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We Can Ensure Everyone’s Safety, Including Bodabodas’, If We Regulate Our Selfish Ways

What kind of conditions are we subjecting our drivers to – that is if we remember to give them the allowance they need to be able to sleep anywhere other than their cabin?

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Many thanks to my friend Michaela Collord for her article on bodaboda, putting the whole issue into perspective of what is a multi-billion business. I was also going to write my article on bodabodas myself this week but now I will expand my comments to cover many other drivers as well.

But first, a reminder to all of us who are consumed with road envy – and probably a little road rage too– as we swelter in traffic jams on the way to work in the morning or mishemishe zetu, our daily hustles, and on the way back in the evening. 

We watch the bodabodas speeding past us, left and right, carrying one, two or three people, mocking our expensive vehicles. Don’t we wish we could do the same? How many thousands of people are served by these bodabodas daily? Fast and cheap transport! 

They are providing a service, and it is not fair to say that all these drivers pay no attention to the law or safety. I have seen so many careful bodoboda drivers, especially when I wish they would go a little faster in front of me. What a contradiction if I turn around and blame them!

And when we talk about accidents, who do bodabodas have accidents with? Themselves? Other vehicles? And although they usually come off worse, is it always their fault? Which is really why I also admire their unity. They must be the strongest trade union in the country, protective of their members whenever an accident occurs. 

READ MORE: Motorcades And Bodabodas: The Green Saviour Complex?

I just wish they could turn it into a deeper understanding of how they have become a political football, kicked in all directions, transport officers one day –because the other side pointed out their problems–, nuisance the next day, vermin to be removed. But I can understand the schizophrenia of the ruling clans.

It seems every generation of biggies has its ‘safety valves’ to ensure that the pressure cooker of millions of un- or underemployed young people does not occur. Then it was machinga, or hawkers, now it was boda.

Oh, I don’t deny that there are many bad bodaboda drivers, just as there are many bad car drivers, especially those who believe they have a divine right to do what they like because their cars are bigger than ours – mwenye nguvu umpishe – jumping queues, forcing their way in front of you, shouting insults if you refuse. 

How many accidents do they cause although they are not the ones who come off worst? So when a big shot big car driver now turns round and blames the carriers of the poor, pass me the sick bag, please.

Long-distance buses

But this is a general rule. The biggy piggies can do no wrong. It is the little ones who will always be to blame. Take the long-distance buses for example. We are regularly shown videos of their dangerous driving, and they certainly do drive dangerously, but imagine for a moment you are one of those drivers. 

READ MORE: We Have Internalised Our Transport Woes That We Longer See Them As Problems

Because you care so much about road safety, you go to your boss and say, “Boss, you know I am very concerned about the safety of my passengers. Therefore, I have decided to drive no faster than 80 km per hour.”

What do you think the response will be– that is if you are not sacked on the spot? Basically, as a driver, you are expected to drive dangerously to arrive faster than other buses – but without having accidents, of course. You may even be given a bonus for arriving first! 

And if you do have an accident, it is your fault baby. The boss is squeaky clean. Even worse, I have heard stories of drivers reporting to their bosses about faulty brakes, and bald tyres, but they are still told:

“Wewe! You know that bus is scheduled to go to Songea, or Bukoba, or Arusha or whatever. That is your responsibility.”

“But boss …”

“No buts, unless you want me to find another driver. Just make sure you get that bus to Songea and back again and we’ll see what we can do after that.”

… and after that … and after that … until the brakes fail or the tyres burst.

Cheap guest houses

And on another note, has anyone ever thought about the safety of drivers when they stop for the night? Do all drivers want to spend their nights in very cheap guest houses, full of wine women and song? 

READ MORE: Of Tanzania’s Ruling Class and Its Desire to Misuse Words to Achieve Its Ends

I read about one initiative in the United States where they built decent, but cheap, roadside resting places specifically for drivers who would prefer to not drink alcohol or dance and cuddle the night away, but rather have a quiet chat and then sleep before the long drive the next day. 

What kind of conditions are we subjecting our drivers to – that is, if we remember to give them the allowance they need to be able to sleep anywhere other than their cabin?

Okay, and what about the daladalas and viHiace? Don’t they drive like crazy? I had a shemeji, an inlaw once who was a daladala driver. He finally decided to quit what he called a crazy job. 

Without driving like a crazy man, how can you make enough money to give to your boss and still have some left over for yourself and your loved ones? 

Shouldn’t they be given a salary instead, a living wage as it is sometimes called, mshahara badala ya masihara, and be rewarded for good driving instead of being forced to cut all corners in the struggle for survival? 

Isn’t that why, also they refuse students? Taking on loads of students means they eat less that night if they eat at all. But they will always be the ones who are blamed.

So, how about some self-criticism for a change? Instead of blaming the victims, can we understand that we are the victimisers – kulindana as always? We are the ones who can decide whether people have better lives or not, if, of course, we can regulate our selfish ways.


Richard Mabala is an educator, poet, and author. He is available at rmabala@yahoo.com or on X (Twitter) as @MabalaMakengeza. These are the writer’s own opinions, and they do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at editor@thechanzo.com for further inquiries.

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