Sema Kweli

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Awoken by a drunk who kicks up a racket all night.

Submitted: June 20, 2016

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Submitted: June 20, 2016



The area where we lived at Sanawari was a suburb of Arusha, albeit on the outer limits where there was more open space and some farming done. Nevertheless it was not at all quiet and there were always a lot of people moving around and especially at night it was not unusual to hear a woman scream while being beaten.

Roaming dogs added to the mix and there is another story The Dogs of Sanawari.

One incident happened when a thief jumped into our yard because he was being chased by an angry crowd of men. He ran past us and was later caught and was given a tyre necklace – an old car tyre placed around his neck and set alight. He died for a crime which was never revealed to us.

The above picture of the section of the house we lived in, the blue wall centre-left is our doorway. The widow by the vehicle is our bedroom window, and though it is hard to see there is a little veranda with a cane sofa, just to the left of the vehicle – under a little canopy.

Behind the bush on the left there is also a window where Mama Baraka slept – and on occasion, Emanuel.

One night at about 11:00 pm we were woken from peaceful slumber by the loud ranting of a drunk man! He sounded awfully close, as he kept ranting, repeating the phrase over and over, 'Sema kweli!' which means ' Is that true?' or ‘Are you saying the truth?' or 'Really?'.

There was no other voice so obviously he was having conversation with himself! And actually he was very close, he was sitting on the cane sofa, on our veranda!

My first reaction was to chase him away, but Mags counselled me that it may not be safe out there in the dark with a fellow who could resort to violence and after all, he might actually be a mate of Emanuel's!

I could tell he was not a beer-drunk fellow, he had been on something somewhat stronger! Probably the illegal brew piwa - made from bananas, which had the ability to rot your boots and to remove your eyebrows! The guy must have been hallucinating – such people’s eyes glaze over like an underwater frog’s!

How Mama Baraka did not hear him, I have no idea, for her head was just below her bedroom window!

There was no way we could sleep with this racket going on - I guess too our bloodstreams were filled with adrenalin! So I spent the night spying on him through our louvered windows and drinking tea.

Even though I was angry with this ma, I saw the funny side. I worried that he would fall into the hole by our washbasin outlet! This was a two metre deep hole that was supposed to be filled with rocks to form a soak-hole – only thing was Emanuel had not quite organised the rocks!

The drunk walked – more like stumbled around in the semi-dark – the stars were bright and there was a half-moon - all the time he was calling out 'Sema kweli!' in a tone that sounded as if he was disgusted with something or other.

Several times he fell off the sofa crashing, seemingly unhurt onto the concrete floor, only to climb back up, ‘Sema kweli!’ he would say; he fell over that rail in front of the veranda, into the dahlias in the flower bed, laying there flat on his back with his feet waving in the air like an old cast ewe! He chased a wandering pack of dogs away, but they kept returning so he kept chasing them off again, ranting, ‘Sema kweli!’ He walked slap-bang into the Maruti, not once, but three times, each time, after a couple of backward steps, he wagged his finger at if to admonish the vehicle - I couldn’t hear what he said, but I bet it was, ‘Sema kweli!’

Through the night, I threatened to remove him, but was always vetoed by Mags!

At first light - around 6:00am, I had had quite enough of 'Sema kweli', and the guy was beginning to tire so he sat on the sofa again. I opened the door and he looked up at me to give the respectful greeting, 'Shikamoo mzee.'

'Marahaba.' Out of habit I replied in polite Swahili as I reached for his shirt collar assisting him to his feet. He came along with me like a dog on a leash as I headed for the road.

Out on the road, I asked him in which direction was his home. He indicated with a finger. I pushed him in the general direction with the sole of my foot, and he stumbled off!

But the legend lived on, for I had not noticed that I had quite an audience. Nothing was said but I suspect they approved of what I had done!

Mama Baraka had not heard a thing! Even when I sent the guy off on his way! But more of the pre-story emerged later.

This guy had wandered into the yard at about 9:00pm, so drunk he couldn’t stand properly! So Baraka and Heri caught him and pushed him under the bougainvillea hedge, thinking he would sleep off his condition and for sure he would be stuck among the thorns until morning!

So they promptly forgot about him and went to bed!

We found his hat, and recognised it as belonging to the man who slaughters the cattle on the concrete slab beside the Sanawari Road. Later, whenever we crossed paths, he would always give me a wry smile, but he never bothered us again.


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