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Remembering Nyerere in Tanzania

Marie-Aude Fouéré

Part 3. In Search of a Tutelary Figure

Chapter 5. Nyerere’s Ghost: Political Filiation, Paternal Discipline, and the Construction of Legitimacy in Multiparty Tanzania

Kristin D. Phillips

Note de l’auteur

Portions of this chapter have appeared in PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review (Phillips, 2010). They are reprinted with permission. This chapter and prior iterations of it have benefitted tremendously from the comments and insights of Marie-Aude Fouéré. Aikande Kwayu offered important insights on recent rhetorical developments. James Hoesterey provided fresh eyes on the manuscript at critical junctures. I would also like to thank Amy Stambach, Sharon Hutchinson, Angelique Haugerud, Deborah McDowell, Brandi Hughes, Cynthia Hoehler-Fatton, and colleagues at Michigan State University and the Carter G. Woodson Institute of African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia for their comments on earlier iterations and presentations of this material. Any errors of fact or interpretation are my own.

Texte intégral

Figure 1: Cartoon by Nathan Mpangala, Majira (14 October 2004). Cartoon re-printed with permission.

Figure 1: Cartoon by Nathan Mpangala, Majira (14 October 2004). Cartoon re-printed with permission.


  • 1 This cartoon was also re-printed and discussed in Fouéré (2011: 70).

1During his life, and especially since his death in 1999, Julius Kambarage Nyerere has served for many mainland Tanzanians as an icon of legitimacy – moral, political, and economic. In his depiction of an urban Tanzanian landscape, artist and political cartoonist Nathan Mpangala (Majira, 14 October 2004; Figure 1) captured Tanzanians’ propensity to invoke and pay tribute to this legitimacy in their everyday endeavors by naming everything after Nyerere.1 In the cartoon, a man drinking at a streetside table says to his companion: “I want to open a bar. I’ll call it ‘Nyerere’. What do you think?” All around them are city street signs that mark “Nyerere Road,” “Nyerere Internet Café,” “Nyerere Pub,” “Nyerere Airport,” “Nyerere Book Shop,” and “Nyerere Spare Parts.” It is predictable then that – as Tanzania’s political parties compete in five-year general election cycles to convince the electorate of the legitimacy and efficacy of their leadership – Nyerere’s legacy should feature so centrally in political discourse. And it is perhaps equally unsurprising that Nyerere’s memory should be wielded so frequently during election campaigns as a weapon of political shaming by citizens leveraging their electoral power to influence government agendas, performance, and conduct.

2This chapter explores how both of these projects – party jockeying and popular political critique – involve the symbolic manipulation of Nyerere’s name, memory, and legacy within a broader political rhetoric in Tanzania that turns on shifting, and sometimes contradictory, conceptions of eldership and youth, fathers and sons, and illicit eating and legitimate consumption. It demonstrates that central to the construction of political legitimacy in Tanzania is filiation to Nyerere – both personal and party – and it shows how Nyerere’s name and political views are employed in electoral politics to a variety of diverging ends. At the same time popular critiques of political candidates increasingly use Nyerere – Tanzania’s one authorized critic (see Brennan, 2014 and this volume) – as a touchstone for good governance, co-opting elite discourses of filiation to morally discipline the government with projections of paternal displeasure.

  • 2 I conducted over 140 interviews in 80 homesteads with rural WaSingida between 2004 and 2007. Interv (...)

3The data for this chapter emerged from nineteen months of ethnographic research in Tanzania between 2004 and 2006, and shorter visits in 2007 and each year from 2010 to 2014. The initial period of research took place in Singida Region – a very poor region situated in the center of the country – during a charged political environment created by severe food and water scarcity and a presidential election year.3 As I participated in everyday village life, conducted interviews with rural and urban people, attended political rallies in both town and village, and accumulated an array of English- and Swahili-language newspapers,2 two themes quickly jumped out: the structural advantage of the ruling party, CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi, or Party of the Revolution); and the rich symbolism of politics in Tanzania that centered on idioms of kinship and food (Bayart, 1993; Phillips, 2009; Schatzberg, 2001). My challenge in examining the “arts of politics” became, as Angelique Haugerud has urged, to “recognize the power of images and aesthetics, but not to divorce images from (contested versions of) history, or to treat the culture of politics as a domain autonomous from material political-economic processes” (1993: 52).

4Toward this end I explore the lived landscape of political parties in Tanzania in three electoral periods (2005, 2010, and mounting anticipation of the 2015 elections) by building on Eric Wolf ’s analysis of structural power. For Wolf, “relations that command the economy and polity and those that shape ideation interact to render the world understandable and manageable” (1999: 5–6), even when it is experienced as unjust. I flesh out the particular forms and figurations of paternalism in the political landscape of mainland Tanzanian and the way it pivots on particular (and always partial) constructions of Julius Nyerere. I focus on this political narrative in order to, following Wolf, “identify the instrumental, organizational, or ideological means that maintain custom or underwrite the search for coherence. There may be no inner drive at the core of a culture, but assuredly there are people who drive it on, as well as others who are driven. Wherever possible we should try to identify the social agents who install and defend institutions and who organize coherence, for whom and against whom” (1999: 67).

5By moving back and forth between local ethnography from fieldwork in Singida Region and data on broader public perceptions of national politics in media and historical sources, I combine levels of analysis to show how the ruling elite, the political opposition, the media, and the voting populace deploy filiation to Nyerere to explain and manipulate contemporary political and economic relationships in accordance with historical and cultural narratives.

Constructing the Nyerere Line: Filiation in Tanzanian Political Rhetoric

6The peaceful transition to independence and the uniting of many ethnic groups under one national flag and one African language are, in the eyes of Tanzanians, Nyerere’s greatest achievements (Askew, 2006; Becker, 2013; Lofchie, 2014; Mwakikagile, 2006). With several of Tanzania’s neighbors torn apart by revolutions, violence or dictatorship, Tanzanians regularly applaud Julius Nyerere (popularly known as the “Father of the Nation” or Baba wa Taifa) for Tanzania’s relative peace. Nyerere, unlike many of his post-independence presidential contemporaries in Africa, is also praised by Tanzanians for his “thinness” (Schatzberg, 2001: 170) – his prudent lack of personal feasting on what Bayart (1993) has termed, “the national cake.” As James Ferguson has noted, “… given his avowed refusal to eat his fellow man, Nyerere’s conspicuous lack of a belly was perhaps as symbolically potent as his rejection of material luxury” (2006: 76). Public accolades of Nyerere today by many Tanzanians construct an idealized – even sanctified – image of Nyerere at the same time as they project a glossy national self-portrait of Tanzania as a nation-family bound together by peace, cooperation, and family ties.

7A number of scholars have noted the way in which the “cultural intimacy” (Herzfeld, 1997) of domestic images is deployed to extract loyalty from citizens and consolidate state power (Askew, 2002; Herzfeld, 1997; Lakoff, 2002). People of Singida Region in central Tanzania, for example, have long conceptualized Nyerere as a patriarch who promised protection and peace.

