Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mark and I: 16 years later

Mark and I: 16 years later.

I pulled out a laptop to write this story because today, during my drive to Magu, I remembered a troubled old friend, a friend I will never forget. In 1998, a year after I have been to the United States, I took a temporary summer job in Boston, caring for the mentally ill individuals in their group homes. This was a typical job for immigrants and students – easy to get, flexible multiple hours, decent pay, and you can study while at work. My boss was a very understanding Greek-American named Nick. He started me off with “patients” who were not extreme cases, guys who were most of the time okay and were in the process of being reintegrated into normal, unsupervised life. So, my job was to bring them to their doctors’ appointments, make sure they take their medications on time, get them to their job training, and sometimes to their actual jobs – dishwashing at the MacDonald’s, security duties at the malls, and so forth. In essence, my job, at one time, was to watch over them doing their jobs. Most of the time, there were no incidents except for few occasions where one particular individual had a tendency to abruptly lose temper and throw tantrums and I had to intervene and sort it out or take him home. The job required training on man-management and a deeper understanding of the profile of the patients, including what words or reinforcements or incentives calm them down.  

The job required that you have a driver’s license and I had just gotten one but never driven around and didn’t know my way around yet. One day my boss left a note that I should bring the guys to their doctor’s appointment in Lynn, one of Boston’s suburbs. All he left was a piece of paper with address and car key. One of the individual under my care said he knew the place and would guide me there. After 10 minutes of drive, he couldn’t remember. We got lost and didn’t eat the whole day, they missed a critical doctor’s appointment, missed their medication, and grew impatient, and a near-chaos situation ensued in the van. I further panicked.  Nick got a call from doctor’s office that, two hours from appointment time, we hadn’t showed up. He panicked. I didn’t have a cell phone. The car had an outbound-only cell-phone which I didn’t know how to use. What I did was to surrender myself to the highway police officer who was kind enough to lead us back home. I knew I was going to get fired. But Nick understood. I kept my job and compensated my error with hard work.

Nick then moved me to another house which had only one patient – Mark.  Mark was 37 years old but with a body of a 10-year old. Mark was a savant – a super-genius with absolutely unmatched memory, mathematical abilities and unbelievable computer skills. I have never met anyone as gifted as Mark. But Mark had a number of neurotic disorders, had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, drug and alcoholic addiction and many other ailments. He took a lot, I mean a lot, of medications with many side-effects. Mark would challenge his doctors on the biochemistry of his medications. Mark had a very specific routine – and before working with him you require two weeks training. Mark was a gentle soul and physically vulnerable. But Mark was also manipulative, deceptive, a brilliant liar and would test anyone’s patience to the limits. Mark plays with your mind. Nobody wanted to work with Mark because it is simply mentally and physically exhausting - you are required to have him in your eyesight at all time even when he is in the toilet because he sometimes tend to injure himself deliberately. For new staff, Mark would move around the house in quick paces and give multiple demands for three hours straight just to wear you down, and would ask “don’t you feel idiotic to follow me around at all time?” But Mark’s worst behavior was what was called “bolting” – that is running away from the house to any nearest grocery or liquor store to grab a bottle of whiskey or beer from the shelf (without paying) and drink it straight and collapse. So, working with Mark requires that all doors must be locked and you keep keys. But Mark has in the past pick-pocketed a key from staff.

Mark bolted on me three times. One time, because he was so tiny, he hid in the laundry drying machine. I looked the entire house and when I couldn’t find him, I opened the door to look outside and that’s when he slipped out of the house and hid in the shrubs in the backyard – and when I went back inside that’s when he left the premises. I found him at nearby grocery store where he had drank half a liter of mouthwash – yes, Listerine mouthwash. Apparently it has alcohol.

Mark had a number of rights which we were obliged to respect. He had the right to go outside the house, of course under my escort, to shop but mostly to fish – Mark was obsessed with fishing.  Mark had the right to use the computer for an hour a day – and of course with me sitting behind him watching everything he was doing. With his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Mark must be on the computer at exactly 6pm. His favorite thing on the computer was chatting – back then through AOL chats.  I was required to monitor these chats. But frankly I couldn’t because Mark would have about 12 chat windows at the same time and would go back and forth on each window with supersonic speed. 

