Hamad died on the job, serving all of Zanzibar

19Feb 2021
The Guardian
Hamad died on the job, serving all of Zanzibar

​​​​​​​ZANZIBAR First Vice President, Seif Sharif Hamad, who died on Wednesday at the age of 77, was a charismatic and tolerant leader who was at the centre of the Isles’ political arena for almost half a century. 

ZANZIBAR First Vice President, Seif Sharif Hamad.

Throughout his political career in which he was popularly known as Maalim (Teacher) Seif he emerged as a true servant of the people and a politician who always advocated unity, progress and freedom. 

Maalim’s willingness to join President Hussein Mwinyi after he won the controversial last October elections to form a Government of National Unity (GNU) for the second time was another testimony of his patriotism and spirit of forgiveness. 

He was seen by many as polite, one who was close to the people and when the situation was normal he was polite, but when it was rough he was tough and courageous to speak up his mind no matter what were the costs.

 We all make an impact on those around us and far away in our lifetime. Every life is worth remembering, but there are people whose work is outstanding and their names ought to be included in reserved lists.

No doubt, the name of Seif Sharif Hamad will enter that distinguished list in the history of Zanzibar, as well as that of the United Republic.

 Maalim Seif was born in a peasant family at Mtambwe village, a few kilomtres from Wete town, north of Pemba.

After receiving his primary education in Pemba he moved to Zanzibar to join King George (now Lumumba Secondary) School.

 After his higher education he was compelled to work as a secondary school teacher as many teachers, most of them British, left Zanzibar after the 1964 Revolution.

He was posted to teach in secondary schools before joining the University of Dar es Salaam in 1972–1975, and graduated with B.A. (Honors) in Political Science, Public Administration and International Relations.

His leadership style of always being close to the people and his simple way of life was a role model of good governance, respect to the rule of law, moral and social values, customs and traditions of the people of Zanzibar.

Maalim Seif was an undisputed power house in the opposition movement since multi-party politics was introduced in 1992 and despite facing many hurdles, including detention and twice being charged with treason he stood firm in his principles.

One of his demands was more autonomy for Zanzibar in the union under a federal government.

He was also a familiar and respected figure in the world liberal movement and won the respect of many world leaders.

Maalim was the brains behind several reforms, such as having a new Zanzibar constitution, trade liberalization and the rule of law when he became Chief Minister in 1984 with Sheikh Ali Hassan Mwinyi as President.

 Maalim Seif made history by working with the senior Mwinyi in 1984-85 and until recently with his son, Dr Hussein Mwinyi.

 He served as a member of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council and Minister of Education (1977–1980), founding member of the Zanzibar House of Representatives (1980–1989) and member of the union legislature (1977).

He was also a member of the CCM Central Committee and the National Executive Committee (1977–1987), head of the Economic and Planning Department of CCM Secretariat (1982–1987) and from 6th February 1984 to 22th January 1988 he was Chief Minister of Zanzibar.

 Soon after his dismissal as chief minister after he was expelled along with other Zanzibari leaders for “disrupting the Isles political climate” he was placed in preventive detention.

Maalim Seif repeatedly said he had forgiven those who mistreated him in one way or another and called on fellow Zanzibaris to do the same and work together to build a better Zanzibar.

His famous quotation, “We can differ on everything, but not on the welfare of Zanzibar and its people,” still reverberates in the islands, with followers of ACT-Wazalendo and even in CCM ranks.

Now Maalim Seif is no more, but he has left a legacy that closed a chapter of politics of hatred and animosity and paved the way for building a peaceful Zanzibar.

The best way to remember him is to continue with the policies of peace, love and unity he has always advocated when he was a teacher and later a politician of tremendous energy and charisma.

Farewell Maalim Seif, a committed Zanzibari and true leader and servant of the people; may his soul rest in peace.

(The writer is a seasoned journalist based in Zanzibar who once worked as press secretary for then Chief Minister Seif Sharif Hamad).

Top Stories