8In 1967, anthropologist Marguerite Jellicoe noted how – since independence – Nyerere had taken the place of the Sun as the key symbol of unity and paternalism in rural Singida:

Nowadays, the Sun as a symbol of unity is becoming overlaid by other and more human symbols (…). The most meaningful symbol is now a national one, the Presidency as manifested in the person of Nyerere (…) described in local songs as the herdsman of Tanzania who takes care of all his people as the homestead head takes care of the cattle which united the past, present and future (…). The symbol of Nyerere’s delegated authority is his walking stick; this however, has in Singida been transformed into the herding stick carried by every homestead head – a symbol of protection as well as of rule (Jellicoe, 1978: 30).

  • 3 Interview, Rural Singida, 7 February 2005.

9In Singida in 2005 Nyerere remained a symbol of protection and domestic peace. As one widow narrated, “[t] he Father of the Nation came to strengthen the life of peace and cooperation together. He brought peace for all the tribes to live together without discrimination. Anywhere you go in the Republic of Tanzania you will not have a problem.”3

10Such domestic images have played a significant role in Tanzanian party politics. Nyerere’s socialist vision, Ujamaa, centered on an idea of the “African Family” (Nyerere, 1968) and served to legitimate the vast CCM apparatus. After his retirement from politics, CCM increasingly referred to Nyerere as “the Father of the Nation.” This, Schatzberg (2001) argues, was the means through which the CCM party machine secured its own legitimacy. For if Nyerere was father of the nation-family, then CCM could pronounce itself the father of the government.

  • 4 In 2000 and again in 2005 the lead opposition party was the Civic United Front (CUF), a party perce (...)

11Given Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete’s relative youth in 2005 as the ruling party presidential candidate (he was 54 at the time), CCM devoted much political and symbolic work in that election to convince Tanzanians of the naturalness of the choice. In the process, Nyerere was resurrected time and time again during the electoral campaign to weigh in on candidates from his grave. Prior to receiving the CCM nomination for president, for example, Kikwete traveled to Nyerere’s home of Butiama in northwestern Tanzania. Mama Maria (Nyerere’s widow) bestowed upon the Muslim Kikwete the gift of a Bible. The gift served, in the first place, to publicize CCM’s preference for Kikwete’s candidacy; secondly, it posthumously conferred upon him the blessing of Nyerere (who in 1995 had overlooked him for candidacy); and thirdly, accepting a Bible showed him to be a moderate Muslim in a nation where people are increasingly concerned about the emergence of religious tensions (Fouéré, 2009; Heilman & Kaiser, 2002).4

  • 5 Kiliani, Faustine. “Wamasai: Nyerere hajafa tunamtaka achaguliwe rais” [Maasai: Nyerere has not die (...)

12Nyerere then reappeared at the meeting of the CCM national congress in Dodoma where 1,500 representatives voted for Kikwete to be the CCM candidate: “a hush fell over the delegates, followed by gasps and waves of astonished laugher, when there emerged on-stage a slight man with graying hair, carrying a walking stick – a well-turned out look-alike of the popular leader who died in 1999” (Mnganya & Johnson, 2005). And before the 2005 elections Nyerere’s voice could be heard each night in villages across Tanzania in radio broadcasts of the Wosia wa Baba, a series of carefully selected recorded speeches in which Nyerere reminds Tanzanians of the qualities needed for strong leadership. That Nyerere lives and leads on was so convincing in fact that, according to a Majira article, several Maasai elders arrived at the 2005 polls wanting to vote for Nyerere.5 Although few Tanzanians are this far removed from national political currents, this news report testifies to many Tanzanians’ sense that Nyerere, even postmortem, remains a powerful figure on the national political stage. Indeed, few political debates proceed without at least passing reference to the Father of the Nation’s real or projected position on an issue, a topic to which I return later in the chapter.

13But establishing political filiation to Nyerere is less about these explicit and rather obvious attempts to invoke Nyerere’s memory for contemporary political gain, and more about establishing a sense of historical continuity for Tanzanians in a time of rapid political, economic, and social change, global political insecurities, and unprecedented possibilities to fall through the economic cracks. In such a context politicians from the ruling party seek to establish that they (and not others) represent three aspects of Nyerere’s legacy: political seniority; paternal providership, and insistence on a happy, peaceful, and unified family even at the cost of silencing dissent. In the following pages I describe events from the 2005, 2010, and run-up to the 2015 presidential election campaigns and describe these three aspects of Nyerere’s legacy. I then turn the analytical gaze from the ruling elite to explore how the political opposition, voting public and popular press have appropriated this particular crystallization of the myth of Nyerere– as father, as protector, as provider – to stir public debate and discipline government actors.

Nyerere’s Legacy: Seniority, Providership, and the Happy Nation-Family

14In September 2005, the people of Singida welcomed ruling party presidential candidate Jakaya Kikwete to the soccer stadium in Singida Town. A tattered CCM flag whipped atop a tall tree pole; the day was windy and hot. By three in the afternoon, people of Singida streamed into the stadium. It was a river of yellow and green, with people sporting CCM baseball hats, scarves, khangas, and t-shirts that party touts had been doling out for weeks (see Figure 2). Kikwete’s eyes were literally everywhere – his face peering out from the chests of jeering adolescents, from the foreheads of party officials, from the backsides of the dancing women. Kikwete posters lining the stadium were emblazoned with the CCM seal – its golden hammer and axe glinting in the unrelenting dry season sun.

Figure 2: CCM supporters sport campaign swag. Photo by author, 2005.

Figure 2: CCM supporters sport campaign swag. Photo by author, 2005.

15Kikwete was late. The Master of Ceremonies explained that supporters on his route from Manyoni district had prevented him from passing – that in the hopes of receiving a few words from the soon-to-be president, they had laid down in the road to block his passage. In the meantime, in Singida stadium, a band from Dar es Salaam played music and people danced, in time to CCM and Nyerere praise songs, Bongo Flava (Tanzanian hip hop), and Mawindi, the local Nyaturu dance.

16As the sun drew near the horizon, word reached the stadium that Kikwete’s caravan of sports-utility vehicles was drawing near. The MC worked the crowd into a cheering frenzy, “When he arrives, wave your hats and scarves. He who does not wave them and wears the hat of CCM, take it from him, for it is CCM who has clothed him.” Reminding them of the gifts distributed freely for the rally, he suggested to voters that CCM was already fulfilling its fatherly duties to clothe its children. Senge, a 26-year-old young man from urban Singida recalled the scene:

“People felt bad to have their presents taken, so they did as he requested, and said, “Karibu, Mheshimiwa!” (Welcome, your Honorable!), waving their hats and scarves”. Kikwete arrived with so many people and presents to give out. He didn’t talk many policies, like his opponents. He just made a lot of promises – to build roads, and hospitals, to bring water, and secondary schools. He didn’t explain why these things are so late in coming or where the money for our minerals has gone. He spoke only good words, and people were happy. And then he talked about the opposition. He said, “The candidates come with a hunger and they are not suitable for your votes. A person with hunger, if you give him your vote, he won’t implement a thing. He will just go to feed his family. And a youth of thirteen years old, would you give him a wife to take care of?” And people agreed you can’t trust a thirteen-year-old with a wife and children. “And CUF [the main opposition party in Singida in 2005] is only thirteen years old since it was born, so you can’t give it your vote because it’s still too young. The vote must go to our father Nyerere’s party, the father of our nation....”