One day, Mark, in a friendly way, said he knew my secret: that I am using a fake driver’s license. Of course I wasn’t. He said he would show me the difference between a genuine and real drivers license. So I took my wallet out and my license and bank cards. A less than minute glance at my bank card was enough for Mark to memorise my details – all 16 digits, expiry date, etc. Next day, at about 9pm, the doorbell rang, something very unusual. I went to the door and two voluptuous ladies greet me asking if this is the correct address for Mr. Makamba. Mark had apparently used my bank card to order two prostitutes from an online escort service. When I was expressing surprise and saying I don’t know anything, Mark asked me if we could talk first. He admitted to the mischief and said to me “don’t panic, you are the man, show your manhood and don’t be a sissy, who will know? You first pick the one you like and I take the other one”. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to strangle him. I politely dismissed the ladies.  Boss was kind enough to compensate my money.

Mark never stays with staff for more than three weeks because he simply wears people down and people choose to quit and also because he always want a new staff. Mark would study you quickly and if you love your football on TV, Mark would ask you to bring him to fish as football game starts. As reluctantly turn-off the TV, Mark would seek to negotiate a favour to let you watch the game.  During winter time, with frozen ponds outside, Mark would still want to go fishing and, I was told, if you hated winter, he would actually want to go fishing three times a day – and would negotiate to go only once if you allow him something that he is not supposed to do.

I lasted two months with him. During this time, Mark ceased to become simply a "patient" I was looking after. He became a friend. We understood each other. When I was about to leave, I was emotional and, for the first time, I saw Mark's emotional side. He gave me a clumsy hug and said to me “I will always remember you for one thing: you never even attempted to physically abuse me”. Until then, I had not known that that is what he expected from me.

I googled Mark today (I am deliberately omitting his last name to protect his privacy) but couldn’t find him. I have encountered all sorts of interesting people in my life. But Mark was special. 

The point of the story is that life has many lessons – and some of them come from very unlikely places or people. I learnt the virtue of patience through working with Mark. I also learnt to appreciate the value of the gift of good health that we all take for granted. I learnt not to judge and prejudice people. But I also learnt that mental illness is real and that the mentally ill have deep humanity if we are able to go beyond their ailments. I learnt that a society without systems and culture to care for its most vulnerable members is yet to be civilized.  We don’t talk much about mental illness in Tanzania. We quickly give up on the mentally-ill – and find easy reasons: drugs, witchcraft, curse. It is time that this change.  

#TegetaEscrow: "Dear Mr President, this is your last tango dance"

For the past four days, Tanzanians has been glued to their radios, TVs, newspapers and social media tools completely captivated by Parliament’s proceedings in Dodoma over the alleged fraudulent payments of $120 million taken from the Tegeta Escow account held at Central Bank. There is deep public anger and dismay towards government officials who authorized the tax-free withdrawals and expropriated money belonging to taxpayers. 

I came across a series of tweets by Ms. Natasha Issa addressed to President Jakaya Kikwete, in which she respectfully conveys her opinion as a citizen over the issue. She tells the Head of State that she wrote him a letter “after so many conversations we have had in my head" (see above tweet). She advises the President on the appropriate action to take. Earlier today, Parliament reached a compromise vote to compel the President to dismiss senior officials including the Attorney General and Minister of Energy who were involved in the scandal. As we await the President’s response to the vote, here is Ms. Issa’s brilliant letter in full:

Dear Mr. President,

I want to first say I am grateful for all your hard work, although at first I did not understand your policies but you have managed to place our beloved country on the world map as a country to watch out for, discipline in our foreign policies has been at a record high during your administration.
Your dedication to national security is also something that I will gladly commend you for and give you praises.

Mr. President, all your hard work however is dimming in light of the many hiccups (to put it lightly) that we as a country have faced in the past 9 years. Granted some of these are not of your making and you may have inherited them, but no one comes to power and finds a blank canvas, there is always going to be a picture painted already and it is the duty of those taking the paint brush to either bring the picture in focus or paint the canvas white completely and start to paint afresh, but with just 10 years the latter is almost an impossible task and as such no one expected that of you.

However, Mr. President what I did expect from you is to have learnt from our previous mistakes, if we can call them that. To have you, my Commander in Chief be at the forefront campaigning side by side with me and our fellow Tanzanians against corruption and any foul play towards this country we all love so much.

Mr. President, we have had too many financial scandals in our beloved country; EPA where we lost $131 million, Richmond where we lost Tsh 172 billion and now the IPTL saga where this beautiful country of ours and you it's leader has been robbed of over $200 million. I beseech you Mr. President please do not let this slide not when you are so close to the finish line.

I understand your reservations to intervene, I even get it, and quite frankly if I were in your shoes I'd be equally fed up with the hand that has been dealt. But it is your hand Sir, and it is your deck, Sir, and only you can see and know what the cards hold. So do not be afraid to shuffle your deck right now to give the Tanzanians the peace of mind they need until your term ends, do not fall into the ploy that it is better to do nothing right now because 'well my time is almost up anyways'- importantly do not be afraid to be remembered as the President who had numerous cabinet reshuffles and several Prime Ministers. Nyerere never feared it nor was he shy of acting on it for the sanctity and security of the Republic and Party.

