AFRICAN JOURNEY. Tanzanian politics -- stamped with the Nyerere seal
THE party official, dressed in a neatly ironed, blue safari suit and clasping a bullhorn, charged through the crowded market place. ``Get out and welcome the president,'' he exhorted in Swahili, the country's national language. ``You will leave everything at once, you lazy bunch.''Skip to next paragraph
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The people laughed and jumped out of the official's way, as he kicked and flailed at anyone within reach in a bid to get them to obey his order. ``You will stop selling and go out to the road,'' he admonished. ``If not, I'll bring in the police.''
But it was only when police vehicles arrived that the townsfolk went down to the main road to greet Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere, who, this past October, was on his final tour as the nation's president.
Hours before, party officials had ensured that all school children and adults from the villages along the highway were there to await the motorcade.
When Mr. Nyerere, or mwalimu (teacher), as he is commonly known, and his entourage finally shot past in a convoy of brand new Land Rovers, the people of Iringa waved dutifully. Not that this is necessarily Nyerere's style. A modest man
Considered a modest, uncorrupt man, he is said to be averse to overzealous party actions. During the socialist government's highly unpopular resettlement of 11 million peasants into collective villages during the early 1970s, the party often used brute force despite presidential urgings that resettlement be voluntary.
The market incident, however, illustrates the disenchantment, even hatred, many Tanzanians habor for the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), literally the ``turn upside down,'' or revolutionary party, and the way it seeks to regulate every aspect of their lives. With a party informer in every tenth household, according to some critics, people are afraid to talk. Under threat of punishment, they are required to be at the beck and call of the party, and make regular ``voluntary'' contributions to its coffer s.
The rewards of Nyerere's widely proclaimed egalitarian society are reaped largely by cell leaders, district party secretaries, or regional party chiefs, critics contend. As any tour of the country will show, CCM cadre are visibly better off, wearing smarter clothes, having access to a wider and better range of consumer goods -- even cars. For Tanzania, freedom from white colonialism has been replaced by CCM rule. A new leader
In early November, Nyerere stepped down from the presidency after more than two decades in office. He will remain CCM chairman until 1987. The man who has taken his place as President, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, former president of the Zanzibar State Assembly, won a ``sweeping victory'' in a one-party election with 92.2 percent of the 5.1 million votes cast.
Nyerere's retirement, however, has raised two fundamental questions:
First, does it truly herald one of those rare occurances in African politics when a leader voluntarily hands over power?
Second, will Tanzanians finally get some of the economic reforms they desire but which Nyerere has for so long refused to implement?
To this correspondent, after a two-month visit to Tanzania, one thing is clear: Nyerere's popularity has waned. Many feel his polices of ``socialism and self-reliance'' have failed, leaving Tanzania economically worse off today than at independence in 1961. Rural Tanzanians enjoy better education and, in some areas, health, although not everyone agrees that this is the case. Missionaries maintain that, over the past decade, malnutrition has grown worse in parts of the country because of government poli cies.
Tanzanians earn less and produce less food than before. There is also less to buy. It is virtually impossible for state employees to live just on their salaries. Many run sideline businesses which, in turn, create a high rate of absenteeism from state jobs. Corruption
Corruption, too, has reached staggering proportions over the past two or three years, allege some observers. ``This was never the case before,'' lamented one longtime European resident. ``We are trying to resist it, but it is reaching the point that only a bribe will get things done. This is destroying the nation.''