1 SEPTEMBER 1984, Page 11

Teaching them to beg

Edward Theberton Dar es Salaam Among the various African leaders whom western intellectuals affect to admire from afar, Julius Nyerere occupies a special place. He is thought by them to embody the simple and instinctive wisdom of ordinary Africans, who may be tech- 11°Iogically unsophisticated, but have somehow managed to penetrate to the core of life's meaning in a manner not vouch- safed to the jaded civilisations of Islington and Nw3.

The picture from within Tanzania looks a little different, to say the least. Mwalimu (which means `Teacher' in Swahili, Nye- rere's honorific title) has, in the name of socialism and self-sufficiency, reduced his fertile country to beggary and the brink of Starvation'. He has done damage to the economy that only an incompetent and dogmatic ideologue could have begun to envisage. Teacher's class, the 20 million or so unfortunate inhabitants of Tanzania, are glowing restive after 23 years of uninter- rupted tuition. , Teachers's initial brilliant discovery was trim Africans were not motivated like other file° by the hope of personal gain, but ?hirst ed instead for the welfare of everyone 1,11 general, with no thought of self. There-

re, he concluded, if they were herded together in collectivised villages, they would strive might and main to produce 14Miore for the general good, regardless of

hather they received any return for their efforts.

_ Unfortunately, things have not quite worked out to plan. But it has not yet °thccurred to Teacher's capacious intellect at his premises might be wrong. He frefers to seek enemies to blame. Needless saY, he finds them everywhere. A 4,rtoon in a recent edition of the Daily „ews, Teacher's broadsheet, depicted the ci out h of Tanzania in battle fatigues, -r°,%vning flies with an insecticide spray. the flies were labelled with the names of j, ills that beset Tanzania, such as neo- ,ntiteoialism, imperialism, racketeering and rri ng (a technical term to describe the ;Per cent of Dar es Salaam's population ,p "itout regular employment). flies anzanian Youth's easy victory over the iro . °f imperialism etc was peculiarly pyrilise, for, in this country which grows

there is no insecticide to be had, not even for bribes. Very little else is to be had, either. Food, when available, is severely rationed in Dar es Salaam. Fight- ing breaks out if kerosene reaches the shops. One capsule of tetracycline, the cheapest of all antibiotics, fetches on the black market a man's daily wage. Foreign currency can be exchanged in the street at six times the official rate. Industry is operating at 16 per cent of its never very extensive capacity, and output has fallen by 25 per cent for three successive years. It is expected to fall further. No wonder Teacher favours a new world information order.

Teacher has instructed his prefects to root out the enconomic saboteurs responsi- ble for this catastrophe, for the connection between terrible shortage and the black market has so far escaped him. The result- ing campaign has promoted growth in one section of the economy at least, namely police extortion. A man was recently sent- enced to 15 years' hard labour for attemp- ting to undermine the economy of Tanza- nia with two vials of penicillin and a syringe. Teacher's eyes and ears are every- where; cells of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi, the Party of the Revolution, are ubi- quitous. Fear prevents dissent: Teacher believes in discipline.

The obverse of fear is patronage, but Teacher is not in a position to do much about it because patronage is the very fuel of his government. The equation is simple: no patronage, no Teacher. Not that he clings to power for its own sake, of course. On the contrary, Teacher recently made a speech in which he said that while it would be truly shocking if Tanzania were to change its ideology, it would be be shock- ing — indeed, it would be desirable — if it were to find a new leader. The speech had all the burning silicerity of a Nellie Melba positively final last performance.

It may be a pure coincidence, but shortly after the speech the only man generally thought capable of succeeding Teacher, the Prime Minister, Edward Sokoine, was killed in a car crash. His death led to an outburst of genuine grief, for it was be- lieved — on slim evidence, to be sure — that he was privately disillusioned with African socialism, and would have moved in the direction of free enterprise had he gained power.

Meanwhile Teacher, who is carefully screened from sordid realities by his en- tourage of toadies, continues to do what he has always been best at — moralising. He is particularly good at adverting to the shortcomings of the western countries but, strangely, the more he does so, the more

they like him. Tanzania is in receipt of more aid per capita than any other African country. Seventy per cent of the govern- ment budget is paid out of foreign aid.

(This is what Teacher calls self-reliance.) But it is not enough. Under its present system, Tanzania is a bottomless pit, where money soaks away like water in sand. Foreign reserves frequently stand at only

three days' imports. Per capita income, already pitiful, was down six per cent last year, and will be down a further four per cent this year.

From this position of strength, Teacher frequently dispatches his foreign minister, Salim Salim (one time aspirant to the post of Secretary-General), to spread the en- lightenment of African socialism in other parts of the globe. At first the Tanzanian government tried to extort free first class tickets for Salim from the airlines, but united action on their part scotched this.

The Tanzanian government, thanks to this imperialist action, now has to pay for Salim's first class peregrinations. He re- cently went for a day to Europe for a conference on refugees, a subject in which he may admittedly soon have more than a theoretical interest.

But Teacher still finds his admirers in Europe. He has learnt how to plumb the abysmal depths of the Scandinavian guilt complex about poverty. His simplicity of ideas and manner appeal to the sated sybarite. But Teacher is not so simple that he fails to keep a jet — rather a large one, as it happens — for his private use always at the ready at Dar es Salaam airport (being rebuilt with $88 million of French aid). He uses it to attend ideological conferences with other African luminaries, though the foreign exchange each flight consumes would pay for drugs for 100,000 cases of malaria at a time when there is virtually no antimalarial medication in the country, for lack of foreign exchange. One day, Teacher may need his jet.