Tanzania tourist guide charged over ‘twisted translation’


A Tanzanian tourist guide has been charged in court with breaching cybercrime legislation after he wrongly translated a tourist’s comments in a video he put on Facebook.

Saimon Sirikwa was not asked to plead and was remanded in police custody.

A second video selfie of him and the tourist has emerged in which they say they were joking in the original one.

He was arrested last week for casting the tourism ministry in a “bad light”, police said.

Mr Sirikwa works for the world famous state-run Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania.

In the original video posted on Facebook last Monday, he says in Swahili that the tourist wants Tanzanians to stop “complaining” about hunger.

She, in fact, says Tanzanians are “fabulously wonderful”.

Mr Sirikwa was arrested despite the fact that he had posted another video, saying he had been misunderstood.

“I cannot tolerate any bad talk against my country. Whoever downloaded the video from my Facebook account then shared it on WhatsApp groups did not do the right thing,” he said in Swahili.

“The video was just a comedy. It was for fun, and I know there are people who are offended by this video. It was not my intention to hurt anyone. I apologise to my fans and followers. Continue receiving entertainment, but just note my offensive jokes were misunderstood. Thank you,” he added.

The woman, who also appears in the video, says: “Hi again, Part two of our video. We were just playing around. Saimon was being a comedian and we were doing a little joke on Facebook.”

Mr Sirikwa goes by the nickname Pondamali, loosely translated from Swahili as “relax and spend your money”, reports the BBC’s Leonard Mubali from the main city, Dar es Salaam.

He is known for his humorous videos, but many Tanzanians feel he went too far by giving a completely wrong translation of the unnamed tourist’s compliments, our reporter adds.

Tanzania markets itself as “The Soul of Africa”, and is popular with tourists because of its wildlife and spectacular scenery.

Mr Sirikwa appeared in court in the northern city of Musoma, following his arrest on the orders of Tourism Minister Jumanne Maghembe.

Regional police commander Jaffari Mohammed told the BBC that there was enough evidence to prove that he had violated cybercrime legislation by putting up the video.

The controversial law allows for a minimum fine of about $1,300 (£1,000) and a minimum jail term of three months for publishing false, deceptive or misleading information on a computer system.

The law was introduced in 2015, despite complaints by politicians, social media experts and human rights activists that it gave the police “too much power” without adequate oversight.

Some of the guide’s words were similar to those used by President John Magufuli, when he called on people at a rally last month to stop complaining about hunger, correspondents say.

In excerpts of the original video, the conversation goes:

Tourist: “Hi. My visit to Tanzania has been beautiful, gorgeous. The people are fabulously wonderful and friendly. Greetings are always jambo [the Swahili equivalent of Hello]. Happy to be here. The land is beautiful, beautiful. The animals are wonderful.”

Guide (translating): “You Tanzanians complain/cry a lot about hunger. Everyday you cry about hunger when you have flowers at home. Why don’t you boil the flowers and drink [them]. It is not good to cry/complain about hunger.”

Tourist: “The variety of animals and people you see is incredible, unlike anywhere else. It is just fabulous.”

Guide: “You are asking your president to cook for you. Do you think your president is a cook? Can you get busy, even boil your clothing and eat.”

Tourist: “It will be an experience to savour for all of your life. It is fantastic and beautiful and incredible and just unremarkable.”

Guide: “Get busy in every corner of the country. The president can’t leave State House to cook for you. You have to cook for yourselves.”