This is the last moment to make your mark Mr. President, your last tango dance, please do not sit this one out. We do not want to remember you as the President who stood by and allowed millions of shillings whether (public or government) be robbed from his government, or that the President who damned his party by allowing egotistical maniacs to get away with atrocious misconduct, removing the prestigious name your party has enjoyed, a duration longer in years than the majority of Tanzanians.

The youth are behind you Sir, they still love this country and believe it or not they love CCM but its actions or inactions that make them become indifferent towards the government and the party. Prove to them Sir why they love your party in the 1st place, prove to them by your actions now, why they should reinstate your party come elections next year. Because we all know, the unspeakable actions happening in your government are not actions of your party or a reflection of your morals.

Sir, we liked you and that is why when you came into office you won with a whopping over 80%, your second term that percentage decreased, that was not a reflection on you as a person but leadership, some bad judgments, and serious bad people in your administration. As you are about to hand over the reins to another just think of how badly your party will do if this plot that is going on in Parliament right now continues, if those accountable are going to be spared, if your people continue to deny these allegations and try and sweep everything under the rug pretending to be above the law. We as the citizens may not be able to do anything, because as we all know Tanzanians are very submissive and forgiving in nature and do not have a shred of violence in them, but we may hold our grudge against a political party that in all this is very innocent.

Mr. President, I could go on and on and I'll probably end up repeating myself, which is not cool, but what is cool is this; what former President Mkapa said, “I think the time has come for us to evolve national political ethics that do not depend on the wishes of party or government leaders. We need a code of political conduct that is binding on all political parties and leaders, including those from the ruling party."
You said the following Mr. President when you took office and addressed the parliament, 9 years ago.

"The Fourth Phase Government will fulfil its governance and development responsibilities, and will focus on good governance and accountability; the rule of law and respect for the human rights of all people;"

"...The Fourth Phase Government will strengthen the public service and fight social ills without fear or favour." That is you, Sir, on good governance.

And this is you, Sir, on corruption, "There are two other fronts in the war on corruption we will focus on. The first is in the area of contracts. We have to look again at our systems and processes of contract making, contract enforcement and tendering in the government and other public offices, in order to increase transparency and accountability. Contracts remain a major loophole for corrupt practices, especially those that are called “grand corruption”. The time has come to close these loopholes."

You continued, Sir, "I am not against people getting rich. Indeed, I want everyone to have a better life. What I am against is people using public offices for self- enrichment."

And you could not have said it better, "This is what people find obnoxious, when they see someone with nothing to begin with getting rich almost overnight after being a Member of Parliament, a Minister, a Permanent Secretary, a Director or a Head of Department. When suddenly such people have posh houses, town buses, unregistered taxis, and the like, the people have the right to ask, and the right to get answers. For such dramatic changes in one’s fortunes after getting into public office smacks of corruption. The Fourth Phase Government cannot accept this and everyone in it must help to fight it. I ask the Public Ethics Commission not to shy away from asking each one of us to account for our assets and wealth. The Commission should be proactive. I will help it to build the capacity to do so, if indeed that is the problem."

So Mr. President, (the man I look up to and even have a girl crush on and sometimes calls you my boyfriend) what changed? This was you, valor and gallantry were synonymous with your name...Sir, for one last time, dance to your tune, the old one in your head when you took office, because that is the leader I want to remember you as.

Again, thank you for the continued security that you provide to me and all Tanzanians, thank you for sparing us from hunger, war and all ungodly things that other people suffer from.

Importantly, thank you, Sir, for making Tanzania an envy for her neighbors and a successes story for the rest of the world. I am proud to be Tanzanian, and you gave me that pride.

Mungu aibariki Tanzania, na akubariki wewe Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete na viongozi waliopita.

