New Road connects Wete town to Northern villages of Gando, Mkia wa Ng'ombe and Njao Island

New road connects Wete town to  the northern villages of Gando, Mkia wa Ng’ombe and Njao Island in Pemba

The Zanzibar – Tanganyika Union  definitely has justifications. Some of these justifications are political, some military, others cultural. In this first part of an exclusive interview with Senior Journalist, Jaston Binala, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Deputy Secretary General for Zanzibar, Vuai Ali Vuai discusses the economic justification of the union. In the second part to be published later, the pro-union politician also discusses the tricky, silent subject of reconciliation in Zanzibar, where many people were killed in 1964 during a bloody revolution. This interview was granted in Zanzibar’s CCM head office.


JASTON BINALA: Honorable Deputy CCM Secretary General, I was fortunate during my stay here in Zanzibar, to conduct interviews with a number of people concerning various issues. In one of the interviews I got the opportunity to discuss various issues that pertain to the well-being of our nation with members of UAMSHO Zanzibar. One issue arising from our discussion turned out to be the question of development. They hold the view that one reason which has fueled the agitation threatening the survival of the Zanzibar – Tanganyika union is lack of development. According to this school of thought, there is not really much we have done since independence and for the duration of the union. What’s your party’s view of the achievements Tanzania has made during the 50 years of the union?


VUAI ALI VUAI: First of all, let me say this; for us, the way we see things, the people in UAMSHO and the people in the Civic United Front (CUF) are the same. The UAMSHO people said they wanted to start a religious non-governmental organization (NGO). After getting the registration, they abandoned the agenda they said they were being registered for and turned to politics.

Now to answer your question on development, let me say this: that we have achieved a lot of development on many fronts. We have made achievements to be proud of in education, in health, in housing, in roads and transportation and many other areas of development.

Before the 1964 revolution people walked for more than five kilometers to access a health facility or a school. We have developed the people from a society of people with a majority who had not reached even standard four, to numbers of people holding PhDs–all of whom have been educated after the revolution. And you find these educated people in all administrative (Shehiya) divisions in the isles.

And the irony here is that most of these people building arguments against the revolutionary government, and the union government, were empowered academically by these very same governments they despise!

So what development is it that one would say beats the development of education? Education is the foundation of all other development endeavors. Education is one of the major development achievements which have been made by the revolutionary government of Zanzibar, in collaboration with the Union government. The situation was very different in the past. Education was given selectively. Education was not given to ordinary people like me and you. Education was given to special tribes of people. Education was not given to the Jechas, the Pandus and the Makames.

I challenge you to go to any village at any Shehiya to see if you will find any young man who has not been to school up to 12th grade (form iv). Take a taxi today, ask the driver to take you to any village. When you get there, ask to see any young man who has gone to school up to form iv, and mobs will be brought to you. This would not happen before the revolution. Back then, if you went to a village and asked for anyone who had been to school, chances would be that they would bring you an old man who had gone up to 8th grade (standard eight).

Vuai Ali Vuai

Vuai Ali Vuai

I am saying we have achieved a lot of social development. But how has this been done? All these achievements have been made through the collaboration of the Zanzibar government and the Union Government because Zanzibar did not have our own higher education institutions. We in Zanzibar started to build higher education institutions in the year 2000. Most of our people were educated on the mainland before then and this education was given free of charge. The Zanzibar revolutionary government funded some of our students to study outside Tanzania, but many were educated on the mainland with the government footing the bills! Many Zanzibaris attended Sokoine University and Mzumbe University in Morogoro; many attended the University of Dar es Salaam. Others attended schools in Iringa and Moshi while some of those taking courses in medicine went as far away as Bugando hospital in Mwanza.

And why were these Zanzibaris able to go to schools in all these places? It is because of the system of government that we had—a system which enabled a lot of development. And yet there are beneficiaries of this education, funded by the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar and the Union Government who are opposed to this same Union which developed them—I don’t have to mention them here by name. They are members of opposition parties opposing us. Others are in other places.

