MV Nyerere’s tragedy and our refusal to learn from our miseries

Wednesday October 10 2018

Nkwazi Mhango is a Tanzanian writer based in

Nkwazi Mhango is a Tanzanian writer based in Canada 

As this column joins Tanzania to mourn the deaths of our brethren who perished on September 2018 after MV Nyerere capsized, my heart goes out to the victims, friends and relatives as I try to think and speak loudly.

With anger and angst, I’m asking myself. Have we become the nation that’s totally refused to learn from its miserable past in regards to avoidable and preventable accidents?

Preliminary reports have it that the ill-fated ferry was overloaded. According to the CNN (September 21, 2018), the ferry had more than 400 passengers a

a was quoted on the video clip the Mwananchi (September 22, 2018) aired as saying that the same ferry had carried approximately between 800 and 900 passengers on its way to Ukerewe before making an ill-fated route back to Ukara.

And as it seems, this is a normal thing.

As I look back 22 years after the ill-fated MV Bukoba sank and killed over 1,000 innocent souls, I can’t just get it how can such a thing keep on repeating. Why’ve we allowed ourselves to turn our lives into doom and gloom pointlessly?

The recent ferry accident in Lake Nyanza is the case in point. In this accident, over 200 people perished simply because somebody or some people slept at the wheel.

Though the cause[s] of this particular catastrophe hasn’t been legally established, there are some obvious root causes which everybody knows; and sometimes some partake of either consciously or unconsciously.

As we ponder on what to do about this ill-omened situation that makes us catch hell, as nation and a people, we need to do some diagnostics and look at the root causes of such repetitive miseries; and what can be done to do away with them.

Today, I’ll explore some situations, systemic and individualistic behind these diabolic penchants. Before doing so, let me update my readership about the trend of water accidents in Tanzania. On 21 May, 1996 MV Bukoba sank on its way from Bukoba to Mwanza and over 1,000 perished.

Come September 10, 2011, MV Spice Islander I sank resulting to the deaths of over 200; and on July 18, 2012, MV Skagit sank leaving over 140 dead. These numbers are staggering by all standards provided that human life is precious.

If I may say it, after the Zanzibar Declaration butchered the Arusha Declaration, practically, Tanzania became its own antithesis; it embraced all turpitudes it used to despise.

For example, under Ujamaa, everybody’s treated as a brother or sister either by choice or by the force of law.

We’re poorer but happier than we’re today whereby everybody’s fighting for getting rich legally and illegally.

Selflessness and ruthlessness

The collectivistic nature of the nation was abandoned so as to systematically allow greed, lack of ethos, selfishness and ruthlessness to fill the vacuity.

Thanks to laxity and unethicality, all over the sudden, we started seeing people going to bed paupers to wake up prosperous without showing cause. Slowly, our country slinked into corruption. Instead of showing these overnight tycoons our abhorrence, we started revering them.

Over time, chronic and systemic dearth of ethos gave birth to unfathomable greed, carelessness and senselessness that are now displaying themselves in many forms such as corruption mammoth and Lilliputian, forgery, greed, heartlessness, impunity, myopia, nepotism, and thuggery.

Thanks to the current regime under President John Magufuli who expressly says and shows that the untouchables are now touchable.

Although we tend blame everything on the above vices, there are yet other reasons as to why such tragedies occur and claim hundreds of innocent lives needlessly.

No way can we blame the above ills without looking at the other side of the coin. On this, ignorance is to blame.

Our people are packed like sardines simply because they allow themselves to be treated like that.

If our people were not part of this rot, some of the deaths would be avoided. For example, if you see that the boat, car or ferry is filled beyond its capacity, why do you embark yourself knowing what can happen? Again, thanks to ignorance and partly poverty, people risk their lives simply because they’ve no other alternatives.

They saying goes that a hungry man will listen to nothing even if it is a knell of death. Again, once ignorance and poverty converge, the results are dreadfully suicidal.

Now we know where it started beating us. As a nation, we need to ask a couple of questions and provide right answers.

Firstly, how many’d die for us to wake up from the slumber? Does not learning from our past mistakes help? How’ll we change ourselves despite facing some hardships when it comes to not allowing ourselves to be taken for a ride as I’ve proved above? When will we seriously resume the code of ethics and accountability nationwide by seeing to it that we all equally abide by them?

Off the cuff

I applaud the current government for initiating some efforts to build infrastructure such as the construction of a new ship to replace the ill-fated MV Bukoba after two consecutive governments sat on the matter for no logical reasons.