Takrima and Corruption … The Vicious Circle

A friend was listening to the radio the other day – the topic was corruption.  Others reckoned all the personal wealth of corrupt leaders should be confiscated by the government.  Basi bwana, my dear friend was so tempted to call in and air his views.  But will that solve anything really?   

Yaani I think Bongo has become the headquarters of corruption!  You won’t get medical treatment unless umhonge kidogo nurse.  Kama it’s emergency such as giving birth, afadhali tu you had gotten your wife a midwife, manake without kitu kidogo your screaming wife will not see the labour room let alone the doctor. 

Our traffic cops are so corrupt, they now make up offences bila wasiwasi kabisa!  Halafu they intimidate you while at it.  Imagine getting stopped and threatened with a fine for passing the green light!  Before it clicks exactly what you have been charged with, you find yourself parting with the buku kumi you had been saving to get some groceries with from Kariakoo that coming Saturday.  I am told like cab drivers, all the traffic cops at the end of the day have to report back to their big boss with kitu kidogo.

                  “Arro!  Reo umetengeneza ngapi?” 

                 “Nimepata elfu tano tu, afande!” 

                 “Erfu tano tu?  Umekuja hapa kucheza au kufanya kazi?  Nimekuweka pare kwenye magari kibao!  Watoto wote wa geti kari wanapita hapo!” 

The next day poor chap finds himself transferred, or should I say demoted – next morning he finds himself in Ukerewe, where he will be very lucky to see a motorcycle let alone a car – for not doing his job as stated by his boss, not necessarily his employer, the Ministry of Public Safety and the Ministry of Home Affairs.   The traffic cops don’t look at broken down cars anymore.  I mean how much would they get from a dude in a broken down tingatinga or daladala? 

Infact in Bongo, you are better off driving a broken down car with one head light, that leaves parts of itself behind with every meter driven, than a brand new BMW, Mercedes or 4×4.  He stops a chickadee in a hurry driving a Rav4 Sports, sporting Dior shades, MAC make-up, wearing some Chanel perfume, and Gucci handbag, he is sure to get a few buku more than he would get from a tinga tinga driver, reeking of gasoline and yesterday’s breath. Kwahiyo, this officer of public safety, tena in a starched white uniform, standing tall and proud, turns a blind eye to a car that is more likely to cause a fatal accident kill many and in turn chooses to find faults in a brand new car.  

Have you been robbed in Bongo?  I have.  Once I was attacked with screw drivers even.  Basi bwana, you go to the police station to open a file, a docket or whatever it is that they call them, they will welcome you so warmly mpaka utaona raha.  The better dressed you are, the more VIP treatment you will get.  The policewomen even start calling you “shoga”.  Someone will listen to you, write down your case and sympathize even. They will give you their contact numbers so as to follow up.  They will even tell you of the steps they intend to tae in catching the culprits.  You will be promised the moon, sun and the stars!  You will leave the station cursing and kufyonza everybody who has ever told you that Tanzanian police are corrupt.  I mean how can such a friendly bunch be corrupt?

                     You start calling – first, second, third, fourth and fifth day you are still feeling very positive and on a happy contented high as you are told, “wala usiwe na wasi wasi, shoga.  Yule tunamjua mpaka kwake.  Tutampata tu!” 

                    But by the third week and after a million phone calls, you have heard it all!  From “hatuna hela ya usafiri … hela ya kupiga simu … hela ya kalamu na karatasi … nilikuwa naumwa … mjomba wa kaka wa mke wa jirani alikufa … ada ya mtoto ya shule …” then you start wondering what his health and personal problems have got to do with you.  My wondering didn’t take long, the shoga policewoman decided to spell it out to me loud and clear since I was too blonde and slow to catch up.                    “Bila kitu kidogo hataweza kufanya kazi, shoga.  Si unajua tena vitendea kazi hadimu,”  she told me with that warm smile, which by then it was becoming annoying. Then you start wondering again – this time you start wondering what it is that TRA and the government does with that big chunk of money they take from you every month – if not to make sure the vitendea kazi are there, then what do they do with it? 

