Tanzanian presidential candidates compete to echo Nyerere ideology

The influence of Tanzania's Founding Father Julius Nyerere seems to be playing out in the open as the country's elections draw closer. And rivals have this week debated on whether the current regime has honoured him well.

At the anniversary of his death, President John Magufuli told a gathering in the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam that they enjoy today's peace because of what Nyerere established decades ago.

Nyerere, Dr Magufuli said, set Tanzania on the path of independence, peace and tranquility, unity, Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar and self-reliance and that Tanzanians honour him if they abide by those principles.

"Mwalimu Nyerere did a good job for Tanzania," the presidential candidate for the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Nyerere's party, said on Thursday at the Tanganyika Packer Grounds.

"He created for us national values like peace, love and unity."

Nyerere, who led the country between 1961 and 1985, died on October 14, 1999, in London. In honouring his legacy, Dr Magufuli, who is seeking reelection, told Kawe and Kinondoni voters in Dar es Salaam that no one should violate the principles the founding leader set for the country.

To Magufuli, Nyerere was a true pan-Africanist and pioneer of liberation on the continent.

Nyerere was famed for the Ujamaa policy, some form of socialism meant to beat capitalism, seen as disruptive to the traditional pre-colonial rural African society.

Beat tribalism

Once he took power, he instituted the policy in the 1967 Arusha Declaration, focusing on creating villages and encouraging folks to return from towns to some form of settlement schemes and self-reliance.

His idea was to also nationalise banks and industries as well as pool people in villages to be provided with facilities for farming, and eventually beat the scourge of tribalism. 

Initially, joining villages was voluntary but he later began enforcing the policy. Critics, however, argue that it wasn't as productive as initially expected as some of the returnees from towns failed to engage in local agricultural production.

Still, Nyerere is revered for taming the tribalism problem. Prof Ibrahim Lipumba, running on the Civic United Front (CUF) ticket, said Nyerere taught leaders how to avoid tribalism, cronyism and nepotism which he vowed to emulate should he be elected.

"This is contrary to current leaders who give top political leadership positions to members of their families, irrespective of their relatives' political backgrounds," the economics professor told a campaign rally at Mwembetogwa in Iringa.

Tanzanians, he said, should remember Nyerere for the way he spent his life fighting for the rights of the less privileged.

"He stressed unity of Tanzanians and human rights. He fought corruption to the extent that he never gave a plum position to his wife or any of his children," he said.

Nyerere's Ujamaa was abandoned in 1985 when Ali Hassan Mwinyi came to power.

On the campaign trail on Thursday, Magufuli's rivals also heaped praise on the man commonly known as ''Mwalimu''.

Lissu on Nyerere

Chadema's presidential candidate Tundu Lissu argued that his party created a manifesto mirrored on Mwalimu's vision.

Mr Lissu, who is also the party's vice-chairman (Mainland), said the ruling CCM had diverted from Nyerere's beliefs and visions.

At a rally on Ukerewe Island in Lake Victoria, where his convoy had to be transported on a speed boat because the local ferry at Kisorya was reportedly out of order, the ex-Singida East MP and former Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) president said he borrowed heavily from Nyerere's published work.

Lissu borrowed from Nyerere's 1968 book Freedom and Development, which is a compendium of Nyerere's early speeches on his ideology, including one in which he argues that citizens' participation in government policies may matter more than whether those policies are beneficial to them.

"Development means any act that gives citizens powers of making decisions regardless of whether the acts will improve their health or will be appeased," Lissu paraphrased one of Nyerere's speeches in the book.

"Likewise, acts that reduce citizens' powers in decision-making are not linked to development regardless of whether they improve health or make them satisfied."

"This is the reason we prepared an election manifesto advocating freedom, justice and people-centred development in this election, purposely to honour the Founding Father of the Nation," he said.

In one of the speeches, Nyerere did admit from early on that his policy could fail if his administration mechanically replicated pre-colonial systems without enticing people to buy-in.

"There have been very many cases where heavy capital investment has resulted in no increase in output, where the investment has been wasted. And in most of the officially sponsored or supported schemes, the majority of people who went to settle lost their enthusiasm," he wrote.

"It is important, therefore, to realise that the policy of Ujamaa Vijijini is not intended to be merely a revival of the old settlement schemes under another name. The Ujamaa village is a new conception, based on the understanding that what we need to develop is people, not things, and that people can only develop themselves."

Ahead of elections, how to honour him has divided rival candidates. Lissu claimed certain officials had asked Nyerere's family to decline visits from him.

"Those who are restricting the family from welcoming us haven't visited the village during the last five years of their leadership but they want to turn him into a 'CCM property' despite leading Tanzanians for many years," he said.

While in Ukerewe, the local immediate concerns were the plight of fishermen who were reportedly being harassed by authorities. 

"I'll form a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the perpetrators before the law takes its course and that the victims of these incidents will be compensated," he said. He also pledged to reform laws and regulations governing fishing in Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and any other water bodies in order to end injustice against fishermen.

The vocal politician promised to construct a bridge connecting Kisorya and Ukerewe; revive the Nansio Port and rehabilitate the isles airport in order to improve transportation.