(Tanzania is no more free of serious crime than any other country. And crime is also very much the same the whole world over. For this reason, the Bulletin of Tanzanian Affairs rarely features news or articles on the subject. However, during the first months of 1988, the attention of many Tanzanians has been rivetted on three particularly spectacular crimes. And these crimes tend to illustrate some of the social problems besetting President Mwinyi’ s Government. The crimes concern elephant tusks, travellers cheques and a hijacking. The social problems which they reflect are poaching, theft by public servants and a recent and growing trend amongst young people to try and get out of Tanzania to greener pastures believed to exist elsewhere. We are indebted to the Daily News and SHIHATA for the information contained in the following three stories – Editor).
THE CASE OF THE ELEPHANT TUSKS
On January 9th Police in Ruvuma announced the arrest of the Member of Parliament for Songea Urban, together with three others, for unlawful possession of 105 elephant tusks valued at over Shs 2.0 million. The MP was arrested in his Government Landrover near Namabengo village, 32 kilometres from Songea. Thousands of Songea residents thronged the Police station after the news was released. The Police revealed that they had received a tip three days before and were on the alert.
The High Court of Tanzania was due to hold a special session in Songea to try the case on April 5th because it falls under the Economic Sabotage and Organised Crime Act. The Prosecution indicated that they would be producing 15 witnesses. The case was expected to last at least one week.
I WANT TO RUN FOR PARLIAMENT
Adam Lusekelo, the Sunday News’ satirical writer wrote in one of his recent regular Sunday features that he had decided that he wanted to run for Parliament. “Which means that I have got two and a half years to practice speech (addressing a mirror for two hours every day), a bit of theatre (the Pawkwa Theatre Association will take care of that) and, of course, a respectable wardrobe of Kaunda or safari suits (two, ill- fitting, to be warn while I am campaigning. Someone told me that wearing ill-fitting safari suits shows that one is nearer the masses).
A friend asked ‘And where do you plan to stand for MP?’ ‘Some place near the Selous Game Reserve, ….. I’ve got some jumbo sized ideas in mind’.
‘But first you’ll have to persuade some guys in some Party panel that you are serious about being an MP for a constituency near some game park ….. What are you going to tell them to convince them that you are MP material?’
‘Alright, I’ll say this: Gentlemen, I come before you as a potential MP and all you have got to do is to look at my face. You all will agree with me that my face is an honest face. My face is a reflection of my being. I love this country. I love the people. I love the land. I also love the animals of this country. It pains me to see some unscrupulous persons out in search for a quickie. They are pauperising the country. I am boiling with indignation. I also feel, dear Gentlemen, that those who introduced the anti-sabotage economic bill into Parliament were suspiciously clement. I think we need something much tougher’.
‘Come to think of it, you could make it you know. And then you’ll get your brand new Landrover’.
‘No way. I need something bigger than that. A Scania lorry’. ‘What, a whole truck to travel around just to meet the voters with? ‘Oh, come on: don’t be so small minded. What if I meet some constituents who want to transport their cardamom to some profitable destination across the border? Who will help them if not their MP? .. What if, during my nocturnal drive, I lose my way and find myself in the middle of the game park where I meet a herd of elephants who feel like voluntarily contributing to the Mozambique Government to help in it’s fight against MNR bandits’ ………. ”
THE CASE OF THE TRAVELLERS CHEQUES
The case of Sarah Simbaulanga, a National Bank of Commerce (NBC) employee who stole Shs 31.0 million in foreign exchange (mostly travellers cheques) astonished Tanzanians because of the sum of money involved in the theft, the apparent ease with which it was carried out and, the biggest surprise of all, the immediate admission of guilt after the lady had been arrested. The accused looked very calm in the dock. “Yes” she said “it is true” to the five counts she was facing. The Principal Resident Magistrate asked her twice if she really understood the charges against her. She confirmed her plea of guilty.
The evidence presented to a packed court in Dar es Salaam was, in abbreviated form, as follows:
Between October 19th and 29th 1987 Simbaulanga and an accomplice named Torcha (whose extradition from Kenya is being demanded by the Tanzanian authorities) stole from the NBC 1,100 travellers cheques worth US$ 390,000 and 200 travellers cheques worth £20,000. Simbaulanga and Toroha had been friends since the early seventies when she had been at Kisutu Secondary school in Dar es Salaam. She and Toroha hired two rooms at the Skyway Hotel on the night of October 29-30. Simbaulanga had managed to obtain four passports for herself and her three children. They travelled on an Air Tanzania plane to Nairobi on October 31st. They then used some of the travellers cheques to buy five KLM tickets to London. On November 1st and 2nd they made twelve different transactions using $246,000, The Police are still trying to trace the remaining travellers cheques.
The accused then bought five tickets to Nairobi on November 5th, and in Nairobi they carried out further transactions with new travellers cheques they had bought in London. Torota bought four mini-buses and a pick-up and registered them under the name of his wife Elizabeth.
Later three other suspected accomplices were arrested Simbaulanga’s NEC Controller, a KLM Sales Manager and a businessman.
On February 10th Simbaulanga was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment, seven years on each count, to run concurrently. But, on February 16th, the Prosecution appealed the case and asked the High Court to issue an order for the sentence to run consecutively. Subsequently, Simbaulanga was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
The case was one of many referred to later by SHIHATA under the heading ‘Tanzania’s thriving theft industry’ in which it quoted a whole spate of thefts by servants of the NBC from branches all over the country. It estimated the total loss at over Shs 60.0 million.
AND THE CASE OF THE FOUR TEENAGE HIJACKERS
An attempt to force an Air Tanzania Boeing 737 plane to fly from Dar es Salaam to London on the night of February 13th 1988 failed after the pilot duped the hijackers and landed at the Dar es Salaam International airport.
The plane was seized by four youths who had been transit passengers from Zanzibar ostensibly on their way to Kilimanjaro. Thus they were not subject to normal security checks. The hijackers were subsequently found to be in possession of two toy guns and a knife. The leader of the group threatened passengers that he would blow up the plane in mid-air. The Captain of the plane noticed that the hijackers could not read his instrument panel and so he was able to travel in a wide circle and eventually land again at Dar es Salaam. Passengers were not allowed to leave the plane by the hijackers who believed that they had made a stopover in Northern Kenya for refuelling. But, as dawn broke, the hijackers realised that they had been tricked and surrendered. In the trial which followed (very quickly after the event) each hijacker received a sentence of 15 years in prison.