Tell me friends

Is it a sin

To attend a funeral

Of a neighbour

Whose chest has red in it

Different from the green badge

I wear on my chest?

Tell me friend, please,

Before they kill me

And find out that my chest

Harbours red in it.

(Inspired by Richard Mabala)



Sauti ya Unyonge Haizuiliki

Sauti ya unyonge


Inaimba, inatunga, inatanda

Majamvini na vijiweni


Niite upendavyo

Mchizi, muflis, fukara

Magazetini, radioni, jukwani

Sauti ya unyonge


Mafuriko, moto, dhoruba


Yanatikisa ardhi

Yanatetemesha mbingu


Utenzi wa unyonge


Unaishi moyoni

Unasumbua kuchwani

Unalipuka jukwani


Issabinmariam, 18/02/2018

From villagisation to globalization

Saturday Palaver

Issa Shivji

From Villagisation to Globalisation

Politics versus Economics – in Command

In the Tanzania of third phase government one would be forgiven for forgetting that this country is a country of some 11,000 villages, providing home and hearth to four-fifths of its people. Times have indeed changed and so have our passions and preoccupations, and our political vocabulary and symbolism.

The village was Mwalimu’s passion. That passion became the basis of the famous – now notorious – Arusha Declaration. The post-Arusha decade (1967-1977) may be truly described as the decade of villagisation.

In contrast, the current decade (1995-2005) may be designated as the decade of globalisation or utandawazi, the Kiswahili term popularized by President Mkapa.

The contrasts between these decades are so stark that one can perhaps never overdraw the picture. I am particularly fascinated by the symbolisms and representations of the two periods.

Allow me to share my indulgence with you. In the process, if I become nostalgic, bear with me. For I cannot plead neutrality with respect to the first period. As a youthful militant, I was a full intellectual participant in it, and as a participant, I cannot help being nostalgic and, perhaps, subjective. So, at the outset, I plead guilty but don’t condemn me unheard. Reserve your verdict and sentence until

after hearing me out in the next couple of Saturday Palavers.

The image that invariably comes to mind when one is recalling the villagisation decade is that of Mwalimu in khaki national service attire, standing on the bonnet of a landrover, chatting away with half-clad villagers. What would be an equivalent image of the globalisation decade? The only image that comes to mind is that of an Obasanjo or a Museveni donning a three-piece suit coming down a ‘plane having just attended the ‘corridor’ meeting of G7 in Davos.

I say ‘corridor’ meeting because African leaders who get invited to the club of the rich hardly ever get to enter the inside chambers where real deals are struck and decisions, which determine the fate of the rest of humanity, made. We are in the days of alignment, and, there is no choice. ‘You are either with me or with the terrorists [which means anyone who opposes the superpower]’, we are told by the Bushes of this world. The days of non-alignment are gone. So, faced with a choice of going to Kuala Lumpur to attend a summit of non-aligned nations or the ‘corridor’ meeting with G7 in Davos, an African president chooses Davos; no doubt a ‘rational choice’. In the days of science and technology, one must eschew emotional choices.


In the heydays of the Arusha Declaration, I remember how we marvelled at debating with profound intellectuals invited by Mwalimu. I am thinking of people like the French agronomist Rene Dumont and the great Brazilian educationist Paulo Freirie. Dumont of course wrote the False Start in Africa while Freirie authored The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. We, the youth, read, nay devoured, these books and debated ideas. We also participated in self-reliance activities like going to palilia korosho farms near the campus and taking literacy classes under trees in Mlalakuwa.

But in those days youthful passions and preoccupations were different. Our heroes were Che Guevaras and Frantz Fanons and Elridge Cleavers and Angela Davis. Now our mainstream youth admire those who get opportunity to be part of silly and senseless competitions organised by South Africa’s Multichoice like Big Brother.

The youth cannot be blamed though. We gave up literacy classes long ago and forfeited the UNESCO prize. Korosho growers have all but disappeared from our political horizons. Actually, I had forgotten all about Dumont until last year when I read in the papers that Hernando de Soto was visiting Tanzania at the invitation of our President. He did address ministers and senior civil servants in the Karimjee Hall. I don’t think he visited the Hill. Presumably, he has no need to debate his ideas when even heads of state take them to be the gospel truth. I am told his book The Mystery of Capital (2000) is a required reading for our ministers.

