The JOHANNESBURG STAR reported recently that a Tanzanian had surprised South African Police Service narcotics detectives when, arriving from Dubai, he relieved himself of 140 ‘bullets’ of cocaine worth about ¬£20,000, the largest number of bullets ever found on one individual coming into South Africa. Apparently the man had been preparing months in advance -grapes, ice-cubes and even sausages had been shovelled down his throat to get his insides ready. If one of the condoms had ruptured the man would have died of a severe overdose of the drug. He was reported to be quite relieved still to be alive.

The Western Australia CAMBRIDGE POST (March 8) described how a Tanzanian born with no arms or shoulder joints and an Australian who has no legs and travelled on stumps with special spiked fittings recently climbed Kilimanjaro. They took the Umbwe route, used normally by experienced climbers. Led by Brendon Goss, an Australian working at the Resolute Gold Mining Group in Nzega, the young men were aiming to raise awareness of disablement in Tanzania and helping to set up the ‘Hamisi Lugonda Centre’ for people with disabilities. The climb -up rocks, cliffs and over glaciers (at night) -took 17 days (climbers normally take about seven days) but the skidding, sliding trip down took only two and half days (Thank you Douglas Gledhill for sending this item -Editor).

‘Kilwa is amongst the most beautiful cities, and elegantly built,’ wrote Ibn Battuta, the great Moroccan-Berber traveller in 1331.’ So began a lyrical account of the fascinating history of Kilwa in the January issue of NEW AFRICAN written by Nick Horden. He had been attempting what he described as ‘a pale imitation of Battuta’s travels -to catch up with 800 years of African history.’ His journey, in the rainy season, from Dar es Salaam to Kilwa by road seems to have been more hazardous than that of Battuta who arrived in Kilwa comfortably by dhow. ‘Kilwa and other ports were founded in the 800’s/900’s by ancestors of the modem Swahili people, who became both city dwellers and traders with the interior long before they became (in the 1100’s) Muslims, and who kept many vital elements of their past culture long after they took on the Islamic religion ……. .’

Under the heading ‘Grape Expectations’ the BBC’s FOCUS ON AFRICA (April-June) described how a Tanzanian wine company -the ‘Tanganyika Vineyards Company’ -was battling to grab a share of the local market as many people in Tanzania preferred imported wines. Extracts from the article: ‘In the early 1980’s Tanzania’s socialist government took a serious interest in the winemaking business and, at the height of production, was making around 2 million litres a year. The business then fell into decline and the few wineries that were in existence closed down ….. The Vineyards Companies Chairman, Moses Kagya, was quoted as saying “We are a young company and still have a lot to learn about producing wine. After five years in the business I can say that our wines are very drinkable, but there is still a lot of room for improvement…. ” Kagya is a self-confessed wine lover and, unlike the majority of Tanzanians, grew up in a family where wine was frequently served at dinner. Around $0.5 million has been invested in the business in largely state-of-the-art machinery which would not look out of place even in wineries in Australia, New Zealand or the USA. At present the company is using two grape varieties to make three types of wine -Makatupura Red, Chenin Blanc and Rose’. Its capacity is around 200,000 litres a year. …. Dodoma is one of the few places in the wine-making world where two grape harvests are possible each year. However, the industry faces many obstacles: the vines are assaulted from every possible angle by tropical bugs, nematodes and even birds which have taken a fancy to the sweet grapes; the transport infrastructure is another major headache with rough roads damaging the grapes; the company also believes that the tax regime which it faces is unfair and discriminates against locally produced wine.. But perhaps the biggest hurdle is convincing people to drink the wine. “At wine tastings when we asked people which was the better wine, ours or foreign wines, in most cases they chose ours,” Kagya said “but when we tell them they have chosen a Tanganyika wine they just can’t believe it and are less impressed which is very disheartening.” Kagya also faces problems in selling his wine to tourist hotels in Dar es Salaam.

In writing about a conference in London organised by British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown on “Poverty Reduction and the Private Sector” , Rosemary Righter, in THE TIMES (February 4) delved deeply into the best ways in which capital can be shifted from Western taxpayers to African developing countries. She wondered why only 40% of Africa’s own savings stayed in Africa and questioned whether a doubling of external government finance would be the right way to solve the problem. Africa needed not just capital, she wrote, but capitalists and not just more competent governments, but governments that would get off people’s backs. She went on: ‘As ministers do, the Chancellor made his speech and left. He did not hear Aristablus Elvis Musiba, Vice-chairman of Tanzania’s new Private Sector Foundation and President of its Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture and Industry say this: “I am 52. I’ve seen a lot of aid money coming to Tanzania. I have not seen development arising from that aid. But, in the past five years, I’ve seen private investment coming to Tanzania. And now I can see change. Aid has not got us anywhere: aid should never be more than the icing on the cake.” (Mr Musiba made a similar point later at a well¬≠ attended Britain-Tanzania Society debate on British Aid to Tanzania in which MP’s from all three main British parties, Richard Dowden, Director of the Royal African Society and Tanzanian High Commissioner Hassan Kibelloh also participated -Editor)

THE TIMES reported on March 28 that Tanzania’s army had destroyed almost 10,000 anti-personnel mines as it sought to adhere to the terms of an international treaty banning such weapons. The remainder of the stockpile of nearly 24,000 mines is to be destroyed in September 2004. Of the estimated 100 million mines deployed worldwide an estimated 30 million have been destroyed since a global ban came into force four years ago. (Thank you John Ainley for this item -Editor).

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