no rival. What happened after that is, however, another unclear story. The picture that emerges from the existent scholarship regarding post-1964 Zanzibar is a contradictory and confusing one. You find many claims that lack a firm foundation.
I do not aim to delve into this contentious discourse. In this chapter, my objective is to describe the picture I formed of Zanzibar from my personal observations. It is mainly based on my diary and memories. The visit taught me many things, and I am of the view that what I saw continues to have an educational value.
May 9, 1971: After a short, bumpy flight, our plane lands at Zanzibar airport in the early afternoon of a sunny day. A group of officials from the Afro-Shirazi Party youth league wait for us. Warm words of welcome are followed by a bus ride to the Nkrumah College, a teacher training college. It is our place of residence for the week. The students are on vacation. The rooms are airy, beds have mosquito nets, and there is water and electricity. After a hearty meal of freshly made pilau, a rice and meat dish cooked with spices, we are taken to a traditional Zanzibari music performance. (This is to be our standard daily lunch.)
A large audience is present. Accompanied by a superb orchestra, the Taarab singers captivate us with enchanting melodies. It is a refreshing start to our trip. The only thing that disturbs me is the continued feudal custom of dishing out bank notes to individual performers. Now and then, someone from the audience throws a five or ten shillings note to a singer or musician. Such commercialization, in my view, degrades the art and dignity of the performer.
May 10, 1971: We are served an early breakfast of bread with margarine, eggs and steaming tea. At 10 a.m., we are taken to the State House to be officially welcomed to the island by the Second Vice President of Tanzania (and President of Zanzibar) Mr Abeid Karume. In a long speech, he tells us that the main problem facing the nation is insufficient food. Therefore, ensuring adequate food supplies using mechanized agriculture is the first priority of his government. Though he places a great deal of emphasis on technology, he ridicules modern experts who are good at talk but deficient in action. He openly declares that higher education is not an essential thing. The most important task is to impart technical skills through practical education. At the end, he notes the importance of equality and social justice.
It is a rambling speech littered with mystical pronouncements that leaves us in the dark about the actuality of his government’s development policy. There is no room for questions.
After this two hours long session we go to the headquarters of the ASP. First we get a brief tour of the premises. Then the party’s secretary goes over the history of the party. It is an interesting but selective talk. Crucially, the key role of the Umma party led by AM Babu in the Zanzibar revolution is not mentioned. He highlights the role of present day leaders but does not adequately dwell on the concrete changes in Zanzibar after the revolution.
Our tour has begun with an overdose of the official side of the story. We hope that from this point on, we will be able to see the reality on the ground with our own eyes.
Our hopes are realized after a late but hearty lunch. We are taken to a public housing scheme near Unguja town. It has four to five story structures recently built with assistance from East Germany. All weather roads to the area are under construction. The existing units plus those still under construction are expected to house 12,000 people. The well-built flats are supplied with a stove and other items. The residents will not pay rent but will pay 36 shillings every month for water and electricity. In comparison, the rent for such a flat in Dar es Salaam is about 300 shillings per month. And water and electricity are extra.
Just 10 years ago, living in such a flat for an ordinary person in Zanzibar was but a dream. These housing schemes demonstrate a concrete benefit of the Zanzibar Revolution. We are highly impressed and feel that the mainland government has a lot to learn from the construction methods. But we have concerns. Is the initial investment sustainable? Cement, an essential material, is being imported. What about building a cement factory? Assistance from East Germany is expected to end soon. What will happen after that?
We also visit an old people’s home nearby. It is a well-organized place. But since we do not spend much time there, I could not draw any definite conclusions.
At night we are in for a surprise. The Minister for Education gives us a very frank and straightforward talk on the education system in Zanzibar. First he summarizes the progress made in the seven years after the revolution. The schools are now run by the state, and racial and religious discrimination has been abolished. There are 98 primary schools with 50,000 pupils and 49 secondary schools with 4,000 pupils. Twenty new secondary schools are to be opened in 1972. But only two of them reach up to Form VI level.
The official target is to provide ten years of basic education to all the children in Zanzibar. The emphasis is on science subjects, agriculture and political education. Some colleges offer technical and vocational training like teacher training, nursing, mechanical trades, typing and accountancy.
