Home' Ausmarine : October 2009 Contents In 1962 Tanzania was celebrating its first anniversary of Uhuru
-- freedom -- when it had thrown off the British colonial yoke
and bade welcome to the communist bloc. China built a railroad
and departed shaking its head. One year Russia bought
Zanzibar's entire cloves crop; I think they've still got some!
I had visiting fisheries folk from the UN, Russia and Israel, who
discussed fishing and processing schemes, none of which came to
fruition. My guess was that there was something in Africa's culture
which made them nervous. Rightly too, 'cos greedy local political
interference ruined one of my own new and thriving fisheries. In
the meantime, socialist President Julius Nyerere was busy with
five-year plans for his new, one-party, guided democracy whilst I
plied my trade along the coast and even on Lake Tanganyika over
against the Congo.
Just as in olden times there were "Evans the Milk", "Bertha the
Post", even "Kelly the Cruelty" (RSPCA), in Africa people are also
known by their trade. So that Mabwana (Messrs) Miti, Fedha, and
Shamba were Forests, Silver (Banks), and Agriculture respectively,
with "mkubwa" or "kidogo" (big or little) tacked on to denote
seniority. Samaki (Sam-ar-key) being fish, then yours truly was
"Bwana Samaki" -- Mr Fish. I got on well with the locals who
thought I was a German and thus worthy of respect.
Down south, near the border with Mozambique, at the port of
Mtwara (say Umtwara), Idara ya Samaki, the fisheries mob that is, was
to set up a stall for the Saba Saba or 7/7 festival, it being the first
anniversary of freedom in 1961. Mtwara, you may remember, was the
site of the great colonial groundnut scheme where a brand new
township was laid out and a big wharf built to serve new groundnut
farms inland. That such nuts failed to grow there worried the
Colonial Office not one bit, because the peanuts concerned had gone
off to set up an unsuccessful poultry scheme in Gambia and, for all I
know, treacle wells and cheese quarries elsewhere.
On our way to Mtwara sirens blared behind and we had to pull
over and let the new District Commissioner roar past with his
motorcycle escort. Political appointees tended to be tiresome folk.
One minister wanted everyone to bow as he passed by. A lady
minister, who wanted to put a goat and some chooks in her first
class railway sleeper, had the guard locked in his van for
protesting. And there was the famous Bibi (Ms) Titi, a well
endowed party member who would have been admired in Australia
-- no, no, not for what you're thinking!
One of my assistants, Francis, was an ambitious lad who, being
mission trained, was sort of stuck halfway between his old culture
and a brand new world. He was, in fact, a pain in the backside. At
one time, when visiting a seasonal tilapia fishery at Lake Mkoe,
Francis marched around in overbearing official insolence with
notebook and pencil, which caused muttering in the camps. A
couple of fishos offered to ferry us across the top end of the lake in
their dugout, which mysteriously capsized, dunking us in amongst
hippos and crocs. When my foot hit a submerged branch I nearly
died of fright. Local humour, hey?
Anyway, we set up our shop at the Saba Saba festival in Mtwara
and it turned out to be quite popular. In a land without ice or
freezers, fish preservation is of great importance. Salting and/or
smoking was the local way and my predecessor had left behind a
newly designed, superior, but still quite simple smoking outfit
which, having a government subsidy, caused considerable interest.
Several people wanted to buy our exhibited smoked fish and
prawns but of course were refused. Overnight, the fish disappeared
and nobody seemed to know much about it. Anyway, the
following afternoon we had closed shop, loaded up the Land
Rover, and were ready to depart homewards. But where was
Francis? We searched around and were ready to leave him when
the lad came running up almost exhausted and urging departure
forthwith. We were doing so when a furious, apparently homicidal
crowd surged onto the exhibition site heading our way. I
Up the road a bit from Mtwara is Mikindani village where we
stopped for a break. I said to Francis, "How much did you get for
those fish?" Eventually he admitted, "Five shillings." So I took it
from him and bought Tusker beer all round.
Just across the road stood a house with a brass plaque by the
front door so I strolled across to read it. "From this house in 1866
David Livingstone set out on his last journey." He died on the job
up Lake Tanganyika way so the locals gutted him, applied salt and
smoke, and sent the body to the coast to avoid accusations of
murder. The London Missionary Society had the body shipped
home complete with two accolytes who were lionised.
Where Scottish Livingstone came from, kids toiled twelve hours
a day in Blake's Dark, Satanic Mills and whole families crowded in
damp and sometimes bug-infested tenements devoid of basic
amenities; in a harsh climate at that. But they were Christians so it
But why was Francis hotly pursued at the exhibition? It was
much later that I found out quite by accident. It seems that he,
anxious that our smoked fish exhibits would keep well and look
good for the festival, had also added formalin to the brine in
which the fish were soaked!
You may remember that I reviewed a modest work of fiction
named Hidden Agenda by June Hoy of Bristol in England. It was
about forcing the villainous industry to cease fishing, even so far as
sabotaging fishing operations, and so save the last few fish left in
the ocean. Inspiration was, of course, from politicians of one sort or
another, all faithfully served by sensation-hungry media exploiting
anxious people looking for something to fill the new emptiness of
western secularism. The lady is even flogging her book
door-to-door, keen to raise money for world saviour Greenpeace.
Anyway, June and I have been corresponding on one thing and
another but I find it uphill work to convince the lady that she is
being conned. There are gleams of hope, though. Let me quote her.
"Like your fishing industry, we have all the quangos in through
the back door and seemingly part of the furniture before we have
any knowledge of them; all justifying their existence on paper to
get their fat salaries but are worthless drains on the economy.
What I gather from articles in Ausmarine is: pay the fishermen to
stop fishing or give them back their livelihoods. Why don't the
fishermen go Contintental and bring things to a grinding halt? If
the men can't for any reason, let the women do it. Stop the traffic.
How can I tell her that Australia's equivalent of the old European
landed gentry thought they would be poor no more having taken
over what was, and still should be, a common resource governed by
market economics as a natural conservation factor. They reckoned
without the bureaucrats. Does any old-fashioned family fishing still
exist in this socialist dominated nation? Not to worry, Ms Hoy also
wrote, "Hagen Stehr could make his tuna a tourist attraction, it
sounds like some achievement!"
ABC TV's evening news usually exists in the green mode with
some foolishness or other. Recently one was about Queensland's
determination to prevent pollution run-off from sugar growing
areas, which might affect the Great Barrier Reef -- a legitimate and
Aunty, of course, could not resist tacking on footage from the
green doom squad who dutifully told us, one by one, of horrific
threats to the "endangered" reef from all quarters. Yeah, yeah, but
so what? I'll tell you. My jaw dropped when Peter Garrett, in
conference with Queensland's Premier at the time, said that the
GBR was quite healthy thank you very much. He must have been
burning midnight oil somewhere. Was that a groan we hear from
the GBRMPA who, like many others, think that science should
yield a fat profit?
*Grumpy Old Bastard
October 2009 AUSMARINE
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