Kind Regards,

Ms. Issa

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Maoni ya Ndugu January Makamba (MB) Kuhusu Utafiti wa Taasisi ya Twaweza Kuelekea 2015

Maoni ya Ndugu January Makamba (MB) Kuhusu Utafiti wa Taasisi ya Twaweza Kuelekea 2015 

Hatimaye nimepata fursa ya kusoma matokeo ya utafiti uliofanywa na Twaweza.  Tumeyapokea na binafsi nawapongeza Twaweza kwa kazi nzuri wanayofanya ya kupata hisia za wananchi kuhusu masuala mbalimbali yanayoendelea nchini. Hata hivyo, kwa mara ya kwanza tangu matoleo haya yaanze,  nimepata simu na ujumbe mwingi ikiwemo kutoka kwa magwiji wa sayansi ya ukusanyaji maoni wakiniuliza maswali mengi kuhusu misingi ya sayansi ya kupata maoni, kwa mfano dhana ya kuwapa watu simu za mikononi na chaja za sola ili watoe maoni na dhana ya kuwa na sampuli hiyo hiyo ya watu 2,000 kutoka Tanzania Bara pekee kila mara maoni yanapokusanywa. Binafsi sio mtaalam wa sayansi ya ukusanyaji maoni kwahiyo sina uhakika kama utaratibu uliotumika unabatilisha matokeo haya. Pamoja na hayo, utafiti huu unatupa mambo kadhaa muhimu ya kutafakari na hakuna sababu ya kutumia muda mrefu kujadili mbinu za ukusanyaji maoni. Binafsi, ninayo maoni yafuatayo kuhusu kura hii ya maoni.

Mosi, kuhusu suala la mgombea wa urais wa CCM, ukweli ni kwamba anateuliwa kwa misingi na taratibu za ndani ya Chama na kutokana na sifa 13 zilizowekwa na Chama. Mwaka 1995, Mwalimu Nyerere aliongoza kuenguliwa kwa wagombea wawili katika ngazi ya Kamati Kuu ambao licha ya umaarufu wao katika kura za maoni, walipungukiwa na sifa za kushika nafasi hiyo na tukapata mgombea ambaye hakuna aliyekuwa anamfikiria. Kwahiyo, kura hii ya maoni haina uhusiano na uamuzi wa uteuzi wa mgombea wa CCM. Bahati nzuri, katika maelezo yao ya utafiti, Twaweza hili wamelieleza.  

Pili, tunaona pia katika kura hii ya maoni kwamba bado Watanzania wengi hawajaamua nani awe kiongozi wao. Ingetegemewa kwamba viongozi ambao wamo kwenye siasa kwa miaka 40 sasa na wanaoshikilia au waliowahi kushikilia nyadhifa za juu, na wengine hata kuwahi kuomba nafasi ya Urais miaka ya nyuma, wangefanya vizuri zaidi katika kura hii ya maoni kwasababu Watanzania wanawajua zaidi na wamekuwa wanawasikia kwa miaka mingi. Lakini tunaona hakuna aliyekubalika kwa zaidi ya asilimia 15. Hii inaonyesha kwamba licha ya kuwafahamu kwa kina viongozi hawa, licha ya ukweli kwamba baadhi yao wamekuwa kwenye kampeni kwa miaka 10 sasa, Watanzania wengi hawaamini kwamba wana sifa na uwezo wa kuwaongoza. Lakini pia inaonyesha kwamba Watanzania wanahitaji  aina mpya ya uongozi wa nchi wenye mwelekeo, fikra na mawazo mapya ndio maana wengi bado hawajafanya uamuzi.

Mimi naamini kwamba viongozi wa kizazi cha sasa, kwa kadri utaratibu utakavyoruhusu kupata fursa ya kuelezea dira na mwelekeo mpya kwa nchi yetu, kwa kadri watakavyopewa fursa na vyombo vya habari, kama ambavyo viongozi wa muda mrefu wanapata, basi Watanzania watafanya uamuzi sahihi.  

Tatu, utafiti huu unatupa fursa ya kujua nini hasa vipaumbele vya Watanzania. Wananchi wengi wameonyesha kwamba wanahitaji huduma bora za afya, elimu na maji. Wananchi wengi wameonyesha kukerwa na rushwa na hali ya umaskini. Wananchi wengi wana tatizo la ajira.  Wananchi wengi wanataka nchi yetu iendelee kuwa ya amani na utulivu na usalama na yenye watu wanaopendana na kuheshimiana. Kwa viongozi wanaowania fursa ya kuwaongoza Watanzania, haya ndio mambo ya msingi ya kuyazingatia na kueleza mikakati ya kukabiliana nayo badala ya kuonyeshana ufahari wa nani ana nafasi nzuri zaidi ya kushinda.

Nne, nafarijika kwamba Chama cha Mapinduzi bado kinaendelea kuaminiwa na Watanzania wengi licha ya muungano wa vyama vya upinzani. Kazi nzuri iliyofanywa na Katibu Mkuu wa CCM, Ndugu Abdulrahman Kinana,  na Sekretarieti yake inaonyesha matunda. Wanastahili pongezi na kutiwa moyo ili waendelee na kazi hiyo.

January Makamba