“Wapigwe tu”, said Tanzania’s Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda, back in June – “They should be beaten.” He was responding a question prompted by the police response to protests in Mtwara region, but he made it clear that this was his attitude towards troublemakers everywhere.
There’s now a court case, accusing the Prime Minister of encouraging human rights abuses and disregarding the rule of law.
But has the Prime Minister’s statement had any effect on policing in practice? The police and other security services were hardly known for their restraint before he spoke.
I wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions based on one relatively minor incident, but I saw this in Mwananchi earlier, and felt it was worthy of comment.
“Fundi wa kujenga barabara achapwa bakora Ludewa,” runs the headline: “Road construction worker beaten in Ludewa.”
The worker was apparently unable to unblock the main Njombe-Ludewa road when someone arrived in a vehicle, trying to get past. According to the news article, this person got angry and starting beating the construction worker, in broad daylight and in front of several witnesses.
When the police arrived, together with the construction worker’s boss, “despite finding the suspect, the allowed him to go on with his journey, as the act he carried out was a service to society.” *
The contractor was reported as saying that “one police officer said this was a person of status in security matters. I was left very surprised, seeing that there really are people above the law in this country.” **
In other words, a “security official” apparently beats a construction worker, and is then apparently let off by the local police because the beating was a “service to society”. Perhaps Operation Wapigwe Tu has begun?
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* “licha ya polisi kumkuta mtuhumiwa walimwacha aendelee na safari yake kana kwamba tukio alilotenda ni jema kwa jamii.”
** “polisi mmoja akasema ni mtu mwenye cheo katika masuala ya usalama, nilibaki nashangaa sana na kujiuliza kumbe kuna watu wako juu ya sheria katika nchi hii.”