25 May 2024 | 09:49 AM

Tanzania: Where ‘something small’ goes far

Key Takeaways

You are admitted to the municipal hospital with your critically ill mother. No one cares about you, the queues are long, the doctors are busy … and your mother is in the valley of the shadow of death.

If you are in a situation like this, remember the Tanzanian saying: “If you face a barrier, break through with rupees.” The roots of corruption have been buried deeply in every sector of the nation — it has become part of life.

Although, officially, services for pregnant women, children and the elderly in public hospitals are free, they still have to pay kitu kidogo (something small) to persuade staff to perform the jobs the state pays them to do. Even women in labour have to pay the midwives.

Dr Sebalda Leshabari, a lecturer at the College for Midwives at the Muhimbili National Hospital, criticised the behaviour of nurses and midwives and said they were defiling the profession.

“We are not teaching them to ask for a bribe. A nursing professional is a call and a work of God,” she said.

The college had initiated a campaign to eradicate corruption and to stop midwives from verbally abusing pregnant women, she said.

“Unless you bribe a nurse, you will not get the best service, and the mortality is higher because of the poor services,” said Amina Mohammed, a businessperson in Dar es Salaam.

A way of life

According to Transparency Inter­national’s global corruption baro­meter this year, between 50% and 74% of Tanzanians have paid a bribe in the past two years — and the police force, followed by the judiciary and health services, is seen as the most corrupt.

Helen Kijo-Bisimba, the director for the Legal and Human Rights Centre, said that Tanzania had been unable to make progress in eradicating corruption.
She said officials routinely demanded bribes, broke laws and destroyed values.

“There is no political will in a war to eradicate corruption. If there was a will, there could be a way.”

She said ordinary citizens would continue to pay bribes if they saw ministers and MPs being dishonest.

She said the director for the Preven­tion and Combating of Corruption Bureau could not complete some cases and needed to discuss them with the director of public prosecutions before proceeding.

Kijo-Bisimba said the bureau would never be able to tackle corruption unless it was given teeth.

“Who can wait to see his wife and the unborn child are breathing their last? They have to offer bribes because their leaders are doing it in international contracts,” she said.

If a Tanzanian wants a passport, he or she can get it in two or three days instead of 14 if someone in the immigration offices is bribed. A kickback will also get you a driver’s licence.

Big fish

There have been several high-profile cases of corruption recently.

In February 2010, the corruption bureau caught a ward councillor, Michael Clemence of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi ruling party, for obtaining construction material fraudulently.

On June 3 2012, the bureau accused Omary Badwel, a ruling party member MP in Bahi province, of allegedly accepting a one million Tanzanian shilling (R6 200) bribe from government officials.

Badwel was released on bail and the case is still before the court. He continues to hold his seat as an MP.

A 2012 report by the Legal and Human Rights Centre also ranks the police force as the most corrupt department, a distinction further underscored by research carried out last year by the United Kingdom’s department for international development, which found widespread corruption in the police force.

It said it was particularly rife in the investigations department and traffic police.

Responding to questions, Deputy Police Commissioner Peter Kivuyo said: “The police force is held responsible [for corruption] because of the nature of our duties but we have tried to come clean for the past two years.”

Kivuyo said typical cases of corruption included the theft of property from custody, delayed criminal trials and bribing officials to have court cases dismissed.

Florence Majani is a Tanzanian intern with amaBhungane, the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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