IN a midnight broadcast last night, President John Pombe Magufuli announced the sudden death of former President Benjamin William Mkapa, of the third phase Government of the United Republic of Tanzania.
This news was as shocking as it was sudden, to everyone who heard it, but much more so to those who worked closely with him during his lifetime, including myself. But his departure was our creator’s wish. May the lord God grant eternal peace to our dear departed leader.
What I know about former President Mkapa The late former President Benjamin Mkapa was a man of many attributes. When he inaugurated his book on the anniversary date of his 81st birthday, 12th November last year, the print media quite rightly too, was awash with deserved praises for Hon Mkapa’s new book.
Unfortunately for me, because I am nestled smugly in my cozy retirement home far away in Ukerewe Island, I was not able to attend the occasion, although I had been invited by personal letter from Mr Mkapa himself.
But my non-attendance notwithstanding, based on the comments made by President Magufuli in his televised speech delivered at its inauguration event, I concluded that Hon Mkapa’s book is a must read, for it is a masterpiece wisdom tome.
“Curiosity killed the cat”, so says one English proverb. I was particularly curious to see the inevitably fabulous English language in which that book is written. This is simply because former President Benjamin Mkapa was a student at Makerere University College in Uganda, at that time known as ‘The University College of East Africa, affiliated to London University’ .
That Institution was, in reality, an “ivory tower”, established by the British Authorities in this East Africa part of the then vast “British Empire”.
There was an exact replica Institution in West Africa, then known as “The University College of West Africa” based in Accra, Ghana, also affiliated to London University; Which was catering for that part of the very vast British Empire “upon which”, it was proudly asserted, “the sun never sets”.
These Educational Institutions were established, partly for the grand purpose of spreading the ‘Gospel’ of British culture, language being an essential component of any culture.
Thus, the relevant University Authorities decided to introduce at Makerere, a single-subject first degree programme, then known as the ‘B.A. English (Honours)’ degree; and Benjamin William Mkapa was one of the very few students who qualified for admission to that programme.
He therefore graduated from Makerere with a London University Bachelor’s (Honours), degree in English Literature. Both his spoken deliveries, as well as his written texts, provide sufficient evidence of his exceptional mastery of the Queen’s language.
And, I assumed that this particular aspect would be a dominant feature of his new book; Which is what accounts for my curiosity mentioned above. My curiosity was entirely satisfied when I read the book.
In his speech at the book’s inauguration event, President Magufuli obligingly made certain candid comments regarding the huge, unequivocal, trust and support that he himself had received from President Mkapa, when he was a Minister in President Mkapa’s Government.
I too, have some very pleasant memories of President Mkapa’s trust in me, when I was the Speaker of Parliament during the whole of his ten years as President.
For example, I remember how, during his second term in office, he sent me to Washington DC, United States of America, to give the keynote address on his behalf at an important meeting being held there; At the head of the same delegation which would have accompanied the President.
He also asked me to write the relevant speech myself, not to go and just read a prepared speech written by his Presidential speech writers! I also remember how, in his first term in office, President Mkapa sent me to Kampala, Uganda, on a sensitive political mission; Which was that his Ugandan counterpart, President Yower Museveni, had just decided to adopt the multi-party political system.
He had, apparently, been greatly impressed by Tanzania’s smooth transition to that system. Thus, he had asked President Mkapa, to send a trusted envoy to Kampala, who would help to persuade the Uganda NRM Members of Parliament to see the good side of multi-party politics, as thus shown by Tanzanian’s positive experience.
President Mkapa gave that assignment to me; An amazing demonstration of his immense trust and confidence in me. His tenure as President of the United Republic coincided with my own tenure as Speaker of the National Assembly. It is during that period that we did many things together in the service of our nation.
It is presumably common knowledge that the Government of any country is sustained by three pillars: The Government, the Legislature and the Judiciary. President Mkapa was of the settled view that without the full support of the Legislature, the Government will not be able to function effectively.
This is because the Government needs Parliament’s approval for its annual budgets, and, obviously, without money with which to fund its social and economic infrastructure projects, it will be totally paralysed. Similarly, the Government is enjoined to observe the rule of law in all its administrative activities.
It is only Parliament which is empowered to pass the necessary laws which are required for the country’s good governance. Thus, without such laws being enacted by Parliament, the Government will be negatively impacted in its operations. President Mkapa was keenly aware of these governance imperatives.
He therefore wholeheartedly devoted himself to establishing cordial working relations with me the Speaker, as Head of that institution. Indeed, we achieved many results together, through constant communication and consultations.
I would like to encourage all those who want to pay proper tribute to the late former President Benjamin Mkapa, to read his recent book, which is available in many bookshops.
In that book, the author has detailed all the results of his endeavours, both the positive achievements, as well as the inevitable failures. That book is what says it all about our departed leader. May his soul rest in eternal peace.