Inhumane killing for theft still a challenge in Tanzanian society

By Zacharia Alfred and Martha Kibona

In July of 2012 in Mwanza city, a 15 year old boy was beaten, bound with rope, and stripped of his clothing, left on the open road without any help because he attempted to steal a laptop from the local stationary store.

Julius James, when he attempted to convince the villagers to save and free the boy from his fate, was met with the response by villagers saying that they were tired of hearing everyday about theft so let this be a lesson to others. It is because of justifications like these that villagers feel it is within their power to punish those who steal, and which ultimately normalizes the issue to society as they begin to see it as the solution to the problem of theft.

James Chawe, a shopkeeper at Mwenge in Dar es Salaam, says that killings as a result of theft do happen and when they do, people see and do not take action to stop the killings. He said that one day he witnessed a person steal a purse off a women and when he was caught by angry villagers, they smashed the boy with stones and then fired him with a tyre. It is a sad story that depicts the people of this country as cruel, and devoid of humanity. They commit these killings in front of children, which produce a psychological impact on the child and demonstrates to them that this is an acceptable way of achieving justice. These impressions permeate their mentality and become a way of practice in adulthood.

Hamis Juma, one of the thieves who survived after being caught by villagers when stealing a television at Kimara area, said that people are angry when someone steals their property because they work in difficult conditions to acquire what they want. So, when someone steals it, it means they reduce the level of development of that person they steal from and this is why they kill people who think they are obstacles to their development.

Maria Ally, a mother of two from Mwananyamala, said it is a serious pain to lose someone important in your life.  “I lost a child who was killed by villagers after they stole their properties and now I remain with only one child. I want forget because even though my children was a thief still I was loved him but what I want to advise people is that taking someone’s life doesn’t mean you give him a lesson but it is the painful to his parents who lose that child,” she said.

Talking to a lawyer, Paddon Mwandelile from Mbeya, he said that doing that so is violating the law of the country, the constitution of Tanzania, and the “right to life.” Everyone is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty and only the court is responsible to prove if the person is innocent or guilty. In the constitution of the Republic of Tanzania, as seen under Act no. 13(6) (6) 1977, it states that ‘no person charged with a criminal offence shall be treated as guilty of that offence until proven guilty.’

According to the Legal and Human Rights Centre 2012 Human Rights Report, the African chapter of the Human and People’s rights of 1981 defines the right to life as ‘inviolable, respected and that no one may be arbitrarily deprived of that right.’

Zacharia is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication at St. Augustine University of Tanzania. His hope for the future is to become a journalist who focuses on human rights reporting for students, especially girls. Zacharia also aspires to be a novelist.

Martha is passionate about children’s rights, and the right to education. In the future, she hopes to help children access and succeed in their educational goals.

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