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The unwritten biography of the late President Julius Nyerere (2)

MY article of last week was about the unwritten biography of our founder-President, the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, in which I expressed my forlorn desire to write that biography, since, in the limited editorial space available for this column, I could only give a small sample of the events that would form part of such biography.

“Mheshimiwa, you should tell us more about Nyerere”; was the encouraging reaction , I received from some of our young readers; while a respected former University of Dar es Salaam don, Professor Sospeter Muhongo, opined thus: “This article itself ought to be a stimulus for UDSM scholars to write Mwalimu Nyerere’s biography”. Well, hopefully!

I was thus encouraged to write this additional article, in order to add a few nuggets that might help to raise some more public interest in Mwalimu Nyerere’s biography. His little known major achievements One additional such nugget, is the following littleknown, but major achievement by Mwalimu Nyerere, who had an intense dislike for pomposity.

In my Kiswahili book titled “Uongozi na Utawala wa Mwalimu Nyerere” (Nyambari Nyangwine Publishers, Da es Salaam, 2012); I have described a few incidents, wherein he clearly demonstrated this dislike, but, unwittingly, I omitted to include this subtle, ingenious, strategy, which Mwalimu Nyerere employed in changing the slavish mentality of Tanzanians (and probably of many other Africans as well); namely that of treating their Rulers, i.e. those individuals who wielded power over them; as a kind of semi-Gods, or a special species of human beings, who were highly elevated far above all others; and who were thus given specialized designations in order to distinguish them from all other fellow human beings.

I am here referring to the tribal Chiefs (or Kings), who were the pillars of the tribal communities. For example, the pre-independence Rulers of the then Tanganyika who were given a variety of awe-generating tribal designations, easily confirms this assertion.

There were such exalted designations as “Omushumbusi” (the anointed one), for King Thomas Marealle of the Wachaga; and “Itobangula buziba” (he who creates storms in the sea), for Chief Michael Lukumbuzya of Ukerewe; and so on and so forth.

But even outside Tanganyika, there was, for example, the designation “Sabassaja” (husband of husbands) for King Frederick Mutesa II of the Buganda Kingdom in Uganda; and several others. Hence, presumably with that kind of mindset; Tanzanians quickly invented the Kiswahili designation of “Mtukufu Rais”, as the Kiswahili designation for the first President of the then Republic of Tanganyika.

This is where Mwalimu Nyerere, who hated pomposity, scored this little-known achievement. He promptly issued directives to forbid the use of that pompous designation; and to refer to him simply as “ Mwalimu Nyerere, Rais wa Tanganyika”.

This action, plus the abolition of the colonial ‘Chiefs’ Ordinance’ in 1963; were President Nyerere’s momentous decisions which completely changed the mindset of the people of this country in relation to such pomposity; and this would surely deserve a prominent place in his biography.

Further insights into President Nyerere’s “highs” and “lows” Continue from where we left off last week, we will start with one of his ‘moments of happiness’, namely the occasion of his voluntary retirement from the Presidency in 1985; this was an occurrence which, literally, “speaks volumes” about his unique personal character because, under ordinary circumstances, the voluntary abandonment of such high office is a most unusual event.

And, considering the fact that his voluntary retirement from the Presidency was, actually, his second action of a voluntary abandonment of the country’s highest state office, after his earlier resignation from the Premiership in January 1962, (a mere one month after the country had gained independence, with him at the helm as the country); an absolutely rare action which caused great shock to many people, as well as unbelievable surprise to many others.

For example, in his book titled: “Two African Statesmen : Kaunda of Zambia and Nyerere of Tanzania” (Martin Secker & Warburg, London); The editor, John Hatch, expressed such shock, or utter disbelief, in the following words: “It is virtually unknown for a politician to surrender his office voluntarily. It is certainly unique for a man to lead his country into independence, and then, almost immediately, retire from the top leadership position”.

Thus, Mwalimu Nyerere only repeated the same action in 1985, when he happily retired from Tanzania’s Presidency. The fact that he gave Tanzanians plenty of notice of his intention to do so, is strong evidence to prove that this decision was indeed his own, and was a voluntary, deliberate, and carefully thought out plan of action.

For he announced that intention in his nomination acceptance speech in 1975; when he gave notice that he was accepting such nomination for the last time, and that he would like to continue serving the country in a different capacity, under another President.

These were totally unprecedented, unique initiatives taken by Mwalimu Jullius Nyerere, which provide very useful lessons on the subject of ‘leadership ethics’. Some other insights Mwalimu Nyerere’s other ‘moments of happiness’ include the adoption by Parliament, of two legislative measures that he had personally initiated.

Although they may appear to be minor and insignificant ; But they were, in fact, of great value and impact in advancing Mwalimu Nyerere’s ideals of fairness and justice, to the deserving parties.

One was the enactment of the “Dares Salaam Club (dissolution)” law in December, 1963; which dissolved what was known as “The Dar es Salaam Club”, a blatant racial English Club whose membership was restricted to Europeans only, an anachronism in newly independent Tanganyika.