The minister does not hesitate to reveal the problems facing the education system. There is a big shortage of competent teachers. The quality of education is poor. No review of the curriculum has been done. The internal examination system does not maintain the desired standard. He is also concerned about the official policy of not sending students for university level education. He answers our questions in an open manner, and we have a good discussion. This is the only time during our trip that we encounter an open-minded high official.
Our first day has exposed us to a bellyful of experiences and voices to ponder over.
May 11, 1971: Early in the morning, we go to the tractor repair plant built with Chinese assistance. The technology is quite advanced. Machines for performing different operations have been installed. Students from an adjoining technical college do their practical work at this repair plant. After a quick tour of the place, we pay a short visit to the Lumumba College. As it is a hurried visit, we mainly see the classrooms from outside.
Next is the Zanzibar shoe factory, the highlight of the day. We spend more than two hours looking at the different sections of the place. It is a striking example of an integrated, appropriate technology industrial enterprise. The tanning section cleans, processes and cuts cowhides obtained locally or from the mainland into appropriate sizes. There is no complicated machinery. Everything is done by hand by skilled workers. After being dried and softened the pieces are sent to the main area, which is divided into several sections. There are the sole and base making area, the main body making area and the shoestring holes making area. These items go to the assembly area where expert shoemakers with anvil, hammer, nails, needle and string assemble the shoe. Then it goes to the final stages of polishing, coloring and inspection. The entire manufacturing process is labor intensive, and uses locally available skills and materials for the most part.
The final product is a sturdy, affordable shoe. Though it cannot compete with the imported brands in terms of attractiveness, it lasts longer. Several different types of shoes are made here. It is hoped that over time they will become as attractive as the imported shoes.
In an earlier visit in 1969, I had also come to this factory. I note two changes. The Chinese supervisors are not there anymore. The quality and variety of the shoes seems to have declined.
Next on the agenda of this hectic morning is the Chelechele youth camp. We are told that 300 young people reside at this camp but only a few are girls. A small number of Asian and Arab faces are also seen. The camp population is expected to increase to 800 within two years.
The residents are paid 150 shillings per month, out of which 60 shillings are deducted for maintenance and upkeep. The remaining 90 shillings are deposited in a bank account. The camp has a large farm with 600 acres under mechanized cultivation. Most of the area is devoted to rice but with 50 acres for sugarcane. The latter will be expanded in the future as there are plans to build a small sugar factory nearby. Besides working on the farm, the camp residents also help nearby villages. Last year they helped plow 400 acres of land for the villagers.
Upon leaving the camp, we tour the Mji wa Chemichemi flats. The rural buildings are not as large as their urban counterparts but each flat is well laid out and has water and electricity. These flats are rent free too.
Next we stop at the Upenja state farm. We see several large poultry sheds and are taken to the edge of a 1100-acres rice field. The three Chinese experts stationed here speak broken Swahili and are quite friendly. The workers live in tin-roofed but well built houses with water and electricity. The state farms on the mainland lack such facilities for the workers. As in many other places we visit, there are a number of water storage tanks on the premises.
In the afternoon, we first go to a historical site. It is a change from the routine. The slave market and cells at Mangapwani area. Then comes the tunnel where slaves were kept. Both are reminders of the grisly past. A tour of a natural underground water reservoir rounds up the afternoon.
After dinner we board SS Africa in Unguja harbor, our destination Pemba. It is a long trip. The sleeping arrangements are far from comfortable. We spend much of the night talking to each other and reflecting on what we have seen thus far.
12 May 1971: The 7 am. breakfast refreshes us with steaming tea with milk and sugar and plentiful vitumbua and maandazi. We land in Pemba around 9:30 am. Party officials and a large bus await.
It is the busiest day of our visit. We pass through several rice plantations. A few are state run but most, we are surprised to learn, are privately owned. The latter also get assistance from the state in terms of tractor usage and subsidized inputs.
We also spend time at a youth camp. The arrangements here are identical to the camps on Unguja. But there is a major readily apparent difference. These young residents are more disciplined. They talk to us with great respect, standing upright all the time. We wonder if the reason is greater political awareness or fear.
Just as in Unguja, there are water tanks and a water pumping station. We pass through two rural townships under construction, witness road ways being built and a multiplicity of housing schemes at various stages of competition. By the time we end the day, we are exhausted.
