Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Zanzibar Ferry Accident.

One of my biggest challenges in media work is nurturing an ability to filter noise and information, and sift down to nuggets of truth... or at least truthiness. Information overload is not a new notion, people have been talking for a few years now about how technology affects our lives.

But an analysts' job is to whittle things down to the marrow, scrape away the make-up from the face of the story, massage deep into the tissues of a situation. And timing is everything. I haven't been able to distill much that I am confident about with the Zanzibar boat capsize from social media, so I maintained radio silence. However, this week in The East African I do want to state categorically that somehow, we are all involved in this.
"There are a hundred choices to be made in a day and living in a developing country means embracing the fact that creative “solutions” to everyday problems are necessary. And we have to admit that we are allergic to regulation for all kinds of reasons, most of them good. There isn't a regulatory authority in Tanzania that has managed to impress us with its strength of character, nor its diligence, and we are well aware that greasing the right palms makes regulation more of an ideal than a reality in our society. So we conduct business our own way, taking chances."
While I don't doubt that there are people who are directly accountable, I have said before and will say again that crucifying one or two officials is not particularly helpful in the long run. It is part of our performance politics. What is far more important to me is: what have we learned here that will cause us to behave better next time. I worry that the answer might be: nothing.

And while it is well and good to shrug fatalistically and argue that we don't have much control over our lives simply because we are "poor," I simply can't do it. Tanzanian lives should be valued. And they should be valued by us. We need to stop with the chakachua kila kitu business model.


  1. feudal societies all over the world used to cement pacts by exchanging close family members as hostages. if you betrayed the agreement then your relatives got chopped. this turned out to be a pretty good incentive for good behaviour, and i reckon tz could learn from this. so let's have a law that requires a close family member of at least one of the minister of transport, boss of sumatra, head of malindi port etc to be on a ferry every time one leaves port. let's see how many ferries then head out to sea overloaded and in a dangerous state of repair!

  2. @Steve: nice idea, shame about the human rights violation aspect :) I suspect family members would forcibly retire said leaders before they'd endanger the clan...

  3. Damn! @Steve. Human rights issue true @Elsie. But I'm sure there are human rights being abused right now without a word being said. I'm just saying.

  4. putting someone's relatives on a ferry is a violation of human rights? why? what on earth could be wrong with the ferry? but, if that won't work, maybe we should just relocate all their offices ... one on each ferry should do the trick!

  5. @Steve: stop giving us ideas, we might end up with a floating government. literally.


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