Stamps & Signatures

Even persons with a neat handwriting can never fit in all the requested figures, codes and names in the minimal writing spaces.

After filling forms, a stamp and a signature is often required. The Serikali Ya Mtaa is an important office of local government which needs to certify almost every form, letter or request.

To me, the sound of papers being stamped was something of the old days, but here I have learned not to underestimate its significance.

Stamps and signatures are indispensable for any official activity: opening a bank account, obtaining the official number of a house, a letter to TRA or applying for a National ID.

Serikali Ya Mtaa is an important office of local government which needs to certify almost every form, letter or request.

Ours is located along a bad dirt road in an old Swahili style house.

It’s next to the butcher where meat is hanging freely from the ceiling.

Usually Kaka Kahawa is around serving a few customers sitting on the wall with his small strong cups of coffee and kashata.

To enter the office, one needs to take a big step up followed by a deep dip down — the first time I didn’t master it and bumped my head.

I was met with laughter mixed with expressions of pole around.

There is no light inside, an no fan either, but with old thick walls it’s usually cool.

The man to see is reading sports in the daily or checking his phone and is happy to certify my form.

After asking around for the date, he enters details and signs, followed by a nod to the corner where two other officials are sitting at a table.

The man with the stamp finishes it all off.

A more sophisticated office is that of NIDA.

There are ACs, computers, cameras and fingerprint checking devices.

But no different is the division of tasks: first the important official enters all one’s private details from the form in the database, including a digital photo and fingerprints.

Any questions are asked in public — apparently privacy is no consideration.

Once done, a junior official sitting at the next desk is told to write a receipt.

After waiting a while I enquire about the receipt.

The officials have to repeat their conversation about the receipt to be written before the final round of well wishes ends my two hour expedition.

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About the Author

Josie van den Hoek

Josie first visited Dar es Salaam in 2000 and is still here. She writes about encounters on her daily walks and Tanzanian life.