DEPARTED President Benjamin Mkapa left an indelible mark in Tanzania’s history, and many people who were close to him have a big story to tell.
Simiyu Regional Commissioner Anthony Mtaka was among the few people who had the opportunity to share ideas with Mzee Mkapa. He got the rare chance to speak to the late president who went to see his farm at Turiani in Mvomero District in November 2014.
“At that time I was Mvomero District Commissioner and we spoke for about 10 hours. It was very rare to get a chance to speak to him for that long. It was really a detailed conversation that built my leadership skills and understanding,” Mtaka says.
“I had the opportunity to learn from him and get clarifications on several issues; we talked about leadership and the future of our country. “I asked him several questions on his speeches that he delivered on August 2004 at a CCM Central Committee meeting regarding ‘The Courage of Leadership’.
I also wanted to know his views concerning the decision to remove the names of retired leaders on (chairpersons, vice-chairpersons and secretary-generals) from the CCM Central and National Executive Committees,” His response was that the decision originated from them (retired leaders) with reasons that it would give the President and the Party Chairman more freedom in his leadership role.
Another reason, the late president said, was to dispel the media notion that if the retired leaders had not attended such meetings of the CCM central and national executive committees it was a boycott against the Chairman.
The retired leaders advised for the formation of a Council of Elders to fulfill which would advise the president or the CCM Chairman. The decision only removed the retired leaders as permanent Central and National Executive members but did not rule out the possibility of being invited to such meetings.
“I also asked the late president about his views on privatization policy. I was humbled to know that he has seen and read how analysts have received it. “What amazed me were the people who were against the policy as they focused on the areas where privatization did not go well,” Mtaka says.
“I wondered why those people did not provide examples on such areas as the NBC Bank which gave birth to NMB Bank, the Tanzania Cigarette Company (TCC) and the well-functioning sugar factories, just to mention few.”
Mtaka continues: “I also wanted to hear from him regarding his decision to handover the party chairmanship to the new President before the party’s General Congress. He answered that it was the best moment for the new President to take that responsibility while he was still on a political honeymoon as he would be burdened with other responsibilities.”
“I also asked him why he did not comment on issues that happened in the party between 2008 and 2014. He responded by saying it was wise for retired leaders to observe silence as there is a slight margin between making advice and commenting or criticizing.
“The conversation was so good that I could not give him the chance to relax. I wanted to know more and more. Hence, I asked him why he did not appoint Comrade Abdulrahman Kinana in any position even though he was his campaign manager. His answer was that he wanted to do so but Kinana always rejected.
“When the East African Community (EAC) was revived, the late president Mkapa nominated Kinana as the East African Parliament Speaker, which he agreed. Mtaka also asked the departed president what he did on the first day of his presidency after entering the State House.
“He told me, he wrote a hand-written letter to his predecessor President Ali Hassan Mwinyi thanking him for the whole process of electing him to the highest seat on land and seeking Mwinyi’s advice in running the country.” When I asked him about his views on the 2015 presidential race, he declined and lived up to the idea that as retired leaders he remained silent.
When I mentioned the names 13 people, he only responded with a head shake. When I mentioned Dr John Magufuli, he smiled with excitement.
“An assistant to the late Mzee Mkapa who was present during our conversation told me that I was lucky to have such a long time with the fallen Third Phase President and it will surely be the most memorable moment in my life time. The assistant photographed us climaxing our conversation.”