Sunday, 13 May 2012

On Cops and Carnage

I thought I should give a separate entry to two of the most ubiquitous issues the road user faces when traveling through Tanzania, namely the police and Tanzanian traffic.

This guy didn't need to see our extinguisher just our $!
I won't bore you too much on the first as we have detailed many of our experiences throughout the journey in previous blogs. Our encounters have ranged from the perfunctory to the bureaucratic, but unfortunately no matter what the approach there is always an undertow of corruption.

To hold office as a police officer here is not it would seem something one enters for community reasons. Now I am not saying this is the case in the UK, but those officers I know that have forged a career in the British police force all seem to have a sense of upholding a higher purpose. Anyway it would seem it is not the case here in Tanzania, if it were those that I have experienced and those that others have described wouldn't be so easily swayed to accept a personal contribution rather than receive the state appointed fine.

You could argue that this is compounded by the white mans readiness to seek a cheaper way out, but believe me, having been through the whole process of going to the police station to pay the requisite fine, you are deemed to be working against the accepted culture and are treated as a fool. We have experienced the most bizarre performances where the officer has struggled to find the appropriate way of seeking a payment without just coming to the crux and asking outright for money to allow us to proceed.

There also seems to be a link between physical girth and the successful appropriation of funds between officers. Now the average Tanzanian will judge success, ergo wealth, by weight. Many of those you see who run businesses here have not held back on the carbs, but then again you can't blame them as running a business here is no easy undertaking. The police however are not self employed (although there seems to be an element of self employment), but then again they are not particularly underplayed in the great scheme of things. Therefore, one cannot argue that the personal fund system is a result of poor pay, so why? It seems that there is a hierarchical system in place in which being a police officer puts you someway up the bribe ladder. I am told that the income has to be shared with the senior officers which simply compounds the problem.

Unfortunately, the police are a reflection of what happens further up the food ladder. Only four days ago a group of senior ministers and their associated under minsters were sacked for corrupt behavior.

This piece is not a complaint it is simply an observation, in fact I would go further. The prime minister Kweite has at least taken the bold step of removing those found to be corrupt...maybe a lesson our own government could one day get a handle on?

The traffic for which the noble officer has to manage is something altogether different. Now vehicles here are simply a receptacle for inserting as many items per cubic centimeter as it is humanly possible to cram. Don't get me wrong I have seen similar in other places around the world, but I have never seen the carnage that results from this practice as much as here.

The vehicles here all need three key documents, insurance (which costs so little you know it to be worthless), registration (not that this has to match the car) and of course a fire extinguisher certificate??? This confused me a little, I know it is common practice across the EU, but then again the other strictures on car ownership are far more detailed. So the fire extinguisher seems to serve very little purpose, I can say to because so long as you have paid the fire department for the small round certificate to place in you windscreen no check is carried out on the actual device. Some of the extinguishers I have seen would serve very little purpose in a fire situation beyond smashing a window to allow the fire to spread.

Most of the vehicles you see would not gain a valid MOT, other than those driven by the more rotund residence. Tyres are generally good for turning into sudo-Masai footage to be sold at the local tourist traps. Most windscreens look like a pattern for crazy paving and emissions are pretty much equivalent of any coal fired power station. Lights can only be used on full beam on a night time and then only if you have at least one that doesn't work at all. The complete lack of roadworthiness applies to any and all vehicles...including emergency services.

Picki picki's are treated much like any other vehicle in the sense that it seems to be believed hat they are designed to carry up to three passengers plus rider and any amount of equipment can be tied to the frame. I have seen 12 crates used for coke bottles, lengths of wood that defy gravity and a goat!

Now the beyond the myriad of Picki picki's (motorbikes), taxi's, and cars you have the three most feared vehicles, namely the ubiquitous Dala Dala, this usually takes the form of a 16 seat minivan made by Toyota, the Chinese/Indian coach and the land train or articulated lorry.

