Saturday, 4 February 2017


Usually most images posted on social media do not have captions. Most senders have received them elsewhere and merely want to “pass on” with no comments. Only a few people write meaningful captions. Majority of us think the internet is a place of self exhibition and self reassurance.  I am here. Watch me. Me, me, me.... But the duty of social information, as every true journalist knows is inform, educate, break news to our communities and eventually assist in meaningful change. 

That is why I liked recent captions by a  prominent Tanzanian businessman recently. Both are in the two main official languages of Tanzania. In the first one, displayed last week, Mwafrika Merinyo, wrote :
“Cruelty against women goes unabated in Tanzania
Ukatili dhidi ya wanawake unaendelea bila vikwazo Tanzania!”

Although many citizens speak more Swahili than English, Merinyo’s intention is to reach readers of all nationalities in the East African region. No Swanglish. No half this; quarter that.
Such captions show social responsibility and an educated mind. If you have visited Merinyo’s “Afrika Sana” cultural centre in Dar es Salaam you will understand a man who cares for our identity and indigenous products.

The harrowing footage is 2 minutes approximately and very uncomfortable to see.  Three men hold a woman like a goat being slaughtered. One bloke has both legs together; second clasps her hands while a third keeps his foot on her shoulder – subsequently, the victim cannot escape. I say victim, with the same bias as the writer of the caption. What would she have done to deserve such a humiliation in 2016-2017 Tanzania?
We are not told why the grown up woman being flogged endlessly by both men and women deserves punishment. I am saying flogging but it is a beating.
The only way to gauge and understand this clip is through the various reactions. There are those who click “like”-now wait.
 Do you click “like” because you have enjoyed her sadistic ordeal or for what?  Then there are several shares. Obviously by sharing the horror, the Facebook crowd would be spreading the bi-Lingual message. Thanks God. Or thanks Satan?
 Over ten comments, most in Swahili, wonder how among the beaters are women too? There is one who explains that the victim was given a choice of being burnt to death or flogged. Finally the analysts.  One says males are also flogged. IT is not just women. Hither lies the fundamental issue.
 Someone quotes President Nyerere’s quest to have corrupt people being flogged – 10 times as they enter prison and 10 when they leave. The quest was however abandoned after “Wazungus” said it was a breach of human rights, he alleges.

Speaking of our late Father of the Nation, the second video is claimed to originate in the Mara region.  Here a younger woman lies on the ground as men take turns to whip  her. Flogging or whipping would mean a thin stick, or a cane, but here is a thick tree branch which might break bones and cause serious damage. One of the comments demands how come our authorities are quick to arrest members of the opposition but not such monsters of human rights? Another enquires how come our rural people are only defended by social media but not the traditional press. Another says he (note he, not she), cannot bear to watch the video.
This form of ancient punishment is according to the United Nations practised in very few places on earth, i.e. Islamic societies re enforcing Sharia and a few others, including Tanzania.  Like other forms of public humiliation the aim is to deter those who have broken social rules.

We know in our African societies, women are still discriminated, especially villages. Recent announcement by the Prime Minister to ensure girls are educated up to form 6 and 30 years imprisonment for men impregnating female students of 24 years and below is good. But is that enough? How about rural policies, old traditions and local law enforcement? How about our female journalists, NGOs and other professionals? How about female genital mutilation too? What are we all doing to expose this form of behaviour? Two years ago a video of suspected male and female “witchdoctors” being burnt to death somewhere in Kenya has since generated over a million viewers on You Tube. Such episodes are widespread across Africa. Meaning the practise goes on “unabated” as  Mwafrika Merinyo’s Facebook caption pointed above.
Are these practises useful?
Are the so called “social culprits” truly guilty?
Who knows if they were really guilty?
Are these forms of extreme punishment better than what we call “humane” ways of punishment, i.e. court of law, prisons and financial penalties? How come in the developed world murders of children, rape and killings continue rising despite perpetrators getting life sentences and death penalties i.e. lethal injections (USA)? What would work best to stop certain extreme crimes?

-Published Citizen Tanzania  on January 27 , 2017


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