Tuesday, 22 December 2009

National Security Threat

Once again I reported to the police station for a meeting that would see a decision on what to do with me. And once again I came away having to go back tomorrow for a decision... It seems as though once again the wheels have turned and we're back at the National Security Threat level. None of this was relayed directly to me, of course - it all comes from friendly policemen who happen to have been in the right meetings and are willing to chat quietly outside the office... Yesterday's meeting was postponed because the team visiting the location where we were found to see what was at these location had not got back in time. This morning a meeting happened where they apparently reported back - and concluded that my GPS is full of passwords and codes that can only be associated with terrorist activities. As I know there are no passwords or other secret codes and the only marked locations are right on a public road I can only conclude that they didn't know how to use it. Which is pretty annoying as I'd tried to give them the manual several times but was assured they had 'experts' and needed no help.  Still, on the basis of this discovery they were apparently discussing options for charges under anti-terrorism legislation. So they had us finger-printed and mug shots taken with nice name and case boards under us and then asked lots of useful things about where I was born, what tribe I am (that one stumped them), etc. And then they got all excited when they discovered I actually own the car I was driving - some decided this was actually a crime itself as visitors can't own cars. Others decided that there probably wasn't any such law (my lawyer confirms this). But they all agreed it was highly suspicious behaviour: how could I possibly have arrived in the country only 10 weeks ago and had time to find, buy and transfer ownership of a car? [To be honest, I can see their point - the amount of paper-work involved in car ownership is extraordinary. After yesterday's paper chasing I think we are now completely legal, but you can barely see out the window for stickers - one for insurance, one for registration, one for roadworthyness, one from the fire service to say we've got a good fire extinguisher and, rather surprisingly, one (the most expensive) simply because it's a big car...]

So, no decision was reached and we were told to report again tomorrow for the final decision. At one point I was almost expecting us to be sent back to the cells... The lawyer accompanying us today (an associate of the Big Man himself - free advertising for him here, very highly recommended if you ever find yourself in trouble in Tanzania...) thought it was all getting silly again and so tomorrow morning his chief has promissed to drop in on the police again and see what can be done. Given how effectively he got things moving when he came to release us last Monday I still have quite a lot of faith in his abilities to sort things out. So, indeed, do the local police (rather than regional, who are now dealing with things) who I dropped in on as a condition of bail after the meeting - the detective there is very concerned that I get away with no record as he really wants me to stay and do the research I'm here for and he was suggesting very strongly that Mr Mawalla comes down himself to sort things out.

So, the lawyers are still confident it can all be over very soon. Obviously this is also what I want and I do still believe it can happen. But it's not much fun, the constant round and round of "oh dear, you are in trouble now ... well, actually it looks like there's not a problem here ... oh dear you're really in trouble now ..." can certainly affect your nerves. In fact, it was probably this uncertainty and constant hope followed by nothing, more than anything that affected me last weekend. And for me at least it is definitely the up and down, rather than either one individually that gets to me. I've been assured by lots of knowledgeable people that it will never come to prison, but during my stay chez polici I didn't know that at all. And it turns out that when faced with the possibility of a long jail term (actually, I'd no idea how long was possible since I've never been charged with anything) it wasn't captivity - or even the labour that often goes with it here - that bothered me at all, it was more the distress I knew would be caused to the family in all sorts of ways. But the "right your off now ... oh, actually we can't let you go just yet", that bothered me much more. I'm told that such uncertainty and constant change is all part of the strategy to get what is wanted from you (be that information, money or whatever). So being able to remain somehow untouched by the hopes and failures is definitely an ability that is worth aiming for. I suspect I'm rather more suited to it than many, but I'm still far from stoic at times! Anyway, enough self-examination for one evening. More exciting things for today are also happening, as Mama is out singing carols by candle-light (accompanied by Kitty). They also created some super-yummy mince pies today, with the home made mincemeat. Mmmmm. And G our ever helpful ascari cum fundi fixed up the spare bed so it's all ready to welcome our first guest on Friday morning - hurrah! And hopefully many more will also be able to make use of it in time - let's just keep hoping everything ends happily tomorrow!


  1. Thinking of you all at this very difficult time and hoping everything is resolved quickly.

  2. That's pretty grim. I'll bite my tongue regarding the charming 'welcome' from the authorities, but it is hardly a good advert for Tz. Hopefully they will come to their senses soon. Hang in there.