JPM leads nation at Mkapa’s burial

30Jul 2020
Songa wa Songa
The Guardian
JPM leads nation at Mkapa’s burial
  • I wanted national leaders to be buried in Dodoma, but he (Mkapa) and Kikwete refused. I didn’t ask Mwinyi….

PRESIDENT John Magufuli yesterday led thousands of mourners from across the country, among them government officials and leaders of community groups, at the burial of former president Benjamin Mkapa at his home village of Lupaso in Masasi District, Mtwara Region.

President John Magufuli stands witness as Benjamin William Mkapa’s widow, Anna Mkapa, sprinkles soil on the former president’s grave in a ‘final farewell’ gesture moments after he was buried at his Lupaso home village in Masasi District, Mtwara Region, yesterday. Photo: State House

Speaking before the body was lowered into the grave, the Head of State said Mkapa has made a wish that he be buried in his home village.

The president also spoke highly of the former leader, saying he loved and valued his community and country and elaborating: “Mkapa owned land in Dar es Salaam as well as in Lushoto (in Tanga Region). He could have chosen to be buried in either place, but he opted to be brought back home.”

Dr Magufuli said the government had made a decision to bury all national leaders in the capital Dodoma and a parcel of land was acquired and designated for the purpose.

“Some three years ago I asked him (Mkapa) where he wished to buried, and he replied that it would have to be at Lupaso,” he revealed.

The president further explained that he also sought the view of former president Jakaya Kikwete, who likewise opted for his home village of Msoga in Coast Region.

Commenting on former president Alhaj Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Magufuli said: “I didn’t ask him. He is over 90 years old, so I didn’t want to scare him with the thought of death.”

He said that a decision has since been made to give the said parcel of land to residents of Dodoma for other uses.

Former president Kikwete meanwhile hailed Mkapa for turning around Tanzania’s economy, which he said was in ruins at the time he took over the leadership of the country – in 1995.

He narrated that he first met Mkapa in the 1980s while serving as CCM secretary for Masasi District, while Mkapa was Member of Parliament for Nanyumbu constituency in Mtwara Region.

He said Masasi was those days notorious for famine due to long-running or intermittent drought and he alongside the district commissioner at the time, Captain Jaka Mwambi (since deceased), introduced cassava farming as a solution, an initiative which most local residents disliked.

“Mkapa supported us until people got used to the initiative, which later turned out as one example of good agricultural practice across the country,” he said.

Kikwete also lauded Mkapa as “a human being with an extraordinarily big heart”.

He said that after he and Mkapa squared it out in the CCM nomination for the Tanzanian presidency in 1995, which the departed leader won to eventually become president, he did not expect to be considered for a cabinet post.

“However, he (Mkapa) made me Foreign Affairs minister for the entire ten-year period he was president. This gave me much-needed visibility that catapulted me into the presidency immediately after him,” said Kikwete.

He said that he also learned “some leadership skills” while serving as CCM secretary for Masasi, “a role that prepared me to see how Mkapa, then foreign minister, was connecting with voters”.

“The (Foreign Affairs ministry) docket comes with constant flying. Whenever he found an opportunity, he visited his constituents and listened to their needs. I applied the same skills when I was myself Foreign Affairs minister,” the former president noted.

He also hailed Mkapa as the mastermind of Tanzania Vision 2025 and other impactful initiatives such as the Tanzania Social Action Fund.

Remembering Mkapa, former president Mwinyi said the former president (his own successor) was a vastly disciplined and diligent person.

“The economy was in bad shape when he took over. His work ethic and dedication have benefited our country immensely,” he said, adding that the living standards of Tanzanians have improved tremendously in recent years relative to his youth days.

“I notice that everybody is wearing nice shoes here. I bought my first pair when I was 13 after labouring in a clove farm,” Alhaj Mwinyi said, throwing the crowd into laughter.

For his part, Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein eulogised Mkapa as a leader who did a great job in keeping the Tanzanian Union strong.

“He defended and protected the (January 12, 1964) Zanzibar Revolution. We will forever remember him particularly for that,” he said.

Other dignitaries also present at the burial included Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, National Assembly Speaker Job Ndugai, Chief Secretary John Kijazi, CCM Secretary General Dr Bashiru Ally Kakurwa, cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and other senior public officials.

The former president’s burial was a mixture of military protocols and Catholic Church rites. Mkapa was Catholic.

The service started early in the morning with body viewing, followed by a requiem mass led by the President of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Gervas Nyaisonga. Body viewing resumed again at 10 a.m. to continue until 1:25 p.m. – when President Magufuli arrived.

Army officers then moved the casket bearing the former president’s body from the viewing area at 3 p.m. to a nearby graveyard, where Catholic rites took over again.

After the burial, the army said farewell to their departed former commander-in-chief with a 21-gun salute at 4 p.m.

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