13 May 1971: After a heavy breakfast of porridge, bread with margarine, boiled egg and tea, we head to Fidel Castro College. It is an education college with science bias. One hundred and sixty students reside on the campus. We visit a couple of classrooms and examine the curriculum. The contents and manner of teaching resemble that in teacher training colleges on the mainland. The main difference is that the political education here is more rigid, dealing more with the history of the ASP and glorifying its leaders.
In the afternoon, we first go to the Kiwani village dispensary. Built in 1969, it is an organized, compact place with a good stock of essential medicines. The hard working doctors and nurses ensured that overcrowding was minimized. Next we are taken to the site of a new township under construction. We find people cutting down trees and clearing the area. We also join in, though only for a short while.
Then we are transported to the Abdallah Mzee hospital, a decently equipped and staffed facility with 12 Chinese doctors. Besides the general practitioners, there is an eye doctor, a pediatrician, a dentist, two surgeons and two gynecologists/obstetricians. It treats most of the common diseases and carries out simple and complicated surgical procedures. The Chinese doctors also train local assistant doctors. The doctor-in-charge says that they are implementing Chairman Mao’s call to serve the people of the world. Along the way, we hear that at the outset, the doctors were well liked by the people because they work hard and take good care of the patients. Of recent, there have been rumors of mistreatment of some cases. The truth is not known but the talk has dampened the morale of the doctors. On the way back, we pass through two rice plantations that are similar to what we had seen earlier.
In the evening, we go around Mkoani town on our own. It is a strange experience. There is not much to see apart from small rundown shops in derelict structures. Be it a grocery or clothing outlet, little merchandise is on sale. Notwithstanding the many large rice plantations in Zanzibar, rice bins are empty or almost so. Basic items like soap, cooking oil, kerosene and sugar are hard to find. The tea rooms offer little other than black tea and mandazi. The traders say that the distribution of basic goods by the state wholesale agency is erratic in the extreme; one item could be supplied in abundance while other essential items would be missing. This tour is an ideal opportunity to talk on a one-to-one basis with local people. I learn important aspects of the unofficial story about life on the island, especially from a man called Mr Haji.
Near the market I see a fierce bullfight in progress, my first time to witness such an event. A large crowd is cheering at what is plainly an ugly, cruel exercise. I walk back to our residence in disgust.
14 May 1971: The entire day is spent at sea, sailing to Unguja in the same vessel that brought us here. The ocean is calm, the waters, crystal clear, the gentle breeze soothing the spirit. Occasionally, I spy a large fish gliding elegantly beneath the surface. A white bird with an extended beak swiftly swoops down on an unsuspecting prey. The wonders and contradictions of nature unfold before us like a movie on a giant screen.
Our contingent has partitioned itself into three chattering groups. My compatriots and I reflect the differences between what we experienced in Pemba and Unguja. The reception accorded to us in Pemba was more formal and official. At the Fidel Castro College, we encountered an elaborate welcoming ceremony; at the Kiwani dispensary site, almost the whole village including school children had lined up to receive us, clapping and dancing as we passed by. It was astonishing that all productive and educational work had ceased just to impress us.
In Pemba, there was greater presence of security forces. It was apparent that the ASP Youth League exercised stricter control here. In a group encounter, people did not say things other than praise the ASP and its leaders. The divide between the leaders and the led was acute, and people were more afraid to speak their minds. If Mwalimu Nyerere or Sheikh Karume was mentioned in a public speech, someone in the crowd would invariably shout, Mungu ampe maisha marefu (may God grant him a long life). Superstitious beliefs also seemed more prevalent.
On a one-to-one basis, and especially if no one else was in the vicinity, people did speak up. One issue they raised was the beneficiaries of the housing schemes. They complained that common folk were often left out. Officials of the local and central government, party leaders, members of the security services and those related to them had the first priority. Such favoritism also applied to the distribution of basic commodities. People felt that their island was unfairly dominated by the leaders from Unguja.
In Pemba, we did not visit any industrial site. Overall, people here seemed poorer than those on the main island. Apart from getting a plot of land, and free education and health care, many do not seem to have benefited from the revolution. (I return to these matters below.)
