ULIMWENGU: Whining’s for cowards, you have the power, make changes...

Tuesday October 1 2019

Tanzania Commissioner General of Police (IGP) Simon Sirro.

Tanzania Commissioner General of Police (IGP) Simon Sirro. He recently accused his own force of going off the rails; of being mired in corruption; of coveting his position and seeing him as being unfit to hold it. PHOTO | THE CITIZEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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A former head of state frequently complained about people whining about this or that other problem, and intimated that Tanzania was fast becoming a nation of whiners. When I heard him vent his frustration a second time I quipped that he was himself becoming a whiner over whining.

His people did not stop whining, and neither did he, for he continued whining till he retired, saying things like the people were "intellectually lazy," which I thought he should not say too loud, since this laziness must have helped him get elected twice!

But he must have had a point about whining, and we are getting enough examples of it from people who apparently can do much more than just complain about matters they clearly can do something about.

One such senior person who has been complaining is none other than the Chief Justice, Prof Ibrahim Hamis Juma, who has been criticising what some of us have long said is maladministration of justice, such as denial of bail to accused persons even when the charges they are facing should be perfectly bailable, and keeping suspects in remand because the “investigations are incomplete.”

So, the honourable CJ has stated publicly that it is unjust to hold anyone in remand if the investigations have not been concluded, precisely because, if that is the case, then what is he or she being charged with? The remarks by CJ sound logical enough, but they are not properly communicated.

They ought to be contained in executive circulars and orders to all judges, magistrates and registrars laying down the proper procedures to be followed by all the courts under his jurisdiction, so that next time we know that the judge or magistrate acting in contravention of such orders will be called out. The situation in this is so outrageous that some judges still want to uphold an archaic law that allows the prosecution to determine whether an accused person should or should not be granted bail. What nonsense!


Before I was done marvelling at what the grand man of the Judiciary was up to, I came across a major statement by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Simon Sirro, who sounded like he was doing his adieus to a force that had let him down very badly, had shown little respect for him and had generally been behaving badly and unprofessionally, literally a police organisation gone rogue. He accused his own force of going off the rails; of getting drawn into partisan politics; of causing unnecessary civilian deaths; of being mired in corruption; of coveting his position and seeing him as being unfit to hold it.

It was truly an extraordinary performance, the more so because it was attended by the media and it was clear that the chief of the country’s cops wanted the public to know just how much he had been miffed by his wayward subalterns. If you know what it means not to mince one’s words, this was not the case; it was way more serious.

It is not that what he said was new, no. There have always been complaints against police brutality, corruption and blatant partisanship. It was known to everyone who saw the pictures of the death of reporter Daudi Mwangosi that the ordinance that tore him into shredded red meat in Iringa came from a policeman. It was always suspected that college-girl Akwilina Akwiline was killed by a bullet fired from a police gun during a political demo in Dar.

But the fact that this was all but confirmed by Cop numero Uno is extremely significant, though, again, I have issues with the manner employed by Sirro.

For whatever his misgivings with his force to bear fruit, it would be more effective if he acted by issuing directives down through police ranks, reminding all and sundry about policing standards they must have been taught all along but which they now ignore to disastrous effect, and by kicking posteriors from time to time to keep minds focused.

This is exactly what the IGP and the CJ should be doing instead of sharing their musings with us, we who cannot help them in their frustrations, notwithstanding our desire to help, where we can, fix our administration of justice and the running of our police force.

On the basis of the health of these two institutions shall the health of our commonwealth be strengthened. More than ever before, Prof Juma and Gen Sirro seem ready to tango.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]