The press (and public) have been having a field day over the intriguing story of the new Kigamboni ferry.

After a long absence of ferry services at Dar es Salaam’s harbour mouth a brand new ferry – the Uniflote – took to the water in March midst much public satisfaction. The satisfaction may have been tempered by some surprise however at the extraordinary shape of the ferry. It consists of a pontoon pushed or pulled along on each side by two brightly coloured box-like structures standing high out of the water at varying distances from the pontoon itself. It was not surprising therefore that the crew faced considerable difficulty in manoeuvering the vessels in the early days after the launch and trying to push the pontoon to the other side in a more or less straight line. There was always a fascinated crowd watching the proceedings.

On April 23rd however the ferry decided to travel no further. Shihata commented, rather cautiously, that “no one who has seen the Uniflote can resist the temptation to suspect that the purchase of the vessel was not a fair deal; the deal was done either by non-experts or the deal was shoddy. It must be remembered that the Uniflote was brought to the country after the grounding of the MV Ukombozi which had served the country faithfully without major hitches, for nine consecutive years before breaking down last year. The Shs 71.5 million needed for its repair would have been a justified investment. Now, with the purchase of the useless Uniflote, at least Shs 21. 5 million has gone down the drain into the deep sea”

The Sunday News’ humorous writer Adam Lusekelo speculated on what might have happened now that the ferry was ‘lying on the Forodhani front like a beached whale’:

Scene at the Dar es Salaam International Airport: Two Tanzanians given the task of going to buy us a ferry prepare to embark. Both are very excited but do not show it (from long training in Tanzania). One is thinking about his broken down pick-up. It needs spares. The plot at Mbezi Beach too needs attention. The wife is almost declaring the marriage null and void because he failed to buy a Japanese car ‘like everybody else’.

The heart of the other buyer of our ferry is pounding in his chest. He doesn’t have a car and this is his chance. A house too is not a disagreeable idea. Then be is jolted by his wife who is seeing him off. “Don’t forget the dress like the one Mrs Chaurembo was wearing on the night when the Revolutions Band was playing and I caught that girl winking at you … and we need a bigger TV screen”

The moment they hit Europe the private company fellows receive them like kings. “Your hotels, food, shopping, transport and even the air you breathe have been paid for. Relax. Enjoy yourselves”.

“Thankyou” one of the ferry men says. “But we must remind you that this matter is of the utmost importance”
“Yes. I know how important this ferry is to you but…”
“Who’s talking about the ferry? We are talking about our cut”
“Ah. I get you sirs. You mean the usual 10%. Alright, it could be arranged. But it depends on the amount of money you came with”
“We came with Shs 21.5 million”
“I see. Then you did not come to buy the best in Europe”
“Au contraire, Monsieur” says one of our ferry men, showing off a bit of French he learnt at the Alliance Francaise. “We in fact came to buy the worst”.
“Is that your Government’s policy?”
“Er .. If you don’t mind let us not worry about that”.
“Well, there is this ferry” the company man says sheepishly, “the machine is vintage 1944″ …..
They discuss the cut.
The writer of the article speculates that it is more likely to have been 90% than 10%
“Another thing” says one of the ferry men.
“You must give us two of your boys to go with us to Tanzania …. we will call them experts who will be coming to check on the behaviour of the ferry. Makes good press at home”
“We don’t have extra people here. But wait a minute. I have too guys here we have been planning to layoff. One is a gardener and the other is in plastering and bricklaying ……… ”
The deal is then presumably finalised.

And the latest news?
The Minister for Communications and Works, Mr. Mustafa Nyan’anyi has appointed a seven man team to probe the matter. The Government, he said, wants the National Assembly and the people of Tanzania to know what happened. The team has been given a seven point list of questions in its terms of reference. It comprises two lawyers, two marine engineers, an auditor and a supplies officer.

According to the Daily News the 160 ton pontoon had been delivered by a British company.
David Brewin


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