15 May 1971: There is no organized activity on our last full day in Zanzibar. After breakfast, I walk around Zanzibar town. Before the revolution, its commerce was dominated by Indian traders. Over 90% of them have emigrated. Now the sector is under the control of state wholesale and retail establishments. A handful of influential Indian merchants remain. These state and private shops carry imported, expensive items, like canned food, perfumes, fancy clothing and shoes which are beyond the reach of the ordinary person.
In addition, there are many rundown small shops owned by Africans and Indians, and a few Arabs. They have limited supplies of stuff like sweets, salt, biscuit, soap and cooking oil but little else. Things such as rice, bread, maize flour and kerosene are hard to find. Supplies are, as in Pemba, erratic. Bread takes effort to procure. You queue from morning to evening to be lucky to get a loaf. Maize flour, mainly imported from the mainland, is costly. Meat is very expensive and rare. Popularly consumed fruits like pineapple and shelisheli (bread fruit) are rising in price. Surprisingly, the price of rice is also going up.
The distribution system of the state trading corporation, managed by a member of the Karume family, is inefficient. Food can rot in the depot while there is shortage in the street. Mosquito nets are in short supply, although the official story is that they are plentiful. Rumors of embezzlement in the corporation are rife but no one says it openly. In my walk, I come across shoe makers, electricians and plumbers who are barely making ends meet.
I spend the afternoon at the home of the sister of a comrade from UDSM. I get a warm welcome. Besides homemade Zanzibari food, there is plenty of revealing conversation. This is a family of dedicated activists who played a significant role during the colonial and revolutionary days. Now it has been marginalized, with some of its members getting horrible treatment from the state. I am well fed and learn a lot (I note some of it below).
Tomorrow morning we return to Dar es Salaam. I retire to bed early with my mind on the most inspiring moment of this trip. It occurred during a visit to a health center in Unguja. We were told there was a senior Chinese surgeon at this place who used acupuncture anesthesia while doing some operations. At UDSM, some of us had seen a film about acupuncture, and thus were interested in meeting this doctor.
At the gate of the health center, we found an elderly Chinese man in baggy attire sweeping the entrance area. He greeted us in broken Swahili and we explained who we were. Immediately, he smiled, dropped his broom, and said in fluent English that he had been told to expect us but had not been told at what time. To our astonishment, this sweeper was both the center director and the famed surgeon we had come to meet.
He left us for a moment, returning dressed in a doctor’s uniform and a professional aura. We were first taken to different parts of the center. Later he took us to the backyard and told us about the health problems they encounter at clinic and the type of health education they were giving to the area residents. He also told us about the organization of the health system in China. One important feature of the system was the combination of modern medicine with relevant traditional Chinese medicine.
We left the center highly impressed with not just the work being done here but more with the simplicity and humility of this eminent surgeon. He was a genuine embodiment of Chairman Mao’s edict to serve the people. Was this the ‘New Man’ Che Guevara had talked about?
I now give my overall reflections emanating from our trip. There is no question that the Zanzibari society has been transformed fundamentally after the revolution of 1964. The colonialists are gone and so are the classes of large land owners and the local commercial bourgeoisie (mainly Asians) who were allied to them. In racial terms, the vast majority of Asians and people of Arabic background have moved to the mainland or migrated abroad. On the other hand, the highly exploited classes comprising plantations workers and dependent peasants have benefited from the ensuing allocation of three acres of land to each family.
Yet, new structures of domination have emerged. The chasm between the rulers and the ruled is wide and is widening over time. The high hopes generated by the revolution are fast dissipating and the prospects are bleak.
The Economy: Though the colonialists are gone, the economy retains the import/export structure of the colonial era. Cloves and coconuts remain the main export crops and virtually all manufactured consumer goods are imported. Despite expanded cultivation of rice and sugarcane and the few industrial projects, the economy is dependent on external forces. Unlike in the past, this dependency is now mediated through the state sector which is controlled by a tiny elite.
The export market for cloves is more diversified, with the USA, Britain, China and the USSR being the dominant destinations. Though the international price has gone up substantially, the proportion paid to the rural producer has remained around 10%.
There is a dual economy in the rural areas. Residents of youth camps and workers in state farms have an improved standard of living while the income of peasants has hardly improved. The latter, however, do have better access to education and health services than in the colonial era. But here and there, one sees a few well to do farmers. In the urban areas, jobs and opportunities for self-employment are quite limited and the majority of the people have very low income. Over the past decade, only the ruling elites, managers of state companies and their associates have reaped substantive benefits.
