Gayo an artist fighting war against corruption

Friday October 20 2017


By The Beat Reporter

Dar es Salaam. It all starts with a minor bribe.

A young man without a driving license drives his car and gets stopped by the police, instead of ending his illegal ride; he bribes the police officer and drives off.

This is the start of James Gayo’s latest work on corruption.

The long-time cartoonist has produced a 32-minute radio play to demonstrate the devastating effects of corruption.

“My goal is to make people hate corruption,” Gayo says.

The 55-year-old artist does this by creating a story that stresses on the severe consequences of what seems like a minor bribe.


So the young man in the story who just bribed a police officer drives on and crashes into a family gathering and dies on the spot.

“I wanted to expose the listeners to everyday situations that they have experienced and demonstrate the far-reaching effects corruption can have,” Gayo explains his reasoning behind the radio drama.

It’s not the first time Gayo has produced works on corruption. He is the creator of the cartoon character Kingo and has also produced the TV series “Taswira Yetu” that follows customers as they pursue different services in public offices.

With the help of hidden cameras, the series revealed corrupt behavior of police officers and public servants on several occasions.

“We actually wanted to show the good and the bad sides of civil service, but unfortunately there were almost exclusively bad ones,” Gayo states. With his latest work, he wants to shake up the public.

“The problem is that we don’t talk enough about corruption. For many people corruption is something that concerns only the big guys, forgetting that they are directly involved as well. But if you bribe a police officer or a public servant to speed up an administrative process, you are part of it too.”

Gayo’s work is one of the five projects that were chosen by the Swiss Embassy to tackle the underlying problem of corruption.

“Art and culture promotes crucial drivers of social change and behavior,” explains Swiss ambassador and representative of the East African Community Arthur Mattli the idea of the effort.

In total some Sh190 million were given to five local organizations, these are , the National Museum of Tanzania, the Tanzania House of Talent, Art in Tanzania, Kijiji Studios Tananzia and Gayo’s Gaba Africa Ltd.

These groups used various mediums including visual, performing and media arts to discuss the dangers that corruption presents. They included dances, exhibitions, music concerts, a puppet theatre or a film drama.

“We have funded cultural organisations because we support Tanzania government’s fight against corruption,” explains Mattli.

Gayo is convinced that art is a perfect medium to convey the message to the people.

“People just love arts, no matter whether it is film, music or painting, art is accessible to everyone and it is therefore a very powerful platform,” he says. The artist’s engagement against corruption is routed in his personal experiences with public servants over the years.

“I sometime ask myself if anything in this country actually works without bribes,” he says.

A particular case that shocked him was when he wanted to get a title deed for his piece of land at the ministry of Lands and human settlements several years ago.

He pursued the deed for four years, turning down several requests for money when they finally told him his file had disappeared.

He had to report the matter to the former director of the ministry of land he whom he happened to know to get things going and surprisingly, the file resurfaced the same day.

Even as wide-spread as corruption is, Gayo is not pessimistic about the future. For him, it is conceivable that in 10 years corruption will still be a problem in Tanzania. “The people are ready for it,” he says.

As bad as corruption is, Gayo thinks of it as a symptom that will soon disappear as soon as the public services get better.

He uses the health service as an example. “If there is sufficient treatment for everyone, then there is no more need to bribe a doctor”, he says.

Gayo also criticizes the excessive bureaucracy that creates a lot of room for corruption.

“As soon as the bureaucratic processes are streamlined and new technologies are used, then room for corruption will shrink,” he says.

He expects the government to act. “It’s not enough to hate corruption,” he says. “You also have to take comprehensive measures to reduce it.”

Alongside the radio drama, Gayo has also created a cartoon magazine that tells the same story in images and words.