By Mboneko Munyaga
The decision to resettle people in properly planned villages was elaborately worked out by the Independence government under Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the task placed under the then Ministry of Lands, Forests and Wildlife but suffered serious setback when the minister was appointed to serve as Ambassador to Indonesia and the junior minister defeated in the 1965 General Election.
"The logic to take people scattered in remote rural areas, some of them impenetrable, and resettle them in properly planned villages, with roads, markets, schools, health services, power and water supply can never be faulted," said Mr Buhatwa, who retired from public service in 1986 as Joint General Manager of the China and Tanzania Joint Shipping Company (SINOTASHIP).
The 86-year old former parliamentary secretary, as Deputy Ministers were then called, said land was mapped and model villages established to act as pilot schemes before the programme was implemented. He remembered two of the model villages as Gallu on Ukerewe Island, which he represented in the National Assembly and Kabuku in Tanga, now famous for growing oranges.
"But when the minister, Mr Tewa Said Tewa, then MP for Kisarawe was appointed Ambassador to Indonesia and I defeated in the 1965 General Election, the programme became kind of politically orphaned although it was headed by a white Commissioner for Village Settlement," said Mr Buhatwa who still has fairly sharp memory that could shame the present generation.
Resettling the people in villages was given political impetus in the 1967 Arusha Declaration for building a socialist and self-reliant nation but government action somehow lagged behind the political drive. Mwalimu Nyerere, eager that the people should enjoy the fruits of Uhuru, decided to transfer the implementation of the programme to the ruling party and, unfortunately that was where, in some cases, matters went wrong.
Some village leaders acted in a most selfish manner and instead of locating villages in more suitable areas, they simply ruled that new settlements should start from where their houses already stood, even if that meant removing the people from better sources of water or more fertile land. Whatever the early mistakes, the village resettlement programme was unrivalled in Africa as an attempt to create an African style welfare state.
It remains as the biggest post independence socioeconomic rural transformation
Critics could fault its early implementation pitfalls but overall, the benefits are highly palpable up to today. There is hardly a remote corner of the country that has not been reached by social services, plausible achievement when one looks at nation building a process that takes centuries.
Mr Buhatwa joined politics at the encouragement of two former Ukerewe Branch
TANU Youth League leaders, then chairman, Mr Yusuf Mambile and mobilising maestro, Mr Emmanuel, also nicknamed "Popo" because of his large ears. Popo is Kiswahili for bat. Mr Emmanuel was a very good composer of political songs and Mr Buhatwa remembered one of them, which went as follows:
"Bwana Buhatwa simama, Bwana Buhatwa endesha, Bwana Buhatwa Uongoze. Twawajulisha Ukerewe, Wananchi wote Ukerewe, Bwana Buhatwa ni mjumbe wa TANU." Literally, Mr Buhatwa stand up, lead and direct. We would like to inform all the people of Ukerewe that Mr Buhatwa is TANU's choice for MP."
The style was so effective that Mr Buhatwa was nominated unopposed by TANU, save for one Mr Selemani Mafuru who complained that he was not dealt a fair deal. TANU merged with Afro-Shiraz Party from Zanzibar on February 5, 1977 to form the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
The District Commissioner, Mr Donald Burton encouraged Mr Mafuru to stand as an independent but it later turned out that he had forged the list of the people who endorsed him. He was tried and sentenced to three months in prison but Mr Burton writes in his book:
"An Affair With Africa" that the decision to send him to jail was deferred until after the election, largely because there was no directive on how to handle such cases since his name was already on the ballot papers. But even if he would have won, still his victory would have been quashed!
But in many respects, Mr Buhatwa was never cut out for politics. He was more of a civil servant, which in part explains why he was defeated in the 1965 elections. He had been a storekeeper with the Ukerewe/Ukara Native Authority before he was appointed to be a delegate to the South East Lake County Council for cotton growers by virtue of which he became councilor in the UK/UK/NA.
He recalled that almost out of nowhere, people who had supported him more than five years back now conspired to have him defeated. He saw the wave building against him and the conspiracy also unfurling but trusted in the good judgement of the voters. However, on polling day, his opponents whispered to the people to vote for the "Hoe" and not the "House," because they were farmers themselves and not "officers" in houses.
The two symbols represented a real candidate to help voters make "democratic" choice under single party rule in which two aspirants contested for a single seat in parliament. Unfortunately, Mr Buhatwa's symbol in the 1965 elections was a house while his opponent was represented by the hoe.
Those against him capitalised on that flimsy fact to spread the venomous message that he was no longer one of them. It worked and Ukerewe got one of the most ineffective MPs in its history, Mr Imelezi who was also kicked out after five years and went into political oblivion. After being sidelined in politics, Mr Buhatwa was appointed Senior Assistant Secretary, today's equivalent of Deputy Permanent Secretary, in the Ministry of Communications, Power and Works, replacing a white man as the civil service moved to "Africanise."
He stayed with the ministry for two years and in March 1967, was appointed Joint General Manager of the China and Tanzania Joint Shipping Company (SINOTASHIP), a post he held until 1986 when he retired. Reflecting on life between their days and now, Mr
Buhatwa is a heavily burdened soul over the massive corruption and erosion of morals in society. "You cannot develop without values.
There are no leadership ethics anymore and everybody glories corruption - kuchakachua - as if the word was that romantic," he said. "People today ridicule and laugh at us, murmuring do you see Nyerere's ministers?" said the old man who has not lost his legendary charm and easy go character.
"But we served this country in a very honest manner and never amassed wealth the way those who came after us have done. If anything, Tanzania is now the man-eat-man society," he said alluding to a term that Tanzania used to associate with a neighbouring country.
Nyerere, he said, was a very honest person and there is nothing that could be said he did for personal interest. He always put the interests of the country first, which is what the present generation must do. Short of that, there will be no development, he said and quipped: "I thank God that some of us are still alive."