IT might have probably happened somewhere in the world, but it is unheard of in Tanzania. Can a leader – either a regional commissioner or minister for that matter – pose as a victim of rape or sodomy in an attempt to crush the vices in their district? Whether you agree or disagree, this crude method of social sciences research was employed in Tanzania last year, and it is nowhere else but in Iringa Region – the region where they say nothing is impossible.
This happened when Regional Commissioner Amina Masenza had wanted to get first hand information on whether the increasing number of raped and sodomised people in the region was real as reported or not, and whether the hospital nurses were treating them as required or not.
The best way to do this was therefore to present herself in a regional hospital as one of the victims masquerading as a patient.
But before the hournourable RC embarked on this very bold move what prodded her to do so?
Rape and sodomy incidents have reportedly been taking a big toll in that parts of the country, affecting people especially women and the young.
The prevalence of the vices had pushed journalist Irene Mwakalinga to seek financial support from the Tanzania Media Foundation (TMF) so as to enable her conduct investigation on the causes and solutions of these growing social vices.
Mwakalinga carried out her research by visiting various places including Nyororo, Kiwele and Semtema, where she talked with parents whose children happened to have been raped or sodomised.
The number of parents who she interviewed were five, but due to the nature and sensitivity of the problem, the TMF verifier did not chance to interview them.
The reporter also interviewed government leaders like the police, District Commissioners, the courts and the Regional Commissioner.
Journalist Mwakalinga thereafter talked with doctors from the regional medical hospital, the court and the Municipal Community Development Officers.
Besides she interviewed the following for her story, Josephine Mwaipopo (Iringa Municipal Community Development Officer), Christine Mgongolwa (a witch doctor) in Iringa District, David Ngunyale a (Judge at the High Court in Iringa), and Ave Kihaule, a member of the Kihwele village security committee in Iringa District.
Once done, she compiled four programmes which were aired by the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation television repeatedly in November 2016.
So what was the impact of her works? The verifying team confirmed with the Iringa Regional Commissioner Amina MAsenza that incidents of rape and sodomy went down after the broadcasts.
At the regional hospital, an officer who preferred anonymity on account of not being the spokesperson of the facility said before the reporter’s investigation almost fifteen rape or sodomy cases were reported at the facility a month.
But since then there have been fewer cases and sometimes there are no reported incidents at all, he said.
More importantly, is that present, victims of rape and sodomy are attended more effectively when they reach the hospital unlike in the past where medical attendants mistook them as part of the culprits.
This change in the attitude in the way of handling the victims is partly attributed to the efforts by the Iringa RC, Amina Masenza, when at one time she reported at the Iringa Region Hospital after the stories had been broadcasted and posed as a patient where she saw victims of rape ignored.
It was then that she immediately reacted by firing a nurse from the facility. RC Masenza confirmed to the TMF verifier that indeed she took stern measures against the nurse, saying the programmes aired by the reporter had led to reduced rape and sodomy incidents in the region.
“Government officials in the region took the media reports very seriously where they made efforts to reduce rape and sodomy cases. I personally went as far as to talk to various women in the region to establish the magnitude of the problem. I call upon TMF to continue with the support to journalists like Irene Mwakalinga so that they can visit more areas especially in the interior where the problem might still be existing,” she said.
Generally, the reporter proves that the project has brought a great change on such issue and she has learnt many things through the support of TMF, and she requested the organization to support other journalists in order to investigate more on various problems facing the societies.
Making recommendation, the reporter says TMF should disburse fund much earlier to simplify the investigation work adding that the number of investigators should also be increased so as to enable the investigators cover larger areas.
Sometimes it is difficult to reach to the interior of the country where bigger problems of sodomy prevail due to the lack of funds, she says.Yet some people continue to suffer, she adds.
Paying homage to TMF for its support, she says it has helped her to create a positive change in the region.
A research of this nature usually cannot go without its limitations.
One of the hamstrings is that the verifier failed to visit the victims of rape and sodomy owing to the sensitivity of the matter and felt that only confirming with the RC was more ideal as she had been mentioned in the impact by the reporter.
But the key question still lingers: When shall rape and sodomy cases come to an end in Iringa Region?