Tan­za­ni­ans lazy? No they have a slow hand

Elsie Eyakuze on what makes life worth liv­ing ...

The East African - - FRONT PAGE - ELSIE EYAKUZE Elsie Eyakuze is a con­sul­tant and blog­ger for The Mikocheni Re­port. E-mail: elsieeyakuze@gmail.com

Tan­za­ni­ans are not lazy. I bring this up to push back at my fel­low Tan­za­ni­ans, specif­i­cally “ed­u­cated” young men who of­fer un­con­struc­tive and there­fore un­wel­come views on Twit­ter that paint us all as in­fe­rior to ev­ery other nation they can think of. Guys, if you are try­ing to im­press Pres­i­dent John Magu­fuli, re­mem­ber: He doesn’t do so­cial me­dia.

Those of us who do, how­ever, do not ap­pre­ci­ate your flat­u­lent state­ments. Now, if you meant to talk about the Tan­za­nian gift for pas­sive re­sis­tance through ma­li­cious and de­lib­er­ate time-wastage? That’s a whole other po­lit­i­cal dis­cus­sion and you have no busi­ness giv­ing away our Machi­avel­lian se­crets to the rest of the world.

A bril­liant class­mate in se­condary school wrote a poem about the con­cept of Euro­pean time be­ing in­tro­duced into African so­ci­eties that stuck with me. Through the ex­pe­ri­ence of a woman car­ry­ing her load of crops to mar­ket to sell, stop­ping to ad­mire flow­ers and greet friends along the way, she ques­tioned what the clock had con­trib­uted and taken away from us.

No­body loves a tightly con­trolled timetable more than the Catholic Church. At the mo­ment you, yes you, are us­ing the Gre­go­rian cal­en­dar named af­ter Pope Gre­gory XIII who helped sys­tem­a­tise what was re­ally a col­lec­tion of mildly chaotic meth­ods of keep­ing time.

The Fifth Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Tan­za­nia is at­tempt­ing to Gre­go­rian Cal­en­dar us into time-keep­ing dis­ci­pline. If we are go­ing to em­brace the idea of dis­ci­pline, I can see beau­ti­ful things hap­pen­ing for us.

Th­ese days if you need to go to a gov­ern­ment of­fice to get some ser­vice, the like­li­hood of of­fi­cials be­ing at their desks when the of­fice opens has shot up sig­nif­i­cantly. Forms that are filled will be pro­cessed in a timely man­ner.

I even hear that our port has be­come more ef­fi­cient, praise be, and the cheer­ful chaos of Dar es Salaam is vis­i­bly los­ing ground to se­ri­ous-faced folks who talk about “ef­fec­tive­ness” and “ef­fi­ciency.

All very pleas­ant…up to a point. The re­al­ity is that we live in a dual world.

My col­league’s poem stuck with me be­cause she jux­ta­posed what has come to be called African Time with the colo­nial ob­ses­sion with tam­ing, con­trol­ling and mi­cro­manag­ing those they sub­ju­gated with their whale­bone corseted “sched­ul­ing.” Pope Greg’s cal­en­dar is use­ful for co-or­di­nat­ing in­ter­na­tional air travel and doc­tor’s ap­point­ments, but it does not have a mo­nop­oly of the con­cept of time. African Time is the mo­ment you take to greet your shop­keeper, the cup of tea you of­fer a vis­i­tor, the 20 min­utes out of your com­mute to visit a friend’s rel­a­tive in hos­pi­tal, be­ing five min­utes late be­cause you gave your neigh­bour a lift to that bus stop slightly out of your way.

It is know­ing not to in­ter­rupt an el­der’s re­count­ing of his youth. It is es­cap­ing to have a long lunch with a friend by the beach be­cause that’s re­lax­ing and will end up sav­ing you money for blood pres­sure med­i­ca­tion down the line.

Tan­za­ni­ans are not lazy. We are sim­ply… prag­matic about the joys of liv­ing. Just like the Spa­niards who take af­ter­noon naps and the Car­i­o­cas who ca­su­ally visit the beach when­ever the mood strikes them.

And I hope we con­tinue to be ex­actly like that in the face of the grind­ing march of ever-stan­dar­d­is­ing time.

African Time is the mo­ment you take to greet your shop­keeper, the cup of tea you of­fer a vis­i­tor,

We are sim­ply… prag­matic about the joys of liv­ing. Just like the Spa­niards.”

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