A video of a tour guide deliberately mistranslating comments from an English tourist was meant to be funny. Now he is behind bars and no-one is laughing.

A tour guide in Tanzania has been arrested over a video in which he deliberately mistranslated an English-speaking tourist to make it appear she was criticising local people.

Saimon Sirikwa, a guide in the famous Serengeti National Park, posted a video on social media last week that showed him chatting with a woman and translating her comments in English into Swahili.

The problem was, while the woman was actually making glowing remarks about Tanzanian people being "fabulously wonderful", according to Sirikwa, she was telling locals to stop "complaining" about hunger.

He was arrested for casting Tanzania's tourism ministry in a "bad light", police said, according to the BBC.


Kenyan entertainment news site eDaily translated the conversation into English:

Tourist: "Hi. My visit to Tanzania has been beautiful, gorgeous. The people are fabulously wonderful and friendly. Greetings are always jambo [the Swahili equivalent of Hello].
Happy to be here. The land is beautiful, beautiful. The animals are wonderful."

Sirikwa (translating): "You Tanzanians complain/cry a lot about hunger. Everyday you cry about hunger when you have flowers at home. Why don't you boil the flowers and drink [them]. It is not good to cry/complain about hunger."

Mtafsiri Bora Africa

Posted by Saimon Sirikwa on Monday, 6 February 2017

Tourist: "The variety of animals and people you see is incredible, unlike anywhere else. It is just fabulous."

Sirikwa: "You are asking your president to cook for you. Do you think your president is a cook? Can you get busy, even boil your clothing and eat."

Tourist: "It will be an experience to savour for all of your life. It is fantastic and beautiful and incredible and just unremarkable.

Sirikwa: "Get busy in every corner of the country. The president can't leave State House to cook for you. You have to cook for yourselves."

Sirikwa has made a number of humorous videos, including one in which he impersonated US President Donald Trump.

He and the woman reappeared in a new video, posted two days later, to clarify the mistranslations were all a joke.

"The video was just a comedy," Sirikwa said in the follow-up video.

"It was for fun, and I know there are people who are offended by this video. It was not my intention to hurt anyone. I apologise to my fans and followers. Continue receiving entertainment, but just note my offensive jokes were misunderstood. Thank you."

Saimon Sirikwa was a guide in Tanzania's famous Serengeti National Park. Photo / 123RF
Saimon Sirikwa was a guide in Tanzania's famous Serengeti National Park. Photo / 123RF

But Tanzania's tourism minister Jumanne Maghembe had already taken offence to the first video and ordered for Sirikwa to be arrested.

Regional police commander Jaffari Mohammed told the BBC there was evidence to prove the tour guide he had violated cybercrime legislation by uploading his video.

Tanzania's cybercrime law allows for a minimum fine of about $1700 and a minimum of three months in jail for publishing false, deceptive or misleading information on a computer system, the BBC reports.

The controversial law was introduced in 2015 despite complaints it gave police "too much power".

Sirikwa was charged in a court in Musoma, northern Tanzania. He was not asked to plead and was remanded in police custody, according to the BBC.