Discordant government: Real-life experience

Tuesday April 06 2021

Vice President Philip Mpango addresses the congregation after attending Easter Sunday mass in Dodoma. PHOTO | VPO

By Kasera Nick Oyoo

In 2016 expectations with regard to the government of the-then President John Pombe Magufuli were high. But, private sector actors we interacted with told us how an attempt to bring an international conference to Tanzania was melodramatically brought to a crashing halt by some people in government.

We were reminded of the events of that year when President Samia Suluhu Hassan recently addressed a lack of coordination within the government. This, she said, needed to be addressed.

Speaking after she swore in the new Vice President, Dr Philip Mpango, and a few Cabinet ministers – some of whom she switched from one docket to another – President Hassan said she had picked Ambassador Hussein Kattanga as head of Public Service to help get the government coordinated.

Ambassador Kattanga is a diligent public servant who has risen through the ranks from the administrative District level to the very top of the Public Service.

Along the way, he worked as Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS) in Morogoro Region – among other postings.

Indeed, this reminds me of the current Lindi RAS, Rehema Madenge: efficient, able to get things done – and unwilling to take ‘NO’ for an answer.


There may be many civil servants of this nature; but, the bad eggs seem to be everywhere – and have somehow become good examples of brinkmanship in government.

The three-day conference which was scuttled was intended to bring together broadcasters and top honchos in media and film industry from around the world.

It would in all probability have ensured that Tanzania got unrivalled coverage in world media channels, including the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, SABC, Turkish TV, among others, who had confirmed participation.

The organisers had everything figured out… And then it occurred to them that they needed a letter of no objection from the Tanzania government of the day. That was when the uncoordinated, discordancy of the government emerged.

Remember that this was a venture by the private sector, and it was in the spirit of public-private partnership that the organisers thought it right to seek a letter of ‘no objection’ from the relevant ministry.

The run-around, according to the organisers, was gargantuan.

The ministry of Information required the organisers to obtain a letter from a cultural officer in the district where the company was registered. Then they were to request permission in writing from the Permanent Secretary of the ministry.

The requests were complied with. But, as weeks went by, there was a deafening silence on the part of the government. Then, one day, the ministry officials suggested that the applicants approach the ministry of Foreign Affairs for permission because the proposed guest speaker was the-then UNCTAD secretary-general.

The Foreign ministry officials said this was an investment issue – and sent the applicants to the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC), where the current Investments minister had just been appointed TIC director-general (DG).

From the DG’s desk, the application letter went to eight division heads. Eventually, they were called in for a meeting during which they were told the matter had security implications – and, as such, needed a committee to be set up of all the relevant ministries, TIC and security agencies.

Also, the meeting’s organisers needed to have a war chest to bring together all those top government bureaucrats in a committee of organisers. Time was not on the organisers’ side as government bureaucrats ran rings round them. Consequently, the conference organisers moved the meeting to Johannesburg, South Africa.

Over $1.5 million which would have been spent in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar evaporated just like that. None of the government bureaucrats responded to the letters they received.

All their “go to which ministry and what department” instructions were verbal. They made sure there was no paper trail. Yet, the discordancy was real – and an otherwise heavenly opportunity was lost, never to be recovered.

There are hundreds of tales of this nature in Tanzania; tales of the discordancy of government, much to the travails of the greater good.

Good tidings President Hassan and Ambassador Hussein Kattanga as you attempt to deal with this hydra-headed bureaucratic behemoth.