Proverb of the Month

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Jojutupii ngakumanya mwini nzala. (Matengo, Tanzania)
Aliyekwisha kushiba hamjui mwenye njaa.
The person who has eaten and satisfied himself or herself does not care for the one who is hungry.


The above typical proverb of the Matengo people of Ruvuma Region in Tanzania, is used to encourage a hard working mentality, hospitality, close ties and generosity within the community. The Matengo people who are generally farmers, know the importance of food and hospitality, especially towards strangers or less privileged. With the belief that every human being needs the three basic necessities of life: food, shelter, and clothes, the Matengo tribe uses the proverb to remind their people to treat others kindly, and helping them when they are in need, particularly by offering them those basic necessities. With this in mind, greed is an anathema amongst the Matengo tribe.

How do we relate this to our contemporary societies? Often, it takes one to be in a particular social situation to understand and appreciate what those in such a situation go through. Tell a rich man that just one dollar can change the life of a poor family and bring a smile on their faces, he might hardly understand this. This lack of understanding of the poor man`s predicament and precarious situation, often makes the rich man to hardly sympathise with the disadvantaged. What does that say about our leaders? Happy with ill-gotten wealth, coupled with excessive greed and utmost aloof to the suffering of the masses, African leaders have systematically transformed themselves to a mere irony. Instead of representing the interests of those they rule, the leaders` personal aggrandisement comes in the first place. Does this explain why it has taken centuries for African leaders to address the problems facing their subjects? They hardly can understand the pain, sacrifices and suffering their subjects make or go through, nor do they feel the unpredictability of the subjects` future.

Definitely, from the above proverb, it is clear that our societies can, in fact, achieve more if we try to help one another. Looking at the typical socio- political hot spots in Africa, it is all the same story ““ greedy, suppressive and undemocratic leaders. Instability, revolts, angry resentment.  A hungry man is an angry man. The less hungry people are, they less conflict, enmity and jealousy. For a leader who has spent years stealing the resources of the subjects, (the same resources meant to be used to develop the country and make the subject rich), leaving his/ her people perpetually poor, what does he/she expect from these hungry and angry subjects? Definitely a revolt might incubate! You can keep your subjects in a miserable situation for long ““ but not forever.

What of the attitude of the Western world? Clearly the Western society is not exonerated from nonchalant attitude toward the third world. The West has plenty of food and other economic resources, yet some find it very difficult to understand why hungry people in the third world must be helped.  Many children cannot afford to go to school in certain countries. In many countries, poor kids work 15 hours a day to contribute to the feeding the family, instead of going to school. Many HIV/AIDS victims are dying simply because they cannot afford a three-dollar treatment, while some in the Western world spend millions going on holidays. Many innocent citizens are facing starvation due to drought and other natural disasters. Yes, we hear and know there are bad leaders in the third world countries, but, there are many effective ways of bringing help directly to the needy in the poor countries.

If People can be kind and generous enough to each other (neighbours, countries), irrespective of differences in group, gender, ethnicity and religion, much progress would be made and achieved. Many stubborn sicknesses can be defeated. Many poor immigrants who are risking their lives and families to travel to the West, searching for green pasture would be definitely minimised. Above all, peace, love and less antagonism will be achieved. What a better world it would be! Can you still hear the warning: Jojutupii ngakumanya mwini nzala?