Multitudes turn up, while many fail to view Mkapa's body

30Jul 2020
Songa wa Songa
Masasi
The Guardian
Multitudes turn up, while many fail to view Mkapa's body

THOUSANDS of people who turned up to give their last respects to former president Benjamin Mkapa did not succeed to file past his body at Lupaso village yesterday.

As the time scheduled for body viewing elapsed, more people were flocking the compound and queues became endless, compelling authorities to make adjustments to the programme.

At dawn, a sea of people had covered Boma grounds in Masasi town from where designated government vehicles ferried mourners to Lupaso village, the late president’s birthplace.

As private and public commuter service vehicles were restricted from accessing the village for logistical reasons, the Masasi-Newala road that passes near the village was dotted by groups of people walking, some jogging, all heading to Lupaso.

And as early as 4am, hundreds or thousands were already at the entrance of the family household, ready for body viewing by area residents which kicked off at 5am.

The requiem mass started at 8am until 10am when giving last respects resumed.

Planners had projected and indicated in the timetable that body viewing would end at 11:20. They were wrong.

By noon, the two lanes of thousands who had lined up showed no sign of decreasing, leave alone ending.

Aware that the president's motorcade was on its way, officials charged with the proceedings conferred and then made the disappointing announcement.

“Some of you may not view the body. I ask that when the president arrives, we stop the viewing to allow other programmes to proceed,” the massed residents were told.

President John Magufuli arrived at the venue at 1:25pm and security officers closed in to halt the process.

‘The Guardian’ asked some area residents what could have attracted so many people to the late president's burial.

Mohamed Lichila from neighbouring Mpeta village said the departed leader brought about a number of development projects that the people cherished.

"We have a tarmac road, running water and electricity, thanks to him," he said.

Alfred Mchopa, resident of Lupaso village, said even the fact that the president of the country comes from the village is not a minor issue.

“Presidents don't come from every village. Ours is among the lucky few,” he declared.

Mchopa said Mkapa's ascendancy to the highest office made residents of the village, Masasi District and Mtwara Region a proud lot.

“We are very happy with the honour he brought to our area. He will be missed a lot,” he said.

Mkapa was also a philanthropist in his own right. Though he did not amplify it, he silently extended support to the less fortunate in his community.

Benigna Joseph is one beneficiary of his generosity.

She said in 2002 he paid school fees and other costs for 17 students from this community who passed but whose parents could not afford to pay the costs. “I was one of them. He paid for all four years of our secondary education.”

Susan Kaviga said Mkapa's presidency has served as an inspiration for many in Lupaso and neighbouring villages.

“A lot of young people and children here say they want to become president when they grow up. That's extraordinary inspiration,” she remarked.