Schools are no different when it comes to corruption.  After counting cents, borrowing from that cousin whom you had sworn never to talk to again and even selling your shamba, you finally manage to secure a place at that private school – for your daughter naye awe known as a msomi.  For your daughter to get an interview you part with a couple of kilo.  The interview goes well and your daughter passes.  But you don’t have that surname that is linked with some ministers or big shots, so you have to go back, part with more kilo so as to get the joining instructions and all the trash that goes with joining that school.  Okay, so now your daughter has secured a place at the school.  Sasa malazi je?  You go back again, part with more kilo so that she can get accommodation. 

Now vijijini, there is “rent a dawati” business as my friend puts it.  A student passes well and she gets her joining instructions with school fees.  In the fees there is some big chunk of money that goes towards desks.  Sasa if every year a form one student is asked to contribute towards purchasing of desks, where do all these desks that are bought every year go to if it is not a business deal among teachers?  It doesn’t end there. 

In Bongo, we have rushwa ya ngono.  Yap, sexual coercion – sexual bribery if you may.  We all know how difficult it is to get a job jamani.  Some people have turned this difficult affair into a lucrative and very satisfying business – where all interviews are done horizontally on the boss’s desk – or if you are lucky and if your skirt is short enough, maybe over dinner and a few drinks.  If you get intoxicated enough, you pray you will never ever remember again, and I you do, you just blame it on the booze.  Mind you, most of the times when you get your job laying down it is never a smooth drive.  Sasa to smoothen those rough patches you will find yourself over and over bending over for your boss.  How do we treat this disease that is eating our society faster than the speed of light?  If we start by firing the traffic cops will that solve anything really?  I mean to get rid of a diseased tree, do you chop off the deteriorating branches or do you uproot the whole tree from the root?  Maybe we should start the treatment at the very root then – where this disease starts?  Uplift the whole goddamn source?    Mind you, what I mentioned above are minor offences – if you may call rushwa that – by the little people.  Afterall, many will say, they also have to live bwana – lazima nao waishi. So many anti-corruption bodies have been formed to fight off corruption – but nothing much has changed.  Contracts signed – be it for road construction, education, energy supply and renewable energy, building construction, land acquisition, mining, education, clean water, civil-service reform, banking oversight, environmental sustainability, and almost every other area of development – are still those that left the wakubwa with big ear to ear smiles on the faces and fat cheques in their bank accounts, while at it these contracts also get their children to get schooled at some expensive international school overseas. 

We can create NACSAP (National Anti-corruption Strategy and Action Plans), NATPP (NACSAP Triangular Partnership Programme), GGCU (Good Governance Coordination Unit), Presidential Commission Against Corruption (PCAC) or PCB (Prevention of Corruption Bureau) or any other bureaucratic organisation or unit but corruption will still be there.  I mean let us look at it this way – when campaigning, wakubwa use bribery to buy votes, au sio?    

Bwana mkubwa is campaigning for some seat, say to be a parliamentarian.  He needs some campaign money.  So he start beggings, groveling and kuchashingisha pesa from every Tom, Dick, Harry and their brothers.  Bwana mkubwa anachangisha like he has never kuchangisha before!  To get Tom, Dick, Harry and their brothers to part with their money, you have to promise them a share of the cake.  Of course like anything and any mchango – they don’t come free.  I changa for a harusi, expecting to get a slice of the wedding cake, si ndio?  I changa for your campaign expecting to get a piece of that cake that comes from the White House.  So bwana Mkubwa starts making promises to Tom, Dick, Harry and their brothers.  While at it, he also needs the support and votes of the wananchi.  For this he starts “bribing” them with if not empty promises, useless promises that hardly make any progress to the lives of the wananchi.

                  “If I win I will build you schools … I will build you hospitals …” we have all heard this, haven’t we?  We don’t need any more schools jamani – we now have so many schools, but we don’t have teachers?  Where are the schooling equipments and materials?  Of course it’s cheaper for the bwana mkubwa to promise a building that will cost him hardly US$ 75 per square metre than to train a handful of teachers and then buy text books, writing boards, etc. As bwana mkubwa is campaigning he would hand out money to some wananchi, with others invite them for a sinia of pilau.  Such an act is known as takrima.  Our bwana wakubwa defend their takrima as gifts or act of generosity, a tenet of the African culture that a visitor enjoys at the home of his host.  But opponents of takrima criticize it as corruption, asking why it is the guest who gives a takrima instead of receiving it from the host in consonant with the tradition. 

