28 Feb 2012

Parliament as "a place of abject poverty": Social media reactions to Speaker's remarks

Speaker of Parliament and Njombe South MP, Anne Makinda
The Speaker of Parliament, Anne Makinda recently announced that come 2015 she won't be standing again as MP for Njombe South. She blamed the recent failed attempt to increase MPs' allowances for low morale among MPs generally, and indicated that this was her reason for stepping down.

In her remarks, made in Njombe town on Saturday Feb 25th, Makinda, who has been the local MP for 17 years, made the following comments (the original Swahili is posted below):
"And I say this with full emphasis: the perception of all people, including you who are here, when I walk is that they see me as money, when they hear I am speaker it's worse. There's nobody with more money than me. Nobody. Yes, I come to tell you that in 2015 I will not stand. And I request your permission to borrow money and build a house. Otherwise you will come to insult me: 'that woman never built a house'. This is the real truth, you can't believe me but I tell you, God knows we speak the truth, and this is the real situation of MPs. Right now this is a very frustrated group."
 "Now, these allowances we were talking about, we have our procedures, all over the world there are allowance procedures. Increasing MPs allowances, during parliamentary sittings, and that's nine days, we have four sittings, three of which are only nine days. So MPs get these allowances just for nine days, that's all. When he/she comes back, like me here now, there's no allowance. I tell you, ten years from now, anybody with an occupation or who was working as a professor somewhere, will not run for parliament. Because this is a place of abject poverty. It's a place of complete and abject poverty. Ah, you like to like what you like but I tell you facts, and I am a Christian person, I don't lie."
Unsurprisingly, these remarks have provoked a significant reaction, both locally in Njombe and across Tanzania. A quick review of Facebook, Twitter and Jamii Forums found a lot of commentary. I've selected and translated some highlights here, with a longer list (though still far from complete) in Swahili below:
  • "I feel bad to answer a woman, particularly of the age of Anne Makinda but I have no alternative. Anne Makinda, please stop rubbing salt in the wounds of Tanzania. Why do you turn lies into truth? And you call yourself a Christian. Know what to say in public so we can continue to respect you. You say parliament is a place of abject poverty, you have no house, MPs are very frustrated. Is that true? And you emphasise that these are facts. Find an advisor to help you present yourself, these statements bring problems to the country."
  • "If parliament was a place of poverty, would people be fighting for those seats back in the constituencies? She has shamed women and insulted citizens." 
  • "Very interesting. I though they were there to protect citizens' interests. Did she expect being an MP would make her rich? And when she says it's now very frustrating, does that mean it was easy in the past?"
  • "What's very shocking is that if they are a frustrated group, who forced them to run?"
  • "Forgive her, it may be because of her age"
  • "By this argument I can say that being an MP is now an investment. You put money in during the election campaign and then you reap profits during the next five years. This puts personal profit ahead of patriotism. Leaders you are supposed to bring us together, to build our national spirit, so we can dream of our country's name, as our national anthem says. If parliament is a place of poverty, why do people spend millions to get there. And what kind of poor person in Tanzania owns a car worth 90 million shillings ($60,000)?"
  • "Dah, I'm very upset by your statements, honourable speaker. Now we see parliament is a place to search for money, not to serve the people."
  • "She has no house, so what's that one in Kijitonyama?"
  • "She has announced that she will not run in 2015, she has read the signs. She has reached the heights of Speaker and does not expect to be given the same role again, now why would she be a normal MP again because she has done nothing for her constituency in 20 years, only misleading her constituents?" 
  • "Honourable speaker, stop these lies, the people of Njombe are not fools."
  • "I thought I was watching TV satire, I had to watch twice to believe what I could hear."
  • "I'm a primary school teacher, I don't know what to say. So being an MP is difficult, eh! If she wan't an adult I would insult her. Who forced them?"
  • "INSIDE Speaker Anne Makinda's Brain; Searching, Searching.... ERROR!! Something Went Wrong. Tanzanians Should Work On Getting This Fixed As Soon As We Can."
There's clearly a lot of anger out there. I tried to find any comments defending the Speaker, but only the (possibly sarcastic) comment above about her age came close.

No need for much further analysis, as the comments above (and those below) mostly speak for themselves. But I will add one point. If becoming an MP is now so expensive - and everybody seems to agree that it is - that being an MP doesn't repay the "investment", we are at risk of creating a situation where only people who already have enough money to lose are willing and able to get elected. I'm not saying that MPs' allowances or salaries should be increased, but simply trying to highlight that the process by which MPs get elected - and how much it costs them to do so - is as much the issue as the money paid to them once they're seated in Dodoma.

