Shirumisha's Platform

Shirumisha Kwayu
Surely Goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
Forget the former things: Do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up: Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in wasteland. Break camps and advance!

Pragmatic Faith and the Tanzania Lutheran Church; Bishop Erasto N Kweka’s Life and Work. By Amy Stambach and Aikande Kwayu: Lexington Books, 2020. 150pp

by Shirumisha Kwayu on 11/30/21

My childhood was naughty to an extent that I would lose a shoe or part of my outfit. Oftentimes I came back from school without my shoes, socks and/or shirt. My mum had to buy me new outfits every now and then. Sometimes she could not keep it up with constant demand for new clothes. One day, probably when I was 4 or 5 years old, there was an event in Meru Diocese and all of our family went to it. I was roughly dressed for the event and everyone was so smart, thus my mum had to stop at Tengeru market to buy me a shirt so I could be somewhat smart. That day turned out to be a lucky day which makes it memorable to be as there was this old man in a landcruiser who invited me to his car and held me in his seat. He keenly was asking me lots of questions about my life especially about my maternal grand dad Reverend Orbelin Solomon Nkya. I told him how I normally go to graze his cows with him and how he would react when a cow goes astray. Shortly I saw the old man leading a church service with a well pampered rob and a majestic hat. Afterwards there was a ceremony out of the church and this old man invited me to the high table. He was given a traditional cake (Ndafu) which normally the elder/ guest of honor is given. My shock, he  sent a plate to me while on the high table. Later on, he gave me a ride in his car again. I was elated with this attention. I was so happy that my mom had changed my clothes. I went back to join our family and everyone was asking and talking of the favor I had that day. I came to learn that the man who treated me was Bishop Dr Erasto N Kweka. I think that was my first memorable encounter with him. Today I have a privilege to review his biography which narrates his life and work and how that explains the pragmatic faith and the Tanzania Lutheran Church.

It's an understatement to say I am privileged to review the book because I am closely related with the authors and I was privileged to see the writing process. The book is written by my mentor Prof Amy Stambach and my sister Dr Aikande Kwayu. The best thing I like about the book is its first chapter which explains the theoretical underpinning of the book that is social theory. The theory focuses on the integration of beliefs and behaviours, meaning with experience and religious practice with worldly power.  Thus, this book is set to examine daily activities of the Lutheran church and the effect of these activities on society. It does so through the life and work of Bishop Kweka. The book explains the early life of Bishop that's from 1930 till the near present times. In the first chapter the book sets the ground by explaining religion as a set of common expressions of ethical and moral values. This reminded me of the Ziggy Marley  song Love is my religion and it made me think of what is our religion as a country? or  in other words,  what are our common values as a country? Are these values negative or positive and what do our values explain about the state of our affairs?

Further, after explaining the meaning of religion and religion in practice, the chapter went on to explain Tanzania lutheranism as opposed to pentecostal church, western lutheran, colonial (mission Lutheran) towards a localised lutheran which is what we have now.  

Reading through the social theoretical lens or practice perspective directed my focus towards the practices (rules and guidelines), praxis (actual activities) and practitioners (people mentioned in the book). The book narrates the constrictions that delayed Kweka going to school at an early age and the role that was played by her sister Paulina who orchestrated a scene that made Kweka’s father agree to send Kweka to school. Later on, the book also explains the role of three teachers (Miss Kakundwa Solomon, Miss Haifarisi Abdiel Shangali and Mrs Nikokaeli Nkya) who encouraged him a lot when he enrolled in government school in 1946. In addition, When Kweka was called to be a pastor it was a female  teacher who encouraged him to accept the call as opposed to his fellow teachers (three men) who discouraged him. Similarly, at family levels the uncles encouraged Kweka to decline the call to be a pastor while citing the responsibilities he had for looking after her mum and family but her mum encouraged Kweka to accept the call and that God will look after them. Looking at these women we see their positive role in Kweka’s Life no wonder we can later see how Kweka played his role in ordaining women Pastors in the Lutheran Church to a point he was ready to resign. This was a progressive move that Kweka played and I think it should be well recognised within the nation and beyond.