One activity of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar has been to enable Zanzibar youth to attend school on the mainland. Is that a small thing? Is that not development? Next time somebody stands up to say there has been no development, ask them one question: how did you get where you are? And because the Revolutionary Government and the Union Government were financially capable, these young men from Zanzibar did not take even one cent from their parents, save for some little money to buy clothes maybe. The governments financed everything from books to food to other costs.

And somebody from this same group has the courage to stand up and say the Union has not brought development? What development beats education?

What is development? Personally, I think we have a problem with the interpretation of the term development. The first thing to do is to get education. With education, your mind becomes open, you get the broad picture of the world around you. With education other problems do not give you too much trouble.

I have discussed the question of education. Here in Zanzibar we have made a lot of progress in this area. In fact for us here in Zanzibar, the Millennium goal on education has been achieved. The goal said all children the age of going going to school should go to school. We have achieved this Millennium goal here in Zanzibar. Every child supposed to be in school has gone to school.


Another area of development has been the roads. We now have in Zanzibar modern roads indeed; and that is on both the islands of Unguja and Pemba. Some of these roads were built using funds from the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, others were built with funds from the World Bank. This is big development because these roads of six meters width, eight meters width and nine meters width did not exist before the revolution. And we can say the roads of this width represent an acceptable standard. In the past we had roads the width of two meters or three meters—and you could name the roads—say from town to Makunduchi, or from town to Donge and Mkokotoni maybe. You would find another road from town going to Chwaba, and the width would be like this office table here. Now you find modern roads built on both Unguja and Pemba islands

Vuai Ali Vuai Talks to Jaston Binala

Vuai Ali Vuai (in white cap), in his Zanzibar office, talks to Jaston Binala


Let us now look at electricity. Right now there is electricity in all areas of Zanzibar—in the villages and in the towns. Over 80% of the land area of Zanzibar has electricity supply. So if we have been able to supply electricity in 80% of the land area, and we have been able to supply water on over 65% of the land area, or 70% in the towns, what is the development that these people want? And all this has been achieved after the revolution.

There was electricity only here in town before the revolution. I was here. No farm had electricity. Now there is electricity all over the place; and all of this is happening because there is a good relationship between Zanzibar and the Union Government—the good relationship which we in our party say should be maintained while the others are saying should be abrogated (abandoned).

Our opponents are demanding that Zanzibar be granted full political autonomy. But giving Zanzibar full autonomy would be a way to break the Zanzibar – Tanganyika Union; and it is important that this is understood clearly. The electricity we use comes from our brothers on the mainland. That is the main source of our electricity supply.

The electricity we use in Pemba comes from Pangani on the mainland. The electricity we use here is from the national grid. We receive this at Tumbatu. This is possible because there is a brotherly understanding between Zanzibar and the Union Government—because the United Republic of Tanzania exists.

There was a time when we in Zanzibar were not able to pay for the electricity. We had a huge debt. It was millions of shillings; it was not 100 million, no. it was billions; I think our debt was 4 bn/- or something of that sort. It was a lot of billions. We were allowed to be paying slowly but we continued to be given electricity because of the brotherly relationship that exists between us. The Zanzibar – Tanganyika union is not a business interest sort of union.

If it had happened that the country giving us electricity was business oriented, if the union had existed on purely business terms and not the brotherly relationship that exists—which some people now say should be abrogated because it is overbearing and tyrannical—this story would have been different. The source of power supply is not a small thing. And there are people here who think these things just happen to be! Even if you are paying for it, think of the meaning of all this if the electricity you are getting comes from a person who is also not getting enough supply of it.

Do not say but we are buying. Ok, fine, you are buying; go buy the electricity from Kenya then since you have the money. Do you think the amount of money you would spend getting electricity from Kenya would be the same amount you spend getting power from the mainland?

These are some of the issues we need to be taking into consideration and paying a lot of attention to them when we are thinking about the Union. And these are some of the issues we are taking into consideration when we say the Zanzibar – Tanganyina union has a lot of benefits.


