2009-12-09 08:51:00 Tanzanians can walk with heads held high THE CITIZEN Today, we are celebrating with a measure of national pride one of the milestones in our political history, the 48th anniversary of our independence from British colonialism. However, this is not just an occasion to make merry. It's on this day that we should find time to reflect on and take stock of what we have achieved in nearly five decades. This is also a great opportunity to seriously review what remains to be done in the war against poverty, disease, and ignorance, which we declared right from the onset of self-rule. During the first phase government of founding President Julius Kambarage Nyerere, some tangible progress was made in all the three areas, though signs of underdevelopment persisted. Mwalimu found illiteracy to be an enemy of the people and put in great efforts against it. One of his greatest achievements to date stemmed from the free education that he decreed from primary school to the university level, to enable all children, irrespective of their social backgrounds, to get an education. As if that was not enough, shortly afterwards, Mwalimu initiated the adult education programme to teach mature people to how to read and write. On the health front, hospitals, health centres and dispensaries sprang up in almost every corner of our vast country, thanks to the self-help spirit, where people contributed funds and the labour to build the facilities. This initiative, plus the training of medics to man the health facilities, greatly improved the health status of many Tanzanians. But all this was possible because of the personal commitment and love Mwalimu Nyerere had for his people, and his hatred of corruption and the satanic urge to amass ill-gotten wealth. Ten years after Mwalimu's death, all that he strived so hard for, appears to be in a shambles. The literacy rate of about 80 per cent has since plummeted to below 40 per cent. And as a result of neglecting teachers, the standard of education has declined sharply, with pupils completing their primary school education, hardly able to competently read or write. During Mwalimu's era, leadership ethics were the standard yardstick against which holders of various positions, from the Cabinet down to ward level, were measured. Those found to be corrupt, would be sacked outright and the property they had grabbed, nationalised. In fact, the difficulties facing the leadership today are largely due to the absence of a leadership ethics code, entrenched corruption, religious and tribal alliances. These were largely non-existent during the first phase government. However, it is not too late to restore good governance, transparency and discipline in public service. What is needed is the courage to ditch leaders tainted with graft and other social evils. Such leaders should be removed from their parties and the government. Next year's General Election provides an opportune time for the people to do just that. The bad leaders should be ejected during the party primaries or the people must reject them during the elections proper. We find no alternative to restoring probity and honesty in the national leadership short of ditching the rotten eggs and starting afresh with new faces. And this is the only way to restore the confidence of the ordinary Tanzanians in their government and the leadership. Some people have lamented the lack of a grooming mechanism, as the cause of the leadership vacuum that is beginning to manifest itself. Unfortunately, we do not subscribe to this view for a number of reasons. Yes, former Presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa never worked for a long time with Mwalimu in his party and government. But it's true that President Jakaya Kikwete had worked closely with Mwalimu Nyerere in CCM for some 35 years. This may not have been formal grooming, but the time he spent under Mwalimu Nyerere's wing was sufficient for him to learn the ropes from one who is generally acknowledged as being among the most talented African leaders ever. Mwalimu would never befriend or tolerate anyone whose actions he considered unethical. It's perhaps time Mr Kikwete offloaded the bad elements before it;s too late!