President Samia Suluhu Hassan had an ace up her sleeve when she reshuffled her Cabinet for the first time earlier in the week.
When President Hassan nominated Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax as a lawmaker last week, many people accurately speculated that the career diplomat was destined for the Cabinet. However, very few ordinary Tanzanians, if any, guessed that the Head of State would appoint Dr Tax to the powerful Defence and National Service portfolio.
The docket has hitherto been the sole preserve of men. It boggles the mind to think that Tanzania – which will later this year mark 60 years of independence – had never had a woman defence minister until President Hassan picked Dr Tax to succeed the late Elias Kwandikwa, who died last month.
Not surprisingly, President Hassan tickled her audience after swearing in Dr Tax and four other new Cabinet appointees in Dodoma yesterday when she said she had decided to break the notion that the Defence minister must be a man with bulging muscles. We concur with the President that the work of the holder of that docket is not to fire artillery shells or haul guns.
Indeed, successive governments in Tanzania had for many years projected themselves as advocates of gender equality, but a cursory look at the number of women who have held key decision-making positions since independence is enough to show that it was all rhetoric rather than genuine sincerity. Sexism is still alive and kicking in Tanzania.
Dr Tax’s leadership record in Tanzania and beyond speaks for itself, and we have no doubt that it was on the basis of this enviable track record that President Hassan appointed her Defence and National Service minister.
We wholeheartedly congratulate Dr Tax on her appointment, and hope that the development will pave the way for the appointment of more women to other positions that have been monopolised by men since Tanzania became independent.
FOOD INSECURITY A PARADOX
Self-sufficiency in food remains a big challenge for many African countries about six decades after attaining independence. This has hampered the continent’s socioeconomic progress, as resources that could have gone to cater for other pressing needs are used to feed the hungry.
East Africa continues to wallow in the quagmire, unable to exploit its vast potential. As a result, governments have to part with colossal sums of money to import food to keep hunger and starvation at bay.
Every now and then, these same countries rely on donors to mitigate perpetual food shortages by flying in emergency supplies when the situation becomes critical. But, in the process, they perpetuate the ugly reputation of Africans as perennial beggars.
The paradox is that East Africa, like most of the continent, is endowed with fertile land, abundant water resources and a favourable climate that should enable the growing of enough crops to feed the region.
The problem is much more than the failure to tap the enormous agricultural potential. There is a need to cooperate in tackling all the other factors that continue to tighten the shackles around the leadership and the people.