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17 augustus 2009
There are so many opportunities to do business in Tanzania. Of course there are also some ideas that keep coming up all the time. It seems like everyone has the same ideas. I cannot call it ‘dreams’, because pursuing your dream is not something that is on the mind of the majority of Tanzanians. No, it is all about the money. Or ‘finding a live’ as they call it. One idea you hear constantly is buying a Daladala (a minibus bus, preferably a coaster bus). You invest not more than 40 million, find a driver and a conductor (in Swahili ‘a conda’) and they will bring you laki moja (one hundred thousand Tanzanian shillings) every single day. You will provide registration and such (included in the 40 million) but they will take care of maintenance. One hundred thousand every day, without doing anything….! Some stories say it’s seventy thousand, if the bus is very old maybe fifty. Somehow I don’t get inspired by this idea. And that is my main problem, ideas ‘just for the money’ are mostly boring. There must be something more to doing business, and to living your life as well. Of course that is a luxury position. Other ideas you hear a lot are a hair salon (there are thousands of them), a clothing shop (again thousands), a bar (sometimes called a grocery). There are more bars in Dar es Salaam than any other business. It is quite appalling. But that is, again, a luxury point of view.
As promised an account of some cases of corruption I encountered during the past year. Let us start with Janeth’s (my now ex-wife) license for her grocery. We went together to the municipality, where they issue business licenses. The guy Janeth went to gave her two options: a fast procedure and a slow one. The slow one is the ‘normal’ procedure. To open a grocery or bar you need a report from three different departments, one of them the health department. That department checks if your place is up to standard. One requirement is that you have two toilets, a men’s room and a ladies room. Janeth has only one toilet. So the other option was more to her liking. The fast procedure. The normal charge for the license was 30.000 Tsh. but for twice that price she could pick up her license the next day. Nothing else required.
Then I went with Stephen to arrange the registration of the Hekima School. To register a school you naturally need a building. And a plot. Since shortly the government does not allow schools to be situated in rented buildings, schools must own their own plot and building. The Hekima School has a plot with no school but only a building plan and a school in a rented building. So they lost their registration. Now we wanted to get the registration back, on account of the building permit. The lady who is in charge of the procedure was willing to cooperate with us. Again she mentioned two procedures… a slow one and a fast one. The slow one again required three reports from three departments. The fast one is that she comes to see the school and the plot for the new building and ‘advices’ the departments to write a positive report. Her question however was: ‘How are you going to support me?’ Well, we provided her with a 100.000 Tsh. in cash and invited her to the Waldorf conference in Kenya last February. She was very pleased and cooperative, totally impressed with the Waldorf School concept. But to help us she really needs us to at least start the foundation of the school. Because without a building there can be no registration, so she needs at least the foundation to feel sure that there will be a building soon after the registration. Unfortunately building has not yet begun, but will start now very soon. (Really!)
Driving licenses. Do I need to say it? You don’t do an exam, but you just buy them. Janeth and I bought them. She took her lessons with the same school that arranged the license, so her price was 40.000 Tsh. Mine was 75.000 Tsh. because I did not take the lessons. It is the most common way to get a license. If you are not too stupid you will actually take lessons too. But I guess (from the way they drive) that a lot of people don’t bother with lessons and just buy the license.
Last year we were stopped by the traffic police on our way back from Mafinga. I was speeding. The fine is 20.000 Tsh. David and Herbert decided to go talk to the officer, out of my hearing range. It took some time, but we came away paying a mere 2.000 Tsh.
When registering our company we did not have too many problems. There were some complications at the Brela (registration of organizations) office. They did not accept our Memory and Articles. There was a problem with a reference to a law that was revised. It took three times to deposit the documents, but no one asked for extra money. At the end of the whole procedure, after registering the name of the company, after depositing our Company articles, after getting our tax identification number we at last went to get our business license. There problems started. Because I am a foreigner. There is an article that says that in case all directors are outside the country at least one of them has to get a ‘power of attorney’. That is a legal document which gives a Tanzanian the power to decide matters on your behalf. Obviously it does not apply in our case, two directors are Tanzanians and in the country (and 2 out of 3 directors can decide matters according to our articles) plus I am here too and can take care of my own legal matters. Yet the woman we presented our case to, decided I needed to get a ‘power of attorney’. David had prepared for that eventuality and argued with her. But to no avail. She asked one of her colleagues for advice, a young man who addressed all workers in the office. He made it into a democratic vote. All five of them supported the idea that I needed that power of attorney. David gave up the struggle and we went to see the attorney. First we asked his legal opinion about the matter. He confirmed that we needed the document. Which he could make for 50.000 Tsh. We accepted. After taking lunch and waiting some more the document was ready. I read it before singing (stupid habit!) and then refused to sign it. It said I gave all rights of managing all my accounts to David. I said ‘I can’t sign this’, and started the whole argument again. Eventually the lawyer decided to go talk to the people in the office. He came back after quite a long time and invited us to go there and talk. When we got to the office it was closed for lunch. In the next office we found a lady whose task also is to issue licenses. We explained the situation and she just said: ‘Yes, you are right. You can pick up your license tomorrow’. After spending many hours at that office I was very much relieved and laughing at the whole situation.
