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.''
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 For Tanzania, freedom from white colonialism has been replaced by CCM rule.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.''
As party chairman, Nyerere is expected to remain in a position of overriding influence. ``In this country,'' declared a Dar Es Salaam businessman,'' the party is the real government. Nyerere may have stepped down as President, but the landlord has not changed.''
Tanzania's new Cabinet, observers also note, consists primarily of political appointees in the Nyerere mold. Among the Tanzanians, diplomats, and foreign development officials interviewed, it is generally agreed that only a thorough overhaul of the economy can raise the country from the doldrums. This means a change in the socialist ideology that has guided this nation since Nyerere's 1967 landmark Arusha Declaration, in which he set forth his guiding principles. Changing course?
Tanzania, they say, must reduce its heavy reliance on international aid handouts, dismantle inefficient state controls, and stimulate private initiative, notably among its peasant farmers. ``The Tanzanian people could have told Nyerere years ago that his policies were disasterous,'' complained one Tanzanian agriculturalist from Arusha.
``Under the British, the African peasant proved what could be done. He is willing to work 24 hours a day for himself, but not for a commune. Only now is the party beginning to recognize this, but we have lost a lot of time. The best Nyerere can do is retire to his village, be respected and let us get on with the job,'' he added.
Recent months, however, have brought apparent improvements. More imported goods can be found in the towns, foreign exchange restrictions have been eased, and basic incentives for private enterprize introduced. After hitting rock bottom two years ago, residents say the country is beginning to edge its way back up. Whether Mr. Mwinyi will bring more changes or simply act as a stopgap president is far from clear.
In a recent BBC interview, he indicated that the present liberalization was only a temporary measure. Nevertheless, some observers see no turning back.
Stressed one Tanzanian company manager: ``There is real demand for change -- a demand that comes from the people. They believe Nyerere favors reforms, but prefers to push from behind.''
Said another Tanzanian, ``How can he admit publicly that he may have been wrong all these years? He's still in charge. No decisions are going to be made without his blessing.''
Others, however, maintain that as long as Nyerere remains in the picture, the situation will not alter greatly. He has admitted certain mistakes. ``Yet he still feels his socialist policies are correct. It's only their implementation that has proven faulty, coupled with external factors, the world recession or high oil prices,'' observed a West European diplomat. Nyerere's achievements
For years, Nyerere has been viewed with reverence both at home and abroad. One of the most repeated comments is that he is a charming, charismatic, and well-intentioned gentleman. History, however, may judge him harshly. By critics he is increasingly seen as an intellectual who experimented with his country but who lost touch with the way his people think and feel.
There is much that Nyerere has achieved. He has given Tanzania relative political stability, a common language, and, despite certain tensions among its 120-odd tribes, a sense of nationhood.
Such unity is rare in Africa. Only in Zanzibar, which united with Tanganyika in 1964 to form Tanzania, are secessionist feelings voiced.
Nyerere has also distinguished himself as a fervent frontline leader pushing for change in South Africa and supporing certain anticolonial liberation movements. However, he has turned a blind eye to the ruthless repression practised by black African regimes against their own peoples such as Burundi, Zaire, and Ethiopia, to name but a few.
Only in the case of Idi Amin's Uganda did he intervene, at a high cost to Tanzania.
Yet what really matters to Tanzanians is that Nyerere's socialism has failed to deliver to them what it promised almost 20 years ago.