Peruvian born De Soto grew up in Europe where he was a managing director of one of Europe’s largest engineering firms. At the age of 38 he returned to Peru and founded the Institute of Liberty and Democracy (ILD). His, supposedly greatest, discovery is that poor people work hard and are great entrepreneurs. What they need is a secure legal system which will commoditize their assets and bring them on the market. Well, that has made him a sought after adviser by prime ministers and presidents of, of course, Africa.

Lilliputian Soto’s visit jerked my memory and took me back to those days when we warmly hosted and passionately debated such intellectual giants like C. L.R. James and Basil Davidson; black power firebrands like Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis; intellectual politicians like Chedi Jagan. Even Che Guevara clandestinely passed through Dar on his way to what was then called Congo Leopoldville, before Citizen Mobutu authenticated it to Zaire which, Liberator Kabila (the father, of course) rechristened DRC.

Politics was in command during the villagisation decade. Now presumably economics is in command, or at least, that is how it is perceived and presented by politicians and we take it very seriously. These days, we are told, our foreign policy is based on economics. Our ambassadors and high commissioners are supposed to be marketing managers first and economic diplomats second. We have taken to heart the somber advice given to our Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs by the then American ambassador. Commending Tanzania for its new “economic diplomacy”, he said:

The liberation diplomacy of the past, when alliances with socialist nations were paramount and so-called Third World Solidarity dominated foreign policy, must give way to a more realistic approach to dealing with your true friends – those who are working to lift you into the 21st century where poverty is not acceptable and disease must be conquered. [The Guardian, 19/08/03)

Amen! We only have true friends and no enemies and it is our “true friends” who have the right to decide who our “true friends” are!. We are being lifted out of poverty by the so-called AGOA which promises us market a-plenty provided we fulfill the conditions set by our “true friends”.

Citizen 2nd October 2004

if I were human

If I were human
I’d be humane,
I’m not,
I’m sub-
I’m post-
I’m pre-.
If I were human
I’d live,
I’m not,
I breathe
I eat
I smell
If I were human
I’d imagine
I’m not,
I intrigue
I plot
I conspire
If I were humane
I’d breathe life
in the lifeless
hope in despair
love in the dejected

If I were humane
I’d imagine
I’d dream
I’d fly
I’d glide
I’d live.

I’m not…..


Fikra-gonganishi juu ya kifo cha Mzee Kingunge na masomo yake

Kifo cha Kamaradi Ngombale kimeamsha msongamano wa fikra, mawazo, tafakuri, zote pamoja, kwa wakati mmoja, kichwani mwangu. Sisemi, wala simaanishi, kwamba nimechanganyikiwa. La hasha! Sijachanganyikiwa.

Nachotaka kusema ni kwamba fikra-gonganishi, mawazo matamu na machungu, ya matumaini na ya hofu, yote, kwa pamoja, yawasiliana, yazungumza, yabishana, yatofautiana, yagombana, yaafikiana, kwa wakati mmoja, katika kichwa kimoja, kichwa hichohicho, usiku na mchana. Tangu mzee afariki, nikiamka asubuhi, ninapanga kwenda nyumbani kwake kutoa pole kwa ndugu na marafiki kama ilivyokuwa kawaida yetu. Lakini, kwa sababu za kina, sio za visingizio, ambazo nashindwa kuzibainisha, mpaka leo (Jumapili) sijaenda. Uamuzi wangu wa mwisho sasa ni kwenda kutoa heshima zangu za mwisho Karimjee na kwenda kuuzika mwili wake Kinondoni. Nimetumia maneno “mwili wake” makusudi. Siziki fikra zake (wala zangu) pamoja na yeye. Zile zitaendelea kugongana. Fikra zina maisha yake huru ambazo hazina kikomo na haziendani sambamba na maisha ya mwili ambayo yana kikomo.

