DAR ES SALAAM IN THE 20TH CENTURY

Some 18 specialists from universities in Britain, America, Japan, France and Tanzania took part in a one-day seminar on July 1st under this title. It had been organised by Dr Andrew Burton, Assistant Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa and others. The subject matter was full of interest but the room in the University in which the conference was held left much to be desired in the way of acoustics.

David Anthony of the University of California said that Dar es Salaam had grown in fits and starts. Its initial decades were a series of fateful encounters between very different peoples, motivated principally by the exigencies of trade.

In his paper entitled “How we’re gonna keep ’em down on the farm” Andrew Burton said that Dar es Salaam had been the site of what appeared to have been one of the most concerted attempts at urban population control in British colonial Africa. Large-scale repatriation campaigns aimed at removing ‘undesirables’ began in the 1940s and by the late 1950s so-called ‘wahuni raids’ were daily occurrences. Over 2,000 people could be repatriated in a single year. After independence the culture of control continued and included the most notorious of all actions -Nguvu kazi -in 1983 when many people were returned to the rural areas from which they had come.

Geoffrey Owens of Wisconsin University said that one of the most striking features of the transformation of the peri-urban areas of Dar es Salaam in the last 30 years had been the peaceful, even enthusiastic, transfer of land from the original scattered farms and homesteads of the original Zaramo inhabitants to newcomers who had profited handsomely through both urban agriculture and land speculation.

Simeon Mesaki of the University of Dar es Salaam explained the significance of the traditional medicine sector which had been described as ‘probably the largest in terms of practitioners, in revenue collected and number of contacts with the population in both urban and rural areas’. He gave the results of a survey he had conducted amongst some of the 700 healers in the city which revealed that 78% of them were Muslims (regarded as particularly good), only 34% of the practitioners were full-time and none had education beyond secondary level. There were many charlatans and ‘tabloid doctors’ who advertised their services in newspapers, often making extravagant claims. 64% of the clients came to seek protection against witchcraft and 42% were satisfied with the service they had received.

In a fascinating paper which astonished many in the audience and attracted the attention of the local media, Matteo Rizzo of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, revealed the results of an investigation he had conducted amongst almost 700 workers on daladalas -the small buses which carry the majority of the people of the city to work. (It is hoped to reproduce part of this in a future issue of TA. Coincidentally, the main headline in the Sunday Observer on July 17 was headed ‘No end in sight to daladala chaos’; the article spoke of the rule of the jungle being supreme -Editor).

Another paper which attracted great interest, but whose delivery was largely inaudible, by Tadasu Tsurata of the Kinki University in Japan, described the history of the most popular and longest-surviving (since 1930) football clubs in Dar es Salaam -Simba and Yanga. The paper concentrated largely on ethnic issues but members of the audience pointed out that there were many other factors involved in the lengthy rivalry between the two clubs.

Adria la Violette, an archaeologist at the University of Virginia, described how a research team had found traces of village life in Dar in between the 8th and 10th centuries in a hole excavated next to the New Africa Hotel. This had shown a characteristic ceramic tradition, a stratum of dark brown soil and burnt earth from the wall of an urban thatched house indicating the presence of human activity plus the tusk of a wild boar.

Other speakers described colonial forest policy and the demand for timber and fuel in the city, land planning, water supplies, housing and the development of radio in Tanzania and the influence it had had on music and music making.

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