THE FALSE MONEY VALUES OF TODAY
I protest! Surely our Society does not intend to sink to the level of commercial publications and publish our much-esteemed Bulletin as a ‘glossy’. Such magazines reek of the false money values of today, as they attempt in numerous ways to winkle out yet more money form their naive readers. Our publication is, dare I say it, academic and should be printed on correspondingly dignified paper.
THE RISK OF BEING BLOWN UP
If I wrote to congratulate the Editor on all that intrigues and pleases me about the Bulletin of Tanzanian Affairs I would never stop writing.
However, I have a comment on Michael Ball’s mention in ‘A Tale of Igusule’ of the gun-makers in the last issue. When I was District Officer in Morogoro in 1955-58 I discovered a muzzle loader manufacturer in England (or was it Belgium?) who would deliver to Oar es Salaam at a price which easily competed with what I was told was the local home-made purchase price. But I ran up against some ancient convention – was it the Congo Basin Treaty? – which forbad such import. So local hunters continued to take the risk of being blown up by less than perfectly made home production. I was upset for a long while.
SAILING THE EAST COAST OF AFRICA
I studied agriculture some time ago and have, since then, travelled extensively and farmed In some of the various countries I have been to. I intend to eventually settle in Africa.
Next year I wish to buy a sailing dhow and sail the East Coast of Africa before, hopefully, bringing it back to Europe. I wonder if you could help me by putting me in touch with a non-resident who has done this.
(Anyone who can help should write to Mr Freeth c/o xxx – Editor).
I read with interest the article in the last Bulletin ‘A Tale of Igususule’. Years ago, I think in 1971, I published an article on firearms in Africa in the ‘Journal of African History’. It was largely about trade muskets, the style shown in the sketch in the Bulletin, made in Birmingham and exported to Africa, Asia and the Americas by the millions – probably over 13 million were exported to Africa in the 19th century. The last known exports of such weapons were to Canada in the 1950’s.
Of course these are not really rifles – which need complex tooling to inscribe the rifling on the interior of the barrel; they are smooth-bores with the reliable flint-lock mechanism of the sketch you published. They can be made locally and in Arabia and India they were made locally. But we were puzzled that they were not made in Africa as far as we could determine. The cause was probably that there was no need – imports were cheap. But there is no production in Birmingham now so manufacture in Africa makes sense. And steering columns make good barrels; they don’t need to be drilled; they are already hollow. The powder has been locally made in Africa for centuries.
These weapons were essential for the spread of agriculture as crops could not be protected from wild animals without them. They were reasonably accurate and safe provided that brown powder, not black, was used. In Tanzania last month I saw one locally repaired with a red plastic hammer!
HISTORY OF THE DAR ES SALAAM BOTANIC GARDENS
I am a member of the Gardens Sub-Committee of the ‘Friends of the Museums of Tanzania’ which was formed in May 1991 to look into the improvement of the garden surrounding the National Museum and the adjacent Botanic Garden in Dar es Salaam. I am writing a history of the botanic gardens to mark the centenary of their foundation by the Germans in 1893. I have found a fair amount of information for the years up until 1936 but nothing much after that. Could I appeal to your readers for any information they might be able to let me have about the organisation and running of the gardens and about the Dar es Salaam Horticultural Society.
(Mrs Mawji can be contacted at P0 Box xxx in Dar es Salaam -Editor)
COMPLICATIONS IN ROAD MAINTENANCE
I was interested in the article in the last issue of the Bulletin about Tanzania’s Integrated Roads Project. The country’s widely distributed system of lightly constructed roads is inevitably difficult to maintain, particularly when few contenders for exiguous resources can be less glamorous than road maintenance. It is not surprising that performance has been poor.
The cost of road maintenance can easily be inflated. At one time I was responsible for maintaining part of the Dar es Salaam-Morogoro road. The verges suffered constant damage in the rains from vehicles passing too close to the edge of the carriageway. The damage was repaired by digging out a shallow trench, putting the spoil through a concrete mixer with some cement, compacting the mixture back in the trench and spraying with bitumen.
One day, driving towards Morogoro, I spied the seven-man edging gang’s lorry with driver and another man heading for Dar es Salaam. Wishing to know why they were not at work I stopped them. The Headman said “Bahati mbaya Bwana. Bwana huyu” indicating the other man, “alivuta concrete mixer yetu tuliposukuma sisi wengine kisha ilipita gurudumu (the wheel passed over) ya concrete mixer juu ya miguu (his foot) yake na imekutwa (cut) kidole chake na ninacho hapa” holding out the severed toe to me.
So he had put the injured man in the lorry and was taking him to hospital in Dar es Salaam. What else could he have done? What could I do but send him on his way? But the wages of eight men plus the hire charges for the lorry and concrete mixer were charged to the Roads vote without any work being done.
This sort of thing, if not usually so bad, happens all too often. The result is not only to inflate the cost of road maintenance, but also to slow down the rate of working. If close supervision cannot be achieved under the new project the pursuit of ‘all weather, maintainable standards’ could become no more than a chimaera.
I lived in Tanzania in the years 1927-56 and my book ‘Asante Mamsapu’ about my childhood there is being published in about eight months. As a follow-up I am writing a novel about two African teachers working in Mwanza but I know from the one photo I have seen of it, that Mwanza has changed out of all proportion. So of course has the country. I am writing the bulk of the story with the hope that local colour can be added later. In order to avail myself of information about life in Mwanza today I thought your organisation might be of help insofar as you may have contacts in Tanzania who have been to Mwanza recently.