17Kikwete was not the first presidential candidate to come to Singida that election season. But he put on by far the best show. In contrast, his greatest rival for the region in 2005, the Civic United Front’s (CUF) Professor Ibrahim Lipumba had stirred the crowd with his sharp critique of CCM rule. He fired up his audience with the substance of his speech – challenging the people of Singida to confront the political and economic disparities exacerbated by their current leadership – but put on neither paternal airs nor costly bells and whistles. Kikwete was welcomed into the town’s largest venue – the soccer stadium – and from seated up on high was entertained by CCM performance troupes bused in from Dar es Salaam. Lipumba was welcomed onto an empty lot across from the stadium, where his audience waited soberly beneath trees, listening to the diatribe of a local CUF leader for hours before Lipumba’s arrival. CCM parliamentary candidates and ward councilor candidates, dressed in kitenge shirts (tailored cotton print shirts of the style worn by wealthy government officials) of the CCM colors of gold and green, already looked official. They arrived in the long caravan of sports-utility vehicles with Kikwete, where they had the honor of being introduced and sanctioned by “the future president of Tanzania.” Meanwhile their local CUF opponents emerged from the ranks of the audience beneath the trees to be introduced in the mitumba (second-hand clothes) that were their everyday wear.

18For many voters in Singida, the sharp contrast between these two brief campaign visits supported a dominant discourse of electoral politics – one that asserts that the Tanzanian government is “father” to its citizen-children, and that only CCM possesses the qualities, resources, and descent from Nyerere to be that father. Ruling party candidates at campaign rallies argue that opposition parties are still “too young.” Speakers draw on gendered and generational stereotypes to cast opposition parties as teenage troublemakers: out-of-work, hungry, discontented, and bearing all the strength of youth, but using it toward violent, self-serving, or exploitative ends. Extravagant spending on ruling party campaign events makes clear that it is only CCM who can provide for its nation-family. And minimal substantive engagement in political issues by CCM candidates suggests to voters that their guardianship will remain peaceable and they will safeguard the nation’s unity. I will now discuss each of these aspects in turn.

The symbolic gerontocracy

  • 6 I am grateful to Aikande Kwayu for pointing this out to me. See Kibiriti, Rafael. “Zitto, Makamba W (...)

19A number of scholars have pointed out the need to consider ‘age’ as an analytic category (Abeles & Collard, 1985; Cole & Durham, 2006). “Age and generational symbolism,” Cole and Durham argue, have long “been used to naturalize situations of conquest and rule” (2006: 7). Tanzania is no exception. Age and generation serve as complex and contested terrains upon which relations of hierarchy, dependency, and power are organized and challenged (Stroeken, 2005). On the one hand, eldership (uzee) remains a powerful cultural concept that organizes people, practices, and relationships. In Singida, for example, greeting, seating, and the distribution of labor are commonly organized around local conceptions of eldership and youth. But the technocracy of the colonial and postcolonial Tanzanian state has come to privilege education over eldership (Feierman, 1990). And hierarchies of formal education and the escalating mobility of youth have increasingly unsettled the organization of the political structure around primogeniture and notions of elderliness as godliness (Wagner, 1940). Leadership is now seen to require literacy, a mastery of technology, fluency in Swahili, physical stamina, and innovation: all powers associated with youth. It is the very old now, in addition to the very young, who have come to be characterized by “vulnerability” (the now-favored term in international development parlance) to famine, malnutrition, and a lack of access to health care and other social services (Cliggett, 2005). Young and dynamic MPs like Zitto Kabwe (of the opposition) and January Makamba (CCM) have ridden the wave of these challenges to the old guard, even calling in the current 2014 Constitutional Review Process for an amendment to the Constitution regarding the mandated age of the president – proposing 35 years of age instead of 40 (Mjema, 2014).6

20Yet despite the declining status of old age in society and the ambiguous associations of youth as physically strong, literate, and technologically savvy on the one hand, and “hungry” and self-serving on the other, the symbolic power of age metaphors in East Africa remains strong. Consider two contrasting images that illuminate the paradox of age in Tanzanian political rhetoric and its strategic and sometimes contradictory deployment. On the one hand, a Majira cartoon by Nathan Mpangala, commenting on Kikwete’s electoral victory, showed Kikwete as a large bull, leading the other presidential candidates who appear as small calves on wobbly legs. Kikwete is saying: “I am indeed their father, these others are only little calves” (Majira, 19 January 2006).

21Yet paradoxically, while most Tanzanians acknowledged Kikwete’s paternity and his rightful claim to the presidency as CCM’s chosen one, they also referred to Kikwete (54 years old at the time and quite famously handsome) in 2005 as a “youth” (kijana). He is not yet seen to be mzee, an elder whose age and experience mandates a certain kind of respect. CCM even campaigned on Kikwete’s youth with the slogan, “New Zeal, New Vigour, New Pace” (Ari mpya, Nguvu mpya, Kasi mpya).

22A Guardian political cartoon by Haji Abeid shows Kikwete (in the lead) and former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa leading a race ahead of an overweight and bald Member of Parliament, who struggles to keep running (Guardian, 20 March 2006). The cartoon contrasts Kikwete’s youth and energy with the old guard of CCM (whom Tanzanians call the vigogo, or “dead wood”), who are seen to have slowed the party for years. Age, this analysis suggests, remains a legitimizing narrative of Tanzanian political power in which a symbolic gerontocracy (not biological seniority) maps itself onto the technocracy and its youthful leadership in locally legitimate terms.

23Though Kikwete was both older and more established as heir to the Nyerere line in 2010, campaign billboards from those elections still featured calculated constructions of Kikwete as the paternal head of household.

24Figure 3 shows a photo of a campaign advertisement on a road sign which reads “Love for the Children: Vote CCM, Vote Kikwete”. In the photograph, Kikwete gazes down with paternal affection on a Tanzanian youth, his “fatherliness” implying a commitment of guardianship for Tanzanians in the uncertain promise of the future. In Figure 4, a second road sign reads: “Friend of all the generations: Vote CCM, Vote Kikwete”. This image, along with a third one that shows him seated next to his own mother and reads “Love of/for Mama: Vote CCM, Vote Kikwete,” shows him as a loyal and loving son, showing deference and care for his elders and squarely positioning him as pater, protector, and progenitor to the next generation of Tanzanians and loyal son and heir apparent to Nyerere and the CCM legacy.

Figures 3 & 4: Photographs by Peter Bofin, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

Figures 3 & 4: Photographs by Peter Bofin, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

25Popular acceptance of Kikwete’s seniority in 2005 above his opponents in other parties was closely linked to the widespread understanding, particularly in rural contexts, that the CCM party was senior to the government. Especially in rural contexts, the government has been largely dependent on the CCM party – which is seen to have “fathered” and “raised” the government. This became increasingly clear during my fieldwork. Between 2004 and 2006 I paid rent for my room in a village office in rural Singida. Like my neighbors – the village livestock expert and two primary teachers – I rented two small rooms and was asked by the chairman of the village to pay 1,000 shillings (approximately one dollar) per month to the village government. One day, a woman whom I knew very little appeared at my door, introduced herself as “my chairman,” and demanded my rent. The request – from a woman whom I had not seen in months and whom I suspected was at the moment a patron of a nearby beer party, confused me. I told her I had made arrangements with the chairman and asked that she wait until I had spoken with him. When I tracked him down, the chairman concurred that this woman was indeed the party chairwoman for the local CCM branch, who had been temporarily on leave following childbirth. “But I will talk to her about your rent, and I will ask that she support our agreement.” Still confused, I asked, “But the village office, does it belong to the party, or the government?” “It was built by the party during single-party rule,” the chairman answered, “so it belongs to the party, but they let the government use it.” “But what happens if another party would win the election? Shouldn’t the office belong to the village, no matter whom they elect?” I persisted. “We have not yet faced that situation,” said the chairman simply.

