Thursday, 28 May 2015

My 2 Hours in Police Detention

A stoic feeling. The day was coming to an end. Aware that the market closes at 6:00 p.m I rushed through the chest routines at the gym. Just in time before it closed - went through the list and began shopping. I always haggle but with a smile to the sellers. Being Monday the traffic was crazy - but I was patient. As I approached the Nakumatt junction I decided to overlap, we call it 'kutanua' in our neck of the woods. Two irate policemen stopped me with the other rushing to my car window. He gave me the "whats wrong with you" look. A seemingly young officer came to the window and started pulling the car keys from the ignition. I fumed! I rolled the car window in defiance. A police lady with two-stars on her uniform approached and told the officer "Mpeleke huyu Central". I was running late - I was going to buy medicine for my mum. The officer with gusto jumped into the car and said I should drive to Central Police Station. Adamantly I drove into Nakumatt to buy bread! That incensed the officer. 

I needed to rush the medicine to my mother. "You need to be calm I told myself!" I pleaded with him to allow me to take the medicine to my mother - he was steadfast and said he was taking orders from his superior. The two-star police lady had instructed that I should spend the night in remand. "Vijana wa siku hizi wanajifanya wamesoma sana, wanadharau lazima niwafundishe adabu -atalala ndani leo."She was serious. The realisation of spending the night in remand started to sink in. I called my dad. He managed to sweet-talk the officer in charge at the station that evening - not without the customary 'chai ya mzee'. The car was seized and was asked to report to the station first thing in the morning. 

When I reported to the station in the morning, the two-star police lady was not in. I was told she'll be in the afternoon. I duly reported at 1400 hrs. They say if looks could kill! - the police lady sneered as she majestically swung on her chair. She said she didn't want to see me at all and she ordered I be taken to remand. "Mpeleke huyu mahabusu," she ordered a junior officer who had just stepped in. I pleaded for forgiveness but she said she'll only speak to me after I spend the night in custody.

I was ushered to remand by a tall traffic officer. As I removed my shoes, ring, wallet and belt, it began to dawn on me. One officer seeing that I had carried a significant amount of money in my wallet told me if I gave him something, he will take me to a more 'comfortable remand'. I agreed. But the police lady had ordered that I be put in the common remand. I was received like a Form I student as I entered 'wachanganyeni' - the common remand. A light skinned gentleman with no t-shirt on welcomed me by conducting the customary search. I had nothing on me as I had surrendered it at the police counter. I was given a paper that outlined the possessions I had surrendered at the counter. Another gentleman who was tall also with no t-shirt on with hairy chest came and said hello. "I'm Ibrahim Mashaka, I've been here for over a month now," he retorted. He was wounded all over but the scar on his right eye was vivid. I was ordered to go and take a shower which I duly obliged. The gentleman who had received was in charge there. He ordered a seemingly elder man to mop the bathroom which doubled up as the toilet. He was full of energy. I got in and just washed my hands, face, legs, and cleaned up my armpits.

I sat at the concrete slab with my head down and holding my hands like someone who was praying. Ibrahim came and sat besides me. Three young men were in the same cell with a look of resignation. A somehow old man in a blue shirt was fast asleep on the floor. Ibrahim told me frankly that he wished to got to jail. "I have been here for a month now. I have not tasted a good meal for many days now." As he narrated his ordeal, the metal door kept opening periodically with names being called and other coming in. I was praying to be called next. Ibrahim seemed to have lost hope. He told me he had killed his girlfriend after a brawl in a local bar. "I hit her with a beer bottle and she died" he told me with no shred of tenderness or regret. "I honestly would prefer the ugali and beans of prison, this place is a mess." I asked why they hadn't taken him to court. He brushed off my question and told me he had lost all hope. He stands up and peers into a small window in the cell. He walks away and I engage the rest in some conversation.

The three boys tell me they have been there for four days now. They say the police caught them in possession of a gun after a raid in their friends house. As we speak, a gentleman who by the looks is from the Coast or Zanzibar gets into the cell. The others welcome him by calling him 'transporter'. He had stepped out after being called by a lanky police. I later learn that he was caught trafficking Somalis just past the Kenya-Tanzania border. He was taking them to South Africa. He tells me that he will go for questioning at the immigration office the following day. He asks me my name and why I was there. Another gentleman steps in the cell and seats besides me. He doesn't tell me his name but he asks me why I was here. He was brought there after failing to offset the debt his friend owed. As he began to narrate his story my name is called out. Ibrahim and the gentleman in charge follow me to the door. "Usitusahau kaka, tulete hata mikate na juice." I promised to bring them bread and juice.

The police lady is there waiting for me at her office. She was joined by two other gentlemen - all with two-stars in their shirts. They had ordered chips and 'mishikaki'. She tells me to join in but I tell her I am okay. She said that I had now learned my mistakes and I should pay Tshs.30,000 fine. She gave me my car keys and left. As I drove home she was there at the same junction where I was stopped last night. I hooted and said hello. "Nico, ukipita bila kunisalimia nitakukamata" She said with a smile on her face. I laughed. She waved. I narrated the story to my wife. She now calls me "my convict husband."