The major problem is the absence of comprehensive economic planning. Due to its myopic vision, the ruling elite manages the economy in a haphazard and inefficient manner. Technical education, for example, is emphasized, yet the issue of where its graduates will be employed is neglected. It is only because of the projects initiated, funded and implemented by the socialist nations that the rulers are able to make bold claims with regard to economic progress. But that cannot go on for long.
Social Services: The post-revolution years have seen a major growth of primary and secondary schools, especially in the rural areas. The number of teacher training colleges has also increased. As noted earlier, the quality of education is low, and essential items like textbooks are often missing. A few technical colleges have been established with assistance from East Germany. Surprisingly, sending students for university level education on the mainland is not only accorded a low priority but is actually looked down upon. The island is thereby being deprived of the highly skilled manpower required to formulate and implement sound long term policies in the various sectors of the economy and society. For instance, the shortage of experts in the various academic disciplines means that critical activities like curriculum reform and evaluation of academic programs cannot be undertaken.
The population of Zanzibar has benefited from the substantially enhanced basic health services. This has occurred mainly due to assistance from China. Though some auxiliary health personnel are being trained, the shortage of local doctors is acute. The USSR gave scholarships for training doctors and modernized the VI Lenin Hospital in Unguja. A small pharmaceutical compounding facility was set up within the hospital. The number of students who have sent for medical training in East Africa and the socialist nations is, however, small.
Other state run projects through which segments of the population have benefited include the housing schemes, construction of water storage tanks, tractor plowing assistance from the state farms and establishment of homes for the elderly. But their scope is limited and the question of fairness remains.
Foreign Assistance: Timely and appropriate assistance from the socialist countries has been a crucial developmental factor for Zanzibar. The initial aid came from East Germany and the Soviet Union. Later China joined the fray. The type of projects they developed are described above. The experts and doctors from China were more popular since they were hard working and worked closely with the ordinary people.
Unfortunately, such assistance has been used in an opportunistic manner by the ASP leaders. Instead of taking the projects as steppingstones to develop the economy in a planned and integrated manner, they were using them as showpiece devices to portray the benefits they have brought to the nation. Hence the long term impact of the assistance from the socialist nations is questionable. The milk and sugar factories are already rumored to be in trouble. One deleterious aspect of the East German assistance was the training provided to the security service. Its effect could not be anything other than enhancing the repressive nature of the state apparatus.
The Western nations have generally shunned the Zanzibari government, despite their full scale engagement with the mainland authorities. One exception is the malaria control program funded by the USA.
Politics and Governance: The ideology of the ASP, which governs the politics in Zanzibar, is a curious blend of nationalism, racial identity and unpredictable day-to-day pronouncements of the top leaders. It is also marked by a distinct anti-intellectual streak. Aspects of Islamic religiosity are also frequently injected into the political pronouncements.
Racial equality was a key demand of the anti-colonial struggle. Instead of sticking to that fine principle, the ASP leaders have turned the colonial era racial equation upside down. Now, the darker your skin, the more authentic a Zanzibari you are. Those with a lighter skin tone are treated with suspicion. Further the top leaders of the ASP strive to promote racial equality through intermarriage, which at one point was implemented in a coercive manner. The exercise was only halted after the ensuing international condemnation and intervention by Mwalimu Nyerere.
On the mainland, the policy of Ujamaa, as spelled out in The Arusha Declaration, is supposed to guide the national policy. No such document exists for Zanzibar. In fact, President Karume has made it clear that this declaration does not apply to the islands. In particular, the leadership of ASP is disdainful of its leadership code that restricts ownership of commercial entities by government and party leaders. Many senior officials and their family members here run private businesses and farms. These enterprises get free state assistance. Throughout our tour of the rural areas, we did not come across a single collective village of the sort commonly encountered on the mainland but saw several large individually owned farms, particularly in Pemba.
Political education is provided not only in schools but in all public institutions. In addition to covering topics like the local and union constitution, it is mostly a one-sided rehash of the colonial history, the 1964 revolution and praise for what the ASP, guided by President Karume, has achieved since then. No one finds it of interest but, out of fear, people regurgitate the contents anyways.
