THE sun shone brightly, the wind blew gently through the Lupaso village in Masasi District, as Tanzania’s third-phase President, Mzee Mkapa was laid in his final resting place.
It is here where the eight decades-long journey of a man who leaves behind an incredible legacy, began.
Filled with an overwhelming mixture of sadness, emotion and pride, past and present leaders eulogised the country’s iconic leader.
Former presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Jakaya Kikwete led the way, paying fitting tribute to fellow retired statesman, saying he lived his life well.
The two leaders described the late Mkapa as an anti-poverty cru sader, leaving his legacy of lifting the country’s economy.
Shortly before the body of the iconic leader was lowered to the grave, the two retired presidents were invited to the podium by President John Magufuli, to give their messages of condolence.
Kikwete was the first to speak, describing Mkapa as a strong leader, whose life had been a record of troubles he endured in transforming the county’s struggling economy at that time.
Kikwete, the fourth-phase President, spoke highly of the fallen leader, saying he led this nation to remain united, prosper economically and successfully swim in the deep waters and wave of globalisation.
He said Mzee Mkapa laid a strong foundation, which has produced a massive outcome todate in propelling the country into the middle income status before scheduled time.
He also hailed the late Mkapa as a ‘man of action’ who ‘combined theory and practice’, who made major social and economic reforms in the country.
The reforms, he said, were taken in response to the economic crisis that had persisted in the country and the world as a whole since the early years of 1980s.
“Mzee Mkapa leadership saw the need to formulate a new economic and social development V ision 2025 for Tanzania, which emanated from the outcomes of economic reforms - especially those which were pursued since 1986.
“It is Mkapa who came up with V ision 2025 and his desire was to see per capita income top 3,000 US dollars by envisaged time. We have now attained the middle income status but we still need to reach that target of 3,000 US dollar per capital as per Mkapa’s wish… .I believe under strong leadership of President John Magufuli, that feat will be attained.
“The journey is long but we will reach there soon. What we did during my time, we came up with three phases of a five-year development plan in order to attain the vision. In the first five years, we dwelt on unleashing growth potential for Tanzania and the second was industrialisation drive, which is currently being implemented by the fifth phase government,” Kikwete said.
Mzee Kikwete said the third phase was to enhance Tanzania competitiveness in the region and global markets.
“These plans were the vision of Mkapa and he has gone but he has left us with the wherewithal to propel the vision. He knew quite well that most Tanzanians were poor and this is why his leadership established the Tanzania Social Action Fund and several other development plans,” said Kikwete.
Kikwete’s voice was filled with emotion as he spoke of how he worked and prospered under a person he considered his brother and close friend.
“It is difficult in a time like this to get fitting words to describe and bid farewell to my brother Ben Mkapa. I’ve known him for many years since I was a student, while he was an editor and later minister.
Mr Kikwete said he met Mkapa for the first time when he (Mkapa) was a legislator of Nanyumbu, while he (Kikwete) was Masasi District Secretary of TANU later C C M.
“As his secretary, we worked closely even when he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs,” Serving a position of Foreign Affairs Minister required him travelling regularly outside the country, but despite this, Mzee Mkapa also regularly visited his constituency when he got chances.
“This gave me a lesson when I also became lawmaker for C halinze during when he was the President and appointed me as Foreign Minister,” he said adding “Farewell my dear brother, my mentor, my leader.”
Expressing his sorrow over the demise of Mzee Mkapa, the second-phase President Mwinyi explained it was the intention of every president to see poverty alleviated because it was hitting Tanzania hard.
“Mkapa was a very good person, kind and hard working. These qualities brought benefits to our country in fighting poverty and improving the economy,” Mzee Mwinyi started. Having been born in 1925, Mzee Mwinyi said he experienced high levels of poverty in the past.
“When people paid their last respects I saw everyone wearing sandals or shoes. It may look normal to you but to me it is a great thing because I did not wear shoes in my childhood,” he said when trying to give a picture of how poverty hit citizens.
Adding: “I wore shoes only twice: first when I was circumcised and when I was 13 years old.. I sold cloves and used the money to buy shoes.” He said that was the situation of poverty that faced the country, therefore every president had a task to reduce it, and the late Mkapa did it well.