My congratulations to President John Magufuli, who on Thursday of last week was inaugurated as the 5th President of Tanzania, following Julius Nyerere, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete. In the end the contest was not as close as opinion polls suggested, with President Magufuli securing 58% of the vote. Elected on the slogan, 'Hapa kazi tu' - I'm only here to work' - I look forward to the next five years with interest.
Here in Dar es Salaam things have been incredibly quiet over the last two weeks. The precaution of making sure I had plenty of food and water in the flat proved in the end to be completely unnecessary, so I'm gradually munching my way through assorted frozen casseroles. Indeed, a colleague was driven from the airport to her home a few days after the election, and she reported that it was like travelling in the middle of the night. As you may have seen in the news, things are still not resolved in Zanzibar, with the election due to be rerun shortly. I had wondered whether difficulties there would spill over into Dar es Salaam but there have been no signs of that happening. So, please do continue to pray for peace in this country over the next two months or so.
Meanwhile, I was having lunch with a colleague on Wednesday at the cafe next door to work when somebody on a neighbouring table got the news on his smart phone - Thursday, inauguration day, has been declared a public holiday! Somewhat taken aback by the suddenness of the announcement, but sure enough the news was confirmed shortly afterwards. All fine except for several things - I was due to be in a meeting with colleagues coming from out of town, it turned out that they had already set out by the time the announcement was made, so we went ahead with the meeting notwithstanding. Then to discover that the choir practice for the Carol service, due to be at 5.30pm. had been brought forward to 11am., clashing with my meeting. Just to confuse the issue further, the first text message I got said 5pm., so 1/2 hour earlier which would have been fine. Then to discover that he was using Swahili time which starts at 6am., so he actually met 11am. Normally mistakes of this nature are fairly obvious, this was one of the occasions when it was not. So, alas, missed the choir rehearsal but look forward to joining colleagues this coming week. And one other thing - one of my colleagues has close links with the National Examinations Council of Tanzania - NECTA - and she was trying to work out what was going to happen to public examinations scheduled for that day.
This is the second time since I have been here that a public holiday has been announced with less than 24 hours notice, the previous time was Zanzibar Day in 2014, the 50th anniversary of independence, when the usual rule that public holidays falling at weekends are not compensated for was overruled, as reported in this blog post I'm very aware of my status as a visitor to this country, and also mindful of the idea that it's easy to leap to the conclusion that differences are deficits - what we are not used to is inferior to what we are. But, with love in my heart for the wonderful country of Tanzania, I do wish to say this - I find it difficult to reconcile these sudden announcements of days off with the aspiration of the country to develop into a more economically prosperous nation. As I said in this blog post - you can't have things every which way.