Mwalimu Nyerere is not popular in Zanzibar, not just with the leaders but also the general public. It is felt that he does not intervene to curtail the repressive practices that go on all the time or alleviate the shortage of essential commodities. AM Babu, who once upon a time was quite popular, has also lost his standing. It is said that he is comfortably ensconced on the mainland and no longer fights for the rights of the people of Zanzibar.
The government of Zanzibar operates in a rigid top-down style. Party and state edicts are enforced through the ubiquitous presence of political commissars in all societal institutions. They claim to have a direct line to the top leaders and tend to function like demigods. The ASP youth wing is highly organized and active. It is in charge of the youth camps and the general security. The colonial era practice of paying informants persists. A person who passes on useful information to the ASP youth wing is entitled to receive 7.50 shillings, just as in the past. Because of this system, people are afraid to speak their minds. Attendance in political rallies is compulsory. If you miss a political education session, flag raising ceremony or a rally, and the matter is reported, you may find your salary cut, or be demoted. Fear, intimidation and harsh repression are the primary mechanism through which this government functions. Arbitrary detention and even execution is a clear risk faced by any person seen to oppose those in power.
Eight years after the revolution, and despite some visible gains, the negative has come to outweigh the positive. The popular enthusiasm of the early days appears to have largely dissipated. The tension is particularly acute in Pemba.
Under the influence of the Western media, a widespread notion prevails that this nation has landed into its current quagmire because it has adopted a socialist or communist form of government. Nothing can be further from the truth. The land owners and commercial bourgeoisie are gone, the state sector plays a dominant role in the economy and the nation receives much assistance from the Eastern Bloc. But these characteristics do not suffice to make the economy and society socialistic in nature. The ASP leaders have disdain for socialism and the economy resembles a bungling form of underdeveloped state capitalism.
At outset, the Zanzibar revolution had a great promise; it could have embarked on the construction of a society based on social justice and attempted to bring the genuine development for all the people. It could have exhibited a new relationship between the masses and those in power. However this promise was derailed with assistance from Mwalimu Nyerere who was under strong pressure from the West. The progressive leaders in the Umma party and other activists were quickly isolated. Some were exiled on the mainland or abroad, and some were locked up. Consequently, the leadership was monopolized by people whose outlook enjoined petty populism and racialism with heavy handed authoritarianism.
Upon returning to UDSM, I ask myself four questions:
- Does the ASP have a vision and strategy to bring about fundamental change in the conditions of the people of Zanzibar?
- Are the leaders and cadres of the ASP primarily dedicated to promote the interests of the people?
- Has the ASP been learning needed lessons from the experiences other African and socialist nations?
- Is the ASP appropriately utilizing the assistance it has been receiving from the socialist nations?
From what I saw during the wide ranging visit, the only answer I can give to each question is a resounding ‘No’. Instead of building a society based on equality and progress for all, the ASP is taking the nation in the opposite direction. It is rapidly being transformed from a ‘populist autocracy’ (Sheriff 1991, page 261) to ‘one of the worst bungling and tyrannical petty-bourgeois despotisms in Africa’ (Babu 1991, page 244). I feel sad for the people of Zanzibar. It is tragic that the hopes and dreams unleashed after 1964 are being ground to dust.
Note: The aim of the ASP leaders in inviting academics from UDSM was to showcase the development projects in the hope that we would write about them and rectify the prevalent image of Zanzibar. However what we saw had positive and negative features. My colleagues did not just want to highlight the former and be regarded as political propagandists. On the other hand, to make critical comments was a risky proposition that could jeopardize one’s career. So as far as I know none of them wrote an article for a newspaper or magazine.
I wanted to write an article on the Zanzibar trip for the student magazine MajiMaji. But my priorities were to deal with the numerous arrangements for my postgraduate studies in London and prepare for my first university level teaching assignment for a course that was to commence in a month’s time. I began to write the article just as the new academic year was about to start in early July 1971. But to everyone’s astonishment, the hitherto tranquil University of Dar es Salaam was rocked to its foundation by a major convulsion. Students boycotted classes for a week and the ensuing crisis dragged on for much longer. I, like many others, was swept away by its momentum. Before departing for London, I ended up by writing about this momentous crisis. This is the topic of the next chapter.
The article on Zanzibar was put on the back burner. So what I have written above is the first time my impressions and conclusions about the revealing May 1971 visit to Zanzibar have come to light.