26In subsequent interviews I asked my interlocutors in the village the same questions. Like others, Mzee Victorini, a party leader of his ten-household cell, responded,

  • 7 Interview, Rural Singida, 7 June 2005.

The government has no office here in the village, so we [the party] have welcomed them. But the office remains in the hands of the party. So the livestock expert who has his room there pays into the party pockets, as you will too. In the past, the leadership was mzima [“unified”]; there was only the party. Later, they decided it should be two: a party and a government. CCM is the elder of the government. It raised [kulea, as in, “to raise and educate a child”] the government and the nation. The party has raised the government to follow all the laws of the party.7

  • 8 The village government proceeded to extract sponsorship to build a new village office from a wealth (...)

27The party, he argued, fathered the state. This logic eventually resulted in the eviction of the village government from the village office. In 2010, the CHADEMA opposition party (Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo, Party for Democracy and Progress) won the parliamentary election in this constituency and several members of the village government were CHADEMA members and supporters. CCM subsequently reclaimed the office building (built by all villagers during one-party rule) and left the village government office-less. The government thereafter sought space to meet in the primary school building whenever a meeting was called.8

28CCM inhabits not only the buildings of the government as its own, but also its structures and resources. In 2012 I interviewed Tundu Lissu – the Chief Opposition Whip in Parliament and MP for Singida East (CHADEMA) – about the campaign battle he waged and subsequently won in rural Singida in 2010. Lissu, a community organizer turned human rights lawyer, complained bitterly about the difficulty of extracting state institutions from the thickly woven web of party institutions, practices, and resources.

  • 9 Interview, Dodoma Town, 28 June 2012.

Whatever CCM has in terms of buildings, all of them were built prior to 1992. They were built through forced contributions… prior to 1992. There was a provision in the national budget that 3 percent of the budget be allocated to CCM. It was in the budget! So CCM was not a political party as political parties go… CCM was part of the state! It was a state party! So therefore the Village Executive Director was also the Village CCM Secretary. The Katibu Tarafa was also the divisional executive secretary of CCM. The District Commissioner was also the district party secretary. This marriage of the state and party made it impossible to distinguish where the party ended and the government started. You know? And all the state offices were obtained through this state party, using primarily the state machinery to get resources for itself. You know? And we have not been able to outgrow that legacy of the state party.9

29Lines drawn between the government and party were blurry indeed: I was often called to “village meetings” that turned out to be party elections or rallies. Without a viable opposition in the village, party and government became interchangeable. The “youth committee” and the “women’s committee” were both in fact CCM committees. Likewise the government was entirely dependent on the party’s ten-household cell structure (or balozi) for communication, the collection of development contributions, and general maintenance of the public order. MP Lissu went on to note,

  • 10 Interview, Dodoma Town, 28 June 2012.

There are things which are very strange. You will be surprised, if you get arrested and are taken to court, these magistrates who should know better they will ask you… hey what’s your name? Who is your ten-cell leader? The ten-cell leader is a CCM structure. But it’s permeated into all levels of state!10

  • 11 Berege, Simon. “Education on polls benefits tiny minority”, The Citizen, 30 July 2005.

30It is then not surprising that a report on civic and voter education made note of low levels of civic knowledge amongst eligible voters. “It was discovered that some secondary schools students who are eligible voters [and who in rural areas are among the most highly educated] cannot distinguish between the government and the ruling party. Most of them thought that CCM is the government”.11 This conflation of party and government, that positions CCM as not only senior to the other parties, but as senior to the independent Tanzanian state leaves many Tanzanians with a categorical sense that they are beholden to CCM, the father-party of the party-father, Nyerere.

Paternal providership

31In the political rhetoric of contemporary CCM politicians, the socialist period of Nyerere’s rule is remembered as a period of political and economic paternalism, in which a big benevolent government “babied” its infant nation. Despite radical shifts in Tanzanian economic policy since that period, CCM has taken pains in recent elections to perpetuate the notion that it is the only party who can provide for the national family and to remind voters that opposition parties stand on very shaky ground when it comes to their financial resources. These efforts intensified in the face of the growing threat of opposition parties who have shaken public faith in CCM’s ability to manage the household budget – that is, to contain government corruption. Though it looks ask if CCM may be changing its campaign tactics for the 2015 elections (I will return to this below), economic disparities between CCM and opposition parties have often been highlighted to emphasize that only CCM can provide for its political ‘children’.

32Material symbols like billboards and lavish spending on campaign rallies are particularly powerful cues in the context of Singida Region, a largely semi-arid region. In Singida, 28 percent of the population lives below the food poverty line and 55 percent lives below the basic needs poverty line, the highest regional percentage in all of Tanzania (National Bureau of Statistics, 2002). In such a food and resource insecure context, the symbolic and physical representation of party wealth as demonstrated in Kikwete’s 2005 visit to Singida acquires particular force in decisions about whom to offer political allegiance. Lavish spending suggests not only a readiness and willingness to provide for constituents, but also the disinterestedness of independent wealth – a motivation for serving in public office that transcends the desire of the political elite to, in the Tanzanian idiom, fill one’s own belly.

  • 12 Phone Interview, 5 December 2010.

33CCM candidates, as we saw from Kikwete’s visit to Singida, use their money not only to put on a good show, but also for takrima, the gift economy of elections in Tanzania. Those who defend the practice argue that takrima is a form of hospitality intended to extend thanks to those who help with election campaigns, though most agree that its practice is abused when extended to offering gifts to voters, which has often been the case. In 2005, voters jokingly referred to campaign season as “harvesting season” – the season of exchanging votes for gifts of money, beer, meals, and party apparel referred to colloquially as “food,” “soda,” “sugar” or “tea.” Gifts of t-shirts, hats, khangas, and scarves circulated widely. Though the 2010 elections saw takrima outlawed by a 2006 law, the practice of handing out payment or gifts for attendance at political rallies was, according to many people, more rampant than ever. One urban CCM supporter noted critically of her own party, “That law, it just existed on paper. I’ve never seen so much corruption like this year… . It was ridiculous. So much money. They paid people to come to rallies and gave out t-shirts, khangas, and lots and lots of money. People were saying it was a “fiesta-like” campaign.”12

34Unfortunately, very little takrima actually reaches the hands of the people who need it most. At the 2005 Singida rally, the concentration of green and gold (people who were given CCM’s khangas and t-shirts) lay at the heart of the stadium, where officials, party cadres and active members sit, with thousands of people sitting on the outlying bleachers in the browns and greys of their worn secondhand clothes. They were left bearing witness to CCM’s eminence, not enjoying it. Despite the fact that election “harvests” are unequally distributed and not all partake, takrima and CCM’s public displays of wealth are powerful cues in a context where the primary political platform is poverty reduction and a primary means of economic security is patronage.

35It is important to note that CCM’s financial and resource advantage over other parties is not, in itself, the reason for its overwhelming dominance in Tanzanian politics. As Abner Cohen has noted of the ideology produced by the political elite in Sierra Leone,

… the power mystique is a subtle, particularistic ideology developed by a privileged elite to validate and perpetuate their domination and thereby to support their own material interests. The cult consists of various techniques of mystification… to persuade the masses that it is only natural for this power elite to rule and that this is in the best interests of the society as a whole (1981: 5).