Yes, we want MPs who serve their constituents and their country. And yes, keeping their salaries and allowances down to reasonable levels is important. But is it likely to solve the problem if nothing is done about how MPs get elected in the first place?


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Further reading / viewing: A Guardian article and an ITV news report

UPDATE: And from Nipashe on the response of other MPs.

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The original Swahili:


Makinda's remarks:
"Na nasema hivi kwa dhati kabisa: fikra za watu wote hata nyinyi mlioko hapa, ninavyotembea mimi wananiona kabisa mapesa, na naitwa spika ndiyo lalalalalalala. Hakuna mtu mwenye pesa kuzidi mimi. Hayupo. Ndiyo nikaja kuwambieni mi mwaka 2015 sisimami. Na nawaombeni mniruhusu sasa nikope nijenge nyumba. Vingenevyo mtakuja kunitukana: 'Mwanamke huyu alikuwa hajengi nyumba'. Ndiyo ukweli wenyewe, hamwezi kuniamini lakini nasema inatoka Mungu anajua kwamba tunasema ukweli, na ndivyo hali halisi ya wabunge. Hivi sasa ni very frustrated group." 
"Sasa, hii posho tuliokuwa tunasema sisi tuna utaratibu wetu, na duniani kote kuna taratibu ya posho. Kamwongezea Mbunge posho, wakati wa vikao, na ni siku tisa, vikao vyetu viko vinne, vitatu ni siku tisa tisa tu. Kwa anapata hizo lakini siku tisa, basi. Akirudi kama mimi nilivyo hapa hakuna cha allowance ya mtu wala nini. Mimi nakuambia miaka kumi, (odilai?), mtu yeyote mwenye shughuli yake ama aliyekuwa anafanya Professor wapi, hawatagombea ubunge. Kwa sababu ni eneo wa umaskini wa kutupa. Ni eneo wa umaskini wa kutupa kabisa. Ah, mnapenda kupenda mnachopenda nyinyi lakini naambia facts, na mimi ni mtu mkristu kabisa sisemi uongo."

