Power: Because of the oneparty system here it is said that the ordinary people don't really have much say in what happens. They can vote to change individual representative members of parliament, but not the policies. They cannot much change the political direction of the country. They can't challenge your particular kind of socialism.
Why shouldn't another party bc allowed to campaign for, say, a kind of Kenya-style, more capitalist type of development?
Nyerere: I believe government has to do two things. This is a simplified way of putting it. It has to work not by the book, hut in fact. Secondly, it must preserve the basic liberties of an individual.
It is a matter of debate whether the right to belong to an alternative party is a basic liberty. I think parties are a matter of mechanics. So you have to judge our system on whether it works. Does it preserve the basic freedoms of the individual?
The typical multi-party democracies, which I know something about, are Britain and the United States. Does it work there? Yes, it works, because both parties have agreed on the basic requirements of the society, on what must not be touched.
The basic thing in Tanzania is the survival of this nation as a united country. If we formed parties, we'd form parties on the basis of religion or tribe. They would not understand about opposition and opposition would become a kind of conspiracy. What you need is to avoid all that, yet have the debates taking place.. And we think this is happening here. We are not a vanguard party. We are a mass party in a very small country.
We have millions of members in this country. And therefore the debate which you have in the multi-party system is taking place. I think we have the spectrum in our single political party. It works. Our people feel free — I think they do.
Power: Admittedly Kenya is a naturally richer country than Tanzania, but isn't it true that in Kenya today everyone could say that ihe capitalist approach to development benefited them
economically while few Tanzanians could say the same things about your socialism?
Nyerere: I'm not quite sure. This is a question of judgment, but it is possible. Kenya started better off than we did. The top of Kenya is infinitely better off than the top of Tanzania. If you, can create a lot of wealth for the rich at the top, you leave less for the masses. We think our system is run quite well.
It is something for a poor country like Tanzania to be able to say that every child in Tanzania is going to school in spite of the fact that this is one of the poorest countries in the world. Why should I feel ashamed of what our system has been able to achieve?.
Power: You have justified your Ujamaa policies, your system of compelling people to live in villages and work on communal farms, by talking of the traditional mutual support system in traditional African villages.
Isn't this perhaps a romantic notion of pre-colonial Africa? Was it really so good? Your own tribe, for instance, was renowned for its murders and its quarelling.
Nyerere: First of all let me say that when we got our people to live in villages it had nothing to do with socialism. I announced that policy of living in villages in my first speech to Parliament in October, 1962, when I was elected President.
I said we were poor, we have very limited resources, we must try and use our limited resources carefully. We build. a school which is for as many people as possible.
We put a water-pump which serves as many people as possible. We put in a dispensary and serve a.s many people as possible. When we can afford a tractor it can serve as many people as possible. We cannot do this if we live .scattered as we are. We ought to
live closer in villages. so that was the villagisation policy announced in 1962.
Later, in 1967, we began talking about social change, how to transform the country, socially without going capitalist. Then we began saying: why don't we work together? We used to do so on our farms in the old days, why can't we do it now?
There is a stupid idea that this comes from Marx and Lenin. Why can't I use traditional examples if I am urging people to work together? If you worked together to build a well in the past, you can work together to build a dispensary now.
Why not? The dispensary is not traditional, but working together is both traditional and necessary. But I do not idealise tribal society. I couldn't possibly. I want to change the past. My function is to change, not to carry the past with
Power: I would like to ask you some personal questions about your life.
What an extraordinary life you have led, because you were brought up in a village environment for the first 12 years of your life, and now you are an international statesman. Do you wonder to yourself what life would have been like if you had never been sent to school? How do you see those first 12 years now, looking back?
Nyerere: I looked after my father's cattle for 12 years. It is true that it was a process, but I don't know when the process started, whether it was at the age of 12 or before that, 1 don't know. It is a chain of events.
Power: When you really want to relax and just be yourself, just Julius Nyerere, not President Julius Nyerere, do you go hack to your old playmates from the days when you herded cattle together, or is that all now in the past?
Nyerere: I do go back, very often now, In the past I never used to. During the last few years I have been going back to the village. But it is a fact, it is not possible to be purely Julius Nyerere. It really is a shame, but it is so.
In the village I get nearest to being myself and forgetting that I am President. But it is very difficult to get away from officialdom as such. I am not complaining. It is just one of the problems.
Power: I suppose it is difficult for you just to go down to the beach and swim or just to go to the shops or go to a cafe or go and kick a ball around. Is it a lonely Nyerere: It is not lonely, but it can be difficult. I left State House because in 1972 when I went there it was a good thing symbolically for the country to see that their Head of State was now living in the place where the former representative of the Empire lived.
