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Traffic in Dar

December 21, 2013

I don’t know about you but lately, there are two things that are threatening to drive me insane; the crazy heat that has hit Dar Es Salaam, and the maddening traffic I have been experiencing daily for the last three weeks. For the heat, one might say that it is easy to manage it by use of an air condition or a fan; in an ideal world this would work, but not when the power supply company is left to determine when and where to supply this precious commodity, as has been the case in the last few weeks. This therefore means that unless you have a backup plan (batteries or generator), then the only way to manage this heat is by wearing your birthday suit, or by becoming a fish where you spend half your time in the shower/water – well, that is if the water supply company allows you the luxury of having tap water running in your bathroom.


That means that whatever option you decide to go for, you really don’t have full control over it because you are depending on a third party to provide the service that will enable you put your plan into action. And we all know how that works. In fact, as I put this article together, we have no running water in the taps and right now we are on backup power. As you know, no amount of calling these two companies will warrant you an answer and when you do, you will get one that is likely to spoil your mood for a week. So what do we do? As is the norm, we just have to “accept and move on”.


Then there’s the issue of traffic snarl up in this town. For the last few weeks I guess it is safe to assume that if you use the lower Mbezi route, then it is possible that you have been wasting approximately 4 hours a day in traffic i.e. 2 hours in the morning and another 2 in the evening, especially if your offices require you to drive anywhere after Mikocheni. If the Mbezi road leading towards the Kawe roundabout was under construction, then I would understand why we keep experiencing the snarl-ups. If the traffic was caused by a vehicle that has broken down in the middle of the road, then I would understand. If it was because of an accident, that too would be understood.


The most annoying thing is that this traffic is not as a result of any of the above reasons, but it is as a result of drivers who decide to break all traffic rules and decide to use the road whichever way they want to. You would be forgiven to think that it’s the wildebeest migration happening all over again, only this time instead of animals its cars being driven by irrational and insane drivers! I call them insane because some of the things they do only a mad person can attempt them. For instance, you overtake cars that are on the left lane, creating a second lane that is not even supposed to be there. Then someone else comes from behind and creates yet another lane, which eventually cuts off the oncoming cars. Why would someone with a perfectly working brain pull a move like this? If you were in a hurry, why wait till morning to leave home? You should have left the previous night to avoid traffic. Then when you get to the roundabout, you find a traffic cop casually standing there enjoying some animated conversation on phone, instead of helping disentangle the mess that has been created by so called drivers.


But wait a minute, why should there be a cop to direct traffic, and yet everyone behind the wheel is expected to follow the rules and do what is right? Yeah, in an ideal world this would happen, but not in one where drivers learn how to drive via correspondence, and not where anyone can get a driving license without having to go through all the necessary steps to ensure that the driver is qualified to be on the road, and of course not in a world where traffic cops have mastered the art of selective blindness, making it easy for them not to see when someone is blatantly breaking traffic rules, or when someone is driving a road-unworthy vehicle, be it a truck, a saloon, a bajaji or a motorbike. Speaking of bajaji, this week I had a harrowing experience thanks to one bajaji, but this will be a story for another day.


Moving on, as a result of being in this traffic so constantly, I have come up with my own theories. Who are these guys behind the wheel? Are all of them employees i.e people who have been employed to drive those cars? Maybe a certain percentage but from my observation, a huge percentage of these vehicles are driven by what seems to be owners of the cars. Some of them look like they are big bosses in some companies, especially those driving huge monsters aka mashangingi that intimidate small cars on the road. And of course there are the women who take advantage of the traffic to pose for selfies that later end up on social media. Witnessed a few selfies in the making this last week.


Like I said, most of these drivers don’t look like they are employees. They look like they are the owners of the vehicles. So my question is, how do you expect these same people to perform their duties at the office in a straight clean manner, if they cannot apply rules that are supposed to safeguard everyone else on the road? If someone can boldly decide to create a third lane where there should not even be a second lane, how do you expect this person not to tamper with the company’s accounts by adding a few more zeros to the figures just to satisfy their personal selfish interests? If this person can insist on overlapping and dangerously overtaking other vehicles that are also overlapping, what makes you think this person will not bribe a cop or a TRA official just to get away with some of these mistakes?


How do you expect someone who cannot be faithful in little things to be faithful in big things? If you cannot adhere to simple traffic rules surely, why should you be entrusted with a mega corporation? Won’t you drive that company the same way you drive your shangingi? If you cannot use common sense on the road, what makes you think you can apply the same principle elsewhere?


Many of the problems we find ourselves in are as a result of our own doing. If each one of us played our roles to the last letter, then this world would be a better place to live in. Still using the example of traffic, if each one of us stuck to our lanes and adhered to traffic rules, we would not be wasting 20 hours a week in traffic. Can you imagine how much revenue is lost on a daily basis just because of some insane drivers who choose to bend rules to suit themselves? If we were to assume that each person gets paid Tshs. 10,000 per hour, and we are 1,000 drivers stuck in unnecessary traffic, for 4 hours that would be Tshs 40,000,000/- going down the drain. For a week (5 working days), that would be Tshs. 200,000,000/-. And that is just the lower Mbezi road. What happens in other places?


And you wonder why the economy is growing at a snail’s space? It is because of little things like this. Will you keep blaming the government for your own mistakes? Yes I know they have their own fair share of traits to deal with but like I intimated previously, we are first human beings before we become anything else such as officials in high places, managers of companies, etc, so unless and until we sort out these little insane behaviors we have, there is no guarantee that changing governments in the next election year or changing leadership for your company will make any difference. The difference has to start with you first.


So the next time you are tempted to drive on the wrong side of the road or overlap just because you imagine you are in more hurry than all the other drivers ahead of you, think about the repercussions of your actions, and take some time to calculate the amount of time and revenue you are denying this economy by your selfish move.


Wishing you all a selfless week.


PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 1st December, 2013, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"



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