What killed Zinjanthropus? “Selfishness, Zinji wanted everything for himself and forgot others. This confused and messed him up at the same time” said theologian, activist and investigative journalist Evans Rubara.
He adds that after 50 years of passive patience what we are seeing now is a country unsure of what is theirs as they see diamonds and Tanzanite disappear and sold out there with no benefit to the people, what we are seeing is Tanzanians who have not been able to demand what is truly theirs.
The issue of the environmental and social impact from the mining sector is a delicate one. As a matter of fact it is still pretty unclear to most.
The second last speaker of the day could not have put it any clearer, and although his information was questionable to a few, it did shed some light on some pretty disturbing goings on in the mining sector.
Rubara painted a picture of unrestrained decadence in the mining sector, especially since the turn of the new century with the introduction of multinational takeovers of most mining activities by the “Big 3” companies AngloGold Ashanti, Resolute Mining and “giant’ Barrick Gold.
Prior to this Evans talked of a time when the British takeover from the German occupation of the mines in 1919 saw a mining legislation appear and geological surveys were established. In the 70’s and 80’s, the government took control but failed dismally at handling the job, so in the 90’s when private based development in the sector was introduced, Tanzania started to see the success from private sector based development.
The foreign “infesters”, he repeated during the evening presentation, have done less good and have not been as instrumental to the country as artisanal miners of yesteryear. In fact, he added, that if government officials in charge of the Mining and investment sectors were more concerned with the country, we would not be where we are right now.
He spoke of great acts against humanity and the rapid environmental degradation (he even presented images of some of the affected).
And though officials have said it wasn’t so, Rubara cited examples of such acts happening in the Tigithe River area where poisonous sludge from the mine seeps through to the river and affects the locals who use the water.
Recent explorations and “new developments” through the emergence of Oil, Uranium and Gas are already under possible threat and could see a complete takeover the likes of those in the “non-tax paying” gold mines, Rubara noted.
Although some of the cases presented by Rubara were mentioned by the media in the past, a lot was a fresh reminder of how much we do not know and do not see living in urban centres that are not in close proximity to these mines. The details were at times hard to swallow that some of what he presented would seem chimerical.
Rubara’s presentation was in your face and the least bit subtle, (one member in the crowd even comparing him to a passionate preacher on the pulpit), with him leaving us to ponder with the riveting and inciting question -
“Whose responsibility is it, to ensure OUR Safety, OUR Prosperity & Protect OUR environment; and to never undermine future Generations’ welfare?”
Photo credit: The Globe and Mail
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It was a mixture of big ideas, personal narratives and activism.
What is your big idea, asked January Makamba, the Bumbuli CCM member of parliament. ‘Mine is SAMENESS’, Mr. Makamba told the audience at TEDxDAR.
What did he mean?
Tanzania has a young and growing population. However, the country is becoming increasingly divided along class lines. Data tell us that a typical Tanzanian is a 17 year old young woman who lives in the rural areas. Zawadi, as Mr. Makamba named her, is most likely a farmer, under-educated, doesn’t own a mobile phone, walks everywhere, will marry at 19 to a man who is at least 5 years older, have a baby at 19.5.
But how many in the audience can identify with Zawadi, asked Mr. Makamba. Not many.
A typical TEDxDAR attendee lives in an urban setting. Vanessa, as Mr. Makamba called her, is guaranteed a university education, probably drives her own car, has multiple mobile phones, will likely work a non-farm job, will get married at 23 to a man at least two years older, have a first child at 23.5.
Majority of Tanzanians are more like Zawadi than they are like Vanessa. And trends suggest that Vanessa will continue to get richer while Zawadi is becoming poorer.
That is the state of the way we live now.
Mr. Makamba then asked another question: How possible is it for Zawadi to get to Vanessa’s level? And, in the larger scheme of things, is that even desirable?
‘My presentation has been about consumption,’ declared Mr. Makamba (You can find a copy of the presentation here). At the core of his talk lies this question: how can we achieve economic development for Zawadi and others like her without exhausting our resources? After all, the elevation of her standard of living will mean an increase in her consumption power. She will need more energy (electricity, fuel), water, food, demand a better education and all the luxuries currently enjoyed by the Vanessa’s of this world. What will happen when the poor 80% come to enjoy similar lifestyles of the rich 20%? Will it be sustainable? Can we achieve economic development without exhausting our resources? Will SAMENESS actually destroy us?
This is the profound ethical question that Mr. January Makamba posed at TEDxDAR. Zinjanthropus’s spirit connects us all. It is what makes us all, despite our diversity, the same. But to return to that original state of SAMENESS, we may destroy ourselves. Food for thought the audience will do well to ponder.