The Dala Dala is the most common way for people to travel within regions, although you may spot them doing much longer journeys. They have 16 seats, but again this is a rather arbitrary figure, as with a little ingenuity you can get at least thirty paying guests onboard. Now I know the Japanese are sticklers for testing their vehicles and I am sure that the suspension tests may have taken into account 16 larger than the typical Japanese demographic before being signed off. However, is it really possible they contemplated 25 passengers, three to four drivers/drivers mates, two touts hanging off the side door trying to drum up custom, two double mattresses over slung on the roof, 6 twenty five ltr water carriers hanging off the back, not to mention the four tyres in different levels of repair/tread wear all running on a kerosene/diesel mix? I don't know but I kinda think not! I have to say some of the most horrendous wrecks I have seen involve these Dala Dala's notably because you can only imagine the amount of injured the crash will have involved.

The next contestant for scary driver is the coach driver. Treated much in the same way the Dala Dala in terms of use of space, this vehicle is labeled 80kmph. Now stupidly I thought this meant maximum speed, not as is the case MINIMUM! These things are just the worst for tailgating and maneuvering as though the driver is on acid. But on saying that I have to admit not seeing one in the two thousand plus km we covered at the side of the road in a mangled mess. I don't put this down to The skill of the drivers, I believe that where they do crash the sheer impact simply obliterates any evidence of them ever existing.

That leaves the big trucks, these are an amalgam of both of the above. Poor condition vehicles psychopathic drivers, completely packed to the rafters these things are like road kill here. We saw some awful accidents along the way involving these trucks and I lost count of the amount ofttimes I had to swerve to the left to avoid being hit at 100kmph plus as the truck straddled the white line. I think they clearly to too literally the part of their license that tells them to tear down the dotted line.


The following photos were taken during our road trip, many happening on just one day. Some of them are pretty horrific in terms of the structural mess that is left after impact. There is little left to the imagination in terms of the possibility of survivors so please do not view the following if you are of a nervous disposition.

This involved a petrol tanker and two haulage trucks, there was nothing left of the cab of the vehicle on the right, all the occupants died on the scene.  
As above
This articulated lorry simple overturned coming down the hill having come around a right hander. The load was clearly unsecured inside and will have created a pendulum effect at the speed he came around the corner.
This guy was the luckiest, he came around a corner as such speed and was only stopped from going down a huge drop by the railing he completely out.
As far as crashes go this was tame, a huge truck cab had simply swerved off the road, no doubt avoiding an oncoming truck.
In contrast to the two photos above this guy was not nearly so lucky. You have to imagine the speed at impact the driver must have been going to create such a mangled mess.
This again was a low speed corner taken too fast with no doubt an unsecured internal load.
Given the right hand driver nature of the cab he would have been worse for wear.
Believe it or not this guy was driving uphill, a steep uphill, no wind, clear road, but damp. The speed he must have hit that bend you can see in the background is astonishing as he took out a huge section of the banking behind him.

For all that it has to be said giving the state of the roads things do keep moving and there are massive road building projects underway...none of which hinders the road road user as it seems this place is the complete antithesis to the UK when it comes to road works. That is to say, where there is a road works machine there will actually be someone using it, where there is a sign that says men at work, there really will be men at work and where a lane is closed the work will have already occurred to allow the traffic to move freely on an alternate route! 

On a side note to this, and I acknowledge the complete disdain for which the police are held here, I have to say that when it comes to RTA's they really do draw the short straw.

In my search for a bit more information I attended the road traffic station and talked to three officers about the protocols for RTA's. It would seem that there is no ambulance service or for that matter a skilled fire service to attend RTA's along with the police. In fact it is the police who must act for all the services we would see in the UK. Therefore, the task of removing bodies is left to the police using a surgical rubber glove and a hacksaw!

They then either take the body to the mortuary in their car/truck or the hospital if their are injured. The appalling, almost ridicules part to all this is that a lot of the time an injured driver will first be whisked off to the police station for a statement and production of documents. I was told by a KCMC physio that he saw a double compound fracture being taken to the station rather than the hospital because the driver did not have a fire extinguisher tax disc?

This is all that is left of a twin cab truck...the engine was mostly in the cabin.

This is a Dala Dala that has will no longer carry passengers, or the driver! 

No comments:

Post a Comment