Congrats, Tanzania. You're officially on the straight and narrow to failure
Here is chapter 1 of ‘How To Turn A Struggling But Hopeful Country Into A Failed State’
“How To Turn A Struggling But Hopeful Country Into A Failed State” is a long read. If you don’t have time for the whole thing, just skim the EFF’s election manifesto. But if you do read it, you’ll discover that on Wednesday night, Tanzania was following Chapter 1 to the letter when it detained veteran South African journalist Angela Quintal.
In that chapter, you’ll read about the two essential things every state needs to do if it really, truly wants to slide from mediocrity into lower-middle wretchedness before starting its final plunge into failure. And you’ll see that Tanzania is putting all the basics in place to achieve just that.
The first nonnegotiable is that the would-be failed state needs to be so terrified of gay people that it has legalised discrimination against them. This level of homophobia shows that you are both maniacally patriarchal and fantastically stupid, both essential if you are going to fail properly.
In respect of legislated hate, Tanzania is doing very well: since John Magufuli took power in 2015, gay people can be sent to prison for 30 years for being in love with another person. Paranoid patriarchy: check. Weapons-grade stupidity: check.
The second fundamental requirement involves a free press. The first sign of that and you can kiss your ultimate failure goodbye. No, a proper wannabe failure goes out of its way to suppress free speech and to harass journalists as much as it can.
On Wednesday night, Tanzania shot to the top of the class in this respect, detaining Quintal and her colleague, Muthoki Mumo, and confiscating their passports on suspicion that they had entered the country on a tourist visa to – are you sitting down? – investigate the treatment of journalists in Tanzania.
It was textbook stuff: harass journalists, and when other journalists come to investigate your harassment of them, harass them too. Well-played, Tanzania.
Of course, President Magufuli shouldn’t get too excited. Becoming a fully failed state requires more than institutionalised bigotry and the gagging of the free press. For example, it also required the destruction of the economy, and Tanzania is ticking along quite nicely still.
Geopolitical power, too, can really get in the way of true failure. Russia, for example, is eye-wateringly homophobic and literally murders journalists, and yet its oil and nuclear weapons get in the way of its ultimate failure. If Magufuli is serious about flushing his country down the toilet he should strive to keep it relatively insignificant.
Still, what with this week’s arrest of 10 men in Zanzibar on suspicion of being gay, followed up by the detention of Quintal, one can’t help feeling Magufuli is on the right track.
So just keep on keeping on, Tanzania. With a bit of luck, and lot of blood, sweat and tears (mostly of journalists and gay people) you too can end up in the cesspool of history.