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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Sanctioned lawlessness in Tanzania!

7th May 2012

Helloh, jambo, and I ended last week by saying if I’m not on this page today, I might be in an Unguja lock-up after fighting for the right to use the shillingi there, instead of the constantly demanded dollar. The lock-up wasn’t necessary, but the fight still is!..

A medium of major financial transactions, alongside the shilling for small scale local trade, it’s exhausting disputing every price enquiry only given in dollars (one for a postcard for example) especially during visitor high season in the stone town, and beach resorts.

Also irritating, are the larger tourist hotels which imperiously quote their tariffs in this ‘foreign’ money as though a local currency doesn’t exist.

To which the common sense response should be…. “don’t be so damned stupid, we’re in Tanzania”!. Perhaps the hotels’ excuse could partially be that the Zanzibar government demand l0 dollars from them for each guest, and won’t take payment in the currency of the country…… why not?....illegal and doubly stupid!.

One trader told me visitors like to pay in dollars, but does that apply to non Americans?. The reality is, this currency is promoted on the Isles, and guests accept it, with perhaps short term ones even unaware of the rightful alternative.

For many people, the lira, the franc, the drachma, conjure up vivid images of holidays abroad, and they bemoan the deadening effect of the euro, as a little bit of mystique was wiped out along with these colourful currencies, and those of other countries that gave up their fiscal identity when joining the European Union.

Travellers often keep bank notes and coins from their foreign trips as souvenirs……just as my guests did when leaving Tanzania, to value as a memory. And if dollar acceptability and promotion is not curbed by all who collude in this fiscal farce, the central bank, the police, the government, the parliament…..that’s all the

‘shillingi’ could become here also…a memento of former times!.


I’ve just come across an East Africa Business Week of February this year, where under a heading of “Tanzania warned on dollarisation”, the central bank Governor Prof. Benno Ndullu is quoted as saying “charging in foreign currency was illegal”. I’ve been crusading on this issue for years, but it’s the first time I’ve seen that admittance in print from the governor, past or present. Ballali never committed himself, preferring to talk nonsense, about “allowing the dollar to float….” or whatever.

But what does it tell you about the country…….if every day, the citizens and their governments, mainland and Unguja, openly flout such straightforward legislation.

And if those who make the laws also break them, then why should we respect any at all?. Can we be selective in our choices as to which we’ll abide by, and those we won’t. And is the decision to punish law breakers as seemingly as arbitrary as the decision not too?.

As recompense for over praising the under performing government here, perhaps the donors should fund a law breakers handbook entitled…….”A citizens guide to the Laws of Tanzania, what to ignore and what to honour”!…


Early last year, the Registrar of Political Parties, Mr. John Tendwa, talked about “....the constitution being the supreme law, in a country that abides by the rule of law”.

Massively incorrect. It’s a nation where the law makers disregard the results of their handiwork. Labour laws are contravened, traffic laws flouted, noise legislation totally disregarded, building laws broken, currency regulations ignored etc…and many more. A litany of law breaking across the land, Mr. Tendwa…….and with land transgressions, being the best example of all.

In February, the Ilala municipality defended its delay in demolishing a building near the Aga Khan hospital. It must be twenty years since I watched in astonishment from my home directly opposite, as an entire corner just off Upanga road, was appropriated to erect it. But at the same time, an attempt to start a little drinks kiosk opposite by a small trader, was brutally demolished by the City Council.

A considerable incentive must have been given to allow for this building, run as a computer school called the English Fountain, and I campaigned for its removal.

Though after the death of the city solicitor, I knew there’d been no intention of implementing the demolition orders he’d cleverly humoured me with by slapping on the building over the years.

So what is Ilala municipality waiting for now….the quarter century celebration of a successful land/road grab?

This brings me to my own case. In l989, I halted construction of a nearly completed house in Jangwani Beach because of conflicting intervention from municipal and land ministry officers.

Beacons were constantly moved and attempts made to re-define boundaries, and over the years, it was like shadow boxing, as authorities constantly misinformed us, various officials came and went, their reports written, then countermanded. In 2001, my palm trees were cut down, and part of our plot number 356, given to claimant Kulthum Abdalah, whose papers were for 355.

Then last May, neighbours informed us our watchman had been paid to leave, and an unknown person taken over the land. Shocked, we spent a horrific week driving between police stations, the Ministry of Lands, the municipal offices etc., Despite being told by police to stop what he was doing, when we next saw the plot, it was unrecognisable, as a concrete wall was constructed around it, with armed guards to protect ‘the owners’ new property.’

Exactly one year later that person is still there, and last week, when police gained entry, we learned this man who specialises in taking land he thinks the owner has lost interest in, has demolished our house.

There are parallels here between these two examples of corruption and government ineptitude, as the conditions existing in Tanzania allowing Ilala Council to get away with NOT demolishing the Upanga building, are the same as those that allow a ‘tapeli’ to invade and illegally demolish my house after one year of ineffective action from police, Ministry of Lands, or the municipality.

Last May I left the country, trusting I’d return to a reclaimed plot. But exactly one year later, and again leaving soon, should I still have faith in the state machinery to help…..or will lawlessness prevail……I’ll know when I return!.

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