36Cohen’s observation rings true in Tanzania: CCM’s material strength is most significant for its support of a social and political narrative that naturalizes CCM rule through its common-sense assertion that only a father can best look after his own child and that only CCM is materially positioned to provide for its political children.

  • 13 For one such critique, see Ulimwengu, Jenerali. “A Broke Country with an Expensive Govt; Guess Who (...)
  • 14 See, 19 May 2014 [archive].

37And yet in the run-up to the 2015 presidential elections, both opposition and ruling parties appear to be scrambling to re-situate themselves on this political landscape. Political scientist Aikande Kwayu, in her provocative blog, notes the new “image strategy” of both CCM and the opposition. CCM, perhaps in response to charges of rampant corruption and aid profiteering and in light of quickly growing disparities in wealth and resources, appears to have shifted its rhetoric to make new claims to being a party of the people.13 Photos of country tours by top party officials, she notes, portray them “taking the central rail train, building with people, farming with people using hoes, … eating ugali on plastic plates and on benches with wananchi”.14 UKAWA, the alliance of opposition parties that emerged in the 2014 constitutional review process (Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi, the Coalition for People’s Constitution), she notes, has meanwhile begun flamboyantly executing a “Big Man” performance, complete with helicopters and traffic-disrupting convoys of expensive sports utility vehicles waving party flags. So, in an ironic twist, while UKAWA chases CCM’s legacy of paternal providership by showcasing material and financial strength, CCM is now anxious to minimize social and economic distinctions between government and citizen, rather than emphasizing them.

Governing the happy family: The anti-politics of CCM

38The marked difference in rhetorical strategies used by CCM’s Jakaya Kikwete and CUF’s Ibrahim Lipumba in their 2005 visits to Singida is illustrative of contemporary multi-party politics, particularly in the context of rural Tanzania. In his 2005 Singida speech, Kikwete spoke maneno mazuri tu ( “only good words”), according to Senge, and “made lots of promises.” CCM supporters I spoke with also noted Kikwete’s “good words” that, to them, indicated a commitment to peace and security and symbolized continuity in years to come. Critics however emphasized the emptiness of Kikwete’s words and famous smile, his avoidance of assuming any CCM responsibility for what many rural Tanzanians perceive as stalled development.

  • 15 Interview, Singida Town, 21 September 2005.

39In 2005 Lipumba and his fellow CUF candidates satisfied those Singida residents thirsty for a more substantive message. A 2005 parliamentary candidate for CUF in Singida Town questioned, for example, why – if it were true that CCM has improved the economy – all the prices have gone up, but incomes have stayed the same. In an interview he observed, “we can’t rely on takrima. Our words are that which pulls people to us. For us, our words are the money that will attract people to us.”15

  • 16 Before the 2010 elections, CHADEMA’s popularity skyrocketed, particularly in urban areas and among (...)

40In 2010, people remarked on CHADEMA presidential candidate Willbrod Slaa’s willingness to engage rural Tanzanians in substantive conversation about Tanzania’s development.16 One woman noted,

  • 17 Phone interview, 17 November 2010.

Slaa made people think. He was doing civic education. He talked about poverty and housing, asking, “how can we claim that we live in the global village, with people in such pathetic housing? Where is humanity?” He talked about the level of education, about the ward schools that have no teachers. CCM put everything more positively: “See how many schools we have built? See how we have improved enrollment?”17

  • 18 Mwakisyala, J. “Tanzanians tired of promises”, East African Business Week, 13 September 2010.

41In general, CCM candidates avoid engaging in substantive issues at campaign rallies. Even as its candidates made promise after promise in 2010, CCM barred all its candidates from participating in televised campaign debates, rationalizing this move by stating that the party knows best how to present its policies to the public through campaign rallies. An editorial in the Citizen reacted: “We need to know this so that we can be sure that what they are promising is tenable. Telling voters how they are planning to implement the promises would give their promises weight. Otherwise their pledges will continue to be political statements meant to woo voters”.18 This refusal to engage in substantive debate with political opponents and the reliance on a one-way flow of propaganda to voters evokes doubt about the extent to which popular interests are and can be represented in national politics.

42In rural areas the opposition’s more direct approach to the politics of development has mixed effects. CCM candidates and supporters frequently charge opposition candidates with having maneno mengi ( “too many words”), the sure sign of a trouble-maker in a land where people say that “the lip is an ankle-bell”: it makes only meaningless noise. Accusations against opposition party members and leaders of “making trouble” (kufanya fujo) and being “argumentative” (wabishi) contribute to a climate of fear that has tended to cloud multi-party elections in Tanzania. Such accusations exacerbate existing fears that political dissent will incite violence, civil unrest, or worse, the “African tribalism” that Tanzanians pride themselves on avoiding.

  • 19 With the collapse of the Soviet Union and increasing use of Western donor money to promote multipar (...)

43Nyerere’s own ambiguity toward multi-party politics is often invoked to delegitimize opposition politics as un-Tanzanian or even un-African.19 A 2013 editorial in the Guardian on Sunday by Dr. Dalaly Peter Kafumu, a Member of Parliament for CCM from Igunga District, cited Nyerere’s aversion to multi-partyism as a way of dismissing opposition parties’ aspirations and claims to leadership. He noted:

  • 20 Kafumu, Dalaly Peter. “Mwalimu Nyerere: His Pain, Our Gain”, Guardian on Sunday, 27 October 2013. h (...)

Mwalimu did not believe in multipartyism as he knew this will bring a negative dissection of the Tanzanian society (…). Yes, Mwalimu was right; building multiparty democracy in a poor country or a fragile toddler economy is synonymous to nurturing division and hate between the opposition and the ruling parties; between different communities with different cultural origins such as tribes and clans who in most cases create political parties to secure their interests. The fulfillment of Mwalimu Nyerere’s vision on the danger of multiparty democracy in Africa and Tanzania is today unveiling before our eyes when democracy becomes a source of conflict among the people of nations in Africa.20

44Like Kafumu, other CCM candidates make explicit and repeated connections between opposition politics and political violence (Makulilo, 2014; TEMCO, 2011). Government officials (of CCM persuasions) plead with their compatriots to keep the peace during elections, to not descend into the electoral and tribal violence that marks its East African neighbors. Despite Nyerere’s leadership in the transition to a multi-party system in Tanzania, CCM supporters in rural Tanzania often invoke Nyerere’s name to warn villagers about the threat to peace and security inherent in opposition politics.

45At one village meeting I attended in rural Singida in 2005, a local CCM leader warned, “the opposition comes bringing its little threats. That’s why Nyerere said these opposition parties, they have problems. They divide us by religion and tribe. Isn’t this true?” That year, the aforementioned speeches by Nyerere played each night on Tanzanian government-sponsored radio, reaching millions of Tanzanians, repeated time and again Nyerere’s entreaties to Tanzanians to refrain from violent conflict during the elections. Such incessant calls for peace (from Nyerere’s grave, no less) functioned to constantly suggest to rural Tanzanians what the alternative to CCM rule would be: bloodshed.

Nyerere for the Opposition?

  • 21 Kinsolyo, John. “Nyerere shouldn’t be declared a saint”, The Guardian, 3 February 2006.