To illustrate his immense delight, he signed the Bill into law on that same day; and instructed the Minister for Home Affairs Hon. Job Lusinde, to supervise the immediate closure of that Club, plus the nationalization of its assets by the Government.

That former Club building, is what now houses the Court of Appeal of Tanzania. The other measure was the enactment of the “Chiefs (Abolition of Office, Consequential Provisions)” law, also of 1963.

As a consequence of the enactment of the “Abolition of the Chiefs’ Ordinance in early 1963, Chief Thomas Marealle, (Mangi Mkuu of the Wachaga), had taken the Kilimanjaro District Council to court, claiming compensation and damages for loss of office, and of the remuneration and earnings he would have received for the rest of his life, accruing from holding that office.

A sympathetic British Judge of the High Court had awarded him a hefty 45,000 sterling pounds as such compensation, but which President Nyerere considered to be absolutely unfair and unwarranted.

Hence, he caused the introduction to Parliament, of a Bill to indemnify Moshi District Council from paying the awarded damages. The Bill was unanimously adopted, and he expressed his happiness upon signing it into law.

Some of Mwalimu Nyerere’s moments of depression after retirement On the other side of the equation, are some of Mwalimu Nyerere’s ‘low moments’; Whereby, on a number of separate occasions, he encountered some cruel, depressing moments, they include the following random selection:-(i) The Bunge resolution on the introduction of a ‘three-government’ Union structure, 1983; (ii) The continuing constitutional prohibition of private candidates’ participation in elections; and (iii) the granting of unfair compensation to Chief Thomas Marealle, 1963.

The Bunge resolution on the structure of the Union This event occurred in August, 1993, during Bunge’s ordinary Budget session for that physical year; as a result of an unprecedented, but successful, ‘rebellion’, by the back-bench members of the ruling party; who deliberately passed that resolution , despite the fact that it was in opposition to their own party’s established “two-government” Union structure.

And, indeed, in so doing, they brought about a serious internal political crisis, which took CCM a whole year to grapple with, fortunately closely aided by the personal intervention, and iconic influence, of Mwalimu Nyerere, who had by then retired also from the national Chairmanship of CCM; But who suddenly emerged and played a crucial and vital role in finding a solution to that crisis Why the CCM MPs did so, is a long, juicy story, fit for another day; Because we are here concerned only with describing Mwalimu Nyerere’s manifest agony and anguish, factors that were rendered to him by that particular Bunge resolution.

He was, therefore, absolutely determined to have that resolution withdrawn. Hence, he devoted most of his time working to find an acceptable solution to this crisis.

Mwalimu Nyerere was, of course, the author of the ‘twogovernment’ Union structure, and he also sincerely believed, that the ‘three-government’ structure was unworkable, and would definitely result in the dismantling of this Union.

It is for that reason that he invested much of his energy, and leadership skills, to rescue the Union from such possible disaster.

This involved his having to make numerous trips, shuttling between Butiama (his retirement home), and Dar es Salaam, and Dodoma, in his efforts to try and persuade President Mwinyi, and the CCM National Executive Committee, to have that Bunge resolution reversed.

Eventually, the CCM NEC settled on a strategy that actually worked, which was to conduct a referendum among all CCM members, in order to determine the issue.

Finally, Mwalimu Nyerere succeeded, because the referendum results gave victory to the ‘ two-government structure’; and the CCM MPs were left with no option other than to accept defeat; which they gracefully did, and thereafter went back to Parliament to rescind their earlier resolution, which was done on 24th August, 1994.

As the old adage says; “all is well that ends well”. The Constitutional prohibition on private candidates in elections Because of editorial space limitations, we can only refer very briefly to Mwalimu Nyerere’s pertinent remarks, which he made regarding this prohibition, that clearly indicate his strong dissatisfaction with that prohibition, and this is the factor that places its continued existence in the category of his ‘low moments’.

The said remarks were made during his comprehensive, wide ranging speech, which he delivered in Mbeya on May Day 1995; in the course of which, Mwalimu Nyerere said the following:- “Ninalo tatizo moja, na ninataka kulisema hapa kwa sababu naona kuwa ni la msingi sana. Mimi nadhani sheria zetu zimekosea kabisa kwa kuzuia wagombea binafsi. Hili ni jambo la msingi, kwa sababu linahusu haki ya mtu kugombea na kupigiwa kura, Hiyo ni haki yake ya Uraia, ambayo huwezi kumnyima”.

However, despite his obvious crusade for the rights of the private candidate in elections; That prohibition has not yet been lifted. The unfair award of damages to Chief Thomas Marealle We have already referred above, to the court action which was taken by Chief Thomas Marealle in 1963, consequent upon the enactment of the colonial “Abolition of Chiefs’ Ordinance” in early 1963; and Mwalimu Nyerere’s rapid response thereto.

The occurrence of that event had, in fact, greatly disturbed Mwalimu Nyerere’s peace of mind, and had given him a few sleepless nights while he was searching for a viable solution; until his British Attorney General, Roland Brown, came to his rescue by suggesting that Parliamentary route (and drafting the required legislation that prohibited the implementation of the court award), which solved that nasty problem without much ado.

piomsekwa@gmail.com / 0754767576.

Author: Pius Msekwa

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