‘Sikudhani Mohamedi Jalala earns her living repairing shoes in her home here, a cinder-block shack in the sprawling, unpaved outskirts of Tanzania’s capital. In her spare time she writes poetry’. So wrote Burton Bollag in an article in the American publication THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION (May 25) Extracts: ‘Some of her poems beseech thieves to return to the path of righteousness. Others warn of AIDS, counselling monogamy or the use of condoms. And in the great tradition of Swahili poetry, a few form part of a dialogue with other bards …. As Ms. Jalala sings her poems, Shani Kitogo, a student at the University of Dar es Salaam who is pursuing a master’s degree in Swahili poetry, hurriedly pulls a notebook out of a handbag to jot down the words. The text will be shared in a research project at the university’s Institute of Kiswahili Research. Established in a different form in 1930, it is, with 15 scholars, one of Africa’s oldest and most important centers of language research …. Swahili poetry, which traditionally has a certain form and number of beats to each line, is often sung -either to repetitive, Koran-inspired melodies or to modem African ones. Around the time Tanzania gained its independence, in 1961, “poets wrote about political themes,” says Ms. Kitogo. “Now they write about love and day-to-day problems.” …. Scholars at the institute have been collecting poetry and biographical information about Swahili-language poets, past and present, for 10 years. For centuries, Swahili speakers have composed poetry to mark the great and small things of their lives: sycophantic verses to honour local princes and potentates, earthy odes to celebrate village weddings and funerals, philosophical or playful reflections on the meaning of life.
When Kenya and Tanzania were British colonies, the poetry’s ambiguity often made it the only legally publishable way to attack colonial rule. In his poem “Siafu Wamekazana” (“The Ants Have Mobilized”), Saadan Kandoro, a renowned poet, used the symbolism of ants attacking a snake to evoke the idea of a colonial power’s being overwhelmed by the militarily weaker but determined Africans:
Nyoka anababaika, shimoni kwa kujikuna,
Siafu wamekazana, nyoka amekasirika.
(The snake raves, in its hole scratching itself,
The ants have mobilized, the snake is angry) .
….. Today, verse remains a vibrant means of expression in Tanzania. With 270 poets in Tanzania and Kenya interviewed, the poetry project, which Mr. Mulokozi leads, is only halffinished. Written poems and tape recordings of poets reading their works are collected, and biographical information is noted ….. The Swahili institute is playing an important role in a renaissance that has been under way since colonial rule ended. The news media, the university’s vice chancellor, and government ministries call to ask if the researchers have Swahili translations of terms like “e-mail” and “Web site,” says John Kiango, the institute’s deputy director. The institute recently proposed three or four possible renderings for each, and will choose one depending on the feedback it gets.
Every year the institute gleans from the news media, or creates on its own, several hundred new Swahili words. For example, a Swahili word for “globalization” sprang up last fall: utandawazi. It comes from two words: utanda, or “open,” and wazi, or “spread out.”
The UN publication AFRICA RECOVERY (June) included a map of Africa indicating the prevalence of HIV in various countries. Botswana had the highest rate at 36% of the adult population affected followed by Zimbabwe at 25% and South Africa (19.9%). By contrast the prevalence in Tanzania was 8%, the same as Uganda. In Senegal the figure was less than 2%. This was due, it was said, to the country’s early response to the disease, vigorous preventive action, the mobilisation of people at all levels and free discussion following Senegal’s long experience with democracy and the freedom of its press which made it possible to openly discuss the problem.
“NO SERIOUS TROUBLE, BUT…”
The first words in a feature headed ‘Security in Africa’ in AFRICAN DECISIONS (May/June) were as follows: “I don’t like answering questions about things going wrong -it feels like you’re tempting fate” -Simon Mears, Assistant General Manager of the Security Group in Tanzania, a company specialising in securing homes, businesses and cash-in-transit. “Touch wood, we haven’t had any serious trouble in Tanzania, although there was one incident in Arusha where our guy managed to dash through the door of a bank with his cashbox, followed by a hail of bullets from six attackers. One of them followed him into the building with a pistol and knelt down to pick up the box, but our guy kicked him in the face and he ran away”. The article went on to explain how the private security industry had mushroomed across Africa in recent years.
South Africa’s BUSINESS DAY (May 30) explained how the South African gemstone company African Gem Resources (AFGEM) last year acquired the rights to mine two thirds of the Tanzanite reserves at Merelani in northern Tanzania. It seemed like a perfect deal. Construction was said to be proceeding according to plan, the aim being to extract some 22 million carats of Tanzanite over the next 20 years. The government was keen to see an end to decades of smuggling and finally to see some tax revenues from Tanzanian exports. Exports of Tanzanite had been estimated at no more than $10 million each year while annual imports into the US alone were worth about $300 million. The article went on the describe the opposition of local miners to AFGEM as explained in another article above. (Thank you David Leishman for this item -Editor).
