PROFOUND grief engulfed the nation since Tanzanians received the news of the death of former president, John Magufuli, who died in Dar es Salam last week from heart complications.
His death left his people in disbelief following his outstanding performance in spearheading social and economic changes in the country. Cries rented the air creating a somber mood as thousands of people flocked stadiums and lined up in streets to pay their final goodbye to their beloved president.
People could not hide their emotions as a motorcade and a hearse carrying the body of the former president passed in various streets in Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Zanzibar, Mwanza and Geita regions to allow people to pay their last respects. While some wailed others placed pieces of khanga, clothes where the procession carrying the late president body could pass as a sign of respect to their great leader.
From the scorching sun the short lived rains that blessed the earth last Sunday, Tanzanians did not seem to mind the weather at all. They filled the Uhuru stadium in Dar es Salaam to the brim to bid farewell to their fallen leader and a hero who touched hearts and lives of ordinary people.
The huge turn up of people to bid final farewell to the departed president showed clearly he was indeed a great leader touched the hearts and lives of his people at all levels.
“Tanzania has about 55 million people. It does not mean that I deserve this position than the rest of you, but it was the season and time that God wanted me to be the president of Tanzania. That is why I will never stand anywhere to boast and deem myself worthy, because God might have chosen anybody to be the president,” commented president Magufuli in one of his speeches.
He has been often reminding his lieutenants that they were just representatives of so many Tanzanians thus they should work for the people and solve challenges facing them.
“I am happy when I see leaders in villages finding solutions to the challenges facing their societies,” he said as he insisted, if we decide to work hard and make hard decision we can change the nation which has a variety of potential,” he said.
Immediately after he assumed office, President Magufuli scrapped fee for secondary education meaning that children in Tanzania would get free education from primary to secondary school. He set aside 18.77b/- for financing the programme from primary to secondary education.
“I decided to do so because our children, especially those from poor families have been sent back home because their parents could not pay school fees. This is the main reason behind the government decision to provide free education,” said president Magufuli in one of his speeches.
In most of his tours, Dr Magufuli used to stop his motorcade to listen to people who had various problems and resolved some of them instantly. During his lifetime president Magufuli made various initiatives that aimed at enriching the lives of people in the country, the former president also introduced Identity Cards (IDs) for petty traders that were intended to ease their trading activities.
The petty traders were issued with the IDs that enabled them to conduct their businesses without being disturbed by either city militias because the IDs were recognised by Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA). A Dar es Salaam resident from Tabata who sell of ornaments, Dickson Steven said that he knew Magufuli as a hero who defended low income earners, including himself.
“As a small scale entrepreneur I had the privilege to work and earn a living without being disturbed by city authorities compared to the previous years. “He protected us by issuing special identity cards which made us do our businesses smoothly. I will heed his words and keep working hard. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” he commented.
A food vendor and a resident of Mabibo, Ms Razia Abdi said that she remembered President Magufuli as a person who stood by his principles and vowed Tanzanians should benefit from national resources.
“He allowed us to use places which are even restricted for business ... we can now do business everywhere without harassment. He was a man of the people and I pray for him so that his soul may rest in eternal peace,” He was a strong leader. Let us remember him for what he did for us. I hope the coming leader will see our trouble just like he did and recognize our contribution,” she said.
Another petty trader, Ms Grace Gasper from Manzese said she was saddened by the death of former president Magufuli and was always grateful for what he did to help the poor.
“I came to work at Manzese Market as a small entrepreneur and after I got my identity card, which enabled me to do my business smoothly, I have increased my income. I hope and pray his successor continue to help the poor. May God grant him eternal peace.”
A motorcyclist from Temeke, Charles Sahani said the late Magufuli managed to bring positive changes in so many areas to help the poor. “I pray that we get a leader who will be hardworking and passionate about the poor,” he said. The late president touched the hearts of those with disabilities through various ways, said Bernadeta Ditrik, a Rickshaw driver from Buza.
“It was a sad day for me when I learned about the death of President John Magufuli. I feel sorrowful because he was a person who helped people with disabilities. He supported us when no leader who even thought a person with disabilities like me could drive a rickshaw in the city centre. It was not possible in the past, but when he assumed power he made it happen. I earn a decent living despite my physical condition. I pray for him. It was because of him we were loaned to help us be self-employed. May God give us a good leader like him,” she said.
On the other hand, a food vendor from Manzese, Ms Aysha Isaka said that she would remember former president John Magufuli for his wits, guts and powerful influence he had to fight for the poor. “He hated poverty and did one thing that we all appreciate very much. He encouraged people to work hard and gave us hope that Tanzania will prosper on its own. He always said we would prosper if we all believed in ourselves.”