Friday, December 17, 2010


On 7th July 1963, the president spoke against pomposity. Few days later (On July 13) he issued the following letter to all ministers and government officials. The letter was released to the press. Considerable improvement followed these instructions.

My Dear Colleague,

On Saba Saba Day I was obliged to speak publicly against something which I have been complaining about for some time; that is the growing tendency within the Government to confuse dignity with what I consider to be sheer pomposity. This is a tendency which must be checked at once if it is not to destroy the very thing it is, presumably, intended to emphasize – the dignity of the Republic and the respect due to the Government of the Republic.

By this letter I am asking every person in a responsible position both in TANU and Government to help in stamping out this disease.

I will give a few examples to illustrate the sort of thing I mean by pomposity. I could give many more. You all know them.

When we became independent, we started by singing the national anthem every time the Prime Minster arrived anywhere, even at supposedly informal dinner parties. This, already, was rather unnecessary; but, as a little over-enthusiasm was fairly understandable just at first, I have hoped that in time we should learn to reserve the anthem for the really ceremonial functions at which its playing is appropriate. It seems I was too hopeful; for now we sing it whenever a Minister, a Parliamentary Secretary, a Regional Commissioner, or an Area Commissioner arrives at a gathering of any kind anywhere in Tanganyika!

Nothing could be more disrespectful to our national anthem than to treat it as a popular song-hit, or a ‘signature-tune’ to be ‘plugged’ the moment any member of the Government appears on the scene. Yet this is exactly what we are doing. We sing the national anthem on the most unsuitable and unlikely occasions; and if some unfortunate passer-by does not happen to notice us, we take very serious offence and start shouting about ‘insults to the Republic! This is not only ridiculous, but very undignified. It is we who must learn to treat our national anthem with more respect. Indeed, if it is true that over-familiarity breeds contempt, then we are ourselves guilty of exposing the anthem to the risk of ridicule.

It is exceedingly unlikely that anybody, whether he is a Tanganyika citizen or a foreigner, would deliberately ignore the playing of the national anthem. After all, it is customary in every country in the world for visiting foreigners, as well as the local public, to show their respect by standing to attention while the anthem is being played. But is not customary in other countries to play or sing their national anthem without any warning, just because some official of the Government happens to have dropped in unexpectedly at a small gathering, or landed at an airstrip on a visit to his mother in law! Supposing we were on holiday in another country, and we happened to overhear a small group of young people burst into song as they greeted some- to us- unknown figure; we should be very startled to find ourselves suddenly accused of insulting behavior because had failed to recognize the tune as their national anthem!

It is the same with police escorts. We managed to get about quite well without them, when we were not in the Government; but I’m told we cannot now do without them altogether. I admit, therefore, that there may be certain ceremonial occasions when it is necessary for the President, o the Vice President, to have a police escort for example, when receiving a State visit or when there is to be a State Opening parliament we have to make sure the roads are clear so that the President arrives punctually at his destination. In a case like that the preliminary clearing of the road from The State House to Karimjee Hall is necessary, and the public can easily appreciate why it is so. But, as with the playing of the national anthem, the intrinsic importance of the occasion must itself be sufficient to warrant the use of a police escort. It is meaningless, in fact is is insulting to the public, if we try and use an escort, or play the national anthem, as a means of embroidering the most ordinary occasion with a sham pomp which it does not merit!

The office of President, in this or any other sovereign republic, carries with it the duties and the responsibilities of the head of State. It does not, or it most certainly should not, oblige its holder to become the greatest public nuisance in the capital city! Yet, as a result of this growing insistence on pomposity and ostentation, the President of Tanganyika is fast becoming the worst public nuisance the city of Dar-es-Salaam has ever had to put up with! Whenever he decides to go out, whether to dinner, a dance, or even to visit some friends, the normal flow of traffic has now to be interfered with. If he has not had time to warn the police well in advance, then other road-users on the route to his destination will suddenly find themselves being cleared out of the way (like so much unsightly rubbish) to leave the road clear for the President’s car. And, acting under orders to get it clear immediately, the unfortunate police outriders have no time for courteous explanations; so that the mere ‘ordinary’ motorist has to be waved off the road with a rude abruptness, and sublime disregard for his own convenience, which can do little to enhance his respect for the cause of it all! If, on the other hand, the police have had sufficient warning to enable them to do their work efficiently, then all traffic within a quarter a mile of the route may be brought to a standstill for anything from half an hour to an hour before the President leaves the State House.

If I were not myself the President, I should by now have taken to ringing up The State House before ever attempting to fix any appointment with a friend; for it is rapidly becoming impossible for anybody in Dar-es-Salaam to guess how long it will take him to drive from point A to point B without first finding out whether the President also intends to go out on that particular day!

And it is not only the public who suffer, but the police themselves. It is difficult, to say the least, for them to live up to the repeated injunctions of TANU and the Government to ‘treat the public with consideration and courtesy’, and tat the same time to carry out sudden orders to clear bewildered motorists from the public thoroughfares in a matter of minutes!

Once we even had a serious accident as a direct result of this insistence on the very maximum pomp. I was going to Morogoro. Two police cars had been proved as escort, but at the last moment it was decided that this was not impressive enough, so a motorcycle outrider was ordered to go ahead of the police cars. As he was hurrying to obey this order something happened, and his motorcycle overturned. He was severely injured, and lost for his teeth- all in cause of enhancing the Presidential Pomp.

Then, too, there is the question of The State House grounds. It is much more difficult to enter the State House grounds now than it was under Colonial Rule. There have been several occasions when I have wanted passers-by to be allowed into the grounds to enjoy a ngoma that was going on there. But it has proved impossible for me or anybody else to the Gate opened. Presumably this could only be authorized by means of a Cabinet Directive! I, myself, cannot leave The State House grounds without the Guard at the Gate being called to announce to the whole city- by a fanfare of trumpets – that the president is going out!

Hitherto, whenever I have questioned the value of all this very undemocratic pomposity, I have been assured that ‘the people like it’. But this is highly doubtful. Do the people really like being refused permission to join the ngomas which they can see going on, on the other side of the State House barriers? Do they really love being shouted at to get off the road because President, or a Minister, or a Regional Commissioner, is taking an afternoon drive? Do they really feel a surge of pride and patriotism every time they are expected to stop what they are doing and stand to attention just because some newly appointed official, whom they may not even have seen before, is being ‘serenaded’ buy his friends with the national anthem?

We should stop deceiving ourselves. This sort of pomposity has nothing to do with the people, for it is the very reverse of democracy. We must stop it. We must begin to treat pomposity with the scorn it deserves. Dignity does not need pomposity to uphold it; and pomposity in all its forms is a wrong. Even if it were proved that the people really did enjoy it – which I very much doubt – it would still be a wrong; and as such it would still be our duty to put a stop to it, and to tell the people that what they had learned to enjoy was wrong.

Yours Sincerely.

From: Freedom and Unity, Pg. 223

(digital transcription by MM).


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