THE late President Benjamin Mkapa will be remembered in the media fraternity for playing an integral role in advocating professionalism, ethics and the use of correct and polished language.
President Mkapa, who began his career as a journalist in the mid-1960s at The Nationalist and Uhuru newspapers, joined the ‘Daily News’ and ‘Sunday News’ six years later, as the Managing Editor.
Speaking to the ‘Daily News on Saturday’ in a telephone interview, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports Mr Sethi Kamuhanda said Mkapa laid emphasis on professionalism in journalism.
Kamuhanda said the late Mzee Mkapa always demanded journalists to focus on professional values and was strict in the use of appropriate language in writing.
Mr Kamuhanda further said the former President believed in the role of the media to inform the public with nothing but truth, openness and transparency.
He said Mkapa’s slogan ‘Ukweli na Uwazi’ which means ‘Openness and Transparency’ was the driver for media to operate transparently and openly during his ten-year reign.
“I remember during his tenure, several public institutions and corporate firms were privatised and at one stage, the government decided that Printpak, which operated under the ministry for industry should be sold,” he explained Mr Kamuhanda, who also once served as the Tanzania Standard Newspapers (TSN) as Managing Editor, said there was also advice that TSN should be privatised.
Expounding further he said, in the early stages it was decided to send the stateowned media to Loans and Advances Realisation Trust (LART) an institution that was established to recover loans from indebted companies.
“When the decision came to President Mkapa he refused to privatise TSN and said the government must continue to have its media, in that sense, you can say he helped to keep the company alive, the decision was based on his belief in the importance of the media in informing the public,” he noted.
Another former TSN ME, Mr Ulli Mwambulukutu described Mzee Mkapa as an educated, patriotic, talented writer and a man with high vision.
“He was a talented writer with a good command in English language. He worked with Uhuru and the Nationalist and later became the Managing Editor of TSN,” he said.
According to Mr Mwambulukutu, it was during Mzee Mkapa’s era when Tanzanians witnessed the establishment of private media houses, which brought competition in the media industry.
Mr Mwambulukutu, who later served as Consular in Canada and later at the United Nation’s New York, said Mzee Mkapa was one of the strong speakers who condemned the apartheid regime in South Africa and advocated for freedom for various Southern African countries.
“Even after leaving Ikulu, he continued to resolve many crisis in Africa. He was involved in peace talk in Burundi, Kenya and in many other places,” he said.