- Published on Saturday, 11 August 2012 03:48
- Written by LAWI JOEL
- Hits: 1998
I HAVE always considered the city of Dar es Salaam a safe place despite its occasional violent thefts known as robbery by the legal jargon. Still, there can be no gainsay that, barring such incidents of bloodletting, this urban home to over four million inhabitants, is relatively quiet and safe.
But that can be deceptive. I got that rude awakening recently. I had worked hard that evening and was dead beat. For most of our ride back home, the trip was uneventful. We came to a place they call Kimboka by Night in the Buruguruni suburb of the city, situated by Mandela Road.
On my way home, I always pass by the place, which apparently seems to be a hot spot. I have never stopped wondering why so many young people, mostly girls scantily dressed, hover about the area. “There is music playing in the restaurant’s yard there at the back,” a colleague of mine said as we waited for a green light.
“And those girls you see hanging out there are sex-workers fishing for a customer.” It looked interesting. While we were going back home, for others the working day had just begun. We went first to some place they call Ubungo, way off my way home, to take one of my colleagues there. Then we went, so to speak, to the other side of the city and dropped off another colleague.
The other two who could well make it home walking from Mandela Road had dropped off earlier. I could have done so with them, but I would have had to walk a longer distance. Moreover, the driver lived closer to my home and would drop me off almost at my door step. It was also much fun seeing the city at night. It looked different, roosting in its nocturnal activities that were as bizarre as the people engaging in them.
Having dropped off that last member of our staff at the sprawling mega-supper market veritably named Mlimani City, we made a U-turn and now, made a beeline for home. In the night the place, usually bustling with life in day, lay somber, an inert economic giant.
Always, if we did not take the other route, the driver I still know by only one name as Stan, short for Stanley, would leave me by a small convoy of shops, which had come into being hardly five years ago. One of them, owned by a young man, one Charlie, who also doubled as a Vodacom M-Pesa agent, was thriving well. That was where the driver left me.
“Good night!” I said to Stan as I walked out of the car. As I crossed to the other side I could see that there was an unusually big crowd outside the shops. Burning with curiosity, I walked through the crowd to the shop that sold bread. It was closed. That was strange! And then I realized something was wrong there.
A woman was weeping. She was a slender lady but a robber had slapped her hard, leaving her with a face too fat for her body. Two sympathizers held her, trying to calm her. I got into the crowd and learnt that robbers had just struck the place and cleaned the shops of millions of shillings.
“They found me with nothing and took the one thousand shilling note on the shelf there,” said a shopkeeper, Mr Mwakabonga, I talked to. “Those were miserable thieves. How do you take such little money? He slapped me, asking for more, but I told him my wife had taken home all the day’s revenue, which is true,” he said.
Mwakabonga had seen them come and alight from a Land Rover Defender, but did not think much of them until the young man walked into his shop, pointed a pistol at him and ordered him to give him money. “It was then I knew I was in big trouble.”
But the slap knocked fear out of Mr Mwakabonga, who sold mostly cosmetics, prompting him to asked the young robber, “How dare are you slap a man of age like that?” Surprisingly, that defused the robber’s aggression. “And he walked out,” Mwakabonga said. Police were already in the area taking statements. From the crying woman the robbers had taken over 350,000/-.
Charlie, the M-Pesa agent, had been cleaned of over two million, he told the police. “My God, it happened just shortly after I left. I would have fainted kabisa,” said Mwakabonga’s wife, who had returned just as the robbers left the place. But the message to all was clear. When our president JK took office, he sent robbers running.
He said it would not be possible to eliminate robbery. “Even in the USA with all its security organs like the FBI, the CIA, cosmopolitan police and other security bodies, robberies still do take place,” he told a group of Tanzanians when he visited that country. “But they won’t ever do it in our country with such boldness and frequency.”
But the bad boys are back with renewed ruthlessness, more frequency and closer proximity of each attack. That night of August 3, they robbed a filling station just in the neighbourhood and took away its safe of money after blowing open another one and sweeping it clean of several millions. “This M-Pesa business is now a deadly game,” observed a man. Scared, I walked home with my feet hardly touching the ground.