46Efforts by the ruling party to establish its candidates as the true and deserving heirs to Nyerere’s political line have never gone uncontested by the voting populace and opposition parties. Some Tanzanians pierce the hero image of Nyerere by articulating critiques of the suffering they underwent during the forced re-location of Nyerere’s villagization policies, planned economy, and repression of political dissent. In response to Nyerere’s possible canonization by the Catholic Church (Mesaki & Malipula, 2011), one editorial voiced, “Nyerere… A hero? No way… . Disagree with Nyerere at your own peril. You will find yourself in jail/detention. Many Tanzanians are still alive to attest to this”.21

47Other critics highlight the co-optation of Nyerere’s popularity for political ends that Nyerere would never have pursued. As one Internet blogger complained:

  • 22 Field Marshall ES. Posting 8 October 2006, (accessed 23 February 2008).

JK [Kikwete] went to Butiama and was given a Bible by Mama Maria. This, we are told, is a symbol that he has been agreed upon by Mwalimu, so all of we Tanzanians should agree. This is just another political tool that we the citizens have given CCM to rule our lives. (… .) now, this is what we get, that every time there are problems in this country like now with electricity, medicine, they announce anything about Mwalimu and just like that, we citizens quiet down.22

48And as my neighbor in rural Singida (the only vocal supporter of the opposition in the village in 2005) complained to me in 2006: “We! I hate the wosia wa baba [the Nyerere speeches replayed on the radio] – it makes me sick! Every day that stupid song. His messages are good, but he’s dead! Why are we listening to the politics of someone who’s been dead for years? Let’s talk about the politics of today!” In 2014, when I went to greet my old neighbor on a visit back to the village, he continued this rant without prompt from me, as if we had never been interrupted:

What I hate most is all of this talk about Nyerere, saying but Nyerere said this, Nyerere said that. Don’t you have any thoughts of your own? [Huna fikra zako?] Maybe around Nyerere Day, there could be one week when we could talk about Nyerere’s opinions. But people never stop. It’s like a prayer: every day, morning and evening.

  • 23 “CCM yaonywa Mwalimu Nyerere si mali ya mtu” [CCM is warned: Teacher Nyerere is not private propert (...)

49Yet opposition parties, like the ruling party, also aim to cement their own legitimacy through re-constructing their lineage to the Nyerere line. A December 2005 Majira article reported that “CCM is warned that Mwalimu Nyerere is not their personal property”23. In 2005 the Tanzania Labor Party (TLP) disputed CCM’s monopoly on Nyerere and featured their own “ghost” appearance of him during a campaign rally in Arusha:

  • 24 “Weird Events Dominate Arusha as Election Fever Catches On”, The Guardian, 6 August 2005.

… The late ‘Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’ who professed to have ‘come from the dead’ in order to ‘put things straight’ and ‘apologize to Tanzanians, ’ appeared in Arusha and addressed a rally.... ‘Nyerere’ regretted that he had made a grave mistake during the first Multiparty Elections in 1995 by assisting the ruling party in its path to victory, adding that ‘he had come back’ to warn the local people here not to repeat the same mistake.24

  • 25 Strong, Diane. “YouTube Video: Chagua Dr. Slaa2: The Hand that Giveth.mp4”, (...)
  • 26 CHADEMA Ohio is a branch of the CHADEMA political party that represents Tanzanian CHADEMA members l (...)

50In 2010, a campaign video for CHADEMA presidential candidate, Willbrod Slaa, showed a bright green CCM campaign shirt with Nyerere’s face. The slogan, however, reads “I’m supporting Slaa”.25 And a 2013 CHADEMA Ohio campaign video replayed audio excerpts of a speech made by President Julius Nyerere in Dodoma in 1995. Overlaid on the faces of contemporary Tanzanians – young and old – one hears the voice of the deceased Nyerere echoing: “Tanzanians want change; if they fail to find it inside CCM, they will search for it outside of CCM. Tanzanians want change… Tanzanians want change… If they don’t find it… inside CCM, they will look for it outside CCM. If they don’t find it… inside CCM, they will look for it outside CCM”.26 This spectral echoing of Nyerere’s voice suggesting Tanzanians might look beyond the ruling party for leadership makes it so: new political horizons have emerged.

  • 27 Marc Nkwame, “Mkapa Urges Arumeru Voters to Shun Imposters”, Tanzania Daily News, 13 March 2012.
  • 28 Karl Lyimo, “Playing the Devil’s Advocate: Tanzania ‘retired’ state leaders abusing their positions (...)
  • 29 “Election campaigns should be about policies, not chaos and mudslinging.” Guardian on Sunday, 25 Ma (...)

51In 2012, the Arusha by-election campaigns prompted a public debate over the use of Nyerere’s name in contemporary politics. Referring to himself as Nyerere’s son, CHADEMA’s Member of Parliament for Musoma, Vincent Nyerere, said that “he had chosen to ditch CCM and his advice to Arumeru residents was (that) they should do the same” (Nkwame, 2012). In response to this, former President Benjamin William Mkapa charged Vincent Nyerere with fabricating his filial connection to Julius Nyerere, asserting that “I have worked with Mwalimu throughout his lifetime and buried him at Butiama in 1999. I have never heard of a son named Vincent Nyerere”. The Daily News reported that “Mkapa has warned impostors using the names of national leaders for cheap popularity saying the late Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, had no son known as Vincent” and that “Mr. Mkapa said it was a serious offence for a person to impost a son, relative or acquaintance of the founding president for the sake of elections”.27 Ten days later, the Tanzanian Business Times triumphantly reported that Mkapa had apologized to Vincent Nyerere after being reminded that Mkapa himself had offered condolences to Vincent in 2000 following the death of his father Kiboko Nyerere (brother to Julius Nyerere). Though CHADEMA was vindicated through demonstrating publicly that Vincent Nyerere was indeed a blood relative – a “son” even – of Nyerere, both Mkapa’s denunciation of Vincent and his apology succeeded in highlighting that descent was through a brother, not through the Father of the Nation himself.28 A Guardian editorial called the whole debate “cheap politics”, asking “How does the connection with Nyerere’s family help the people of Arumeru East constituency whose main problems include land and poverty?… There’s no justification to use Nyerere’s name or family to win an election or using those personal issues as the main agenda”.29

52Increasingly, both the voting public and opposition parties use Nyerere – Tanzania’s one authorized critic (see Brennan, 2014, and this volume) – as a mouthpiece for critiquing the government. If political rhetoric in 2005 centered primarily on filiation and the construction of legitimate party rule through descent from the Father of the Nation, it has since 2010 shifted to using the memory of Nyerere to shame today’s political leaders for their political motives, conduct, and lack of success at fulfilling promises. In a context where open political critique is increasingly tolerated but direct attacks on the government are purported to violate a national ethos of solidarity (Phillips, 2011), projecting Nyerere’s displeasure with contemporary leadership is a culturally and politically safe mode of expressing dissatisfaction. Thus, Nyerere is regularly invoked as a political touchstone – a gauge used to measure and comment upon the quality of today’s political leadership.

  • 30 Tanzanians celebrate Nyerere Day each 14th October, the date of President Nyerere’s death in 1999.

