Former Premier John Malecela summoned Mary Francis Luwilo to his Magogoni offices, close to State House in Dar es Salaam in 1992 - not so much of a friendly comportment, considering the PM was always fond of being friendly.
He asked the Arusha District Commissioner to tell him what had tormented her most during her career. It was her 13th year in that capacity!
Slightly lost, though not confused, but not expecting such a question, the DC who sat a few metres from the Premier’s piercing eyes across the conference table, struggled to compose herself, adjusted her specs and forced a smile, with a premonition imbedded deeply within her: that eventual end of her service in government! She decided, and managed so, to stand firm.
“I told him what had really trespassed in my career path only a year earlier. I was during that time, in 1991, the Kinondoni District Commissioner in Dar es Salaam. The same year I was transferred to Arumeru in the same capacity. The mass media had carried stories based on complaints from Kibamba residents, accusing me of not taking appropriate steps to award them a piece of land they said was invaded by an Asian businessman.
“The residents from Kibamba suburb in the district under my jurisdiction had on a certain Saturday, while I was on my way to Goba (another suburb also in the district), converged upon my official vehicle and asked me to listen to their grief regarding the said piece of land, but I told them that I would attend to their cry on the following Monday as I had to finalise the Goba issue whose report was required at the State House that Saturday.
“Instead of waiting for Monday, the annoyed residents went ahead and made a big issue in the mass media, alleging that the Asian businessman had robbed them of their land, and that I was not paying the necessary attention. The press coverage of the issue had generated great interest, provoking the then Home Affairs Minister maverick Augustine Lyatonga Mrema, fond of giving seven-day deadlines for a solution to be reached for any problem.
“And true to style, the home affairs minister didn’t waste time. He called a meeting of all and sundry at Kibamba, where I and everybody involved in the persisting issue was present. It appeared in that meeting, and upon every evidence turning in my favour, that it was actually the businessman, legally owning 3,000 acres of land, who had offered to the village part of his land to be used exclusively for the Kilimo cha Kufa na Kupona, leaving the rest for himself.
“It is a long story, but, please, let’s cut it short. It transpired that the businessman had left the country for treatment abroad, and during his absence, the villagers had invaded the area and put up property, as well as cultivating the land.”
As chubby, cheerful, charismatic, vigorous and persuasive 68-year-old Mary F. Luwilo, a retired civil servant who held quite a lot of positions you can assume in the civil service, recalls this tragedy, you can read her face is tortured, despite deliberate attempts, though in vain, to conceal that.
Otherwise, she is still full of life, and as a pensioner, she is grateful that she has curved her way up in a straight and decent manner.
That says also why she glamorised at every function bidding farewell to any retired civil servant she was always fond of this message she now accepts is her legacy to fellow civil servants:
“I ask you to close your eyes and imagine you are just being recruited in the service now or yesterday. You are in a vibrant position that offers you everything. You are closed in a circuit of everything found and almost for free, in a self-contained house.
“Whichever you touch gives immediate results. I advise you to start preparing yourself for a departure from this kind of lavish environment so that when the world changes tomorrow, that is, let’s say, from retirement, retrenchment or dismissal, you are a shock absorber, in the sense that you have already prepared your way for a new life.”
She confides: “The person we bid farewell is like a corpse. If that person didn’t pave the way clear enough in readiness for his remaining life when he was in active service, he would not be able to do it when he is out of it.
The message was aimed at reminding those still in service to start preparations before they reached that stage of hopelessness. And so, as captain of that legacy, I should be the last man to abandon ship.”
Her choice of a village life didn’t come as a surprise. Hailing from the mountainous plains of Mahenge area in Morogoro Region, she spotted Visiga, about 50 km west of Dar es Salaam along Morogoro Highway, as a place to set up her fixed abode.
The simplicity of her life, though too vigorous for a woman of her age, is depicted by her modest house, though to some it may look too big for a family of only a skeleton. Her children are grown up and absorbed in various professions and occupations, only at times, especially during holidays, family members would make that house very lively.
“Grandchildren, sometimes accompanied by their parents, would visit me, and some would not want to leave. They ask their parents to leave them behind until when the festive moods are over,” she jerks her spectacles to make her point sink, although she adds in the same vein that she has so many things and issues to attend to that time with the little ones must be quite limited.
One of the early females to acquire higher education, and subsequently granting her exposure to foreign lands, Mrs Luwilo, who started her career in the civil service in 1970 as Community Development Officer in Mzizima District of Dar es Salaam where she worked for barely five months, was transferred to Buhare Home Economic Training Centre in Musoma as a tutor before she became its vice-principal two years later under Anna Abdalla, who was the principal.
In 1973 Luwilo was promoted to be the centre’s principal until 1978 when she was appointed to be pioneer district commissioner of Kibaha, Coast Region, where she worked for ten years before moving to Kinondoni in 1988 until 1991, when the Kibamba saga almost cost her career.
For a brief period of one year between 1991 and 1992 Luwilo was the Arumeru district commissioner in Arusha region. She was then moved to metropolitan Arusha district under the same capacity until 1995 when she became Mtwara Regional Development Director and then the Regional Administrative Secretary until March 1997 when she moved to Dar es Salaam in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Holder of a Master’s Degree in Sociology she was awarded in 1969 from a University in Prague, Luwilo, who is today unhappy at leakages of confidential documents from the government, is surprised that vetted public servants could go against their oaths.
Although out of public service, the energetic woman is influential in shaping the course of this nation as she works from the sidelines to make her contribution felt.
Currently programmes coordinator of an NGO (non-governmental organisation) Health and Environment Management Foundation based in Kibaha since 2000, Luwilo says that being retired from service should not make one tired. She actually advocates the promulgation of retired professionals to organise themselves into an entity that would act as a resource base of various disciplines.
“Once such resources are tapped and applied into meaningful use, the contribution toward building a strong future will gain momentum,” she nodes indicating that many potentialities possessed retired people remain untapped.
A member of Coast Regional Tax Appeal Board and National Coordination Board, and chair of Visiga, Soga, Minaki Secondary Schools, Luwilo has conducted researches on the living patterns of people of Kigoma, Tabora, Morogoro and Kagera regions as well as those of Kiabakari and Tarime.