Tanzania -South African cultural ties go next level

THE recent visit of Tanzania’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for Culture, Arts and Sports, Saidi Yakubu to South Africa has cemented the cultural and sports ties between the two countries.

The Permanent Secretary led a well-represented delegation which also included Fatma Hamadi Rajab, the Isles Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports. For the Tanzania delegation, the trip also intended to be a follow up and implementation of decisions reached during the successful state visit of President Samia Suluhu Hassan, last March at the invitation of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

During the visit, President Samia attended a business forum, visited the Freedom Park and held official talks with her counterpart as part of the Bi-National Commission meeting.

During the official talks, the two Presidents reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in several areas including in the Sports, Arts and culture sectors. At the iconic Freedom Park, as the solemn last Post trumpet was being played, the President laid a wreath in remembrance of the fallen heroes of the liberation struggle.

In her remarks, she made a promise that Tanzania will provide the names of those who contributed and paid the ultimate sacrifice during or after the liberation struggle to be included in the Wall of Names at the Park. And true to Her Excellency’s promise, the Permanent Secretary Yakubu was instructed to come with names of those fallen heroes and heroines from Tanzania and these were handed over to the Freedom Park officials.

The Freedom Park situated in Pretoria, is a memorial to honour those who sacrificed their lives to win freedom. As late Nelson Mandela puts it “…. those who endured the pain so we can experience the joy of freedom…” The elements of the Park include among others, a symbolic resting place for those who sacrificed their lives in the struggle, a symbolic burial ground, a Wall of Names, an eternal flame, a gallery of leaders and an exhibition place. Permanent Secretary Yakubu and his delegation also visited a few historical and heritage sites in Pretoria and Cape Town including the history-rich Robben Island and the Freedom Park.

They also held talks with the officials from the South Africa Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture for benchmarking purposes during which they expressed their readiness to assist in the teaching of Kiswahili in the primary schools in line with the signed agreement between the two countries.

The delegation also had the opportunity to take part in the Africa Day celebrations on the May 25th 2023 and the colorful and vibrant cultural exhibition organized by the diplomatic community in South Africa to commemorate the Africa Day where there were performances of traditional dances, music, fashion shows and display of cuisine from across the continent.

Tanzania delegation travelled to South Africa together with the Safi group, an acrobatic and dancing troupe from Dar es Salaam, which performed impressively at the Africa Day celebration and received a resounding ovation. The Tanzania entourage was the only invitees outside South Africa to take part in the celebrations. Africa Day is well recognized and celebrated in South Africa.

Tanzania and South Africa have finalized an MOU on Sports and Culture which is expected to be signed soon by the two respective ministers. The objective of the MOU is to promote mutual beneficial cooperation in the field of arts, culture and heritage for the purpose of developing activities, programmes and projects for cultural and artistic exchange.

However, even before the official inking of the MOU, sports and culture activities between the two countries have continued to thrive and this is mainly attributed to the good historical connection between the two countries emanating from the close relationship during the liberation struggle.

Tanzania was an active participant during the liberation struggle and provided shelters and training for the freedom fighters from across the Southern Africa region including those from South Africa. To date, Tanzania through the Ministry for Culture, Arts, and Sports, continues to preserve some of these iconic liberation struggle monuments and sites in some areas across the country such as Mazimbu, Kongwa, Mgagao, Dakawa, Farm 17 etc.

It is little wonder therefore that this Tanzania and South African sports, arts and cultural cooperation, bears a strong mark to these important historical past events. The two ministries have over the years been in the forefront in fostering closer country and people to people relations through cultural programmes and activities. Last year, South Africa Department of Sports, Arts and Culture organized a successful South Africa cultural season from November 17th to December 4th, 2022 in Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Morogoro and Zanzibar.

The Department met with stake holders including the media, government officials, business persons, intellectual and academics, artists and youth. Many activities were carried out such as public lectures, film festivals, mural painting, craft exhibition shows, fashion shows and others. It was a well-organized cultural season.

The South Africa delegation had also the opportunity to visit some of liberation historical sites including SOMAFCO – the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College at Mazimbu in Morogoro. The two countries have also been doing well in the field of sports with South Africa’s plan to host the Netball World Cup in Cape Town later this year now in full swing and Tanzania keenly eyeing to host AFCON in the near future.

Twiga Stars, Tanzania women under 17 football team is a regular participant of the yearly COSAFA tournaments hosted in South Africa. Much more is also happening at the men’s football teams, especially at the club level. In 2021 we saw football giants Simba Sports Club and Kaizer Chiefs meeting at the CAF Champions League quarter-finals.

Also, in 2022 Simba met with Orlando Pirate in the CAF Confederation Cup quarter-finals. This year it was Marumo Gallants from Limpopo and the Dar es Salaam Young African Sports Club (Yanga) facing each other on the pitch. In the first match between Marumo Gallants and Dar Young African Sports Club played in Dar es Salaam, Marumo Gallants lost 2-0.

In a show of sportsmanship, but also with the past liberation struggle clearly in mind, when welcoming the Yanga team at the OR Tambo airport for the return leg, the Marumo Gallants team Manager said they deliberately to lost their first game in Dar es Salaam as a way of showing respect to Nyerere’s contribution to the liberation struggle.

And they expected Yanga team to return the favour during their second leg match. However, Yanga understandably responded by saying “Thank you but thank you” and went on to win the return leg. For them the adage “a good turn deserves another” was reserved for the next time. The rest is history. The highly motivated Young African Sports Club reached the final of the tournament and narrowly missed lifting the coveted continental cup.

There is a thin line between culture, sports issues and tourism matters. As such, many stakeholders from both countries attend each other’s cultural and tourism events such as Karibu-Kili Fair, Swahili Expo, Film Festival, Jahazi Festival, Kizimkazi Festival, Tourism Indabas etc.

And in this blending between Arts, Culture, Sports and Tourism, new nomenclatures such as sports tourism, cultural tourism, craft exhibitions are noticeably emerging and becoming increasingly popular.

All in all we see an increasing sports and cultural activities between the two countries and the evidence is there that the two ministries have what it takes to propel the two countries to a deeper sports and cultural cooperation.

The writer is the High Commissioner of Tanzania to South Africa, Major General (rtd) Gaudence Milanzi

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