Last but not least, the book has a number of things that we need to think about. The chapter of Bishop of Projects shows the impact of the economic projects on the growth of church and the society. These projects included, water supply, medical services (hospitals), education services (schools, universities, training centres etc), services for disabled and also a nunnery. The projects were geared towards self-reliance, which echoed the state policy at one time though it differed in approach. With all these, what strikes me hard and keeps revolving in my mind is the church social agenda of setting a moral compass for the society and government. To what extent does the church set this moral agenda and will it continue or have the ability to set the agenda continuously. On page 11, the book intrigues us to ask as to what extent does the church or religion  play a role in exercising power through economic distribution and redistribution, by offering alternative ideas, resources and social networks through which people can change oppressive systems. My thinking at our current situation is how does the church play its role towards having a good new constitution. What ideas and values does it advocate for in the cry for a new constitution?

#FreeErickKabendera & #ChangeTZMoneyLaundryLaw

by Shirumisha Kwayu on 08/06/19

It is sad that Erick Kabendera was charged with money laundering yesterday. This charge raises concern on our justice system especially when considering the circumstance on which Erick was arrested. Erick  was arrested in a fashion that the public thought he was kidnapped. Due to recent kidnappings such as of Ben Saanane, Azory Gwanda, Simon Kanguye, Roma Mkatoliki, Mo Dewji, Mdude Nyagali, Raphaeli Ongangi and Allan Kiluvya. The public was quick to react and demand his whereabouts. The next day after his arrest, the police admitted that they had arrested him to question his citizenship status. Soon, the accusation changed towards sedition offence under the cybercrime law. Then finally they accused him with money laundering offence. Contrary to Tanzania laws Erick was not charged in the court within a period of 24 hours after his arrest. It took a week before he was sent to court. Erick’s arrest and the flipflop of accusations raises a lot of concerns.
The first concern, what would have been the fate of Erick if the public did not react quickly? The correct answer is no one knows except the ones who arrested him. Considering that there is no substantial answers  to the prior kidnapping events, such fashion of arrest raises suspicions towards security organs on their failure to arrest the kidnappers or to provide an account of what happened to the victims of Kidnapping. This manner of arrest undermines the security forces and the government in general as the public can or has started to loose faith in them. 
Second, the flipflopping of accusation shows the unpreparedness and malicious intent on Erick.  Clearly, this reveals the innocence of the victim. In addition, it shows an intention to punish Erick for whatever reason and perhaps might be the reason why there has been reluctance to provide a bail to Erick. In circumstance, where they delay to send him to court and no proper accusation one still wonders what would the fate of Erick be if they were dealing with him without the awareness of the public. 
Last but not least, money laundering law is unjust because the defendant is not offered a bail. The Tanzania money laundry and economic sabotage laws need to be revisited as they are against human rights. Also they are used to oppress people. These laws are abused as their investigation often  takes time to complete. Being accused with money laundry is almost equal to being a convicted criminal. Thus, accusing Erick for money laundry is a means to punish him without proving guilty. I want to end this entry with a big shout #FreeErickKabendera  & #ChangeTZMoneyLaundryLaw