ONE OF THE LAST FRAGMENTS
The people of Msolwa took some persuading that planting trees would be good, not only for the environment, but also for their own pocket. Yes, they could see that trees could provide them with firewood. Okay, so some of the varieties seemed to be good for the soil and, certainly, they were useful for preventing erosion and providing wind-breaks for their homes. But that’s what we’ve got the forest for, they were quoted as saying in the WORLD WILDLIFE NEWS (Winter 2001). Msolwa is one of dozens of villages strung out along the eastern boundary of the 1,900 sq km Udzungwa National Park in southern Tanzania. Msolwa lives in the shadow of a vast mountain range blanketed in a forest of ‘almost unbelievable richness and variety’. Yet WWF and the Tanzanian National Parks Service (TANAPA) have been talking thousands of farmers and homesteaders into planting more and more trees. The need for more tree planting is acute -there may be a vast forest on their doorstep, but it can only take so much deforestation. When the population was smaller, the amount taken for firewood and house building could be sustained, but since a new electricity supply and massive sugar plantation combined some 20 years ago to attract new people to the area by the hundreds of thousands, the toll on the forest has become unbearable. (Thank you Christine Lawrence for sending this item -Editor).
GHURKHAS ON GUARD
The EAST AFRICAN (May 21) reported that former British army Ghurkhas with terrier dogs have been employed to provide security at Dar es Salaam port. Between November 2000 and March 2001 four containers disappeared from the port soon after being offloaded from ships.
ON NOT MARRYING
Liv Haram writing in the May issue of NEWS FROM THE NORDIC AFRICA INSTITUTE described her new research project ‘Modernisation and Stress in Men’s and Women’s Lives: African Experiences’ The study is to be conducted in Arusha and the surrounding Arumeru district. She writes that, as in many other African countries, an increasing number of women in Tanzania have chosen not to marry. This option is part of a more general quest for freedom and a desire to pursue their individuality and to live a modem life in town. By avoiding marriage, women refuse to comply with gender ideology, which subordinates women to men, in their capacity as fathers, brothers and husbands. However, to remain unmarried has wide ranging consequences, economically, socially and emotionally. As women traditionally have limited access to scarce resources, such as education, and job opportunities and land, the options for economic independence are few. In contrast to their unmarried mothers and sisters, the ‘unattached’ or ‘single’ women cannot draw on the social and economic support of their in-laws. Nor can they take parental support for granted ….
This was the nickname given to Congo President Joseph Kabila
(30) when he was at school in Tanzania. His recent official visit to the country was described in the EAST AFRICAN (May 21) as more of a ‘home-coming’ to the land where he was raised and educated. The press baptised him ‘Mtoto wa nyumbani’ and he was given a rousing welcome. He went to school in Mbeya, and served for a while in the Tanzanian National Service. He recalled being dropped off from a bus on one occasion at Mikumi National Park where he barely survived being mauled by a lion. During his visit he went to Butiama to lay a wreath on the grave of Mwalimu Nyerere.
As our boat rounds the headland, a couple of dug-out canoes skim out of the bay, tell-tale lines trailing. “People are not supposed to fish here” says Aaron Conrad, one of Chumbe Island’s two resident managers. If local fishermen can’t be here, then what am I doing? I’m scarcely sure and already I’m experiencing twinges of that guilt familiar to weedy liberals who holiday in fragile Eden. But Chumbe, eight miles off the coast of Zanzibar’s Stonetown, is different. It offers its visitors that rarest of tropical holiday luxuries, the option of a conscience that is not merely clear, but positively smug. Declared Global Winner for 1999 in British Airways’ Tourism for Tomorrow Awards’, Chumbe Island Coral Park has created a model in which small-scale eco-tourism funds the island’s conservation and research projects as well as an education programme introducing local schoolchildren to marine biology, ecology and environmental management. In doing so, it turns its foreign visitors into the goodies rather than the villains of the eco-saga. What’s more, it manages to pull this all off without any of the dampening worthiness that so often hangs over a conservation project. “Paradise” peppers every page of the island’s visitors book…… -Juliet Clough writing in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH on April 29. (Thank you Donald Wright for
sending this item -Editor).
‘LUCKY TO BE ALIVE!’
