BENJAMIN Mkapa’s body was heroically laid to rest in a family plot in Masasi District, Mtwara region, with political and religious leaders paying glowing tribute to Tanzania’s third phase president.
It marked the end of an extraordinary journey of Benjamin William Mkapa that began 81 years ago. The celebrated Tanzanian leader died on Thursday July 23, 2020 after suffering cardiac arrest.
His sudden demise left the country grief-stricken as seven-day national mourning was declared.
The icon Mkapa was buried at a ceremony in his home village of Lupaso on the sixth day of a week of commemorations for the man credited with massive economic reforms of the country.
Top government officials, hundreds of public servants representing their institutions joined thousands of ordinary citizens who jam-packed the Lupaso home village of the late Mkapa to give their last respects and bury the globally-known Mkapa.
Mourners started flowing from as early as around 6am, with the 11-kilometre road stretch from Masasi—Newala highway experiencing its busiest moment ever as hundreds of vehicles and pedestrians were heading to the village. The official event began at around 8am with the requiem mass at home of Mzee Mkapa.
The requiem mass lasted for two hours, thereafter mourners paid their last respect to the departed hero.
The late Mkapa was laid to rest a day after a funeral ceremony led by President John Magufuli on Tuesday held at the Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam, an event attended by top government leaders, foreign dignitaries, celebrities and members of diplomatic missions serving in the country.
Immediately after the state funeral, the body of late Mkapa was transported onboard a military chopper to Masasi and lay at his ancestral home for a night before yesterday’s heroic burial.
The burial was attended by tens of hundreds of mourners at the remote village.
President Magufuli, V ice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Z anzibar Ali Mohamed Shein and Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa led their fellow Tanzanians to bid the final farewell to their hero.
Also in attendance were the former Presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Jakaya Kikwete, retired Prime Ministers -- Frederick Sumaye, who served for ten years under Mkapa, John Malecela, Joseph Warioba and former V ice- President Mohamed G harib Bilal.
Others included Speaker of the Parliament Mr Job Ndugai his Deputy Tulia Ackson and Speaker of House of Representatives Zubeir Ali Maulid, C hief Justice Ibrahim Hamis Juma, CCM Vice-Chairman Philip Mangula and CCM Secretary General Bashiru Ally, former Speaker Anne Makinda, Chief Secretary Ambassador John Kijazi, ministers and their deputies as well as top officials of the law enforcing organs.
The Tanzanian flag draped-coffin was placed beneath a lectern where speakers paid their tributes after requiem mass. Procession to the gravesite started at 14: 31pm as the army procedure took over with a full military guard of honour.
Pallbearers (colonels) placed Mkapa’s casket over the grave as the national anthem was played.
Sombre mood engulfed the entire place as the body was lowered to the grave at exactly 15:05pm by eight Brigadier G enerals and later, a 21-gun salute was performed.
This is the second State funeral with full civilian and military ceremonial honours, largely mirroring that of Tanzania’s founding President Julius Nyerere in O ctober 1999.
After the church and military procedures, the service heard from a family spokesman Mr William Erio, who thanked the Tanzania Episcopal C onference ( TEC ) , government, army, medical team that had treated Mr Mkapa before he died.
He called on Tanzanians to continue praying for the late Mkapa as well the bereaved family.
The week-long funeral arrangements, which culminate today, have been organised and supervised by a State Funeral Committee.
It comprised senior government officials, including Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, Zanzibar Second Vice-President Ambassador Seif Ali Idd and Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) General Venance Mabeyo.
Others are Inspector General of Police (IGP) Simon Sirro, Commissioner General of Immigration Anna Peter Makakala, Tanzania Intelligence and Security Service (TISS) Director G eneral Diwani Athuman Msuya and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for Policy, Parliamentary Affairs, Labour, Employment, Y outh and the Disabled Jenista Mhagama.