Friday, 18 December 2009

Crime and punishment

I haven't yet decided if the system here is more like Dickens or Pratchet. Certainly, the workings have some elements of both - but also a rather unique Tanzanian element. Our ever friendly taxi-driver (who escorted me from the station after signing on for bail this morning to the mechanic where the landrover finally appeared working again, and who also very kindly brought W and I food on Friday night when I called from the station before they took my phone away) tells me the problem is that I'm not Tanzanian like him. He says it's simply a matter of bribes - people look at me and think "ah ha! Rich mzungu = School fees!" But are then scared to ask me for bribe for exactly the same reason: "what if this mzungu doesn't 'understand' and shops me?". Apparently, if I was Tanzanian, they'd just ask up front for something smaller and that would have been the end of it. I'm not sure how our insurance company would take to the idea of re-imbursing large sums paid in brown envelopes! It certainly feels as though something was lacking in today's events though.

Firstly, I checked in for bail at 9 and was told that instead of waiting around for the meeting at 10, I should probably just get on with life and I'd be told tomorrow what happened and if I was needed I'd be given a call and told to turn up. The my lawyer said we would be needed for a meeting at 1.30 at immigration. So after collecting the landrover and a bed (yes, we now have a spare bed. No mattress yet, and still need to borrow a spanner to assemble the bed, but it's progress!), I had a brief lunch and zoomed back to immigration. At 2.15 I was admitted to the office of the officer in charge and told to wait. We sat. They took a photos of us. We sat. They asked us to wait outside and said we'd all go to a meeting at the police office together soon. We waited. A butterfly arrived and sat by the plastic Christmas tree. We sat. Out came the officer, hurried past us and out of the building. In came another officer and told us the original man was too busy, so we'd be going with him for a meeting at 3 - DON'T BE LATE! He was also extremely friendly and said althoguh he was junior to the person who has been causing all the grief he'd been in all the meetings and was in charge now, and said off the record that he thought there would soon be no problems at all (good news indeed!). So we went to the police station. We moved to the regional police station. We were ushered into an office. And we sat. And waited. And someone else came to join us. We sat some more. Eventually, at about 4 the regional police person turned up, got angry with the lawyer and told us to wait outside. We sat some more. We were called in again, and some rapid Swahili was spoken. We were asked to leave. And that was it. Until Monday, apparently...

The good news is that everyone seems agreed that the Army (who turned up 2 hrs late to the meeting this afternoon - one of the reasons nothing was decided apparently) has no further interest. They sent an expert who looked at my binoculars, decided they were, indeed, binoculars, looked at the notebook and fieldguide, decided they probably weren't terrorist materiel either, looked at the gps and decided it hadn't been anywhere I'd not told them about so closed the case. This is good news, as our lawyer says a tresspass case can't be brought by anyone but the landowner, so the police ought to automatically drop things now. But the officer today was apparently making grand statements about how the police have to be law enforcers even if the injured party isn't interested, etc., etc. And promptly postponed any decision until Monday, leaving ample time for unofficial discussions to take place behind the scenes...

I'm just glad we have so many friends with influence - and a very good lawyer. Things might be dragging on a bit, but that's nothing compared to those with no connections. W tells me that whilst he was in lockup he met street children who'd been picked up two weeks previously who had done nothing but be on the streets at night and therefore hadn't been charged with any crimes and consequently no-one knew they were even there. Not a nice way to live. To end on a positive note - everyone, from the lawyer, the police detective and the immigration officer seems to think things are going to end well for us, they just need to decide on a way out that saves everyone's pride. So in the mean time it's an inconvenience, but at least most people are positive. We will see. And one day soon I'll try and gather some more interesting reflections on what it's like to be locked up for an unknown length of time to post here. Meanwhile we're just starting to get on with life again, trusting that we will be allowed to live it. Sofas should be ready tomorrow!


  1. Good news Colin, fingers crossed.

  2. Sounds more like Kafka to me... Glad things seem to be moving on a little bit anyway.