Let us now look at health. We have built many health centres. We have built hospitals and health centres in all district centres, but the government still plans to build larger hospitals in district centres. And because we have the union government, and because of the brotherly relationship that exists, when we refer a patient to Muhimbili hospital in Dar es Salaam, the patient is received as a relative, the patient is identified as a Tanzanian and given treatment like a Tanzanian from any other part of our nation.

And when there is some payment to be made, this is done to everyone else from the nation. This is what is being done in the form of government that we have.

Now we might have a problem here and there; but since we have this processes to change the constitution, and at this point I should ask the Almighty God to lay in eternal peace the soul of the member of the Constitutional Commission whom we lost, the commission has done a commendable job.

There is however a weakness I have noticed from the draft constitution. The commission overlooked this problem, we the citizens of this nation also overlooked the problem. We have not made a clear-cut explanation of the legal scenarios that might come with the change of the form of government. The draft constitution does not say how the laws will change with the change of the form of government, to say when we adopt this form of government instead of the other, these laws will also change, and life will appear this way. And because we do not know how the laws will change, we are proposing the change of form of government to lead ourselves into a dark, unknown future with unknown problems, etc, etc.


JASTON BINALA: Yes, it could have been a good thing to identify legal scenarios which say if we choose this form of government, we will be choosing this way of life; if we choose this other form, the life will change this way….

VUAI ALI VUAI: That is correct. You see what you are choosing. If you choose this form, that means the laws will look like this; the constitution will look like this. But very unfortunately, there are people talking about a full political autonomy, about a contract government; others are talking about three governments. They do not know that all these systems do result into new laws in the concerned countries and that we can expect many changes from the way of life we had become used to.

At present, if you get any problem you wake up the following morning, you go to the dock, you board the boat and off you go. You get where you are going and nobody asks you anything; you are a Tanzanian and no one is going to be asking you this question and this question and this question. What is going to happen now is that they are going to have their own, different laws with different procedures, and all the opportunities which we now have access to when we get off the boat will vanish. Do not think these opportunities will continue to exist; and many people in Zanzibar do not understand this. But the leaders do understand this!

And….God forbid, should the union collapse, the first group to be affected will be the general populace; the first people to be affected will be the lower rank people used to all these opportunities that exist in Dar es Salaam, in Mwanza, in Shinyanga because we have a union.

A person who comes from Mtwara is currently treated the same way as this person from Tumbatu in Zanzibar. A person from Dar es Salaam is now treated the same way as this person from Kengeni in Zanzibar. The way a person from Mwanza is treated in the country is the same way a person from Makunduchi in Zanzibar is treated. That is the kind of union we have.

The people coming up with proposals to change the system of government, the way we live now, ‘think’ the current way of life and all the laws currently in use on the mainland for the mainlanders, and for us people from Zanzibar, will remain the same. But this understanding is wrong. The people who have this wrong understanding will come to realize their misconception much later, when the way of life has become completely different. This is the problem I see coming if the existing system of government is changed. And this is the reason why me and others who see this problem coming are saying we need to maintain the existing two-tier (serikali mbili) system of government, with the union government at the top.

Zanzibar Profile: Motorists brave a busy Street at Malindi area in Zanzibar municipality without traffic lights.

Motorists brave a busy street intersection at Malindi area in Zanzibar municipality without traffic lights.

But we also agree there are identifiable problems which we should correct through the on-going constitutional process. I do see this. And yet there are people who are not able to see this; they are not able to see this completely! They think everything will just move as smoothly as it is now. They say we will be given our United Nations seat, we will establish embassies of our own abroad and appoint ambassadors; and while on that thought a person looks at himself and says to himself, ‘considering all these abilities I have, if twenty or forty ambassadors are appointed, surely my name will be on the list!’

We are making a terrible mistake basing our judgement on these things—positions and titles–instead of development. I am saying if there is anywhere on the United Republic of Tanzania where a lot of development has been made, that place is Zanzibar. And all that has been possible because we have the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, and the United Republic of Tanzania. This is what has given us all this development in our midst. Any other system would not have brought us this far. In the absence of this system of government we could have remained weak academically, we could have remained weak militarily.