Shoes maketh a man in Africa.
There are plenty of second hand shoe vendors and shoe shine service providers in the streets of downtown Dar Es Salam. The city is the capital of the United Republic of Tanzania. Tanzanians stress the “United” part in describing their country. This is done to remind the world and Tanzanians alike particularly those in the island of Zanzibar that Zanzibar is part of Tanzania. Zanzibar Muslim majority wanted to secede from Tanzania after independence. These aspirations led to a conflict which saw many people killed and displaced. Dar Es Salam is a buzzing city with hundreds of cars, buses and motorbikes ferrying people to different destinations. The streets of Dar Es Salam flood after rainfalls especially this time of the year. February sees the start of a rainy season in East Africa and Dar Es Salam has some of the most splendid afternoon showers. They are warm soft and only last for few minutes. Like the Highveld showers in Johannesburg they often fall in the afternoon round about Shayile time or knock off. time. The streets of Dar Es Salam become really dangerous when flooded. There are a number of main streets in the downtown that are in a state of disrepair therefore an experience driver who knows the area very well is essential. The navigation of the streets and avoidance of potholes is almost futile without the assistance of a local driver. Those that believe in luck above advice often find themselves stuck in water hidden potholes with punctures and all other associated inconveniences.
There is a descent number of newspapers in Dar Es Salaam including some internationally respected titles. International news fills up the pages of the local newspapers highlighting international tragedies which are then juxtaposed with minor local misfortunes. This is a propaganda which reinforces the fortunate national position in which the people exist. Unlike in South Africa where the international news section in local newspapers is relegated to half a page somewhere in the middle of the newspaper, international sections occupy a substantial part of the newspapers in Tanzania. This could either be by design or coincidence. Suffice to say that many have associated this to the lack of resources in field news gathering, which is often the case in many African countries. Others have attacked the local media accusing them of lazy journalism by relying mainly on news agencies, which prioritize international news. There are also claims that African journalism skeptics who are the main consumers of news prefer agency generated news, editors consequently yield to pressure and demand. Unanimity in agency generated news is another justification; it guarantees protection of journalists from harassment by authorities.
Most of the newspaper titles in Tanzania notwithstanding the dominance of Kiswahili language are in English. What is intriguing in Dar Es Salaam and in East Africa in general is the prevalence and acceptability of the use of the indigenous language in this case Kiswahili compared to South Africa. Tanzanians of all origins speak Kiswahili. Understandably perhaps is that because of various languages in South Africa and strong multiculturalism, English is a convenient medium. Whereas mainly in Kwa-Zulu Natal you find some South Africans of foreign descent conversing in IsiZulu or a pidgin form of IsiZulu known as Fanakalo, most Tanzanians of foreign descent are impressive in this regard. They do not only swear in vernacular, as it is often the case in South Africa, they speak Kiswahili with an appropriate accent.
The dominance of Kiswahili in Tanzania has in all appearances managed to tame the negative frontiers of tribalism. The constant in African politics has been the skewed employment of people from certain tribes, depending on who rules. There are very few signs of that to a visiting inquisitive journalist in Dar Es Salam. The state is the main employer in Tanzania like many African states. Consequently a large part of the employed population is in uniform of one kind or the other. Uniform is a symbol of power in many African countries particularly police and military uniforms. Uniform generates a certain kind of authority and those responding to a uniformed person give a certain kind of response. Tanzanians wear their uniform proudly and confidently because of the prestige it provides in the society. Uniform describes your social standing, if you have a uniform it means you are employed which is a social class determent in this part of the world.
Shoes are an important part of a uniform in Tanzania. Consequently there is a thriving business of shoe maintenance in the streets of Dar Es Salaam. The busy streets are lined by shoemakers and shoe shine service providers. There is also a vibrant second hand shoe businesses noticeable in the street of downtown Dar Es Salam. The sight of vendors publically scrubbing the shoes before properly displaying them for sale is intriguing. The act triggered one particular question in the mind of an inquisitive a journalist. What is it with Africans and the love of shoes? Some people owned shoes that cost more that the furniture in their lodgings in some parts of South Africa which shall remain anonymous. The ownership of expensive shoes by Africans in apartheid South Africa also comes to mind as this question is asked. Once a journalist was told by an authority in apartheid history that a good pair of shoes was the only thing Africans could truly own. They could not own houses and it was almost impossible to own a car due to stringent driver’s license examination and constant harassment by the traffic police. The sensible thing therefore was to own a good pair of shoes. Good shoes describes a human being the journalist was further told.