Elliot Ziwira Senior Writer
“We, the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on top of Mt Kilimanjaro, which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate and dignity where before there was only humiliation. . . we cannot, unlike other countries, send rockets to the moon. But we can send rockets of love and hope to all our fellow humans wherever they may be.”
Those inspirational words were articulated by the late former president of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere at the Legislative Assembly in October 1959, two years before Tanganyika’s independence, as revealed by David Martin in his obituary on one of Africa’s illustrious sons in The Herald of October 15, 1999.
Exactly 21 years after his death on October 14, 1999, Mwalimu (the teacher) Nyerere’s legacy of love, unity and hope lives on.
This is why today, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc, Zimbabwe among them, join the rest of the continent and beyond in celebrating Mwalimu Nyerere’s selfless contribution to the total liberation of the people of colour.
In a statement, SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax highlighted that Julius Nyerere Day, commemorated annually on October 14 in Tanzania, was “more than a death anniversary”, as Southern Africa owed a lot to the liberation icon, who was instrumental in “the fight against racism and colonialism in most African countries.”
“This year, as the Southern African Development Community is commemorating its 40th anniversary since its establishment, we pay tribute to Mwalimu for laying a solid foundation for the unity, peace, freedom and socio-economic developments we are witnessing today.
“SADC will continue to honour such a man of unparalleled commitment to liberation and development,” said Dr Tax.
The greatest honour that could be bestowed on Mwalimu Nyerere for his selfless devotion to liberation and socio-economic prosperity, she underscored, was to carry forward his “vision of peace, freedom, reconciliation, social cohesion, solidarity, resilience and development” for future generations.
Although 21 years have gone by since his death, Mwalimu Nyerere’s footprints will remain indelible across the African continent.
“Today, we see the footprint of Mwalimu Nyerere across the African continent for the pivotal role he played together with other eminent African leaders to establish the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, which later became the African Union in 2002,” Dr Tax said.
Indeed, SADC’s story from Zimbabwe, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Namibia, and South Africa to the Comoro Islands, would be incomplete without the name Julius Nyerere, who alongside other leaders founded the Frontline States and the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) in 1980, which became SADC in 1992.
On November 30, 1980, then Information and Tourism Minister Dr Nathan Shamuyarira lauded Mwalimu Nyerere ahead of his first state visit to independent Zimbabwe in early December of the same year for his commitment to the country’s liberation struggle, and the crucial role he played for the African cause.
“As the headquarters of the OAU, Tanzania has played a decisive and key role in the liberation of Africa,” Dr Shamuyarira said.
“On the one hand it was the Mecca of all refugees from Southern Africa and on the other provided inspiration for our fighters. He is a man of peace, who created a truly non-racial society in Tanzania,” he added.
Mwalimu Nyerere unwaveringly supported Zimbabwe’s struggle, allowing for the establishment of guerrilla bases in his country, assisting in military training and providing financial support. He believed in sharing even though his coffers were neither deep nor wide.
On September 29, 1965 Mwalimu Nyerere threatened to withdraw from the Commonwealth if Britain were to grant Rhodesia independence under minority rule, whether Rhodesia was in the grouping or not.
On his state visit in December 1980, the affable statesman rejoiced over Zimbabwe’s birth, and accentuated the need to remain vigilant as more challenges and dangers lurked ahead.
Cognisant of the essence of unity, peace and harmony in nation-building, Mwalimu Nyerere reminded the newly-born nation at a rally in Rufaro Stadium attended by over 40 000 people, that independence could not automatically lead to freedom, justice and progress if corruption, exploitation and laziness were allowed to take root.
Indicating that attainment of independence was the beginning of a new struggle, as it was the first step towards justice and freedom, he implored the people of Zimbabwe to be united against forces of disharmony and instability.
Known as the Father of the Nation and Mwalimu — the teacher, to his compatriots, the late Nyerere, who was born in April 1922, became Tanganyika’s first Prime Minister at independence on December 9, 1961. He was elected president in 1962 when the country’s constitution was changed to that of a republic.
He was one of Chief Nyerere Burite of the Wazanaki clan’s 26 children.
In April 1964, Mwalimu Nyerere became the president of the United Republic of Tanzania following the amalgamation of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. He was re-elected president in 1965, 1970 and 1975.
In 1977, he became chairman of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which was formed after the merger of Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) and the Afro-Shiraz Party of Zanzibar.
A teacher by profession, Mwalimu Nyerere obtained a diploma in education from Makerere University, and later attended Edinburgh University where he earned an MA in 1952.
His Ujamaa or familyhood philosophy aimed at positioning Tanzania as a strong self-reliant socialist forte, was premised on rural transformation and sustainable development.
“There must be something wrong in a society where one man, however hardworking he may be, can acquire as great a reward as a thousand of his fellows can acquire between them,” he once outlined in his philosophy.
However, Ujamaa did not deliver according to plan.
“Tanzania is certainly not socialist — nor self-reliant”, he later admitted, adding, “The nature of exploitation has changed but it has not altogether been eliminated.”
As Dr Tax pointed out, Mwalimu Nyerere believed that education played a crucial role in social progress.
He, therefore, promoted quality education resulting in a remarkable surge in school enrolment and literary levels among his countrymen.
“In 2019, SADC adopted Kiswahili as a language for oral communication for the SADC summit in recognition of Mwalimu Nyerere’s and Kiswahili’s role in the liberation struggle.
“In addition, SADC, in August 2020, adopted a mechanism to honour its founders like Mwalimu Nyerere,” the SADC Executive Secretary noted.
To immortalise one of the continent’s greatest sons, and preserve his legacy, a statue is under construction at the African Union Peace and Security Building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Indeed, Africa will forever remain grateful for Mwalimu Nyerere’s sacrifices, resolute stance against colonialism, racism and neo-colonialism as well as his endurance in the fight for justice.