THE train always left at 4:10, but that day it did not. I cannot speak of today because I do not know whether the authorities concerned with the train have changed its schedule.
I will therefore repeat this fact to you till it becomes indelibly impressed on your memory for it is the basis of my tale today. So listen carefully: The train always left at 4:10.
The train we are talking about here is the Dar es Salaam commuter train, which plies the Dar es Salaam-Mwakanga. The incident did not occur years ago. It happened only last Monday.
I boarded that train shortly before its scheduled departure time, took my seat and waited for the journey to begin. The TAZARA Railway was built with assistance of China.
Since Dr Magufuli took power in October, 2015, the DarMwakanga commuter train, except briefly on the day some Chinese officials had a brief tour of it up to Pugu, has never stopped operating.
When therefore it did not take off on time that evening of June 19 nobody seemed to mind at all. Of course they would have made much noise had nothing spectacular happened.
President Magufuli’s recent reaction to the reportedly dishonest going on in the mining sector, has been the burning topic of late. Many commuters were now so engrossed in a talk about alleged dishonesty of mineral investors in the country and how ‘splendidly’ the President was dealing with them that many asked why the dickens none of the damn investors had been arraigned.
So heated were talks that we hardly noticed that the train was long overdue. I glanced at my watch and it was twenty past four! How had the President discovered the tax evaders? Some wanted to know.
Given what the President had discovered in the taxation system, it was obvious there had always been massive robbery of the state’s revenue, so vast a kind of looting that it was a wonder the crime had always escaped the attention of the authorities then.
“This is quite shocking! Isn’t it?” asked a commuter. “Does it mean that the previous authorities did not know about all this theft?” Everybody seemed to know something about dishonesty somewhere in the country.
One told us how the cotton area was rife with corruption. “During the previous governments corruption in the cotton business in the country became boldly and arrogantly institutionalised,” he said and narrated how it was done.
The man, apparently, had been in Mwanza and, given how he told the tale, was probably employed with the Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB). “The weight of cotton cargo a lorry carried would be highly inflated,” he said.
“They would ask money for the extra weight and you would get the rest. You had to agree or you just would not get any pay.” What it meant was that the whole corruption took place with the connivance of all the officials of the organisation.
Prior to Magufuli’s government corruption was institutionalised. The cotton sector might be corrupt. However, its evil was nothing compared to the genie which prowled the mining sector, an area riddled with selfish officials, they said.
What people now said within this coach of the commuter train confirmed what the President Magufuli said about well orchestrated theft of the nation’s resources. And the whole picture reeled back to me.
I was on my way to Geita. The road to the town was good and appeared to be passable all year round. It must be! Apparently the Geita Gold Mine investor had to make sure the road remained passable throughout the year for the mining community and activities to remain alive.
And that was the word: for the community to remain alive. At this point we may as well add the word ‘merely’ alive since the wealth of the local community hauled away in juggernauts was big.
I had expected to start seeing any signs of mining activities as I approached the town. But just miles before I reached it, I began meeting huge lorries loaded with some earth running in the opposite direction.
Geita town was then about 60kilometres from where I saw the first lorry. “Do those lorries belong to Geita Gold Mine (GGM)?” I asked the passenger seated next to me. He answered and said: “Yes.”
I wondered why lorries carrying gold-earth moved in the opposite direction from the mine. To fight out what the mystery was, I asked my seat mate again. While he answered my first question, he implied he belong to the region and knew well what went on at the Geita mine.
“But why are the lorries going away from the mine with the mine earth?” I asked him. Let me remind you again that while I revisited this journey about ten years, the time was well past 4, twenty minutes past the hour; but the train had not left station.
What people now said on the commuter train confirmed what President Magufuli corruption in the mining sector. It was well orchestrated vice, which threatened to empower a handful of people in the country to the misery of the masses.
Only a couple of people involved in the talk seemed to notice when the train began to move. I was relieved. At last! The train had not gone far when the public address system exploded into life.
“Dear commuters, we are sorry to announce to you that the train failed to depart on time due reasons beyond our control,” the announcer said. I was shocked. In all the time I have travelled on the train it has missed departing on time several time.
However, not once to my knowledge did it ever apologise for failing to leave on time. Commuters have been people whose money is sweet, but whose is bitter and can be wasted without remorse.
But on that day of June 19 Tazara Commuter Train workers felt they annoyed their customers – the commuters and were sorry for it. Oh, how sweet and considerate they were. Bravo tazara commuter train staff.