[h=1]As the snake sloughs its skin, the national ship hits an iceberg – get it? [/h By JENERALI ULIMWENGU Posted Sunday, June 19 2011 at 11:46 THE EAST AFRICAN The comical flavour of Tanzanian politics will not go away anytime soon, it seems, for with every week we are treated to a new episode in an apparently never-ending soap Here are grown people who, even in their own Kiswahili, cannot appreciate the full meaning of a metaphor, even when it's just too obvious to miss. When the ruling party nomenklatura emerged from one of their noisy meetings to state that they were embarking on an exercise of "sloughing" - "kuvua gamba," they said - we thought someone was putting words in our rulers' mouths, but soon we discovered it was indeed their own way of saying they were going to do some house cleaning. Now, sloughing is the act of shedding dead skin, usually done by reptiles, including snakes. It could hardly have come as a surprise then that the ruling party's detractors - they are legion these days - latched onto the expression, conjuring up all sorts of unflattering images, all making reference to the serpentine quality of the machine in control of the country's fortunes. The local commentariat had a field day: So, all along you guys have been snakes, coiling around the nation's heart? Well, we all knew that's what you were, but never thought that one day you would own up. Isn't the period after sloughing the time when the snake becomes more dangerous, its venom more deadly... and such like. It reminded me of a statement by a former US ambassador to Dar who stated, in a seminar discussing the Tanzanian economy, that the recent indicators of improvement in macroeconomic indicators were only "the tip of the iceberg." Unable to resist the urge, I stupidly earned his displeasure by asking him whether he saw our country as the Titanic... These things happen because we are too used to saying things without bothering to think. If I had thought about it just a little bit, I could maybe have found a way not to hurt the good envoy in his amour-propre. He, in turn, could have said what he wanted to say without alluding to the 1912 maritime tragedy. And our ruling party chiefs could have found a way of saying how determined they were to get rid of corrupt elements within their ranks without making people think - and detractors tease - that the whole outfit was a viper's brood. All these verbal faux pas may serve as amusing distractions, providing cheap talking points and anecdotes for a jaded citizenry that has long given up on the ability of its "leaders" to provide leadership. But they also tell us that something has gone terribly wrong in high places. I suspect the people up there hardly discuss matters of national interest in earnest, and sometimes they give one the impression that they communicate through sms messages. I see no way people could sit in a meeting where a formal proposal is tabled to embark on a "sloughing" exercise, and they all agree to do the snake act. It may have been a case of the top man misspeaking and then the rest of the pack falling over each other to put some gloss on the foot-in-the mouth, but that does not help matters any. Meanwhile, it would seem as if the country has indeed hit that iceberg that the visionary diplomat foretold. The energy crisis has crippled most of our industries, and those that are still working are so hobbled that they may not be around for long. The small people, the pedestrian industrialists, those who run secretarial services, beauty parlours, welding workshops and joineries, street-corner cafes and ice-cream kiosks... it's these people who are bearing most of the brunt of the crisis imposed on them by the people whose principal hallmark is misspeaking. While these small people are wondering how they will survive, the misspeakers are busy misspeaking in Dodoma, discussing whether people who are employed to sit in parliament should receive sitting allowances over and above the salaries they are paid to sit there.