4 February 2013

Tanzania: Between Arusha and 'Gotham City' - a Decade of 'Achievements!'

Arusha — WHEN local officials summon the media to announce their achievements, either real or imaginary, their meetings usually turn into hilarious episodes and the recent "Press Conference" to that effect was no exception.

Even though he has been here for less than a year, District Commissioner, Mr John Mongella felt compelled to invite local journalists so that he may "brief" them on the precinct's achievements since 2005. His timing remains a mystery because counting from that year, it means there are still three more years before reaching 2015 when the decade milestone is to be realized.

That is in case the DC wanted to make his report sync with the fourth government's tenure. Never mind but even more mysterious was the DC's choice of the media outlets that he wanted to attend his meeting. The Municipal Press Officer Ms Ntengejwa Hosea chose a few except even those that weren't invited turned up at the "Palace Hotel," meeting.

Mr Mongella therefore did his best to select those he felt would be less threatening to ask him the follow up questions after his statement. "Gender Balance" was the main basis for such selection on that it is normally believed that lady journalists usually don't ask the hard questions and he was right, they didn't. However that did not stop some hardcore males to chip in theirs and this is where the humour started.

Apparently among the "outstanding achievements" garnered by Arusha urban district in the last twelve years, was that of peace. The vicinity, according to the DC, in addition to have been made "City" is now a very safe place to walk about, day and night. Except the "Lonely Planet," which happens to be the world's most reliable travel bible, had recently ranked Arusha among the top-ten worst cities in the world (alongside the notorious New York and Johannesburg) on the basis of crime and insecurity on its streets, with tourists being the main victims.

Unfortunately Mr Mongela has never heard of "Lonely Planet" or its worldwide acclaimed report which made Arusha look like "Gotham City," complete with its notorious killer, "the Joker," but without the services of the flying Batman. After failing to convince the press on "security" matters the district officials (they were three at the meeting, including the Administrative Secretary and an Environment officer), moved to the town's cleanliness, or the lack of it.

"The dump site at Muriet will be improved," chortled the DC, which just goes to show that Mr Mongella, hasn't been going around of late, otherwise he would have discovered that the alleged garbage dumping area has already been divided into plots and people are busy building their residential houses on it.

And when this was pointed out to him he replied by saying; "Well, dump sites are never stationary things, they are supposed to move from one place to another whenever the situation calls for it!" The situation seems to be calling for it, the new but unplanned "Kwa-Mrombo" is growing at an alarming pace; so far it has expanded and linked with Terrat and "Kwa Mkonoo" areas where the city garbage dump is supposed to be, replacing the former waste depository with settlements.

The city centre is meanwhile working hard to retain its crown as the Northern Zone's dirtiest urban precinct. "We are currently constructing new town roads," the DC slotted another city achievement in the decade and two years' milestone. The journalists got very excited with this good news.

"Pray tell us how did the Municipal (recently turned City) council managed to raise the billions for the project?" A question was raised, after all, this is a feat that should be chronicled in the Guinness Book of Record. Except; "The road projects are being funded by the World Bank," the DC torpedoed what could have gone down the city register as the best achievement of the decade but unfortunately somebody overseas is building Arusha city roads.

Some of the already completed roads, like those striding the central market have already been rendered impassable because, hawkers, vendors and practically anybody with merchandise to display, have laid their wares on the new tarmac roads with the District and City officials pretending not to see.

Only a week earlier the DC had threatened to close one of the newly built, local secondary schools for lacking the necessary facilities, so he had to choose his words very carefully when listing "more schools" as among the "achievements" of the last 12 years.

In the field of health, more hospitals were mentioned but again it was later discovered (from questions fired by non-gender balanced scribes) that in reality there haven't been new health centres, what happened is that those owned by religious institutions, such as St Elizabeth Catholic Hospital were made District Designated Hospitals.

With the going getting tough, the exasperated officials had to save "their best" for the last; this was about "water" or at least the related pipes. It was revealed that over 80 per cent of the Arusha residents were now connected to the Urban Water Supply pipe network. Except for the last three months, many of these domestic water pipes have not let out even a single drop of water, but as we have just seen, there are still three more years to go.

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