Revisiting Nyerere’s unique social, economic legacy

Wednesday October 9 2019

Founding Father of the Nation Mwalimu Julius

Founding Father of the Nation Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere is accompanied by members of the Tanganyika African National Union (Tanu) during the early days of independence. Nyerere pioneered Ujamaa (socialism) policy that focused on developing where the majority of the population lives. photo | FILE 

By Frank Kimboy @frankkimboy

Dar es Salaam. On October 15, 2017 President John Magufuli said, “Tanzania’s economy would have been better had leaders had walked in the footsteps of the Founding Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

The Founding Father of the Nation left a legacy of selfless leadership and put the interests of the people first during his time, President Magufuli said this in Zanzibar where he presided over the Nyerere Day.

“Mwalimu Nyerere did not only help in attaining the country’s freedom, but also fought hard to ensure the country maintained peace and the interests of Tanzanians came first,” President Magufuli said.

The President, who has been modelling his political career around that of Mwalimu Nyerere, cited the value of property that Mwalimu Nyerere left behind, singling out a modest house at Msasani in Dar es Salaam, as a testimony to the fact that he did not use his position to amass wealth.

Mwalimu Nyerere, who pioneered Ujamaa (socialism) policy, focused on developing, where majority of the population lives.

The father of the nation, who died in London on October 14, 1999, advocated for the rights of the poor, who are the majority, something that can be compared to the incumbent President, John Magufuli.


Mwalimu Nyerere liberated Tanzania from colonialism and fought to maintain peace and stability within the country. As a teacher, he talked to his people as if to his students.

He tried to teach them rather than to rule them, to provide for them rather than take from them. He did not accumulate riches for himself nor did he try to be more comfortable than his people. He lived the same way his people lived - simple lifestyle,” writes one of the popular columnist, Fred Macha.

Mr Macha’s remarks reflect those made by President Magufuli in most of his public rallies since he assumed the country’s top office in the past four years as he insisted that his priority is to serve the poor, who he claimed that majority of them voted him into office in the 2015 general election.

During his time as president of Tanzania, Nyerere fought for three major things. He fought for national unity, peace and harmony, waged war on poverty and he ensured its success was shared by all and defended the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

Mwalimu believed in a just and equal society, where everyone was treated fairly and with the same respect. He was pro-nationalism to ensure all riches were shared among all, the poor and the rich alike and he stood up against any form of corruption.

Mwalimu Nyerere pioneered villagisation as one of his admiration’s socio-economic policy.

The policy was developed and implemented in Tanzania between 1922–1999 and between 1964 and 1985.

It based on the idea of collective farming and the “villagisation” of the countryside. Ujamaa also called for the nationalisation of banks and industries and an increased level of self-reliance at both an individual and national level.

Under the policy Mwalimu believed that it was possible for his government to recreate pre-colonial traditions in Tanzania and, in turn, re-establish a traditional level of mutual respect and return the people to settled, moral ways of life. The main way to do that, he said, was to move people out of the urban cities like the capital Dar es Salaam and into newly created villages dotting the rural countryside.

The policy was cemented under the February, 5, 1967’s Arusha declaration. The process started slowly and was voluntary at first, but by the end of the 1960s, there were only 800 or so collective settlements. In the 1970s, Nyerere began to force people to leave the cities and move to the collective villages. By the end of the 1970s, there were over 2,500 of these villages: but things weren’t going well in them.

The collective rural agriculture was Nyerere’s government focus. Under this, his administration provided equipment, facilities, and material to a rural population, who were brought together in “nucleated” settlements, each of around 250 families.

Immediately after independence the Tanganyikan government under Mwalimu Nyerere declared three development problems, namely, poverty, diseases and ignorance. In several speeches Mwalimu declared that the main enemies, which his administration was rooting to fight, were the three.

The next approach involved settlement schemes where modern machinery would be provided and, if possible, irrigation facilities. Also, the plan encouraged private enterprise for economic development but cautioned that it would contract government intention to expand cooperatives and government activities in commerce and industry, as well as in agriculture (Government of Tanganyika, 1964), wrote Dr Faustine Kamuzora in his article published on October 13 in 2009.

However, the policy, which intended to recreate nuclear families and engage the small communities in an “economy of affection”, failed because traditional ideals of how families operated no longer matched the reality of the Tanzanians. The growth of the economy seemed to be low in achieving the targeted objectives of poverty reduction.

Between 1960/61 – 1967 the economic growth rate was 4.3 to 5 per cent per annum. With an increase in the population growth rate of 2.7 per cent, the real economic growth of 2.3 per cent per annum was not sufficient to bring about tangible economic development.

A drop in the price of sisal, lack of experts, poor implementation of the first development plan, and a lot of resources being expended on settlement schemes were the other factors that were behind the country’s failure to meet its rural development goals, argued Dr Kamuzora in his article.

Statistics show that despite the fact that there had been the reduction in productivity in some sectors as described earlier, Tanzania registered substantial growth in a number of sectors in the late 1960s and early 1970s period. The growth was attained in food security, income, education and health services in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

However, from mid 1970s, a series of natural, internal and external events that occurred disrupted the economic growth trend.

These events included drought in 1973 and 1974, oil crisis in 1973, more droughts in 1974 and 1975, the breaking up of the East African Community in 1977 and the war between Tanzania and Uganda in 1979.

Mwalimu vs IMF

Even though there are so many things Mwalimu Nyerere is remembered for at the global level, in the economic front his showdown International Monetary Fund was the most classical, according to Dr Kamuzora.

Bolstered by the above conservative agenda, International Financial Institutions (IFIs), particularly the World Bank and the IMF, veered from their initial objectives and decided to advance the Liberalise, Marketise and Privatise (LIMP) agenda to developing countries.

With a more keen foresight than the majority of leaders, Mwalimu questioned ‘Who made the IMF the International Ministry of Finance?