53This is most clearly expressed in a Nyerere Day30 political cartoon by Abdul in which a contemporary government official in the post-Nyerere years is trying on a giant shoe belonging to Mwalimu (Nipashe, 14 October 2013). The government official is saddled with suitcases of money and drink, and is bewildered to find himself unable to fill Nyerere’s shoes. Meanwhile, a bedraggled emaciated villager looks on in dismay in front of his makeshift house.

Figure 5: Cartoon by Gado. The East African. 18 October 2009. Cartoon re-printed with permission.

Figure 5: Cartoon by Gado. The East African. 18 October 2009. Cartoon re-printed with permission.

54Paternal and educational discipline with Nyerere’s signature walking stick are themes of other recent cartoons. One 2013 cartoon had Nyerere using his stick to push a personified “Government” off the ticking bomb on which he was sitting.31 Another cartoon by Kenyan cartoonist Gado featured in a 2010 campaign video for CHADEMA (Figure 5). The caption reads: “If Mwalimu were alive today…” and depicts Nyerere in the process of spanking with his stick a long line of offenders, including Mkapa, Kikwete, Lowassa, a member of parliament, and a Roman Catholic dignitary. He is saying: “This place is a mess… and who told you I want to be made a saint?!”

55In another Nyerere Day cartoon by King Kinya in the Citizen (14 October 2013), Nyerere snarls down from his obligatory perch on a framed photograph in a government office at an official caricatured as a pig dressed in a suit. The pig is seated at a table feasting on a plate of stacks of money with a fork, saying “yum, yum, yum!” but warily looking over his shoulder at the outraged Nyerere. A tiny devil pig (also in a suit) is egging him on by whispering in his ear “Don’t worry. It’s just a picture.” No wonder another Nyerere Day cartoon self-published on Facebook by Muhidini Msamba Msamba depicted a hand-drawn portrait of Nyerere with a caption on it: “The Man Whose Thoughts We Love to Forget! ”32

56In one final cartoon example that employs Nyerere for political critique, the artist FeDë depicts both the sense of jarring historical disjuncture and unsuccessful elite attempts to mask it. In the cartoon, “the period of Nyerere” is drawn as Nyerere the national father feeding a bottle to the suckling Tanzanian citizenry.

57This era represents a sharp contrast to both the period of colonialism before it – depicted as a white farmer merrily drinking a bottle as he is pulled in a wagon by “TZ” personified as a child in chains who is also hoeing the earth – and the contemporary moment – depicted as a fat “Leader” urinating on the child Tanzania who is kneeling in a puddle of urine as the “Leader” spouts socialist rhetoric: “… let’s continue to join together so that we uphold peace, love, and unity…”). Though the relationship between government and citizenry shows sharp fissures between these three eras, consistencies in political discourse elide discontinuities in governance from socialism to today.


58What all of these cartoons suggest is that efforts to create a sense of historical continuity between the neoliberal present and the Nyerere-led past are not entirely – or even mostly – successful. What is significant however across the data from the 2005, 2010, and run-up to the 2015 elections is the fact that the specter of Nyerere structures political rhetoric in important ways. Nyerere becomes a political prism through which time is collapsed and messages distorted. It is this very polysemy of Nyerere symbolism that allows his memory to be used to both sustain the status quo as well as – potentially – to incite radical historical change.

59Antonio Gramsci noted that where there is only one political party, the functions of that party “are no longer directly political, but… technical ones of propaganda and public order, and moral and cultural influence” (Gramsci, 1971: 149). The multi-party system in Tanzania is one that centers primarily on the elite of a single dominant party who have taken great pains to produce a rhetoric and practice of paternalism that provides narrative coherence to the political dominance and the socioeconomic disparities that govern Tanzanian lives. The memory of Mwalimu Nyerere serves as a key symbol in this rhetoric that organizes and serves as a referent for its propositions – namely that CCM and its candidates descend directly from Nyerere, that CCM is the only party mature enough and materially positioned to support its family, and that any outsider trying to assume the role of father will only bring domestic discord to this already happy, unified family. Elites deploy these propositions to assert the common sense that it is naturally a father who can best look after his own child, to confirm rural Tanzanians’ sense of themselves as citizens of a socialist gerontocracy, and to produce a sense of historical continuity in a time of volatile transformation.

60This contemporary political idiom of paternity organizes and legitimates the political structure in four main ways. First, through its assertions of direct descent from the Nyerere line, CCM proclaims itself the sole heir and executor of Nyerere’s political estate, which was secured through his legitimacy as “one who did not fill his own belly.” This association complicates and contradicts a reality in which Tanzanians perceive their current leaders to be eating national resources (Phillips, 2009).

61Second, CCM candidates draw on shifting, and sometimes contradictory, conceptions of eldership and youth to legitimize their political power. They alternately highlight, on the one hand, their candidates’ youthfulness in a political environment that values the skills and attributes of the young, and on the other hand their eldership as candidates of the “father” party in a cultural context in which age carries symbolic weight as an indicator of status, prestige, and authority. In doing so, they map a symbolic gerontocracy and sense of tradition onto a technocracy and its youthful leaders in locally legitimate terms.

62Third, CCM continues to rhetorically frame Tanzania as a national family, presided over by CCM, a political “father” who provides “gifts” to his political children. It must be noted that benevolent individuals giving away small commodities like t-shirts and phones during election years from their stores of private or party wealth is a far stretch from Nyerere’s benevolent state committed to ensuring egalitarian access to rights or entitlements like education and healthcare. Yet few take serious note of this elision and takrima often successfully elicits a certain type of filial deference by citizens with respect to their leaders in both the electoral and local political realms.

63Finally, it is the familial rhetoric of fatherhood (age superiority) – and not brotherhood (age equality) – that confers legitimacy on the drastic redistribution of power, national resources, and the burden of labor for national development that has occurred over the course of the last twenty years.

64For as Bourdieu notes, in the State Nobility,

There is no barrier more insurmountable than time, and all social bodies use it to maintain an order of succession (…) in other words, to maintain the distances that must be kept (…) because they are constitutive of the social order – those that separate tenants and claimants, fathers and sons, owners and heirs, masters and disciples, predecessors and successors, so many social ranks that are very often distinguished by nothing but time (1996: 333).

65A narrative of fatherhood produces a discursive distance between Tanzanians and their ruling party that seeks to, and to some extent succeeds in, legitimating the disparities and stratification that mark the post-colonial, post-socialist, and neoliberal present in Tanzania. Through reframing governance and disparity in terms of the hierarchy of home, rather than of nation, political elites subject the distribution of political and economic power to regulation by “cultural” norms rather than political action. They thereby seek to neutralize political debate, rendering issues of political access and resource distribution insoluble by electoral processes.

66Through attempting to re-politicize the symbolic terms in which governance and disparity have been framed in Tanzania, my intention is not to delegitimize CCM as a party worthy of power, nor to deny CCM’s historical connection to Nyerere and role in post-independence nation-building, nor to glorify ‘the opposition’ and its potential to transform Tanzanian politics. For the ruling party’s political practices today are (and have already been) easily co-opted into opposition politics; in fact most opposition parties are hard-pressed to conduct their political transactions outside the precedents that have been set. But I would like to conclude this essay on a more (cautiously) optimistic note, with the astute words of an opposition supporter from rural Singida: Godfredi, an undereducated man with seven children. Godfredi affirmed the predominance of this paternal narrative even as he contested its logic:

  • 33 Interview, Rural Singida, 15 September 2005.

