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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Of bhang smokers and gongo brewers

26th August 2012

Tanzania’s soccer supremo, Leodgar Shilla Tenga was last Thursday livid over alleged use of bhang by soccer players, including those in top flight league, the Vodacom Premier League.

The no-nonsense mechanical engineer, former international and national team’s (Taifa Stars) skipper, warned that from now onwards, Tanzanian players should expect instant drug tests, anytime and anywhere in the same way international athletes are subjected to in the war against doping.

He said refusal to be tested, or any attempts at skipping a test in ‘la Rio Verdinand’ fashion would immediately attract a ban on the player from the beautiful game!

That is how serious the man is in dealing with the vice -- which rumours now tells it that it is widely consumed by most Tanzanian players, most of whom erroneously believe it gives them an edge on the pitch!

According to whispers making the rounds in the Haven of Peace for years, those using marijuana among Taifa Stars players sometimes smoke it in the toilets of the Karume Memorial facility at Ilala. They say that all you do to find out the truth is go to the toilets – and you will be assailed with the pungent smell of the drug…it is a well known conduct among top-flight Tanzanian soccer players, a source intimated.

Indeed, how does one explain some of the macabre trances Tanzanian soccer players seem to get into, sometimes, resulting in conceding goals very early in the game if such developments are not linked to use of marijuana?

In one of the most bizarre soccer developments, a famous Tanzanian soccer player turned down, in a huff, a very lucrative contract in the heart of Europe that would have earned him not less than 10,000 Euro per month – claiming it wasn’t good enough for him! Immediately after his departure for Dar, rumours set in that the player who is bhang addict could not get on well with life in the European country because it had become increasingly difficult for him to secure his kiss of life – a dose of bhang.

So the story goes: after repeated failure to get portions of the much needed drug due to a variety of reasons which include, among others, tight security coupled with his poor communication skills, he opted out of the contract.

In fact, others have gone further than soccer players by linking some of prominent Members of Parliament in the country to bhang smoking. The speaker of the National Assembly and her deputies have in fact gone on record – blaming notorious absenteeism from the House on drinking during parliamentary sessions.

Now whispers have it that if our honourable MPs have the audacity to drink outside the august House during parliamentary sessions, what would stop some of them, no matter how few they are, from smoking bhang? Yes, what would stop some of them from taking even hard drugs that include heroin? Some senior members of the Police Force are also alleged to have big bhang plantations on Uluguru Mountains, most of which overlook the scenic Morogoro town.

In short, bhang planting, peddling and smoking in Bongoland appears to have come here to stay, and others warn that when a policeman says he wants to check the boot of your car, make sure you are with him, lest he plants bhang in the boot. This is a warning particularly to those naïve drivers who would normally tell the policeman, “I have already opened the boot, go ahead and check.”

Make that mistake and you will live to regret it, for it is them (the police) who know whether or not you have bhang with you; we can say the same about gongo – or machozi ya simba (lion’s tears) in Tanzania or chang’aa in Kenya.

Grapevine is awash with stories that it is the police who know who are behind the brewing of the illicit drink and that those who are brought before the law in connection with the illicit trade are usually those who will have refused to ‘share’ the loot with the cops. What happens if the brewer is too smart for the cops or is linked to cops in higher echelons?

“It is very simple,” says a professional whisperer, “poison is laced in the drink to take care of the patrons …. leading to the closure of the shop for good.”

And after the High Court verdict that unseated Dr Dalali Kafumu (CCM) in the Igunga constituency, rumours that immediately swept Dar es Salaam said the Minister for Works, Dr John Pombe Magufuli was not after all the tough-talking, fire-breathing minister he had made the Tanzanian world to believe he was -- because if he was, he would not have had the temerity of letting down the mining expert by failing to turn up in court to give evidence. That’s the evidence that would have made the judge ignore the kind of promises that bordered on corruption he is alleged to have made during Dr Kafumu’s campaigns in the constituency.

Rumour mongers say they could not believe that it was the same man whose Cabinet paper, during the third phase government of President Benjamin Mkapa led to the selling off of government houses across the country.

Dr Magufuli who is one of the most popular ministers in the Cabinet is renowned for his sustained ‘threats’ -- which more often than not, he carries them out -- to destroy any house (including those built by the government) built in a road reserve.

However, whenever he was summoned to appear before the court to give evidence on utterances linked to him, he was either on safari or he was sick. Now rumour mongers say Dr Kafumu was so peeved with the whole theatre by his own people that he has now decided to return to his profession, namely, that of guiding his nation to get its rightful share of its rich mineral resources.

But even then, rumour mongers insist: is the learned doctor still young enough to be taken back into the ministry’s fold as commissioner for minerals?

If the answer is in the affirmative, then Dr kafumu will help in strengthening Prof. Sospeter Muhongo’s arm in the energy and minerals docket.

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