Social media reactions:
  • "Ni bora mbunge huyu wa Njombe mjini aanzishe jimbo kijijini kwake ili awadanganye huko kwao. Hali ya mitaa ya Njombe mjini ni aibu saana"
  • "Najisikia vibaya kumjibu mwanamke tena mwenye umri wa Ndugu Anna Makinda lakini sina jinsi. Ndugu Anna Makinda (Mb, Spika) tafadhali usiendelee kututonesha vidonda tulivyonavyo watanzania. Kwa nini unabadilisha uongo kuwa ukweli? na wewe unajiita mkristo. Jua vya kuongea kwenye hadhira ili tuendelee kukuheshimu. Unasema "Ubunge ni eneo la umasikini wa kutupa kabisa, Wewe huna nyumba, Wabunge ni very frustrated group." kweli? na unasisitiza hizo ndio facts? Tafuta basi washauri wa-kukuongoza kile cha kusema. Kauli kama hizi ndizo zinaleta matatizo kwa taifa."
  • "Hahaha uyu mama ss amekua comedian...Ubunge ni eneo la umaskini! Watu wangetoana roho ... Kakosa jibu kbs alipoulizwa swala la posho badala yk anaelezea cku wanazopewa posho ... Hajielewi kbs uyu mama kaaaaaa....."
  • "Baada ya kufuja hela za nchi ndio anasema hataki tena!!!lingekua ubunge ni umasikini wangetoana roho huko majimboni? Ametuaibisha wanawake na ametukana wananchi"
  • "Et ana nyumba....ndio anataka akakope anunue nyumba....duuuuh madam spika......hata kama ulikuwa unawaongopea watu wa jimbon kwako khaaaa tuuu much mama." 
  • "Dhiki ya madaraka inamsumbua"
  • "Sina imani na upeo wa mh makinda, nina mashaka na vyeti vyake vya elimu, ni mwendawazimu pekee anayeweza kusema kuwa Ubunge ni kundi la masikini wa kutupa and ni frustrated group ............... Tanzania bwana, wanasiasa wote ni wanafiki" 
  • "Hana nyumba na ile ya kijitonyama ni nn? kazibia watu njia kwa kujenga ukuta hakuna sehemu ya kupita maji mvua ikinyesha watu wanafurikiwa kisa ukuta wake watu wa namna hii cjui kwa nn Mungu hawashushii radi mxii"
  • "Msameheni jamani, may be bcoz of age" 
  • "Alikuwa ana-protest kiaina kuhusu posho zao mlizowabania.. Kazi kwelikweli.!! Sasa sijui Ingeachwa zipande angegombea tena?"
  • "Analeta mzaha na maisha ya Watanzania sasa kama ubunge ni umasikini mbona wanatyoa mahela ya hongo kipindi vcha uchaguzi na kuawadanganya wanawake wenzie na ahadi hewa bungeni kunabiashara kubwa kuliko hata street"
  • "Ajabu kabisa tena sana,kama wao ndo frustrated group nani kawalazimisha kugombea???vikumbo na hongo wanazotoa kwenye kura za maoni wanatakatuambia walikuwa wanakimbilia mshahara wa 12m ama uteuzi wa kuwa mawaziri? posho eti za chini kuliko wabunge wote duniani je wananchi walio wapigia kura wanalipwa wa ngapi duniani? INACHEFUA SANA, heri kutozungumza kabisa kuliko kutoa kauli za namna hii."
  • "Kwa kauli hii nachelea kusema kuwa Ubunge kwa sasa ni "Investment".. Yaani unawekeza raslimali zako kipindi cha uchaguzi, then unavuna kipindi cha miaka mitano.. Ama kweli tuna safari ndefu. Hii inazidi kutupotezea uzalendo na inaongeza ubinafsi.. Viongozi mwatakiwa mtuunganishe, mtujengee utaifa, ili tuliote jina Tanzania kama wimbo wa taifa usemavyo.. Kama ubunge ni eneo la umaskini, kwa nini watu wanatumia mamilioni kuupata? Maskini gani Tanzania anamiliki gari la million 90?"
  • "Dah, nimesikitika sana kwa kauli yako mheshimiwa! Kumbe ubunge ni eneo la kutafuta pesa na si kutumikia wananchi? Na kama ni eneo la maskini wa kutupa kwa nini watu wengi wanakimbilia huko? Nimesikitika sana! Kama wewe ndio kiongozi wetu mkuu tunaekutegemea ututoe katika wimbi la huu umaskini unatamka maneno haya, sasa ni nani basi ataweza kuzisimamia raslimali zidi ya mabepari! Ingefaa sana ukakanusha kauli yako hii, maana inatutia huzuni, ukilinganisha tuna safari ya miaka 4 mbele!"
  • "Mheshimiwa spika. Acha uongo wananchi wa Njombe sio wajinga."
  • "Mie nilidhani naangalia ze comedy kwani ilibidi nitizame mara mbili mbili na nitafakari kauli zake!"
  • "Yaani mie nilisikia hasira, sikuamini anaonea yale..nikabaki najiuliza anaonea na nani...imagine yule speaker tutegemee nini huko bungeni"
  • "Wanasiasa wa sikuhizi mshipa wa aibu hawana!! Wanatugeuza watanzania Ma-fool"
  • "Kwani anajali basiii....she has lengthened the a;ready existing distance with them and propbably us all....! shame on her"
  • "Sikujua km ni kilaza kiasi kile yule mama alafu sijui alijua hakuna camera sijamuelewa kwakweli"