Kwahiyo, if it is not bribery, then why should you wait until you win the favoritism of the wananchi to carry this out?  Again where are the teachers and doctors – that are so badly needed?  Halafu we dare stand proud and tall, pushing out our chest and patting ourselves at the back, ati we have finally done it – we have eradicated illiteracy – we have many schools.  While one school with over three hundred children only has two teachers! With some villages, actually a lot of them, there are so many schools but no students – no, it’s no like the village doesn’t have children – the children’s parents simply can not afford the school fees and the “rent a dawati” schemes. 

Back to the bwana mkubwa who is finally a parliamentarian – he now has won his seat and it is now time to pay back Tom, Dick, Harry and their brothers.   Of course this is after he has built that so-called school with two classrooms and no windows – poor wananchi who had expected seven classrooms.  His main concern is on Tom, Dick, Harry and their brothers, if wananchi are built a small dispensary they shut up for atleast a year.  So he concentrates on pleasing Tom, Dick, Harry and their brothers – his so-called sole providers – by giving them a slice of the white house cake – be it a position somewhere, a contract – projects that are aimed more at doling out lucrative contracts than making any real progress in the lives of the poor wananchi. 

Is there really an end to corruption – as it seems to be a vicious circle – starting from the top and working it’s way up to the bottom and going back to the top again.  Scratch my back and I will scratch yours.  Money in the guise of takrima – bribery, corruption or whatever you want to call it – is always the key factor.   While it is still being preached that people should elect their leaders on merit and not because of gifts the candidates offer, the same preachers will still run to Tom, Dick, Harry and their brothers so as to make empty promises.  Only if wananchi would ask themselves – where does this bwana mkubwa who is promising us roads, water and schools get the funds from?  And if it is “loaned” then from who, how much and how will he repay – after all we should be concerned, right?  Then labda we would choose our leaders better – who hopefully are not in the vicious diseased circle.  But then again, when a prospective bwana mkubwa offers takrima, ahem, in the form of pilau, a t-shirt, khanga and a cap to a hungry mwananchi, listening to such advice and sound promises is hard.


~ by saharasoulfood on January 21, 2007.

22 Responses to “Takrima and Corruption … The Vicious Circle”

  1. The topic at hand is harder than a rock that is mentioned in bible stories.Its such a serious topic to the extent that we almost do not understand what to do next,if any way out.You see,corruption is also even here in the so called “first world” countries.But the difference here is that there are areas that are too sensitive to be corrupted.Back home,we have none,we corrupt and play with everything.Tumelaaniwa?

  2. Either we are part of the problem or part of the solution….,wanasemaje vile..a thousand mile journey starts with a…..,( it doesnt matter which direction you want to go!)

  3. I believe corruption is a very late invention in a human history.And because it is a human invention , humanbeings can deal with it and eliminate it.I believe there is no any reason for a lot of areas it thrives to exist.In Tanzania I still believe, poverty plays a big role in making corruption flourish.I also think alot of people do not even consider it as corruption . They treat it as just another way to survive and that is the problem. Lets not give up fighting it!
    @Jeff, hatujalaaniwa

  4. SaHaRa thannks for commenting on my blog. I have found nice stuff in here and hopefully will be stopping by frequently.

  5. @Jeff: In the first world they do 10% and then the remaining 90% is used to develop their countries. And they do develop them! You end up having a smiling bwana mkubwa with a fat pocket and a country with roads that unaweza kulalia. Sio za kwetu with potholes so big you’d think it’s a crater!

    Sasa sisi huku, we take the 90% and the remaining 10% that should be used to buy sijui materials, we still take a chunk of it and buy schitt materials and we end up with craters on our roads. Tutafika kweli?

  6. @Nabuli – what solution? Have we found one yet?

  7. @Simon: It’s true – many take corruption as a way of survival. I understand suring uchaguzi, many people in the rural areas waligoma ku-support watu mpaka wapewe kitu kidogo. Imagine that!
    Yamkuwa mazoea mabaya sana! It’s not anymore about what maendeleo this bwana mkubwa can bring but about …. “Sipigi kura chama hiki … hawana hata t-shirts bwana!”

  8. Fantastic article, first heard about it from Pamela Lwakabare.
    I have bookmarked your blog.
    the fIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION is a daily battle and not for the faint hearted in Tanzania.A thankless job…to quote a Former PCB Chief!
    The debate contines……

  9. Saharasoul you are asking what Solution? You had one already”… Only if wananchi would ask themselves – where does this bwana mkubwa who is promising us roads, water and schools get the funds from? And if it is “loaned” then from who, how much and how will he repay – after all we should be concerned, right? Then labda we would choose our leaders better – ..”