Where to improve our economic management following CAG report

by Shirumisha Kwayu on 04/11/19

Tanzania economic outlook is less than impressive. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected the economic growth of 4% from an estimate of 6.6% last year. On the other hand, the Control Auditor General (CAG) report for 2017/2018 shows that Tanzania’s national debt has increased by 10.5%. Applying the rule of 72 (estimation formula to determine when will investment double), this means that the national debt will double in the next 7 years. That might be before the end of President Magufuli’s administration - if he wins the second term in 2020 elections. The IMF outlook and CAG report prompt a reflection on current economic management. 
The slow economic growth can be associated with crowding out of the private sector. The current administration has preferred government control over the economy. This can be traced back with the 2016 directive for all public enterprises to bank with the central banks consequently reducing liquidity to commercial bank. In addition, the government has preferred to use its own agency rather than private sector. In the current administration, unconventional intervention to the economy such as using the army on economic activities such as in buying cashew nuts (Mtwara) and forex (Arusha) trade has undermined the private sector contribution. Likewise tensions with investors such as ACACIA/Barrick has potentially hardened the business environment and perhaps hampered FDI. 
The CAG report highlights an increase of 8595% in tax disputes in 2017/18 fiscal year. Though this spike is mainly associated with the ACACIA issue, there anecdotes that many businesses are shut out due to unbearable tax and fees from different agencies. 
Another factor that might have led to economic slowdown and increased national debt is the increasing government spending. The current government has embarked on big projects including the standard gauge railway, purchasing airlines in cash, constructions and Stiegler’s Gorge Hydroelectric Power Station. These are flagship projects of the current administration in which their return on investment will be years to come. While these flagship projects might be the reason for increased national debt they are also overwhelming to the economy. The government has, further, committed itself in providing free education. Such commitments can erode government’s ability to control and provide utilitarian needs in effective and efficient ways. 
The CAG’s report also shows that 14 public parastatals are loss making. This means that they are consuming the public money. Public ownership of corporations such as airlines and telecom, which private organisation can substitute is an opportunity cost for better public services such as health and education. 
Although CAG report indicates maladministration in different areas of the economy, it significantly shows the areas for improvement. The current government can improve their revenue (tax and debts) in areas that the CAG report identifies. Also, importantly, the current government can improve accountability and discipline in some of its agencies such as the police force and procurements. Furthermore, the economy will benefit more with a keen eye on the following ministries: home affairs, water and irrigation, TAMISEMI and the ministry of health and social welfare.
Lastly, the CAG report has indicated some challenges with Information Systems (IS) within the government. IS failures in implementation are common. The best way is for the government to learn from its failures on this and to implement the e-GOV in a gradual way so that people can be able to understand, communicate and implement new systems in place. The losses incurred by investment on IS projects shouldn’t be regarded as a loss but as a learning process. Nevertheless, in evaluating failures, the government should not tolerate theft such as failure to deliver procured IT equipment.

Reflection on Chinua Achebe’s, ‘There was a country’

by Shirumisha Kwayu on 09/06/18

Earlier in April this year my sister Aikande suggested that I should read George Orwell’s books- in particular the Animal farm and 1984. She also suggested Chinua Achebe’s memoir - ‘There was a Country’. I did. These books among other things have informed and helped my understanding of the socio-political trends of what is happening in Tanzania and elsewhere around the world. Indeed, these books offer valuable insights and a perspective to view current events in a new light, which enables us to see core problems rather than the surface view of current trends. In this entry am going to reflect some of the insights that I learned from Chinua Achebe’s memoir – with an insight from Orwell’s books mentioned above.  

Achebe starts by explaining how his parents engaged with the early missionaries. The missionaries spread Christianity and provided formal education. Achebe critically evaluates the pros and cons of Christianity versus the traditional beliefs. This reminds me of the missionaries who came to our area (Machame). My great grandfather, Solomon Nkya, was one of the early converts and one of the first black pastors in Tanzania. Evidently, the work of missionaries had a positive influence on his family and in the community. Likewise, the work of mission produced writers such as Achebe and Wole Soyinka who went on to develop African literature. It is fair to mention that Achebe and Wole among others learnt European literature, which did not reflect their environment. The missionary and colonial education went on to produce African leaders who fought for independence. Important thing to note from the work of missionaries is the role of education in transforming a society. Education is a soft power of producing change to an individual, family and society in general.