Hayo niliyoandika yamekaa kifalsafa-falsafa kidogo. Mzee Ngombale hakuwa mwanafalsafa wala hakuandika kifalsafa. Aliandika kiitikadi na kisiasa. Lakini wanadamu wote hatimaye ni wanafalsafa. Na mwanadamu ambaye aliyewahi kuweka fikra zake, utashi wake, mitazamo yake katika kumbukumbu za kimaandishi au za kidomo, anaamsha, bila kuchokozwa, fikra za kifalsafa. Nikashindwa kujizuia. Ari ya kuandika hizi fikra-mchanganyiko zangu zimeshinda. Nikaziandika. Fikra zikiandikwa basi sio zako tena. Zinahaki za kuwa na maisha yake huru, kwenda popote pale zitakayo, kuruka na kurushwa. Hamna nguvu za kuzizuia hata kwa mabavu. Ni kama mbelewele (pollen) unaoruka kutoka ua mmoja na kurutubisha ua mwingine.


Kwa upande wangu, sitaki kuzungumzia wasifu wa Mzee. Hayo yameorodheshwa, na kurudiwarudiwa na wanasiasa wenzake na wanahabari. Anastahili kabisa yote mazuri yaliyosemwa juu yake kuhusu maadili na msimamo wake. Mie sina mengine mapya ya kuongezea. Niwaachie tu wenzi wake wa zamani waendelee kujazia.

Kwa upande wangu, ninataka niwashirikishe katika “ugomvi” unaonisumbua, ugomvi wangu wa kifikra kichwani mwangu. Yaani nataka kuwashirikisha nyie katika huo msongamano ninaozungumzia, ambao hautaki kuniacha. Kulikuwa nini yasiyo ya kawaida katika maisha, fikra, vitendo, siasa na itikadi ya Ngombale ambayo ina nguvu isio ya kawaida kuamsha fikra ambazo zinakataa kukaa kwenye maandishi ya kawaida bila msaada wa dhana za kifalsafa? Hili ni swali; sina jibu. Hata hivyo, ninataka kunukuu matukio (episodes) mawili hivi ninayofahamu mie binafsi kuelezea fikra zake ambazo zinagongana. Nitaziita fikra-gonganishi (contradictory ideas).

Mnamo miaka ya sabini, sisi vijana wa USARF (University Students African Revolutionary Front) na haswa wa TANU (Tanu Youth League) tulikuwa tunafuatilia kwa karibu siasa za Ngombale. Wachache wetu walikuwa karibu naye, na mtu ambaye alikuwa karibu sana na Ngombale alikuwa hayati Henry Mapolu. Henry alitokea Chuo cha Kivukoni. Ngombale na yeye walikuwa wakufunzi Kivukoni pamoja. Katika miaka hii ya vuguvugu za Azimio la Arusha na Mwongozo wa 1971, Ngombale alijikuta katika mstari wa mbele. Hata hivyo, sisi vijana hatukupendezwa jinsi Mwalimu alikuwa anamtumia, akimhamisha kutoka cheo kimoja kwenda kingine, eneo moja kwenda eneo lingine. Tukahisi anachezewa, anapigwa teke kama mpira. Henry kamandikia barua ya wazi katika jarida letu la MajiMaji. Kwanini Komred unakubali kuchezewa kiasi hicho? Hakujibu. Sidhani kwamba walizungumza jambo hilo kifaragha lakini kama walizungumza Henry angetuambia. Hakutuambia.

Miongo takriban minane baadai, Henry alipofariki, nikasoma utenzi niliyomtungia. Mzee Ngombale alikuwepo. Nikaja kwenye beti hizi kuhusu ile barua:

Nimemuona rafiki yako wa siku zile za Kivukoni
Mzee wetu, mzee Ngombale wa Kiliwani
Alikuwa anakuulizia juzijuzi
Nipashe za Kamaradi Henry asiye na upuuzi

Sikuwa na ujasiri wa kumkumbushia
Barua yako ya wazi ulomrushia
Uonjo mkali wa kalamu yako katili
‘Ewe kamaradi wangu wa prolitari
Usikubali kupigwa teke na siasa za jemadari’

