A legal game of chicken: Justice and development, Nyamakobiti-style

(Photo from heybrian.com)

An expensive chicken (photo from heybrian.com)

In Tanzania’s Majira newspaper, earlier this week, was a remarkable story involving Serengeti District Council, the courts system and, yes, a chicken. The full story in the original Swahili is pasted below, but here are some translated excerpts.

“Serengeti District Council, in Mara Region, has won a case that was opened by a resident of Nyamakobiti village, Mr Charari Chacha. Mr Chacha had challenged the council’s confiscation and sale for 1,000/- of chicken that belonged to him, after he refused to pay a contribution towards the construction of Nyamakobiti Primary School. … According to the District Executive Director, the amount spent on the case are not known.”

“The Ward Councillor, Mr Rashid Mugare, said that one effect of the case was to put development in the village into reverse: ‘When people were required to make development contributions, they threatened to go to court like Mr Chacha, only a few agreed to contribute. Mr Chacha later liberated his chicken for 1,000/-, and until now our village is the last in development because of this poison that was spilled.'”

Some thoughts:

I wasn’t immediately sure what the saddest part of this story might be. Was it the fact that development in Nyamakobiti village was apparently set back? Perhaps, though in reality it may well have made little difference.

What about the insignificance of the money that started the case in the first place – chicken feed, one might say (sorry!) – compared the amounts that must have been involved in fighting it, on both sides? Mr Chacha had the money to buy his confiscated chicken back himself, and to fight the case, so he presumably could afford the contribution to the Primary School. This was a matter of principle; I have some respect for that, and even for the act of protesting the system of forced contributions.

No, the saddest part of this story is something else. Here’s one final extract:

“The case began in 2000. Eight years later, when Mara Regional Court decided in the council’s favour, Mr Chacha appealed. Then finally, on September 3rd, 2013, a court in Mwanza rejected his appeal.”

The most depressing aspect of this case, for me, is the fact that it took 13 years to conclude. I’m sure the courts had other things to do, and maybe they even decided formally that this case was low priority. But even so, it’s a hardly an endorsement of the Tanzanian justice system that such a small, straightforward case took so long to resolve.

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Original Article:

Kuku Aifikisha H/shauri Kortini

Kesi ilifunguliwa 2000 hukumu yatoka 2013

Na Veronica Modest, Serengeti

HALMASHAURI ya Wilaya ya Serengeti, mkoani Mara, imeshinda kesi iliyofunguliwa na mkazi wa Kijiji cha Nyamakobiti, wilayani humo, Bw. Charari Chacha, akipinga halmashauri hiyo kuuza kuku wake kwa gharama ya sh. 1,000 baada ya kukataa kulipa mchango wa ujenzi wa Shule ya Msingi Nyamakobiti.

Akizungumza mwishoni mwa wiki kwenye Kikao cha Baraza la Madiwani wa halmashauri hiyo, Mkurugenzi Mtendaji, Bi. Goody Pamba, alisema kesi hiyo ilifunguliwa mwaka 2000 na hukumu kutolewa katika Mahakama ya Rufaa jijini Mwanza.

Alisema Bw. Chacha alifungua kesi hiyo namba 46.2008 baada ya kushindwa katika kesi ya awali namba 18/2000 aliyoifungua katika Mahakama ya Mkoa.Aliongeza kuwa, Mahakama ya Rufaa jijini Mwanza, ilitoa hukumu Septemba 3 mwaka huu, ambapo Bw. Chacha, alishindwa tena kwa mara ya pili.

Bi. Pamba alisema, hadi sasa gharama zilizotumika kuendesha kesi hiyo tangu mwaka 2000 hazijafahamika. Diwani wa kata hiyo, Bw. Rashidi Mugare, alisema kuanzia mwaka 2000-2013, maendeleo y a kijiji hicho yalirudi nyuma kutokana na wananchi kutochangia shughuli za maendeleo.

“Kila mtu alipotakiwa kuchangia shughuli za maendeleo, alitishia kwenda mahakamani kama alivyofanya Bw. Chacha, wachache ndio waliokubali kuchangia.“ B a a d a y e B w. C h a c h a alimkomboa kuku wake kwa gharama ya sh. 1,000, hadi sasa kijiji chetu ni cha mwisho katika suala zima la maendeleo kulingana na sumu iliyomwagwa, kimsingi kesi hii ilikwamisha mambo mengi ya maendeleo,” alisema.

Alitoa wito kwa wananchi wa kijiji hicho, kuchangia maendeleo ya elimu ambayo ndio dira ya maisha badala ya kuendeleza malumbano na kufungua kesi mahakamani.Aliwataka wasijiingize kwenye gharama wasizoweza kuzimudu kwa kufungua kesi ambazo hazina tija yoyote kwani suala la maendeleo ni kwa faida ya wananchi, Taifa kwa ujumla.