16 April 2012
Dear Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Limited),
In future, kindly screen potential employees to determine whether or not they possess a minimum level of common sense. When my meter first started beeping (for 30 seconds each half hour, day and night) I thought perhaps some sort of external overload had happened, or possibly that it was about to detonate a nuclear bomb. As this started on Easter, I had to wait till Tuesday, when your office re-opened, to come talk to you. After an extensive, semi-guided tour of your complex, I was finally instructed to go outside to the ’emergency’ window. There, I told a crew of three of your employees what was going on. They said I should go with the fundi* right now to the house to have a look, because he is very busy. So I piled into your car with three fundis and a driver (perhaps you have an overly-eager hiring manager?) and went to the house. The head fundi, who by the way, didn’t realize that when I said, please speak slowly, I meant, please speak at a less rapid pace than you currently are, said there was no problem with the meter and it was probably an overload. I, catching the word ‘overload’, which thankfully they’ve borrowed directly from English, said, ‘but I use very little electricity; the fridge doesn’t even work’. He said, hmmm, well, sodfskfjdyiajf. I’m not sure what he said, but I thought perhaps it was that someone would come have a look at a later time. Then this troup of fundis left.
On Friday, dear sirs, my power went out. At night. Only mine, not the neighbors, so it was clear even to me that it was not your usual rolling blackout (though if you care to explain those as well, that would be lovely). So, on Saturday, I returned to your emergency office and explained the new situation. A fundi called me shortly thereafter and said he would come today. First thing the next day, he came. Well, not he – they. Another committee. This intrepid team of fundis informed me that there was no credit left on the meter, and my power had thus been cut off. But, protested I, I just bought electricity two weeks ago, and I use very little. Bring us the receipt, said they. I did. The committee scrutinized and scrutinized, and another man even emerged from the car to come have a look as well. The problem, he explained after some time, was that you bought this electricity at a store, not at the Tanesco office. You will have to go to Tanesco and buy it again, but of course not today because it’s Sunday. Ok.
Today (Monday) I bought electricity directly from Tanesco, not one of your vendors. I came home, full of hope but low on expectations, and indeed, the power was still off. As it happened, the fridge fundi came by shortly after I arrived home, and inquired as to whether or not I still had electricity problems. Indeed I do, I told him. I bought electricity today but I still have no power. Bring me the receipt, he said. I did. Wordlessly, he went to the meter and entered the numbers from the receipt into the meter. Look, he said – my lights were on.
Now we come to the crux of the matter and the reason for my writing this letter. Why didn’t one of the roughly dozen Tanesco employees to whom I spoke over the course of four different trips to the office or my house, not say, did you enter the numbers into the meter? Why, when I repeatedly pointed out that I bought electricity, and at no point mentioned entering the numbers into the meter, did no one think, this area only recently got hooked up to the electricity and furthermore, this person is clearly a foreigner, perhaps, perhaps, she doesn’t know the process, maybe we should check and make sure that after buying the electricity she also entered the numbers into the meter before she spend another Tsh30,000 on electricity (all of which she probably doesn’t use anyway)?
A pissed-off white woman who just bought her monthly electricity twice – unnecessarily, it turns out – on the advice of your employees.
*fundi = skilled worker, like plumbers, electricians, etc.