 Nikamtupia macho Ngombale aliyekuwa amekaa mbali kidogo. Nikamuona ana tabasamu! Tulipomaliza tukakutana. “Nakumbuka”, alisema kwa kicheko. Nikajiuliza. ‘Kicheko hichi kina maana gani?’ Kuna tafsiri mbili. Ama kilikuwa cha dharau: ‘Nyie vijana bado hamja pevuka kisiasa. Hamuwezi kuelewe hizi siasa na wala hamuna stahili au hadhi ya kueleweshwa.’ Au kicheko kilikuwa kinasema kwa unyeyekevu: ‘Ninakubaliana na nyie, mko sahihi, lakini…..’. Hili neno‘lakini’ ndio limebeba jambo zito. Tafsiri moja, kwa maoni yangu, ni kwamba yeyote yule wa mrengo wa kushoto, hususan mwenye itikadi ya U-Marx, hana budi ajue jinsi ya kufanya siasa katika mazingira halisi, sio mazingira ya kufikirika. Katika enzi za chama kimoja, chenye siasa na utaifa wa kimaendeleo na nchi yenye kiongozi ambaye anakubalika, ana mwelekeo wa watu kupinga ukoloni na ubeberu na kupigania ukombozi wa Afrika, huwezi, wala sio busara, kupingana naye eti hafuati mwelekeo wa Kimarksi! Hakuna atakuelewa wala kukuunga mkono. Utapotea kutoka rada ya siasa!’

Kama tafsiri yangu hii ni sahihi basi ina masomo kama matatu muhimu ambayo yanatufundisha jinsi ya kufanya siasa: Moja, kuwa na unyeyekevu wa kiitikadi badala ya kiburi na majivuno ya usahihi na usafi wa mtazamo wako. Pili, muwe wabunifu katika siasa; kujua unaweza ukafanya nini katika mazingira yapi bila kusaliti mtazamo wako wa kitabaka. Na, tatu, kwa vyovyote vile, kwa mikakati yoyote ile, kamwe kutokusaliti maslahi na matakwa ya tabaka la wavujajasho. Yaani, huwezi ukawa na mikakati ya kisiasa inayoridhia itikadi na nadharia ya kibepari.

Tukio la pili: Katika mkutano mkuu wa nne wa CCM huko Chimwaga, chama kiliridhia kufunguwa milango yake kwa mabepari na wafanyabiashara. Kwa hivyo, CCM, ambacho kilijitambulisha kama chama cha wakulima na wafanyakazi, sasa kikakubali kuwa chama mchanganyiko wa matabaka yenye maslahi yanayogongana. Mzee Ngombale ndio alitoa hotuba yaliyo orodhesha sababu za kufanya hivyo na kuhalalisha tendo hilo, akitumia kwa ufasaha uelewa wake mkubwa wa U-Marx. Mie niliandika makala katika gazeti la Family Mirror nikimdadisi komredi, ‘kulikoni?

Baada ya miongo kama miwili nilipokuwa na mahojiano naye nyumbani kwake (angalia:,) Mzee akakumbuka: “Najua baada ya uchambuzi ule uliandika na kunikosoa na kuniiita mtu hatari sana, lakini sikutaka kukujibu kwa sababu wewe ni rafiki yangu sana.” Napenda kusisitiza maneno haya: ‘rafiki yangu sana’. Alimaanisha nini? Kwa sababu, mie sikuwa rafiki yake kwa maana ya kawaida ya urafiki – kutembeleana, kukunywa bia pamoja (huko “leaders club”!) n.k. Kwa hivyo, urafiki aliyoumaanisha bila shaka ni urafiki wa itiikadi. Na kama ni hivyo, basi hakuona vema kunijibu, kwa maana ya kuingia katika mabishano ya hadhara na rafiki yako wa kiitikadi kwa sababu wote mpo katika mrengo uleule, isipokuwa mnafarakana juu ya mambo fulani fulani. Somo la tukio hili ni jinsi ya kushughulikia mifarakano (migongano) miongoni mwa marafiki wa kiitikadi. Pamoja ni hii, Mzee Ngombale hakunisusia wala hakunichukulia kama ‘adui’ wake, wala hakufikiria kulipiza kisasi. Hili pia inaonyesha sio tu unyeyekevu lakini pia kupevuka kwa siasa, tabia na hulka inayotokana na itikadi na mtazamo wa kivujajasho, hususan Umarksisti.

