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Last Updated: Friday, 25 July, 2003, 00:39 GMT 01:39 UK
Tanzania woman 'tortured by son'
Stella Vuzo
BBC, Arusha

One of Arusha Hospital buildings
Mrs Msangati is receiving treatment in an isolation room

News of a man accused of locking up his own mother for 13 years has shocked Tanzanians in the northern town of Arusha.

The 40-year-old son, Frank Simon, who was arrested on July 23 appeared in the regional magistrate's court on Thursday, while dismayed and furious citizens waited outside the court to catch a glimpse of the man they described as the most "cruel human being in the town".

He is accused of shutting his 65-year-old mother, Lydia Msagati in a tiny bathroom, which became her home in a 10-bedroom modern self- contained house, which also accommodates up to six tenants.

(The room was) a stinking space from where sometimes maggots crawled out to the corridor
Frank Simon's tenant
He was released on bail after entering a plea of not guilty to the charges of unlawfully detaining the woman.

Weird screams

The assistant regional police commander, James Kombe said Mr Simon was arrested on following a tip off from local residents who were tired of the increasing weird screams they would hear from the house at night.

One neighbour told me that when asked about the noise Mr Simon would explain to them that it was of the sick person in his household who was being taken care of.

Mr Simon, a married taxi driver and a father of three kept the secret of tormented mother Lydia Msagati, from neighbours since 1990.

One tenant described Lydia's room, after police raided the house, as "a stinking space from where sometimes maggots crawled out to the corridor".

When I visited Mrs Msagati at the Regional Hospital, where she is being treated in a police-guarded isolation ward, she was very weak and crying in pain and her body was covered with septic wounds.

Maggots

The tiny old woman did not look her age as she lay on her bed receiving an intravenous drip.

Medical staff removed maggots from her sores as she had not had a decent bath for a very long time.

What Mr Simon has done is completely ridiculous and abnormal
James Kombe
Police commander

Nurses told me that despite giving her a bath and dressing her wounds, other patients in the ward she first shared with them, complained of the smell and she had to be transferred.

Mrs Msagati's relative who was at the hospital told me that she has never set eyes on her grandchildren, Mr Simon's 12 and eight-year-olds who live in the same house.

"Lydia has a husband who works for a European family, and other relatives knew about what was going on in Mr Simon's house, but nobody is prepared to speak against him, because he supports the whole family," she said.

Police Commander Kombe said that the accused man told him that he had decided to lock her mother up because she was insane and used to beat up his children.

"What Mr Simon has done is completely ridiculous and abnormal," Mr Kombe said.

Mr Simon was booed by his neighbours and tenants on his return from court.

'Unheard of'

He accused his neighbours for "shopping him to the police" before driving off angrily in his taxi.

The incident has become the talk of the town. Dismayed Arusha residents I spoke to cannot comprehend why Mr Simon had "taken such steps against his own mother, which are unheard of in the Tanzanian culture".

"I am happy that justice will now be done to this cruel person," one resident, Mama Asha told.





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