The immortalisation of Mwalimu Nyerere


Lovemore Ranga Mataire The Reader
Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere is a luminous figure in the birth of independent Africa whose astuteness, simplicity and dedication to the African cause is yet to be matched by any leader in the modern era.

So revered was Nyerere that in Tanzania they christened him Mwalimu – the teacher – who never let his intellect distance him from the peasants whom he described as the indispensable majority.

It was thus befitting that Phyllis Johnson and Snezana Korica stitched together excepts, quotes and speeches delivered at various forums and came up with a beautifully woven autobiographical book on Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere launched in Harare last week.

The beauty about the book is that almost every excerpt is aided by photographs, bringing to life one that was more than just a freedom fighter but had a magnetic personality that endeared him to people across social strata.

Titled “Julius Neyerere, Asante Sana, Thank You, Mwalimu”, the book was published through the combined effort of the House of Books, African Publishing Group, the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre, Mkuki Na and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

In recognition of Nyerere’s contribution to the liberation of Africa, particularly Southern Africa, President Mugabe agreed to write the foreword, which further illustrates how the Zimbabwean leader revered the former Tanzania president.

Describing Nyerere as a firm believer in the unity of the people and the continent of Africa, President Mugabe says after uniting Tanganyika and Zanzibar into the United Republic of Tanzania, he set out to support the liberation of the subcontinent “knowing that this new country of Tanzania would never be politically free until the rest of Africa was also free from colonialism and apartheid”.

There are apparent traces of deep sorrow in President Mugabe as he pays tribute to a man who if it was not for his dedication, African independence and freedom would have remained uncertain.

“At the first assembly of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1963 which I had the privilege to attend as the leader of a liberation movement, Mwalimu Nyerere was one of the visionaries who founded the continental body. But he went a step further when he offered to host the OAU Liberation Committee in his capital, Dar es Salaam, and that is where liberation movements went for diplomatic support, for materials, logistics and training.”

He ends by making a carrion call to all Africans to cherish the legacy of its heroes including that of Nyerere who has been recognised by SADC which awarded him the Sir Seretse Khama SADC Medal presented to him in Angola in 1986. The African Union also honoured him by naming the continental body’s Peace and Security headquarters after him. He was also the recipient of the highest national honour in Zimbabwe accorded to someone outside the country, the Royal Order of Munhumutapa.

The book traces Nyerere’s life for over 40 years from 1959 to 1999, making it a rich tribute to an African icon. It contains 17 sections that guide the reader from the time when he urged the people of Tanganyika to be united and his vision that a united Tanzania would “light a candle and put it on top of Mount 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”.

In an interview with The Internationalist in 1970, Nyerere alludes to his formative political consciousness, which he said was a gradual process impacted on partly by the Second World War.

“I cannot say I encountered the idea of liberation in a totality like a flash of light . . . For me it was a process – something that grew inside of me. Our elders fought and were defeated by the Germans and the British. We were born under colonialism. Some of us never questioned it . . .

The book ends with a poem penned by Professor LDB Kinabo of Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania titled “Peace, Justice, Democracy, Humanity, Unity, Love”. The poem celebrates Nyerere as the greatest God’s gift to Tanzania and Africa whose enduring legacy was his tolerance for “diversity among individuals, communities, tribes, nations, countries, religions, beliefs, cultures and philosophies.”

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