If current indicators are anything to go by, it’s extremely hard to tell for how much longer condemnation, demonisation and criminalisation will continue before we can stem the rising tide of the production, sale and distribution of fake consumable and other goods.
It’s years now since agencies such as the Police, the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) and the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) either by themselves or as armies began waging a joint war on people and firms or institutions behind the crime wave but without the effort coming to much.
Not once, not twice, have our law-enforcement authorities threatened both suspects and confirmed offenders with fire and brimstone – but, again, with the threats seldom making a lasting mark by way of serving as a deterrent.
Things have not always been any better even in cases where manufacturers or dealers have been issued with licences on the strength of their solemn promises to religiously toe the line by observing the law and therefore ensuring that they steer clear of associating themselves with substandard products.
In the wake of the fast-accumulating mess, the most we have witnessed and heard are public outcries over presumed or perceived lethargy by the authorities supposed to intervene as well as retorts by those authorities that they are trying hard to forestall looming disasters but are overwhelmed.
So, how do proceed? What should be the way forward? Should it continue to be business as usual, a situation where shoddy goods keep swamping everything in our country – from the tiniest makeshift urban street stalls to the most fashionable shopping malls?
And should this happen as we all look on with a mixture of amazement, disbelief and helplessness and as the authorities keep making half-hearted appeals to the people to help in exposing presumed culprits while it is clear to all and sundry that such a disjointed approach would not bear the expected fruit?
For instance, people have been wondering aloud how come ordinary citizens should be expected to distinguish genuine antimalarials from fake ones when the experts who could have do so a lot more accurately with much less effort do not show the way.
There have also been reservations in connection with the intermittent cases of TFDA making surprise checks ending in the destruction of fake, expired and other suspicious goods, with many dismissing them as hopelessly ineffective in the long run.
Now, as recently as early last week, there were reports in the media of manufacturers promising to adhere to quality requirements set by TBS. Curiously, the pledge was made as those making it awaited quality certification licences issued by the bureau.
Meanwhile, the national standards watchdog rightly stresses that there would be no compromising on compliance with World Trade Organisation principles, procedures and values. Excellent – but that calls for much more seriousness than we have seen so far.
Quality assurance is of fundamental importance; it’s no joking matter. Let there, indeed, be no let-up in our drives aimed at defending and promoting it. Surely, we all need to play ball in this.