Paying last respects to JPM in Zanzibar fortifying the Union

24Mar 2021
Editor
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Paying last respects to JPM in Zanzibar fortifying the Union

PEOPLE in various parts of the country have continued to pay their last respects former President Dr John Magufuli, who died in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday, ahead of his burial at Chato in Geita Region this Friday.

After a mass in Dar es Salaam presided over by Dar es Salaam Catholic Archbishop Jude Thaddaeus Ruwa’ichi, a state funeral was held in the national capital – Dodoma – where religious tributes were given on the fallen leader.

Yesterday it was the turn of Zanzibar residents to bid him final farewell, with Mwanza city next in line – on tomorrow.

Plenty of this procedure is innovative, and for good cause, as never before had our country lost a sitting head of state since we attained independence.

Dr Magufuli’s passing has come in the wake of the formation of a Government of National Unity (GNU) in Zanzibar bringing together President Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi and since-deceased First Vice President Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, whose place was taken up upon his recent death by Masoud Othman Masoud.

Zanzibar President Dr Mwinyi worked with Dr Magufuli as cabinet ministers during the Jakaya Kikwete presidency and as cabinet minister in the last Union government under Dr Magufuli, and thus the two had a lot in common in terms of ideals.

Not surprisingly, there is every indication that Dr Mwinyi has started translating those ideals into action, his speed in turning Zanzibar around reminiscent of Dr Magufuli in various ways.

What is even more pivotal is that, as Union president, Dr Magufuli fought hard to neutralise whatever disaffection existed between the two sides of the Zanzibar political divide.

He did so by working behind the scenes to get a functioning GNU formed and by inviting the two top leaders (from the ruling party and from the opposition) to his Chato residence soon after they were sworn into office.

Dr Magufuli is understood to have counselled Maalim Seif to disabuse himself of the belief that he was merely a Zanzibari opposition leader and not a Tanzanian and a patriot – and part and parcel of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government.

JPM also pointedly said that he would invite Maalim Seif to grace the launching of completed development projects on the Mainland – notably, in the latter’s capacity as a national leader.

As President Samia Suluhu Hassan starts her work in earnest soon after the ongoing funeral proceedings are done, she will find this background work and effort useful, as a similar situation reigns in Zanzibar as well as on the Mainland or, rather, in the Union Government.

Public officials will be learning to work with Zanzibar First Vice President Masoud Othman Masoud just as their Union counterparts will start getting used to the leadership of the new president, even if she isn’t that new among them.

In Zanzibar, the coming on board of Masoud was comparable to the return of Maalim Seif to the government after five years, as the former was Zanzibar Attorney General up to mid-2014 – at the time of the Constitutional Assembly.

What is also noticeable is that the Constitutional Assembly was a sort of baptism of fire to rising leaders both in the ruling CCM and in opposition, as some of the leading figures of the post-2015 period ‘cut their teeth’ in the national constitutional conference.

The two newcomers in top national leadership were among the number, meaning Samia Suluhu Hassan (who became the Assembly’s vice chairperson) and Masoud Othman (who formally shifted to the opposition camp). As 2021 is seven years from that point, it will be no surprise if things happen.

Put rather differently, there is something of a personal rapport among top leaders in the country right now in like manner as leaders of the earlier generation of political leadership from both the ruling party and the opposition met in the heyday of demands for a multiparty state – in 1992 and then multiparty polls in 1995.

That is when former University of Dar es Salaam student government colleagues Prof Ibrahim Lipumba and Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad met again in a different environment. That was after both had vacated high level advisory or executive roles in the two governments and shifted to the opposition. It’s all part of the give and take of national life.

While death is a tragic moment that we can never formally be used to encountering, it is also true that it is a moment of renewal in family life and national life likewise, much as its impact is often incalculable.

There is always cause to worry about the future. However, when leaders have come from the same roosting place and emerge into high-end points at the same time, there is a confluence of events that augurs well for the future.

After the nation has gotten over the sorrow and the weeping, the broad public will start appreciating openings in national leadership where the foundations for creating new, substantial levels of understanding between them have already been laid.

Dr Magufuli’s legacy may well take the additional turn of having made a pivotal contribution to cementing the Union, as current grieving shows.

That his body has been taken all the way to Zanzibar for the paying of last respects shouldn’t therefore be perceived as an issue of mere procedure but answering to overwhelming public demand meaning well for our country and people.

And, surely, affording Zanzibar residents to pay their last respects to the Head of State of the United Republic of Tanzania is no mere formality but a solid gesture demonstrating the strength of our Union and the need to strengthen it all the more for the benefit of the present generation and posterity.

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