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The government is preparing to “build” destroyed bridges and “repair” destroyed roads

Mathematics can be a very treacherous area for most doodlers. I remember in the 1990s, the editor of a media company he worked for forbade us from converting monetary figures from, say, dollars or pounds, to Tanzanian shillings.

Reason? Many of us often messed up the calculations and made it look like our shilling was much stronger than the US dollar! Or that the Ugandan shilling had suddenly appreciated against its Tanzanian counterpart!

At one point, Mwananchi Communications Ltd (MCL) saw the need to hire a statistician whose duties, among others, were to help us numerical subordinates solve “difficult” conversions. I was one of their neediest clients. Rest in peace, our kind and invaluable editorial friend, statistician Hassan Mghenyi (died August 2011).

I was introduced to the above memories after coming across a story from the Friday, May 17 edition of the tabloid closely associated with this columnist. It was titled: ‘Songwe aims to ALMOST quadruple coffee production.’

The verb “quadruple”, according to the dictionary we have, means “to increase four times/multiply a number by FOUR”.

Let’s be nitpicky: why use the adjective “almost,” when this is simply a headline in which such details or qualifications are basically quite unnecessary?

And, by removing the qualifier, there would be enough room to use a simpler expression meaning “fourfold,” an expression that would not force an unfortunate reader to search for a dictionary! Like saying: ‘Songwe aims to quadruple coffee production.’

However, despite what the headline says, the introduction of the article says: “Songwe region is setting an ambitious goal of increasing coffee production by 187.2 percent by 2025.” Now, does this increase quadruple the amount of coffee currently produced?

Then, in paragraph 4, our fellow scribbler tells his readers: “The goal is to increase production from 11,355 tons to 32,617 tons in the next three years.” Our question here is, if quadrupling means increasing a sum four times, how come our calculator shows that 11,355 x 4 adds up to 45,420 instead of 32,617?

Please send your comments if you notice that the scribblers’ analysis is correct and this columnist is the one who is wrong thanks to his arithmetic.

And now, we look at matters that have nothing to do with our nemesis, i.e. numbers, as we proceed to share what we gathered from Bongo’s biggest newspaper for Saturday, May 18. Page 2 of this has a story that carries this headline, “Government to restore infrastructure devastated by floods.”

In paragraph 1, the writer reports on a deputy minister who allegedly told Parliament that the government has already received a list of “roads that have been DESTROYED by heavy rain and flooding across the country and that RENOVATIONS will begin soon.”

Hello! Once something is destroyed, it’s over! Well, the verb “destroy” means to damage something so seriously that it ceases to exist! Such a thing is not renewed; because this word basically means the same thing as “repair.”

In paragraph 3, the writer reports that the same deputy minister responded to a parliamentarian “who wanted to know when the Government WILL REPAIR all the roads that have been DESTROYED by the continuous rains in his constituency.” The criticism from the previous paragraph applies: destroyed things are replaced, not repaired, because how do you repair what has become non-existent?

The writer reports further from the august House of Dodoma: “The parliamentarian wanted to know when the Government WILL BUILD permanent, modern bridges WHICH HAVE BEEN washed away by the floods.” It is certainly a difficult task: to build something that has been razed! We know that our colleague meant: “…the parliamentarian wanted to know when the Government would build permanent, modern bridges TO REPLACE THOSE THAT HAVE BEEN washed away by the floods.”

Ah, this treacherous language called English!

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