Quick review of the first eight months of 2017

Tony Zakaria

IS it fair to evaluate progress for a period of only eight months? Well, life is not fair. And I write for a column called Firing Line, so it is my duty and salvation to fire away and make fun of what we have not accomplished.

Or worse, exaggerate when we have goofed. C’est la vie - thats is life in my limited French. We were so used to doing things the easy way that we are struggling to adjust to the style of the new management where every rule and regulation must be adhered to.

Take the case of motorists on our roads. They got used to ignoring road signs such as do no overtake, 30km speed limits, etc. As long as they do not see traffic police, they would drive any way they like. Not anymore. Now you overspeed in Korogwe, the police stop you in Kabuku almost 60 kilometres away to impose a hefty penalty.

The police receive photos of your vehicle on their smartphones via internet, showing the 70kph speed you were happy to drive when you thought nobody could see you in a 30kph zone. Are police hiding in trees to capture such incriminating evidence?

This is what happens with technology. If you as much as briefly hold hands with the missus of a workmate in public at a meeting in Arusha, a jealous friend or paparazzi can take a photo of the precise moment and beam it to a husband attending another meeting in Vancouver, Canada. You are busted and the evidence can be used against you in a court of law, or just to wreak marital havoc in a shaky relationship.

Our relationship with traffic police is on shaky ground these days. Drivers and passengers in public and private vehicles are lamenting the tendency of the boys and girls in white uniform to just slap hefty fines for every offense.

As my brother put it, traffic police have turned into TRA cashiers with handheld ATM machines. No more educating the travelling public or drivers. Yes, the money ends up in government coffers. At the rate they are going, traffic police must be raising enough of it to pay salaries of the police force.

A friend remarked on the fact that Tanzanians are not used to paying taxes, and now are having to pay kicking and screaming, like a toddler being given an injection at at Mwananyamala hospital.

From the time of ‘ruksa’ to the era of ‘ari mpya’ only public workers and a few factories and service providers paid due taxes. Now you know why traders in Kariakoo resisted the use of EFDs for so long. Whoever said “in this life death and taxes were the only sure things” did not know Tanzanians.

This year getting owners of fuel stations to install and use machines that record petrol and diesel sales has been as painful as extracting infected teeth without anaesthetic.

And still not all petrol stations are using EFDs despite strong arm tactics by the revenue boys and girls. Many of us are very happy with government for banning the use of Viroba - small sachets- to sell hard liquor. Believe it or not, no more drunk touts at upcountry bus stations from early morning.

At beginning of day, students can get into school sober. And family members who turned to affordable doses of vodka, whisky and brandy to drown their sorrows and failures now face their life issues with clear heads and open eyes.

The crackdown has had adverse economic effects for some wholesale and retail vendors in lost profits and even bankruptcy, but that is a small price to pay for the health and social consequences the widespread availability and use of hard liquor created.

Have virobas disappeared? Govt earnings must have suffered a tad but the crackdown on sale of hard liquor in small packaging was overdue but necessary.

Better late than never. The ease with which ordinary folks could find and buy 70-proof alcohol was alarming, leading to excessive consumption of hard drinks.

Pastoralists at still at it, grazing their cattle in greener pastures even if that means letting the cattle roam freely in wildlife parks, forest conservation areas or small scale maize and rice farms in settled villages.

The natural resources boss was visibly angry in community meetings with the way cattle herds are being allowed into conservation areas with apparent impunity. What will we do as a nation to address the excessive heads of domestic animals and their impact on our environment?

Will we put politics aside and focus on national interest? We see children still going to school in their millions. And their uniforms appear cleaner than was the case in past years, probably because of the hundreds of thousands of schools desks made available by the efforts of people of all walks of life in 2016. This indicates the free education policy of the the government is still operating.

Otherwise thousands of girls and boys would be at home or roaming the streets. That is what I call equity in education. And so far, no riots or strikes in colleges. We give thanks to almighty God as we have not experienced major disease outbreaks so far, rumours of ebola in Tanzania notwithstanding.

Any patient who has been admitted or treated at public hospitals will testify to improved service and language of providers. The two ministers are active in supervision and follow up.The one issue in health service delivery is cost.

It would seem since the wider availability of health insurance coverage to salaried employees, prices of services and goods at hospitals and drug outlets have significantly gone up.

And any citizens with no health insurance risks death from unaffordable health care costs. I have relatives and friends who have coughed out millions of shillings to cover emergency treatment and surgeries.

I think we need to create a Tanzanian affordable health care act, like the Obamacare that president Trump is desperately trying to torpedo. Without proper safeguards, aiming for universal health insurance will only benefit insurance companies and health institutions.

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