The February issue of the publication COUNSEL contained an article by Andrew Hall following visits to Tanzania to speak at a course for the Department of Public Prosecution’s commercial fraud and white-collar crime section. The article began: ‘June 1999 was auspicious for Joina Siwakwi. The Court of Appeal of Tanzania allowed his appeal against conviction for murder. He was fortunate to be allowed to live, but then he was lucky to be alive having spent eight years in prison, four years on death row. The killing occurred on the 23rd August, 1991 and the victim was his sister-in-law, a widow. She had died of head injuries caused by being struck with a rock. The son later told police that there was, as far as he knew, no enmity between his mother and the accused. No scientific evidence was called to confirm the blood found at the house. Four years after his arrest Siwakwi was convicted and sentenced to death ….. The court-appointed defence lawyer would have been paid the all inclusive fee of Shs 500 -approximately 40p. No defence witnesses were called or other investigations apparently conducted. On appeal four years later the defence argued that the evidence was simply too weak for the verdict to stand. The Senior State Attorney was forced to agree ….. ‘ The article went on: “I asked the Registrar of Appeals whether such delays were uncommon”. “Not at all” he replied. “We discovered in June this year a backlog of 2000 homicide cases awaiting trial. The delay is often five or six years and in one case 11 years where the judge moved district after the trial had started. Our courts are overwhelmed. We simply have not had the funds to try these cases and to find travel and accommodation expenses for judges and witnesses”. (Thank you Mr R S Cumming for sending this item -Editor).
In March the SUNDAY TELEGRAPH published some articles under the heading ‘An Englishwoman abroad’ by Lindsay Hawdon in one of which she described her mugging in Dar es Salaam: ‘My feet kick out hard against the man who has just ripped my earring from my ear and is now trying to pull my rucksack from the cab. I kick him on his right thigh and he punches at my leg. I kick him in the stomach and he stumbles back with a groan. I lock the door. The cab diver is nowhere to be seen. He left me five minutes ago in the heat and dust to ask for directions for the bus to Tanga …. Next day the cab driver finds me again and assures me that he knows where to find my bus. We set off through the tangle of streets. After half-an-hour of honking and screeching brakes the cab stops. “I cannot find this bus. You must pay me now”. I give him his money. I have no idea where I am….. It is then that the motorised rickshaw appears in a cloud of dust thrown up by a passing lorry. “Where we might take you?” the driver asks with a smile that stretches his fat cheeks into two-tight balls. I shout my problem at him and climb in. “Ha Ha” he laughs. “See the wonders of Dar es Salaam” and points towards the walkways, the colourfully dressed people, the bric-a bac stalls, the open barber shops and the fruit and veg piled too high on the slanting shelves …. He takes me to the bus station the following day … I try to give him money. He refuses “Tell people my name is good luck” he says “All I ask is that you remember me to them so that they will know Tanzania is full of good people” ….. (Thank you Roger Searle for this item end for your letter in which you describe your return to Tanzania after 26 years as a sad experience and go on to say: ‘At that time Tanzanian Affairs avoided any criticism whatsoever in its reporting. At least now the articles ring true -but I have no present intention of checking them out! -Editor).
The last issue of Tanzanian Affairs reported, under the heading ‘Until death do us part’, the case of Kirstin Cameron (40) a German national, who had been charged in Arusha with the murder of her estranged New Zealand husband Cliff. The SUNDAY INDEPENDENT (May 12) published the verdict, which was acquittal. The report went on: ‘In his four hour opinion Judge Rutakangwa exonerated Mrs Cameron, suggesting that her husband, a New Zealander, had committed suicide and lambasted the prosecution for failure to produce more than the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence. He further implied that Cameron’s body had been tampered with once it was returned to New Zealand so that a murder scenario could be concocted -the final irony in a case laced with accusations of skulduggery and conspiracy. For two months the dilapidated courthouse amongst Arusha’s jacaranda trees had resounded with complex forensic issues such as ‘high velocity and macro blood spattering’ and ‘blood drops with gravity run off -issues never before presented in the country’s courts ….. In delivering his opinion, peppered with references to Shakespeare, the judge was meticulous in discrediting the prosecution witnesses, including its American forensic science expert and was particularly venomous in his criticism of the Arusha police, who, in failing to secure the crime scene properly, had opened Mrs Cameron to suspicion from her husband’s family. No corroborating evidence was collected and after less than two hours it seemed the CID had allowed the bedroom to be cleaned and the mattress to be burnt. Even the bullet was left to be swept away by Mrs Cameron’s maid …. The Judge’s opinion reflected the anger of many in the community and the judiciary that the outside influence of both the Cameron family and the New Zealand Foreign Office had been brought to bear on the case. Cameron had apparently been troubled by debt and alcohol; he was having an affair with his best friend’s wife and was under considerable stress. (Thank you Liz Fennell for this item Editor).
The TIMES (4th August) reported that nine British passengers on a cruise on the ‘Royal Star’ who had disembarked for a picnic on the island of Shungu Mbili, 20 miles off the Tanzanian coast, suddenly found themselves surrounded by 30 fishermen. They formed a semi-circle shouting and threatening the passengers with a mixture of knives and cudgels. But before the fishermen could attack, a dinghy from the ship reached the shore and six crew members stormed up the sandy beach and rescued them. They had been advised not to take any valuables with them.