When Sir George breathes his last as cabinet finally settles in Dodoma

15Mar 2017
Ani Jozen
The Guardian
When Sir George breathes his last as cabinet finally settles in Dodoma

THE death of Sir George Kahama, whom some pundits assert he was properly honored by the United Kingdom for his services in Tanganyika, breathed his last at the weekend,-

within the time range that the cabinet of President Dr John Pombe Magufuli was holding its first full scale meeting in the new capital, or just after having done that.

This isn’t entirely accidental to those who are keen to watch or take note of workings of the supernatural, as it constituted a signature to his life’s work: moving the capital to Dodoma. His efforts have been vindicated, in entirety.

While this particular assignment arguably marked his life and posterity as to his contributions to national development, his range of contributions are far too wide for any limited slot of time, or space in the day to day media.

In more advanced countries something like a Kahama Foundation would be constituted to finance studies and research in a whole range of issues – from organization of cooperative unions and especially for coffee, where he made his earliest contributions, to helping founder President Julius Nyerere consolidate the young nation-state. He held top level cabinet portfolios until Mwalimu had good alternatives; half decade.

When Mwalimu shifted Sir George from the cabinet to the civil service, it is due to the fact that he wanted a close confidante to take charge of particularly important projects that the president couldn’t just leave in the hands of anyone who had just completed Makerere University College.

That is how the president appointed Sir George to head the National Development Corporation (NDC) in 1966, where the cabinet associate stayed there for seven years, to 1973. He moved from there to take up another newly unveiled and hugely important project, shifting the capital.

While his biography shows that he took up other positions subsequently, including serving abroad as ambassador or high commissioner in several countries, and then briefly returning to the cabinet in the third phase, all this was an extension of the first phase.

Sir George was someone the president, up to the third phase, would fall back upon to take up a function that requires someone who knows the thinking of the president, the cabinet or spirit of institutions as such. He was among those who were at the centre of the designing of what pundits would call the ‘status quo,’ or the Nyerere system, the mode of leadership of TANU and the Union Government.

Those of us who saw the light of day slightly before independence, and had glimpses of how the government was being run – even from a far outsider view as a secondary school student in the early 1970s – would at least recall a few patent aspects of Nyerere’s relationship with Sir George. On the outside people thought that they were far apart, as Mwalimu was that sort of Gandhi-like aversion to all idea of piling up wealth, while the likes of Sir George, while not millionaires at any rate, were definitely not putting up airs of glorifying poverty. That aspect of the country’s politics was left to party loyalties, as was the case with the late Paul Sozigwa, Daudi Mwakawago, Col. Moses Nnauye, Chief Erasto Mang’enya and as they say, to name but a few, and a few cabinet members like Chediel Mgonja….

It is fair to say that Mwalimu was himself astute with his personal entourage, starting with his family and close relatives, who were never identified with this or that business or hidden assets, while cabinet ministers fumbled with identity cards of this or that sort, writing names of minors as owners of fixed assets, etc.

What thus brought Mwalimu close to Sir George was his skill in administration, that he knew how to settle problems in Mwalimu’s own way, was fervently loyal to the sort of governance system that Nyerere had created and was a pillar in helping to make it a success. That he was identified with capital development (viz., shifting to Dodoma) is an illustration, as few other big projects were as contested as this one.

There is something distantly making Sir George parallel to Rashidi Kawawa, a closer associate of Mwalimu and whose own constituency, and its importance to Mwalimu’s overall handling of various groups in society couldn’t have been more distant from Kahama.

Still in many regards they both served as Mwalimu’s personal emissaries or substitutes to his own presence in this or that area, such that the post that they held at any particular moment didn’t matter.

There are always such kind of individuals in any government, top level advisers and allies who can be anything, from minister, ambassador, governor – wherever they are needed but never drop out of sight. Many others come and go, not imbibing governance set up.

In a different context, Sir George remained a leading voice in moderation during times of crisis, and these weren’t few, and to an extent may explain being shuttled to key projects rather than the cabinet, as his sensitivity on a number of issues would differ with Mwalimu.

That is an aspect some of the younger admirers of top level officials or holding them in muted criticism for their ‘capitalist’ orientation later learned, that everything said and done, Mwalimu had little contention with ‘capitalists’ in his cabinet like Sir George, Amir Jamal, Paul Bomani or later Cleopa Msuya, and when he finally obtained his ex-student Benjamin Mkapa to tke the saddled, it is this hidden streak of reform, freedom which won, not socialism.

At a certain point at late stages of the first phase, when some of us were still in the imagination that tensions ought to reign between socialists and capitalists in the cabinet, a glamorous wedding took place of a son and daughter from the ‘capitalist’ side of the cabinet, Mwalimu attended the ceremonies as guest of honor and admittedly that left the rest of us shell-shocked, as there is no other indicator of fraternity and conviviality than high profile wedding attendance. It contributed to some of us starting to fall by the wayside, being told to commit ourselves to the cause of socialism. This event washed out ideology in personal ties at high levels...