I feel guilty hugging my son too hard… almost as if I am rubbing salt on the wounds of mothers’ who lost their sons in the collapsed Dar es Salaam building last week. I feel guilty cooking or eating a good meal, for I wonder in what state food must be consumed by these mothers. Sleep eludes me night after night, yet when I do dose off, I wake up feeling guilty, for how will these mothers ever sleep in peace again?
Many a mothers have lost their child, yet the trauma of waiting for others to unearth your baby from heavy crushing stones as minutes pass by, and hope fades, is a torture I can only imagine.
I feel the pain, a deep pain…
And then I feel anger, real anger. One part of the world is able to dig out alive miners from deep within the ground days after the disaster (Chile), but a child asking his mother to rescue him from the suffocation of the rubble over a mobile phone had no chance!
Chance at life eluded all those strong men undertaking the construction of an approved building that never should have been. The women who fed these men, so that they could return home and feed their children, never saw those children again.
Surely we should cry and we should mourn. But when our emotions come under our control, we MUST feel angry. And the anger should not die down fruitless. The anger should spur us to question what destiny we are shaping for the next generation. Is it not our sins that have brought forth the wrath of the Lord, nudging us to look within? Let us look within… for the sake of the grieving mothers whose pain we can only imagine.
I penned down those feeling less than a week ago, in the aftermath of what has become known now as the ‘Dar Tragedy’. And those feeling are alive within me today too. To say the least, I am still angry… but along with being angry, I am also concerned.
The new feelings come from the image I saw today. The owner of the ill fated building, Mr. Ladha, on his knees surrounded by armed officers – apparently on his way to or from court.
The image of an old man, in a vulnerable position, tugged at my heart. I am probably treading on sensitive waters by even suggesting that the man deserves to be treated humanly. But he does.
It is much easier to point figures and pass judgments – this has always been the case in human history. After all, what is there to debate, we reason – the man owned the building, he was ‘apparently’ warned of dangers, he was ‘apparently’ given permission for a 10-storey building but decided to construct 16, he is ‘apparently’ greedy and corrupt and most importantly, he ‘apparently’ is the murderer of all those victims of the collapsed building.
So, emotions tell us quite clearly that he is a guilty man and should not be spared any thoughts or feelings of sympathy.
But I disagree. And I am very conscious of the pain those mothers are still in as I say this, of the loss of the country’s able men and women, and the spirit of those who perished. It is not to dilute their sacrifices that I ask for emotions to take a back seat, while facts to come forward. In fact, it is to honour those souls that I ask we accord the man his dignity – he is innocent until proven guilty.
Let all those ‘apparent’ matters become facts. Let us hear the other side of the story. Let us keep a close check on corruption in the justice system too so that if there are those who are guilty, they don’t walk out free by dishing out a few million shillings. But at the same time, let us also adhere to basic principles of justice.
Why is the man down on his knees? Is he being humiliated? Threatened by those fierce looking guns? And yes, we want our government to act and provide justice, but let us not forget that the government too – through its own arm, the National Housing Corporation (NHC), was joint owner of the building. Who is the face of NHC facing justice? Where are they?
Often, it takes a tragedy to jolt a sleeping community. Yes, we are all screaming against greed and corruption today. Kudos to us. We should have been doing that long ago.
We should have been screaming corruption when we gave ‘small’ bribes to traffic officers on the streets. We should have been crying out against greed when we offered ‘chai’ to TRA officers who check our accounts books. The incidences are so many, and so well known by us all that I do not need to list them here.
I am not denying that greed and corruption have been involved in the collapse of the infamous building. I am not denying that murder has taken place. I am not advocating that culprits go free. What I am saying is, let us not make judgements on individuals before we know all facts – before they are presented and countered. When the verdict is clear, we may be justified to make our own judgements.
Furthermore, even those facing justice deserve humanly treatment. Let us not forget the principles of human rights in our anger.
But most importantly, if a building has collapsed and killed because of greed and corruption, it is not one man who is to blame. We have all played a part in creating a corrupt system in Tanzania and continuously fuelling it. And for that, we are all greedy, we are all corrupt and we are all murders. Let us start pointing our fingers within.by