FORMER LEADERS’ BENCH WITH DAILY NEWS: Msekwa: Why Union was a necessity

TANZANIANS are deeply proud of the historic Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar but many may not be aware of how the unification process was carried out, and  the role played by Mzee Pius Msekwa in the merger process.

Serving as the first Tanzanian Clerk of the National Assembly, Mzee Msekwa was one of the officials who played a pivotal role in the unification process to form what, on April 26, 1964, came to be known as the United Republic of Tanzania.

Speaking recently to the ‘Daily News’ at his home in Ukerewe District, Mwanza Region, Mzee Msekwa divulged some details on how the merger between Tanganyika and Zanzibar unfolded, and how he facilitated the process through the Parliamentary procedures under the directives of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

He recounted that in December, 1963, the British colonial rule installed a Sultanate rule in  Zanzibar.

According to the CCM political veteran, the decision to place Zanzibar in the hands of Sultan not only infuriated Zanzibaris but also some British people, prompting Afro Shirazi Party (ASP) to start planning for deposing the Sultanate government, a project that materialised in January 1964.

“Toppling the government always creates fear, as  the deposed regime might plan to take revenge and re-take control of its position.This was the case with Zanzibar after deposing the Sultanate rule,” said Mzee Msekwa.

Msekwa said, having removed the Sultanate rule in the archipelago, fear engulfed the Island, as it was thought that the Sultan and his supporters could come back and remove President Abeid Aman Karume from power.

“This situation (fear) prompted Mzee Karume to approach Mwalimu Nyerere, asking for his plans on how to solve the problem,” said Mzee Msekwa, recalling the story he was told by Mwalimu himself.

Msekwa said due to the fact that during the revolution some few police officers who were stationed in Zanzibar supported  the movement against the Sultanate rule, Mwalimu Nyerere promised Mzee Karume that he would send more law enforcers to the Island to bring more stability.

“The first Tanzanian Police Commissioner from Tanganyika to serve in Zanzibar, known as Edington Kisasi, also supported the revolution, that is why he never took any action when other police invaded a police station before making away with firearms and joined other revolutionaries in the streets,” he said.

Having dispatched more police to Zanzibar to stabilise the situation, Mwalimu Nyerere told Mzee Karume that law enforcers alone could not fight Arabs if they made the decision to come back and retaliate.

“Since Zanzibar had no army by then, talks to unite the two sides began, and Mwalimu Nyerere told Mzee Karume that uniting the two countries was important simply because after the unification, the Tanganyika army would be turned into a Union organ,” he said.

He said the good thing about the Tanganyika army by then is that it had started receiving support from the Chinese government, making it a well established organ.

“So, if Arabs dared to return to Zanzibar they would not fight Zanzibaris alone, instead, they would now be fighting with the Union army. That was the basis of the talks for unification,” he recalled.

According to the former Parliament Speaker, talks between Mwalimu Nyerere and Mzee Karume did not take long, saying by April 1964 the two leaders had already agreed to merge the two countries. He said it was an international agreement since two separate nations had agreed to form one nation.

After the two nations merged, Msekwa said,  it is when the legal procedures to make the agreement legal started. He said under the procedures,  the  Tanganyika Parliament and the Revolutionary Council now the House of Representatives had to ratify the agreement. He recalled that by then, the Revolutionary Council of Zanzibar had the mandate to enact laws.

“The two institutions now became the organs charged with the responsibility of ratifying the agreement reached by the two presidents to give it a legal backing,” he said.

It was then agreed that the two organs should convene on the same day of April 25th , 1964, though at different times.

“The Revolutionary Council convened during the morning in Zanzibar, and after ratifying the agreement, the Parliament of Tanganyika convened during the afternoon to carry out the same task,  Msekwa recounted.

When the Revolutionary Council of Zanzibar was ratifying the Unification Bill, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs in the government of Tanganyika, Oscar Kambona was sent to the Island to witness an important event after which he reported back to Mwalimu Nyerere on the new development.

It was also agreed that a representative from the Zanzibar government would witness the Parliament of Tanganyika carrying out the task in Dar es Salaam.

“When I  told Mwalimu Nyerere that the Parliament would convene at 5pm he agreed, telling me that the agenda of the meeting would be ‘a Presidential Address to Parliament’,” he recalled.

Thereafter, Msekwa said, since it was an extraordinary parliamentary meeting (ad hoc meeting) he had to make thorough preparations, including informing Members of Parliament through telephone calls. By then the Parliament had about 71 MPs, an average of three lawmakers from each region, including Regional Commissioners who were MPs on ex official status.

“My job was simple, I just called Regional Commissioners, telling them to inform their MPs to be in Dar es Salaam by Friday,” he said.

According to Mzee Msekwa, the RCs inquired on the reason for the meeting , and he simply answered that the President had convened it and that he was not aware of the agenda. He said all MPs heeded the call.

“On Friday evening ( April 24th, 1964),  I went  to Mwalimu Nyerere to inform him that all lawmakers had arrived in Dar es Salaam , and that the task could now proceed,” he recounted.

He said the following day at 5pm  Mwalimu Nyerere addressed the Parliament, informing MPs and the nation on the reasons that forced him and Mzee Karume to enter into the unification agreement.

In his address to the Parliament, Msekwa said, Mwalimu Nyerere spoke on the brotherhood between Zanzibaris and Mainlanders, and the friendship and cooperation between ASP and TANU leaders.

He said having the Parliament passed the Bill, he (Msekwa) personally took the  document to the State House as Mwalimu Nyerere  had directed.

He said it was at around 8:30pm when he ( Msekwa) submitted the passed Bill to Mwalimu Nyerere. According to Mzee Msekwa, he found Mwalimu in a good mood after which he reacted saying, “bring me a pen” so that he could assent to the Bill.

Having assented to the Bill by putting his famous signature( Julius K. Nyerere), Mzee Msekwa said, they applauded after which Mwalimu asked them to  drink wine. He said there was no grand fete at that particular moment.

Msekwa said Mwalimu Nyerere directed him to take the Bill to the State House immediately after the Parliament had passed it simply because  the Bill contained a section that stipulated that the Union Day should fall on  the following day of April 26, 1964, which was Sunday.

“He wanted to assent to the Bill the same day of April 25th, 1964 (Saturday) so that the following day could be a Union Day. This is the reason why Mwalimu Nyererere instructed me to take the Bill to him immediately after being passed by the Parliament,” Mzee Msekwa said.

According to Mzee Msekwa, the famous picture that shows Mwalimu Nyerere mixing soil in a pot was taken during the commemoration of the first Union anniversary on  April 26, 1965.

On April 27, 1964 (Monday), the Union government started constituting Union organs, including the Union Parliament.

Mwalimu hit the ground running by unveiling his Union government cabinet with Members of  Union Parliament also being sworn in the same day( Monday).

According to Mzee Msekwa, Zanzibar did not hold an election after the revolution. Instead there was a law that gave the president powers to nominate Zanzibaris into the Union Parliament.

“Therefore, Mwalimu Nyerere, in consultation with Mzee Karume, had to nominate Zanzibaris to enter the Union Parliament. I remember about 20 Zanzibaris were nominated to represent  the archipelagos into the Union Parliament.  Members of Parliament from Mainland , under the law, assumed the status of  Union Parliamentary members,” Mzee Msekwa explained.

April 28, 1964 was the day when Mwalimu Nyerere and Mzee Karume exchanged the signed Union documents in the Union Parliament in front of cameras.

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