Human beings are forgetful by nature – and that is a vital trait in life meant to mitigate or ease the burden of memories and pains associated with them.
Thus, the passing of a pivotal national leader and the sharing of memories of his leadership and personal interactions from his presence have constituted a great moment of real personal and collective education. Even for those with a few decades under their belts, memory is hard.
Moments of mass education of this sort are essentially cathartic in that they help us to make better sense of the past and shed lingering elements of bitterness which we hadn’t had the courage to get over by ourselves.
But by listening to the testimonies of others and grasping the depth of esteem and intensity of feeling at the public level, a pervading empathy is likely to take place.
That will likely have an effect of cleansing our divergences on the memory of the deceased and bring up a more balanced view of his time in leadership. This process is inward, as the testimony and intensity of feelings percolates in each of us, dwarfing distastes.
In that case, the death of pivotal national leaders and the outpouring of grief that follows, as well as the long stretch of memories drawn from all walks of life, both solicited and unsolicited reflections, constitutes moments of national healing.
When a country has succeeded in treasuring the memory of all its past leaders on account that they left office peacefully and the reins of office handed to another leader in a transparent and democratic manner, each such event helps to remove any blots and stains that may be still lingering among us.
That compels each of us to exercise a primeval religious duty of forgiveness, turning the page, as no one is infallible – or without blemish.
While outpourings of grief and recitals of what former president Mkapa did during his tenure are directed at his memory personally, they are also implicitly a recital of what the country was collectively doing at that moment, and since then.
It is a moment of taking note of the purposes for which various Mkapa-era institutions were created and how they have performed.
This would usually be because we are proud of their record so far, with this reflection at times serving as a reminder that some of the problems we sought to solve still linger. It is a challenge to do better, but it can only start with a sober and sympathetic evaluation of what office holders did, then.
There are also other areas where collective reflection may have had to rise over rough patches and memory potholes, with most of those present or glued to television sets, radios or flipping through newspapers may take note of hiccups in that regard.
Even if these gaps are not underlined, they disturb an otherwise serene and appealing image of the giant efforts and laudable headway made. Any seeming drawbacks thus ought to be diminished in character so that they don’t rob the wider picture of its elegance.
All the same, these limitations and potholes are challenges that each of us can do better without having to put at issue those who were in such positions earlier.
The injunction about not judging others so that you too may not be judged still holds true – and very much so. We all need to take heed, as in unity of purpose lie the seeds of victory.
The solidarity witnessed during the mourning of former president Mkapa has been exemplary, and it should give Tanzanians reason to come even closer together and forge all-weather unity.