Many Tanzanians still think of CCM as their father. They say that if you leave your father, whom will you be connected to? And me, I don’t agree with this. Today’s CCM is not like the father who raised you. CCM saved the Tanzanian from colonialism and from being ruled. But after saving Tanzania, CCM brought a new colonialism, one that I call colonialism of the thought. That means it rules the thoughts of people. We see that there is no legitimate ruler but CCM. Yet we may choose a member of parliament or a ward councilor and he will look after his own profit more than that of his fellow Tanzanians33.

67To overemphasize the agency of the elite in defining the symbolic terms of politics in Tanzania would be a mistake. For, as Scott reminds us, “a hegemonic ideology must, by definition, represent an idealization, which therefore inevitably creates the contradictions that permit it to be criticized in its own terms” (1985: 317).

68Godfredi went on to critique CCM in its own idiom: “Even if you go with the holy words (the Bible), they say that if you marry, you will leave your father and mother to be joined with your wife and you will become one. You will keep helping your parents if you get the good life. You will direct your own family and help your parents because they are your parents.” Within this same paternal narrative lie cultural logics that not only affirm a political monopoly, but that also support a politics of autonomy, national dialogue and accountability. What is clear is that if Tanzanians want change, they will either find it inside CCM, or they will search for it outside CCM. And so long as his memory, words, and legacy continue to bring weight to bear on the debates of the day, Nyerere’s specter looms.



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1 This cartoon was also re-printed and discussed in Fouéré (2011: 70).

2 I conducted over 140 interviews in 80 homesteads with rural WaSingida between 2004 and 2007. Interviews included oral history and life history components, and surveys of household economic and village development issues. I attended campaign rallies; took part in development meetings; conducted interviews and archival research; and participated in everyday life from my residence in a single room of one rural village’s government office. Data presented on the 2010 and run-up to the 2015 elections emerge from interviews conducted during follow-up visits to Dar, Singida, and Dodoma, media reports, email communications and phone interviews. I also draw extensively on political cartoons and news reports from Swahili- and English-language newspapers to illustrate popular national discourses about politics.

3 Interview, Rural Singida, 7 February 2005.

4 In 2000 and again in 2005 the lead opposition party was the Civic United Front (CUF), a party perceived by many Tanzanians to have a Muslim base and religious agenda.

5 Kiliani, Faustine. “Wamasai: Nyerere hajafa tunamtaka achaguliwe rais” [Maasai: Nyerere has not died, we want him to be elected president], Majira, 15 December 2005.

6 I am grateful to Aikande Kwayu for pointing this out to me. See Kibiriti, Rafael. “Zitto, Makamba Wautaka Urais”, IPPMedia, 29 February 2012,; Mjema, Daniel. “Wapendekeza umri mgombea urais upunguzwe”, Mwananchi, 24 February 2014, [archive].

7 Interview, Rural Singida, 7 June 2005.

8 The village government proceeded to extract sponsorship to build a new village office from a wealthy government employee based in Arusha who intended to build a guesthouse within village borders. The office was mostly finished as of my most recent visit in 2014.

9 Interview, Dodoma Town, 28 June 2012.

10 Interview, Dodoma Town, 28 June 2012.

11 Berege, Simon. “Education on polls benefits tiny minority”, The Citizen, 30 July 2005.

12 Phone Interview, 5 December 2010.

13 For one such critique, see Ulimwengu, Jenerali. “A Broke Country with an Expensive Govt; Guess Who Pays the Price”, The East African, 7 June 2014.

14 See, 19 May 2014 [archive].

15 Interview, Singida Town, 21 September 2005.

16 Before the 2010 elections, CHADEMA’s popularity skyrocketed, particularly in urban areas and among younger segments of the population. Presidential Candidate Slaa won 27.1 percent of the popular vote and CHADEMA won 48 seats in the National Assembly.

17 Phone interview, 17 November 2010.

18 Mwakisyala, J. “Tanzanians tired of promises”, East African Business Week, 13 September 2010.

19 With the collapse of the Soviet Union and increasing use of Western donor money to promote multipartyism, political reform movements were spreading across Africa. Still in his chairmanship of CCM, Nyerere himself began a strong campaign for multipartyism inside CCM. The government convened a group to examine popular opinion about the matter. In the Nyalali Commission’s historic referendum, only 21 percent of people surveyed supported a multi-party system, with 78 percent in favor of the current single-party approach. Yet the commission’s recommendations, noting the country’s “best interests,” supported the reintroduction of multipartyism. On May 7, 1992 Parliament approved a bill to make Tanzania a multi-party state.

20 Kafumu, Dalaly Peter. “Mwalimu Nyerere: His Pain, Our Gain”, Guardian on Sunday, 27 October 2013. (accessed 13 February 2014).

21 Kinsolyo, John. “Nyerere shouldn’t be declared a saint”, The Guardian, 3 February 2006.

22 Field Marshall ES. Posting 8 October 2006, (accessed 23 February 2008).

23 “CCM yaonywa Mwalimu Nyerere si mali ya mtu” [CCM is warned: Teacher Nyerere is not private property], Majira, 5 December 2005. Also discussed in Fouéré (2008, 2014 and in this volume).

24 “Weird Events Dominate Arusha as Election Fever Catches On”, The Guardian, 6 August 2005.

25 Strong, Diane. “YouTube Video: Chagua Dr. Slaa2: The Hand that Giveth.mp4”, Uploaded 26 September 2010.

26 CHADEMA Ohio is a branch of the CHADEMA political party that represents Tanzanian CHADEMA members living in the state of Ohio in the United States. Chadema Diaspora. “Tangazo la Chadema; WaTanzania Wanataka Mabadiliko, Mwalimu Nyerere”. [archive]; Accessed 12 January 2014. English translation of Swahili speech done by author.

27 Marc Nkwame, “Mkapa Urges Arumeru Voters to Shun Imposters”, Tanzania Daily News, 13 March 2012.

28 Karl Lyimo, “Playing the Devil’s Advocate: Tanzania ‘retired’ state leaders abusing their positions.” Business Times, 23 March 2012.

29 “Election campaigns should be about policies, not chaos and mudslinging.” Guardian on Sunday, 25 March 2012. (accessed 13 February 2014).

30 Tanzanians celebrate Nyerere Day each 14th October, the date of President Nyerere’s death in 1999.

31 Msamba, (accessed 13 February 2014) [archive].

32 Msamba, (accessed 13 February 2014) [archive].

33 Interview, Rural Singida, 15 September 2005.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Cartoon by Nathan Mpangala, Majira (14 October 2004). Cartoon re-printed with permission.
Fichier image/jpeg, 72k
Titre Figure 2: CCM supporters sport campaign swag. Photo by author, 2005.
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Titre Figures 3 & 4: Photographs by Peter Bofin, 2010. Reprinted with permission.
Fichier image/jpeg, 31k
Titre Figure 5: Cartoon by Gado. The East African. 18 October 2009. Cartoon re-printed with permission.
Fichier image/jpeg, 61k


Lecturer in Anthropology and African Studies at Emory University who has studied citizenship, development, and social change in Singida Region in Tanzania since 2004. She is finishing a book manuscript, titled Subsistence Citizenship: Hunger, Development, and the Politics of Poverty in Tanzania. She has published and presented on numerous themes related to Tanzanian development, including education, participatory development, postcolonial policymaking, electoral politics, and food, farming and hunger.

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