  10. @Nabuli: Tatizo Nabuli, they won’t ask themselves that. Everybody is after that 10%, hata walalahoi – in whatever form it comes – whether as school fees for kids overseas, construction deals, pilau, khanga or t-shirts!

  11. Hapo umesema sasa Sahara,then we go back to what I mentioned kuwa they are part of the problem…mmhhh..but… as kama wewe you have seen it ,wrote about it, I think this is one step beginning of a thousand mile journey,don’t give up! write, speak, argue..we fanya lolote legal watu waelewe.

  12. Hope when you write Nabuli you mean Ndabuli, if not then my apologies…sawa Dada!

  13. Sasa kwenye nchi ambayo karibu kila mtu anashiriki uchafu huu wa rushwa (watawala na watawaliwa, wadanganya na wadanganyika), je nani atakuwa na suluhisho? Tunaambiwa: mabadiliko unayoyataka duniani yaanze kwako binafsi. Huenda hii ndio hatua ya kwanza.

  14. @Ndaduli: Kweli this is going to be one hell of a journey. I got some comments through e-mail as well. I’m going to paste them here, but I think I will withhold the names of the senders …

    Comment #1: Lets not be too quick to judge corruption on the basis of the presented fact of monthly salary there are other aspects that one has to consider before accusing another of such a grave crime or risking libel suits. For example: Does he run a personal business? does he come from a prosperous business
    family? did he inherit some wealth? Is he a business broker of some kind?

    does he have did he borrow money from a money lending institution? is his wife prosperous? does she have access to funds? while seemingly unexplained wealth can be a telltale sign of corruption, we may be best served by identifying the areas of weakness within the business set ups- witch-hunting will never serve corruption eradication well, it is bound to make some
    innocent people suffer for their business acumen or legally acceptable commercial ingenuity.

    For instance an idea to reduce corruption in the Construction Industry would be to say target the construction industry and say where is the weak link? is it at the tender award stage? then we focus on the tender award process itself and zone in on the weak areas, all this done with the ‘buy in’ of the standards authorities and interested parties in the construction industry, as no matter how great a solution is if the interested parties are not included in its formulation there is bound to be
    resistance from the excluded parties to its smooth implementation.

    Corruption is a tough one, as someone said on this very forum we need to look at ourselves as a society and find the solutions from that wide base.

    As it is it does look like the love for money outstrips the love for the country and the respect for morals. The big question remains how do we reduce corruption? Is it by appealing to the minds and souls or by implementing foolproof systems that are regularly updated as we do our computer virus solutions? I would vote for the later with both my hands and feet.

  15. More comments I received via e-mail …
    Comment #2: Surely we as Christian we have contributed by one way or another to this. How?
    1.Some has shown weakness in giving bribe to get what they wanted either services, opportunities, jobs etc.
    2.For not praying for our nation can cause evils to prevail including corruption, blood shedding like what Ditopile Mzuzuri did etc.
    May God help us to stand in a gap to pray for our nations.
    God bless you.

  16. Comment #3: Hi my dear,thanks for spending your time to educate us as well as shairing,sad am not political person unajua hata siko katika chama chochote!

    Corruption is serious problem not only in Tanzania but everywhere, its true Kikwete came with the slogan new zeal, vigour, speed but things were worse already, to change them within short time it is impossible, but there is one improvement I have observed, immigration people now work compare to previous, nimepata new passport within vey few days without even giving a shilling, lets hope and pray that other ministry and org may do the same

    Thanks once again.