  • "Nimemuona anaongea utumbo mtupu.. ati ooh wanalipwa kiduchu kuliko mabunge mengine yeyote.. sasa kama wanataka kuacha ci waache.. kwani tuliwatuma..? ci walikuja wenyewe kuomba.. damn.. yaani wananikera kweli hawa.. pumba pumba pumba."
  • "Duh! Very interesing. Mimi nilifikiria kuwa wako hapo kutetea maslahi ya wananchi. Kwani alitegemea kuwa mbunge ili awe tajiri? Halafu anaposema ss hivi ni very frustrating huko nyuma ilikua easy?"
  • "Anawahutubia wazee hata hela ya kununua mafuta ya taa hawans unaeleza posho ya 200,000 haiwatoshi daaaah aliyeshiba hamjui mwenye njaa." 
  • "Kama Ubunge ni "umaskini" kwanini matajiri wanafanya kazi kubwa sana kuutafuta? Ingekuwa vizuri tuwape maskini maana hao tayari "umaskini" wameshauzoea!" 
  • "Nadhani kuna kitu nyuma ya pazia...kauli za huyu mama kwa wiki hii ni za kutatanisha....mara hatagombea ubunge 2015...mara anataka kuchukua mkopo benki ajenge...leo tena katoka kivingine! .. Yangu macho na masikio...ngoja nisubiri"
  • "Nimemshangaa sana huyu mama sijui uelewa wake ukoje.hao wabunge walitumwa au kulazimishwa hio kazi?mbona wanangangania hebu waache.kudadadeki."
  • "Bora waachie ngazi kumbe hawako pale kwa maslah ya taifa wapo kwa maslah yao haina maana nibora waondoke.tena mm naomba mungu magamba wote watoke vijana cdm waongoze kua na wabunge wengi"
  • "Ngumu kumeza!"
  • "Kitu ambacho bado kinanichanganya kwenye hii taharifa ya huyu mama ni Je, wabunge wa Chadema nao wamo kwenye hilo sakata la kung'atuka kutokana na maslahi madogo au ni wabunge wa CCM tu?"
  • "Hii taarifa ya Makinda ni sawa na kuwafanya wapiga kura wake wa Njombe kwamba hawana uwezo wa kufikiri, hii ni dharau kubwa sana kwa viwango vyovyote vile. leo kuna watu wanatafuta kazi ya kubeba zege na haipatikani ndio ije mtu atake kukataa kazi ya kwenda kulala Bungeni!!?? haya ni matusi."
  • "Anaongea na wananchi ambao pengine mwezi mzima hawajaiona noti ya elfu 5, hawana huduma za miundo mbinu, wala elimu, wala matibabu ya uhakika. Wakati ambapo kuna mfumuko wa bei huku hali ya maisha ikizidi kuwa tete. Anapaza sauti bila aibu wala haya, anasema posho haziwatoshi wabunge na anazusha kuwa zaidi ya nusu wanataka kuacha ubunge. Hivi jamani ni nani asiyejua maslahi ya wabunge yalivyo makubwa kulingana na hali ya uchumi. Binafsi sijawahi kumsikia Makinda akiongelea maslahi ya taifa. Siku zote yeye ni Posho tu, upeo wake ndio umeishia hapo." 
  • "Mi mwalimu wa shule ya msingi sijui nisemeje. Kumbe kuwa mbunge ni taabu eeh! ... angekuwa si mtu mzima ningemtukana. Nani kawalazimisha?"
  • "Kumbe hawakwenda bungeni kuwakilisha wananchi ila kufuata maslahi binafsi!!" 
  • "MAKINDA anatakiwa kuyajua matatizo ya tanzania kwa sasa ndipo kama spika ayasemee. kama anaona kuwa tatizo la tanzania kwa sasa ni kipato kidogo cha wabunge basi kachemsha!" 
  • "Nashindwa kuchangia maana sijawahi fika Njombe yawezekana hiyo pesa wanayopata wabunge ni kidogo sana kulinganisha na kipato cha mtu wa kawaida anayeishi kwa kubangaiza uko Njombe."
  • "Unajua huyu bibi hakutegemea kama watu wa njombe wangemuuliza swali hilo kuhusu posho, walizoe mambo ya ndio mzee, sasa alipoulizwa bila hata kujipanga na kujua, akajaa jaziba na kusasambua yote ya moyoni mwake, kumbe aliwekwa kimaslahi zaidi na sio kwa ajili ya kuleta maendeleo. atajuta kung'ang'ania kiti asichokiweza!" 
  • "Yeye anatangaza kutogombea mwaka 2015 ameshaosoma nyakati. Alishafikia Uspika na hategemei kuupata tena sasa awe bado Mbunge wa kawaida kwa lipi kubwa alilofanya katika nchi hii na jimbo lake kwa miaka 20 mabali ya kuendelea kuwachanganya wananchi"
  • "Sijawahi sikia Duniani MPs wakilalamika njaa zao binafsi bungeni zaidi ya maMPs wa TZ, Na hiyo yote imeletwa na CCM na Culture yao ya tumbo"
  • "Anna Makinda hatagombea ubunge 2015. Asante"
  • "Spika wa bunge Anna Makinda awaomba ridhaa wananchi aweze kukopa ili ajenge nyumba maana hatarudi tena kuwatumikia kama mbunge!!KWELI???"
  • "#Makinda ana jaziba aisee, naona naugome #ubunge kwa kutopata posho mpya"
  • "Ooh dear Makinda,what a pity!"
  • "Maneno ya Spika Makinda kuhusu ugumu wa maisha ya wabunge ni ushahidi wa kukomaa kwa dhana ya uheshimiwa dhidi ya utumishi"
  • "Eti wabunge wa Tz wanalia njaa! Mh! hizi si ni fitna na danganya toto kwa watanzania/ Mh! mama Makinda"
  • "INSIDE Speaker Anne Makinda's Brain; Searching, Searching.... ERROR!! Something Went Wrong. Tanzanians Should Work On Getting This Fixed As Soon As We Can."