Ningeweza kuzungumzia matukio mengine ambayo ni ya kisiasa moja kwa moja lakini huu sio muda muafaka wa mjadala huo. Isipokuwa, huko mbele ya safari vijana wenye mtazamo wa kimaendeleo hawana budi wa kujadili fikra za Komredi Ngombale katika muktadha wake wa itikadi na mazingira halisi ya nchi yetu wakati ule.

Issa Shivji

Notes and thoughts on new form of smallholder cooperatives in the agriculture sector to ward of threats posed by corporate capital (“large scale investments”).

This was written a couple of years ago in the context of some debate on the possible alternative form of smallholder organisation of agriculture. It is psoted here to stimulate debate.

[Notes and thoughts on new form of smallholder cooperatives in the agriculture sector to ward of threats posed by corporate capital (“large scale investments”)].

By Issa Shivji

I have jotted down my few lines on cooperatives as an alternative model to defend smallholders’ land and livelihoods against corporate capital (“large agriculture investments”) and at the same time develop the agriculture sector through, among other things, reaping the benefits of economies of scale.

1. Tanzania had most successful coops in the ’50s (Victoria Federation, KNCU etc). These were largely marketing coops.

2. After independence, coops became a means of accumulation for rich peasants and coop bureaucracy documented in the Govt investigation report of 1966. Their legitimacy was dented.

3. After the Arusha Declaration there was a clear hostility to coops from a section of the political class with a strong centralising tendency eventually resulting in their banning and substitution by Crop Authorities which proved to be a disaster.

4. Mwalimu admitted that the banning of coops was one of his regime’s three mistakes. Cooperatives were brought back by 1982 law which envisaged producer coops. These never took off. By that time it was too late. The economy had entered its worst crisis.

5. The driving force behind the ’50s cooperatives was the cheating and malpractices of Asian merchants buying produce. While Asian merchants exercised an oligopoly/syndicates in buying the produce they never posed a threat to peasant lands. The current situation is different. Here corporate capital poses a direct and indirect threat to peasant lands. Direct threat by village land being alienated to so-called investors; indirect by corporate capital engaging in outgrower schemes and contract farming, in both of which corporate capital controls the production process without owning land. Therefore, I suggest new forms of cooperatives based on cooperative principles but being what I call semi-producer coops. What do I mean? What are semi-producer cooperatives?

a) They will respect cooperative principles of equality; membership being producers themselves and leadership organs being elected etc. So, democratic governance.

b) They will be fully marketing cooperatives in the old tradition of 50s.

c) In addition they will also buy and distribute inputs – pemebezeo – fertilizers, insecti- and pesticides etc. d) They will give credit to peasants using their crops as collateral. e) They will establish centralised tractor and machine centres from which members can hire tractors and other instruments of production. f) They will aim at establishing agro-processing.

g) Eventually they could also establish Cooperative education and health centres for its members. This is only a skeleton. Will need to be fleshed out later at an opportune moment.

Issa Shivji 14/09/2016

On Land Reform in Zimbabwe

Recently with change of guards in Zimbabwe some reactionaries have made it bold to claim that white farmers whose land was reclaimed by rightful owners should be compensated. I couldn’t restraint my disgust at this suggestion to reverse one of the most important measures taken by African people. Share my disgust ……..

they say they waited for 18 years
‘for justice’ they say
the white world clammered for them.
I waited for justice for 180 years
no one cared
the white world connived
the red world kept mum.
I took justice in my hand
reclaimed my land
the white world came down on me
the red world kept mum.
I don’t care
I’ve put down the white bible
and picked up the red gun.
never again will I kneel down
never again will I bow down

issa bin mariam