The fact that I am a Tanzanian at heart is something that I value immensely. I do feel that we Tanzanians have been blessed with the openness to discuss contentious issues pertaining to our personal and nation existence with little to no violence. This type of tolerance does not exist in a lot of our neighboring friends and their countries. It is with this openness and tolerance; I would like to discuss the emerging middle class issue that is currently not openly discussed by many of us young Tanzanians.
Many of young people and some of the well to do old folks think that we are where we are in our careers because of hard work only. Often times we forget to think that the people our parents or relatives knew and/or know and some that we don’t know at all have something to do with it in some ways.
You may ask: What about the sleepless nights from secondary schools through college, does all that not count? Well, they actually do. But so do the hard work and back-breaking work the peasants and most of the poor in our society are doing everyday and getting mostly nothing tangible from their labor.
I have had a flashback recently about the words of wisdom by Baba wa Taifa that used to be ubiquitously displayed in most secondary school dining halls across the country in the 70s and 80s. The words went like “Those who received this privilege have a duty to repay the sacrifice others have made for them. They are like a man or a woman from a remote village……..and it goes on and on to end with …they are betraying our nation” … Do you remember it??.
It is not a coincidence that the political families and the civil servants families are where they are today and the rest are nobody. If you know anything about the theories of social networking you will agree with me. The so-called middle class we are in is hugely a product of our connections as it is of our hard work. Don’t get me wrong, we do need a middle class, a middle class based on the content of our character rather than based on the people we know. The relatively privileged groups who are increasingly seeing themselves and are seen by others as the driver of change whatever that change maybe are not going to exclusively change the status quo of poverty in Tanzania.
We as Tanzanians need to seriously think about evening out the playing field such that a peasant and his/her children can be able to compete with people in the elite and civil servants groups, like it used to be. The peasant group work sunrise to sunset, hard and back-breaking work every day with no vacations, no week ends and very little return from their labor. The fact that they are not represented at the decision table makes it harder for their grievances to be heard and adequately addressed. We make decisions for them without a thorough understanding of their problems and needs. We need their representation at the decision table to create solutions to their unique set of problems. As our policies toward their problems seem to be detached and/or not care enough about their plights any longer.
Kilimo Kwanza is a step in the right direction. We need to embrace policies like Kilimo Kwanza i.e. having Bwana Shambas in the villages, tractor lending stations, and subsidized agricultural inputs to help our peasants’ population produce enough to feed themselves and to generate income. To provide quality education for all children so that they will be able to progressively change their status quo and competently compete with the elite children who go to private/international schools and to colleges abroad. To create equitable systems for buying agricultural produce at competitive prices. Prices that reflect the actual cost of producing the products and that leave the farmers with a profit to invest in farm inputs for the following years. Maybe we can go even further to allow for policies that will facilitate the long-awaited needs for Wakulima to have title deeds to their land and use it to borrow capital to advance agriculture in Tanzania.
These are the right policies in my humble opinion that we need to embrace and put forth to address the fundamental issues of inequity in our society. Inequalities in education, health care, income, power, water na mengine mengi.
The middle class that is currently being promoted and reproducing itself everywhere is entirely based on who knows who and in my views will not uplift the nation and our ‘poor’ people but rather it will uplift itself narrowly and exclusively.
My worries are that many people in the middle class we have today have forgotten those words of wisdom by Mwalimu Nyerere and feels as though they don’t owe anybody for their successes and fortunes. This in itself is entirely not true, because most if not all of us went to school on the shoulders of the Tanzanians peasants agricultural exports based market economy. As the gap between the haves and have not continue to increase, I am afraid the poor in our society will no longer remain silent as they have been for the past 49 empty promise filled years. The shangingis ”that you feel like you earned by your hard work and Ujasilimali” will be nothing when they finally come asking for a piece of their long-awaited nation’s pie.