For getting another license (for our Training Center) David went to see the same lady. This time however she said that it’s a complicated procedure when there is a foreigner involved. There are two procedures…… a long one and a short one. Anyway we got the license the next day, but we paid some money for the short procedure.
I paid a bribe to the court. Not for influencing the court decision, but just for filing my divorce case speedily. Apparently that can take a lot of time. Since my divorce became a bit urgent I decided to go through an acquaintance of a friend. It took 200.000 Tsh. and still much more time than I wanted. That same friend paid some money to get a custody case (by his ex-girlfriend against him) delayed! He had his case a few days ago, but not only did the other party not show up, also his affidavit was not in the file! The records showed that he filed it, and he has the payment slip, but the document was not there. Case postponed to a far away date!
There are more examples, but let me finish with something that really bothers me. Most organizations, commercial or NGO, have a manager who does the buying. For us to sell we must go through this person. We will make an offer. When the offer is to the liking of the manager he comes to make a deal. He tells us to how high we can increase the price. To get the order we must agree to pay the extra money to the manager. To me it is simply theft, and it messes up my accounts as well. And it happens even in big international NGO’s with complete anti-corruption procedures. But they have no way of checking it, and who knows maybe the bosses are in on it as well.
Watching K-19, the widowmaker. Great movie about a Soviet sub. True events. It happened in 1961. In the movie there is this young lieutenant, Vadim. His task is to go in the reactor room to repair a breach in the coolant system but from fear he chokes up. Another man takes his place in the third team. They succeed in welding the breach, but later it starts leaking again. Then Vadim goes in by himself and solves the problem.
My brother in law, the brother of my first wife, is called Vadim as well. In 1986 he was a lieutenant in the Soviet army. Early ’86 he had some problems, I believe he was even dishonorably discharged. In his early thirties, an extremely intelligent and gifted man, but a drunk and having problems with his second wife. I never heard the details. Then Tsjernobyl happened. What was it, end of April? They send in a team of volunteers to bury the core in concrete. Another team followed. In October the third team of volunteers was sent in. When the disaster happened, Vadim decided to try to get back into the army to volunteer for Tsjenobyl. He is reinstated as a lieutenant and works as a team leader on the reactor in the third team. The time for each group to work at one shift is so short that it is almost impossible to get any work done. So they bend the rules, Vadim often stays longer to give his soldiers a shorter time inside. When I first met him in 1989 he was still healthy, but under surveillance of a hospital. Later he is one of the leaders of the group of survivors. In the Soviet Union they were highly regarded, heroes with privileges. In the nineties their privileges are reduced one by one. And as more survivors are dying, the group becomes smaller and weaker. Vadim has taken a huge dose of radiation, on his X-rays his organs light up brightly. He still is fighting for the rights and memory of those who died or survived the disaster at Tsjernobyl.
Driving on the left side of the road is the easiest thing. I never had a problem with it. Sitting on the other side of the car is another thing however. It took me a long time to get a feel of where my wheels and the rest of the car are. At first I seemed to hit every hole in the road, and there are a lot of those. Now I only walk to the wrong side of the car, almost every time I want to get behind the wheel. That is something I do unaware, so it is very difficult to change it. It is quite annoying though and I feel very stupid when people are watching me.
There are a lot of accidents on the road. A few days ago Winni woke up early in the night. She took a fright and woke me. We went to check the doors, she thought she had heard our gate. But it was a car accident right in front of the house. We didn’t go out to see, but heard the next day that 3 people had died. Almost 3.000 people died in car accidents last year. And that number is increasing yearly. In parliament there was a discussion about it. Someone said that the government is to blame, because they upgraded some roads with the effect that on those roads more accidents happen than before. The minister did not go into the argument, but simply said that it is people who drive too fast and recklessly that cause the accidents, not the government.
My new love. Time moves so fast…. even before I have a chance to write about her it is over already. She moved in and after one week moved out again. She did it without telling me and while I was at work. She took just her own things. The money intended for her to start a business she used to rent another house. Made me feel a bit stupid, but at the same time I felt relieved. Now I am really alone in my big house, and actually it feels pretty great. For the first time since november 2006 I am alone again. Between Janeth and Cathy were four days. After Cathy I went back to Janeth the same day and between Janeth and Winni there was no time at all. I plan to stay alone at least the rest of the year.
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