how do you spell Misungwi?

Friday, December 09, 2005

happy anti-corruption day, and to celebrate.....

....i may be getting kicked out of my house.

Yeah, if I understood correctly on the radio, today is something like 'anti-corruption day,' here in Tanzania? or Africa/worldwide? I have no idea. Anyways, after having lived here for a whole year, I think I can say three things with near absolute certainty.

1. There is corruption in Tanzania.
2. Tanzania, compared to many other African countries, is not as corrupt.
3. Corruption in Tanzania is much more obvious, i.e....
"I'm a police officer give me 20 dollars or I'll arrest you"
and not
"I'm a powerful Vice President so I will let my close friends draft our national energy policy, screwing over future generations so that my fellow fat-cats can stuff their already enormous and overflowing pockets" (a purely hypothetical scenario, mind you)

There are multiple approaches to dealing with corruption. One is to try to fight it. This is very difficult. Another is to participate in it. This is probably very fun, unless you have professional ethics and/or personal morals.

The third, my current approach, is to try to work as best as possible in the system, acknowledging that it's just not practical to fight it. For example, if I hear that a group has received a ton of grant money for fighting HIV/AIDS (happens all the time), I am more than happy to help that group use as much of that money as possible to do some fantastic work, even if I know full well that some group members are pocketing cash for personal use. Or that they had to pay someone in the local government to even receive the money in the first place. Much better than say taking that large amount of money and blowing it ALL on personal use, or the money just being stolen at the government level in the first place. It's a tad cynical, but this approach has allowed me to do some fantastic work with minimal resources lost under-the-table.

However, in fantastically ironic timing, the state of corruption in Tanzania has bit me in the ass. I will try to explain this as simply and, to a certain extent, as vaguely as possible, so no one gets in trouble and it can't do any further damage. Basically,
- I am living in a house that is rented for me, from a private landlord, by the local district government
- The landlord is a former local government worker, who worked in the treasurer's office
- The landlord got fired from work a few months ago by the current District Executive Director (something like county supervisor or thereabouts).
- The landowner got fired, along with several others, for stealing a ton of money from the government
- I'm pretty sure the reason I am in my current house is that the landlord and another member of the district government agreed that the district would rent this house for me, on the condition that the one in charge of choosing my residence got a sweet payoff from the landlord to ensure his house was the one chosen, and the resulting higher rent check was passed off to the district government.

Not sure how much sense that makes, but thats the story. The problem is that the contract was only for one year, and the landlord doesn't seem too keen on renewing it, having been fired by his boss, the rentor (renting on my behalf). So where does that leave me? Homeless as of March 1st, at the moment.

Speaking of corruption, next Wednesday is the Tanzania presidential elections. All the campaign ads I've seen (all from the currently ruling party) have asked for 'free and fair' elections, respectful of human rights. Lets just hope those in charge of ensuring this can't be bought off for 50 bucks.

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