…Why the change of date enthrilled Mwalimu Nyerere
DID you know that Christmas changed the cause of Tanzania Mainland history?
Indeed, Taganyika was supposed to attain her independence on December 20th, 1961 and not December 9th, 1961?
Former Speaker of National Assembly, Pius Msekwa has shared a hint on what caused the change of the date.
Speaking recently during an interview with him at his home in Ukerewe District, Mwanza Region, Mzee Msekwa said the initial agreement between Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, under Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) and the British colonial government was to grant Tanganyika her independence on December 20th 1961.
According to Mzee Msekwa, the change of date resulted from religious beliefs of the British monarchy that was by then, under the then Queen Elizabeth II. Elizabeth II was coronated Queen of England on June 2nd, 1953. She passed away last year aged 96 years.
Records show that Elizabeth II technically became Queen a few years before that at the age 25 following the death of her father- King George VI.
Mzee Msekwa said the change of independence date enthrilled Mwalimu Nyerere, bearing in mind that he was eager to see Tanganyika becoming a free nation as quickly as possible.
“The initial agreement to grant Tanganyika her independence on December 20th 1961 made Mwalimu happy to an extent that he made a placard with the writing reading ‘COMPLETE INDEPENDENCE 1961’,” recalled Mzee Msekwa.
He said after the British delegation reported back to London on the developments in Tanganyika, including the agreed date for granting Tanganyika her independence, Queen Elizabeth II made a decision that the task (granting independence) would be carried out by her husband Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Mzee Msekwa said, since, according to the calendar, December 20th falls within the Christmas week and that the Head of the Monarchy is also the Head of the Church of England, it was necessary for the members of the family of the Queen to be together during that period.
“Given the fact the family of Queen Elizabeth II attaches due importance to Christmas festival she found it not good to spend the week leading to the festival without her husband who was supposed to be in Tanganyika,” Msekwa said.
He added that the Queen therefore rejected the proposal to grant independence to Tanganyika on December 20th, 1961, as the day was not ideal to them as rulers, instead, she changed the date to December 9th, 1961.
“Having carried out internal consultations in London, they demanded us to ask Mwalimu Nyerere if he would be comfortable if they granted independence to Tanganyika on December 9th, 1961, and Mwalimu replied that, as long as it was in the same year (1961) and at an earlier day he would be much excited,” Msekwa recalled.
What happened after independence
Msekwa said after Tanganyika gained her independence on December 9th, 1961 Mwalimu Nyerere convened Tanganyika Africa National Union (TANU) meeting in January 1962 to start the process of writing a new Constitution.
“Mwalimu convened TANU meeting so that he could get the blessings of the party in writing the new Constitution he wanted, given the fact that Tanganyika was still using the Mother Law that was imported from London,” he explained.
He said later Mwalimu Nyerere had to resign from the post of Prime Minister, with Mr Rashid Kawawa taking over the post. It should be remembered that, during this time the Queen, who was being represented by Governor- General, was still the Head of State.
“This system of leadership required all laws passed by the Parliament to be assented by Governor-General on behalf of the Queen simply because all laws are assented by the Head of State. Since then to to-date this arrangement is in use,” he stressed.
According to Msekwa, the process of writing the new Constitution of Tanganyika lasted a year during which the decision to make Tanganyika a Republic was also made. The decision was aimed at discarding the system of having the Queen as the Head of State.
“When the nation attains the Republic status the Head of State or President usually becomes a leader, who is elected by wananchi,” Msekwa said.
The veteran politician said the process of writing the new Constitution was completed in November 1962. The laws governing presidential elections, by this time, had also been passed by the Parliament.
In the same month of November 1962, Msekwa said, a presidential election was held with TANU fielding Mwalimu Nyerere as its candidate. He was challenged by Zuberi Mtemvu from Africa National Congress (ANC), who had defected from TANU.
Mtemvu left TANU after he opposed the party’s stand that wanted people of other races to remain in the country and be granted citizenship.
“He wanted Tanganyika to be the land of Africans. He didn’t want Indians and Europeans to be granted citizenship. He just wanted a free Tanganyika to be for Africans only,” Msekwa said.
The presidential results announced gave Mwalimu Nyerere huge victory. He was sworn in to take the reins of the nation as Head of State on December 9th 1962, the day of the first independence anniversary. So, Mwalimu Nyerere became the President of the Republic of Tanganyika on December 9th, 1962 under the new country’s constitution.
Mwalimu appoints Msekwa as Clerk of the National Assembly
Msekwa said December 9th, 1962 was a memorable day for him simply because after Mwalimu Nyerere took the presidential oath of office, he appointed him to the post of Clerk of the National Assembly.
It should be remembered that Msekwa was hired by the colonial government to work as an assistant Clerk to the National Assembly a year before independence. By then, he had just completed studies at Makerere University, and was still waiting for his final examination results.
According to Mzee Msekwa, he was appointed to the post of Clerk of the National Assembly after the British national, who was serving in the post left the position vacant.
“During this period non-Tanzanians had left various posts vacant as the new laws enacted by Parliament of Tanganyika made it a prerequisite condition for all posts in the civil service and other leadership positions in the government to be occupied by Tanzanian citizens. The new Constitution removed all non-citizens from the positions, including the Speaker, who was known as Karimjee, a British national,” Msekwa said.
Chief Adam Sapi Mkwawa was elected the first Tanzanian national to hold the position of Speaker after Karimjee left the post vacant, with him (Msekwa) becoming the first Tanzanian to occupy the position of the Clerk of the National Assembly.
“Since one of the constitutional obligations of the President after being elected is to inaugurate the Parliament, Mwalimu Nyerere inaugurated the House on December 10th, 1962, a day after being sworn in. He did, so under Speaker Mkwawa and I, as new Clerk to the National Assembly,” Msekwa recalled.
He said his appointment to the position of Clerk of the National Assembly opened a new chapter of working relations with Mwalimu Nyerere since all the laws passed by the Parliament were required to be submitted to the Head of State for presidential assent by signing.
Mzee Msekwa said after starting serving as the Clerk to the National Assembly, he came up with a new arrangement of taking the bills passed by the Parliament to the Head of State in person instead of using messengers.
The law to scrap chiefdoms
Msekwa said after independence, several bills including the Bill to scrap chiefdoms were brought to Parliament for deliberations.
He said after the bill on chiefdoms was passed by the House, Msekwa took it in person to Mwalimu Nyerere for presidential assent.
“When I took the Bill to Mwalimu Nyerere for assent he asked me on what was the situation in Parliament during deliberations. He inquired to know if the bill had faced stiff resistance in the House, but I told him that there wasn’t any sort of opposition to the bill as all legislators who contributed to the debate for the bill, including Chief Abdallah Fundikira, supported it,” Msekwa said.
Mwalimu expressed his happiness at the new system devised by Speaker Msekwa of submitting all the bills passed by the Parliament to the Head of State by the speaker himself. “Since then, we cultivated close and good working relations.”
According to Msekwa, chiefdoms were disbanded for the objective of building one nation. He said since chiefs were tribal leaders it would have been impossible to bring unity and oneness in the nation under such system.
Msekwa continued serving as Clerk of the National Assembly until 1970. He also witnessed the merger between Tanganyika and Zanzibar while serving in the sane capacity.