Waiting for Kikwete

There’s a lot of talk of the importance of a free and vibrant news media to our emerging democrary (if that’s what it is). It’s no longer just Uhuru and the Daily News. But being more diffuse means it can be more difficult to identify exactly who is paying for the news. It could be an NGO – “international”  or “local”  . With their endless TV spots, sponsored newspaper features and advocacy dressed up as news, our friends in the NGO community seem to have successfully annexed it – usually in exchange for a fee.

Spotting this is pretty easy, particularly if you have ever been involved in such games. But this week’s front page splash in Eric Shigongo’s Amani newspaper has me floored. I had thought the long running Kipawa evictions saga was over. Recall that the residents of Kipawa, , were eventually compensated and evicted to make way for airport expansion after a long and often bitter struggle with the authorities.

Masta tries to remember his lines

But no – somebody clearly wants to keep this story alive, and is doing so with the best news stunt I’ve ever come across.  We are told that one Ramadhani Masta has taken up residence in a coffin atop the Kipawa rubble. And there he awaits our President Kikwete. It could be described as Beckettian. And indeed it is, in every sense: absurd and funny; a concoction for sure; but also deeply truthful.

Translation, below. Photo above courtesy of Global Publishers.

MIRACLE: Youth lives in a coffin, awaits Kikwete

In conditions that can only be described as miraculous, a young man called Ramadhan Masta has turned a coffin into his permanent residence because, he says, he has nowhere else to live.

Masta lives in the coffin, placed atop the rubble in Kipawa, Ilala in Dar es Salaam, a residential area before the demolition to make way for the the expansion of Julius Nyerere International Airport.

Last Tuesday, our reporter was passing by and witnessed the youth emerging from the coffin and was drawn to take a closer look.

Initially, our intrepid reporter suspected that he maybe had mental problems, but up being greeted with: “What’s up sister? Karibu home…” she knew that he was functioning well in all departments.

In an interview with Amani, he said that he was forced to live in a coffin after his house was demolished by the government.

“I have nowhere to live. Don’t you know we have nothing? I’m not rich. My only inheritance was the house left to me by my elders from which I got some small change for my life, but it has been demolished.

“To make matters worse, the compensation I was given isn’t enough to build another house so I thought it best to just res here”, said Masta keenly.

He continued: “I am at peace when I’m in the coffin; I know that nothing can harm me here. And I’ll stay here until President Jakaya Kikwete comes to see me.”

When asked about where he got the coffin made, Ramadhan said that he took it from the mosque while the demolition was taking place.

“I took it from the mosque. I had to think quick – when I saw it I knew that something was on and decided to move in and make it my home”, said the cheerful youth.

Moreover, Ramadhan now gets his daily bread selling door frames, old CI sheets and cement that he has salvaged in the area.

People working with him told our reporter that Ramadhan has no mental problems at all. “He has no regrets about living in a coffin. He’s a normal cheerful guy just getting on with his life. He says he’s now in a safe place”, said one youth called Luna.

Another said: “He’s cool with it, even if they force him to leave, where can he go now that they have demolished his house and not given him enough compensation. Just let him get on with his life.”

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