  17. Comment #4: YAANI THIS IS SO SAD JAMANI!…….it shows how corrupted our leaders are,coz that is just an overflow of whats going on at the top…..

    i think we as church need to come up together praying in the
    spirit, attacking it from the root at the same time start doing things in the natural (refusing taking or giving hongos) ……. we also need to pray For God to remove wicked leaders from the gov leadership and replacing them with the righteous ….. yaani, this is too sad …. i’ll actually start praying
    for it today………

  18. Comment #5: loved it, xxxxxxxxxxx… and thought this should be passed on to others fellow >tanzanian… very interesting and I think you have voiced what we all think, feel.
    What is frustrating us and our wonder of why our government is so mum about so many things… AND the tendency of taking those who have failed to be teachers or nurses is gotta to stop. They should be the highest performers in school!!!
    And the “wakumbwa” to dump their kids in various hospitals so they can “jishikiza” has also got to be abolished..(“act of 2047”) abolishment of placement of big shots kids at offices they have no experience in (e.g no placement will be allowed at hospitals, foreign affairs nor any (RAT) road authority In Tanzania), road corruption authority in tanzania (RCAT), pension authority (PAT), multicultural authority (MAT), tourism authority TAT), and any other authorities that any high level
    official may think of.

    I want to start a campaign for higher and better pays for teachers and medical staff… then maybe we can move on to police, education, hospitals, infrastructure, .. i will be busy if i start now, I can accomplish all campaigns by year 2047(?)?!?!!?!? what do you think???

    have a fantastic week. may you not encounter our traffic police, nor find the need to go to the hospital nor taking your kid, borther or sister to any school in Tanzania in the near future.

    warm regards,

  19. Comment #6: minister aliyetoka alikuwa hovyo sana …. corrupt kishenzi, alitupa shida sana bank. As for me, if all goes well Wande will be going to Jburg to study next year …. that is if we get something to do there …. meaning we will be moving soon.
    MIMI KWA KWELI NIMESHINDWA naona namtesa tu mwanangu. Kinachonotisha zaidi ni hospital experiences nilizozipata nikiwa nampeleka hospital. Kwahiyo mwakani either karibuni Nairobi or Jburg, lakini we have decided this is not the place. Ukiangalia wenzetu with less qualifications wana access to so many things in these two countries, hata Kenya ambayo ni jirani, market yao iko so developed. I ask myself why do i need to fly to Nairobi for a dental work, bcoz kila nikiweka filling hapa bongo after 3mths imetoka. Nyingine nimeweka tokea nikiwa Zimbabwe meno ya mbele mpaka leo hazijatoka.
    TMJ once told me I was pregnant when I wasn’t, sijui wali switch mikojo. My daughter nusu achomwe sindano with syringe iliyo expire (nadhani ilikuwa yenye dawa if I remember correctly), if I wasn’t curious to read karatasi aliyoitupa sijui angepata reaction gani. Nikaambiwa eti SAMAHANI!
    I am sorry hapa ni nyumbani, labda tutabaki na investments tu, lakini shida zote hizi za nini?????????????????????

  20. Comment #7: Very interesting article for the writer! Sasa frustrations hazitaisha leo, wananchi wanaendelea kusuffer, but you hear government claims they have achieved something. So many bodies are being formed lakini I do not know how they measure their achievements. It is more frustrating because we can air our views and nothing will change in the near future. Sasa kwa kweli when I think about our kids and what we are bringing them into, it saddens me. As a parent this will always be home, but I honestly do not think it is a place where my children will benefit educationally or even personal meaningful growth.

    We have a few friends who their kids held position 1-3 in class, but when they finally decided to take them to schools in Kenya they are becoming last in class. I have three examples. Now I ask myself is there something wrong with our education system? I don’t know. As for me I have seen and heard enough, so I am taking a break from this place, maybe 20yrs later tutasikia some changes.

    Thanks for the fwd, yaani hivi vitu vinanichosha!

  21. Comment #8: I’ve received a few questions on what I meant when I said:

    What are we doing about this? Have we positively or negatively [giving buku] contributed to this? Is your conscious clear?

    Let me clarify my point:

    Contributing :-
    Positively – try to eliminate poverty, as an individual or corporate thru capacity building, policy changes, community work etc etc [REMEMBER… in many places poverty and corruption go hand in hand]

    Negatively – stop giving buku [10,000 Tshs] to traffic police when stopped; to nurses in hospital when you want to be first in the queue; to teachers when enrolling your child, sleep with a manager to get a job, vote for politicians whom you feel won’t deliver etc etc

    To me corruption is a two-way thing – there is the giver and the receiver [why don’t we try not to give when they ask?] … by giving in we are entertaining this system and will be hard to get rid of.

  22. With comment like this – The next day poor chap finds himself transferred, or should I say demoted – next morning he finds himself in Ukerewe, where he will be very lucky to see a motorcycle let alone a car.
    U better check your sources…Moran

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