Saturday, June 6, 2009

"Pumbavu?".. maybe not....

Once again, the president was making a speech on a National holiday and felt the need to refer to some of his citizens as "pumbavu" (fools). He was of the opinion that only somebody who is a pumbavu would wake up, plan to go to the event and heckle speeches.

Once again, I saw Wetangula and other ministers telling us that we "must respect our president/ministers/MPs."

Anytime somebody criticizes the president/prime minister/ministers/MPs in public, they are either referred to as disrespectful or dismissed as pumbavu.

I find that distasteful, disappointing, frustrating and worrying for this country.

Lazy leadership, greed, incompetence and failed policies have led this country to the brink of self destruction. We cannot even feed ourselves, the majority of our population lives in poverty, we have sky high unemployment..etc. We, the populace, face many problems and challenges.

Yet our leaders clearly send the message that they have no interest in hearing from us. They cocoon themselves behind bullet-proof glass and 10 foot high electric fences and when they do venture out of their enclaves of luxury and mingle with the common man, they expect us to fawn over them like they are delivering the commandments from the mountaintop.

The heckling and public criticism are a sign of desperation. People do not feel like their government is doing enough to enable them to make a living. Worse than that, people do not feel like they have any means of addressing their leaders about their problems. The common man does not feel like he has any means of honestly and frankly engaging with the people who are running the country. That would be fine if they were doing a great job, but the fact is they are not.

Our infrastructure is still rubbish, bureaucracy and public sector inefficiency are still choking the life out of our businesses and corruption is still like a parasite sucking the life blood out of the country. We are struggling through this...and our 'leaders' are busy fighting amongst themselves over tea and crumpets in 5-star hotels.

I will respect the MPs, ministers and president when they start running the country properly. When they stop wasting public resources, stop bickering over petty issues and get down to addressing the problems we face. I will respect them when they start engaging with us and stop hiding in their cars, houses, offices and behind bodyguards and banks of microphones.

Respect is earned and respect is a two way thing. I refuse to respect somebody just because he is old or has been in politics/government for a long time. I respect results and the fact is our government and politics have failed us thus far.

I have in the past suggested that each minister and PS should have periodic(weekly, maybe monthly) barazas/forums to hear from the public, talk one on one to the public and address issues that are raised.

The president should also do the same.

This would allow for a more constructive back and forth between the public and those entrusted with running government, and help government leaders better understand problems/issues that wananchi have. It would also go some way towards enabling wananchi to feel like their leaders are answerable to them.


  1. We are now all running amok emotionally in terms of this nation. Quite simply because there is a vacuum at the top...

  2. I am a Mzungu who grew up in Tanzania and Kenya. My father would slap my face or send me to sit in the corner if I called anyone a pumbavu. That was the case even if I was talking to my African pals.

    Perhaps some of these men who are so quick with name calling could use some time sitting in the corner to think about their naughty mouth. We too have leaders who are calling one another and members of the press ugly names here in the USA. It seems to be a disease that is endemic worldwide.

    Free speech is a threat to weak men.

    The only time I heard an African adult use the word "pumbavu" was when one of the children passed air in public.

    There is a respect that leaders must show for wananchi who pay their taxes so they can eat their ugali every evening. "Pumbavu" is NOT "thank you" in Kiswahili.