Soon after independence, most African leaders strived to live the lifestyle of their colonial masters. Nevertheless, Achebe observed, that they did not have the same diligence of managing the new independent states specifically due to politics that allowed incompetent people to be in position of power. The mismanagement and oblivious lifestyle of new leaders engendered coups. In Nigeria, coups and tribal contentions within the new state led to progon, which some suggest it was a genocide. The tribal persecution of Igbo, led to secession consequently producing a civil war - Biafra. The war was  also fuelled by ego of leaders from both conflicting sides, who had a chance to avert and end the war. In such circumstance, the secessionists determined to rule themselves and fight for their survival. Conversely, the federal government did not want to lose its mandate and resources. Allowing secession would have triggered further disintegration, the government thought. This stance was supported by the majority members of OAU. Tanzania did not. It was the first country to recognize Biafra as a state.  Unfortunately, the desire to preserve the colonial boundaries and protecting power denied other new independent states to see justice and enjoy their rights of self-determination.

From Achebe’s memoir, we also learn about innovation. During the course of the civil war, the Biafrans had to develop means of refining oil. The British had told them it would have taken more than five hundred years to be able to refine oil. Other innovations were on weapons and telecommunication gadgets. One example is the notable Ogbunigwe, which was an effective bomb that struck terror among the enemies. Likewise, the Biafrans had to develop their own tanks from range rovers. There was research on medical side. Despite these innovations, war is destructive. It led to deaths of many soldiers and civilians in both sides of the conflict. It also gave rise to humanitarian crisis such as hunger and death of innocent children. Furthermore, war had psychological effects to many people consequently giving rise of mental health problems to many people who were affected by the pressure of war.

Considering the inhuman effects of war, Achebe documented and narrated the reaction of individual, governments, regional and international bodies on conflict. The Western powers, UN and OAU, which had the powers to avert the war, played a neutral role and sometimes supported the oppressor by selling Arms or failing to mediate. Particularly, the UK government under Harold Wilson failed a moral test in undermining the reality. Despite the role played by these governments, individuals from Western countries, media, faith groups and non-governmental institutions played a significant role in helping the starving children’s. Some employees even resisted to board arms, which were sent to the conflict. This to me shows how individual values are important in human crisis that sometimes may seem distant to us. Also in the book, Achebe showed the role played by Nyerere then Tanzanian president in recognizing the Biafrans and their right to self-determination. This reminded me of the basic principles of our country and the noble foreign policy we had. I personally, feel ashamed when we are drifting away from such novel humane diplomacy to economic diplomacy increasing with disregard to our values.

Lastly, Achebe suggested that children should be taught their history regardless of how dark it is to prevent recurrence of such atrocities. Furthermore, Achebe noted that democracy should be institutionalised and practices beginning with free and fair elections. Having proper checks and balances as well as free and fair elections will curve out the current tendencies of violence and rough plays, which prevent decent people from participating in democratic processes. Tolerating violence and rough play is a nursery, which nurture incompetent and corrupt leaders. The emphasis should not be on the education level of the leaders but more the moral, ethics and values. This can be done when proper democratic institutions are in place. Today African countries are facing authoritarian leaders who are produced from poor democratic institutions. These types of leaders have no regard to democratic process, rule of law, and human rights. As a result, they produce tribal and political polarising nationalists sentiments. Our generation has to fight for this course in our own countries and at regional level. Furthermore, we are challenged with global trends such as growing income inequality and infowars that jeopardise our trust in democratic processes. 

National Writing Day

by Shirumisha Kwayu on 06/27/18

Normally I start my day by peeking social media platforms especially WhatsApp and Twitter. While doing so today I came across the trend #nationalwritingday. Therefore, I designated to honour the day by writing a short entry to my blog. The decision was out of guilty for operating inactive blog, when some (particularly) in my home country do not have the freedom to run a blog freely due to the new law The Electronic and Postal Communication Regulations. Thus, we should not take writing for granted especially when considering the power it has on society.  Writing can change the way society thinks, it can also change the power dynamics in the society. Hence, writing is threat to those with power and interests to safeguard. Let’s continue to write!!