Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Word on Tanzanian Mob Justice

Early on in training, we had heard that wezi (thieves) were not tolerated by the Tanzanian public and that we should think twice about yelling, “Mwizi” (Thief (singular)) if someone steals something of ours. When a thief is run down my an angry mob he will be beaten, stoned, hacked with mapanga (machetes), burned, and sometimes, if the authorities do not arrive in time or a wave of sensibility comes over the crowd, killed by any of the aforementioned methods. We recently saw the aftermath of this type of village justice right in our front courtyard. Carla and I were doing work around the house and Gilbert and Zawadi were sweeping the yard when a group of men, one covered in blood with severe gashes about his head, walked through our courtyard on their way to the clinic which is about 300 meters behind our house. I caught a glimpse of this through the spaces in our courtyard wall and Carla was called by Gilbert and Zawadi to come outside to see the mwizi being escorted to the hospital. Needless to say, Carla was abhorred by what she saw. To the boys, this was nothing out of the ordinary. "How else do you deal with someone who feels that it is acceptable to steal a harvest of three sacks of peanuts from a man who has worked hard to farm them?" In the villages, this attitude is common and nobody has a better solution.

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