But what became immediately obvious was that the place was a prison. I was a leader of a mass movement, and here I was cut oil from the people. I used to demand that people come to State House, but government machinery doesn't like people very much. It is a terrible thing to admit, but it doesn't like people. Somehow it frightens them, it takes people away. Some people think you can have a government without people. You can forget the people and just think of the tiles. And there was this huge fence. Being fenced in away from the people seemed to me ridiculous.
So then I got this house built here and said: "I arn going to move". Several months after, when this house was being got ready, 1 came and found a fence built. I struggled very hard to get rid of that fence, but 1 did not succeed. I tried to plant a hedge so it would give the impression that there is no fence there!
Power: Do you find it difficult to relax'? How do you relax? Do you still go and translate Shakespeare?
Nyerere: I am relaxed most of the time. I think. I don't translate Shakespeare. That was a fluke when I translated two plays. It gave me a tremendous reputation — completely undeserved. I relax when I am in my village. I work in the village. I have a beautiful little vegetable garden of my own and I work on it, Power: You are in sole charge'? Nyerere: Oh yes. Most of the time when I am there.
Power: Are you a good farmer?
Nyerere: Oh yes, -reasonably good. In earlier years when I used to go there people used to come to bring their problems to me. In large numbers. When they came I was not actually at the house. I was working in the village farm.
And they would come. I would say OK, then let's work then afterwards we can go and listen to your problems. Now I don't have many people coming to sec me!
Power: Do you still retain a part of the African religious beliefs you were taught in your first 12 years of village life'? Have you developed a synthesis between your Roman Catholicism and the original animist beliefs that you were brought up with?
Nyerere: During the first twelve years I was not taught any religion. Tribal society doesn't teach any religion. You are in a tribal society and there you are with their beliefs about spirits and their own ideas of the after-life and so forth. They will be taught but not at this stage.
But then you go to school and here you meet priests and these people are teaching religion. This is very different, this idea of sitting down and listening to somebody talking about God about angels and devils etc.
Power: You never had a period in your life when you reacted against Catholic thinking, when you said to yourself this is part of European culture and it was foisted on inc at a young age?
Nyerere: No, never because I was a convert. I was 12. I had my own mind and I was not baptised until the age of 20. During the whole of this period of eight or nine years I was going for instruction and at any point there I could have said no, I am rejecting it.
I had absorbed something from the tgribe of tribal beliefs so I have never rejected or felt the need to reject Catholicism.
But I do question freely what believe should be irrelevant to Christianity, what is part of European culture.
Power: In 1961 you said that you felt one contribution Africa could make to the present history of the world was to refuse to arm. You have certainly changed your views since then.
You most have gone through a tortuous period as a committed Christian when you moved from this position to where you now see only armed struggle as the answer to Rhodesia.
Nyerere: No. Frankly to arm or not to arm has never been a problem for me at all. For me it has been a political question rather than a Christian one Violence is a political instrument.
have never seen it as a moral issue. I wish I could, I did try.
I took Gandhi very seriously. He believed if India were attacked, they should not fight back. I said I am a Christian, let me see if as a Chrstian I could reach the same conclusion. I tried to.
The New Testament says "Turn the other cheek". Or the Decaloguc: "Thou shalt not kill'. It is straightforward. There is no "except in certain circumstances". But I can't convince myself at all.
And so there I am. It is a shame, but I am not the only one. There are many other Christians who have not reached Gandhi's conclusion.
Power: Are you saying that the teaching of Jesus was orientated to the individual and really doesn't give you guidance in the political sphere?
Nyerere: No, I don't think one can avoid that responsibility as a Christian. I think the point about this is that the Gospels are about society. It is about where we live, not just about getting our souls to Heaven.
Nowhere in the gospels is Jesus saying how to live with one another in Heaven. The whole idea is about living with one another here. It is true it is not a political manifesto. But it is about right and wrong. You can't afford, when making a political decision to relate to what you believe about right or wrong.
Power: what do you du when two morally right courses clash'? You believe you should support the liberation forces in Rhodesia. But then the guerrillas come up against a white family, that may not be particularly political, they have just been taken along by the tide of their society, but the father sees his duty to defend his family.
For him to kill the guerrillas is morally right. There you have the clash of perhaps two equally valid moral forces. Do you ever worry about that?
Nyerere: I suppose people do worry. But once you have made the major decision to go to war you have agreed to take all the risks of war including the killing of innocents.
Even if it were just the guilty on one side it would still be a problem because it is still human beings being killed. Whether you like them or not it is better that they live rather than they die.
Jonathan Power is a regular columnist in the International HeraldTribune. Paris,