SOMBRE mood engulfed the Lupaso village in Masasi District as the body of the late third-phase President Benjamin Mkapa arrived yesterday for the burial.
A military chopper carrying the remains of the late President Mkapa touched down at the Masasi Airport at around 15:00pm.
Prime Minister Mr Kassim Majaliwa arrived at the airport to meet the body, which was then moved to a special funeral van for the journey to Lupaso village that started at around 15:13 pm under police and military vehicles escort.
Along the way to Lupaso, hundreds of citizens in Masasi town and villagers, lined up in huge numbers to bid farewell to the fallen legendary leader. It took almost an hour for the convoy to arrive at the village.
Situation was calm as hundreds of mourners turned up along the tarmac road of the village to witness the arrival of the body of their beloved fellow villager, Mzee Mkapa.
Almost all houses here remained closed as occupants left to witness the reception of the body, which arrived at around 4pm.
After arriving the body was taken directly to St Theresa Church located in the village for prayers and thereafter, was carried to his residence for further procedures.
Some senior leaders had started arriving at the village early in the morning, with authorities revealing that preparations for today’s burial ceremony are complete.
Chief of Defense Forces (CDF), Gen Venance Mabeyo, arrived in the afternoon at around 2:30 and inspected the grave built by TPDF soldiers.
He was given a brief explanation by officers, who supervised the construction of the grave and the soldiers demonstrated how they will put the concrete cover after lowering the body of Mzee Mkapa into the grave.
The grave is built with black tiles, differing with other graves of members of his family, including father, mother and others, whose graves were painted white.
General Mabeyo also inspected a place where the soldiers will perform a customary 21-gun salute to honour Mzee Mkapa during his burial.
Speaking shortly after inspecting the preparations, General Mabeyo underscored Mzee Mkapa’s role in transforming defence forces, especially making them work more cooperatively.
“He made the security forces work very cooperatively and efficiently during his time as President, so we have come here to lay him at his home,” Gen Mabeyo stated.
According to a time table for today’s activities, the mourners will have breakfast from 6am to 8am, followed by requiem mass at the home ground where the burial would be conducted.
Archbishop Gervas Nyaisonga, President of the Tanzania Episcopical Church, is expected to lead the mass. Permanent Secretary in the President’s Office (Good Governance), Dr Laurian Ndumbaro will read the biography of the late Mzee Mkapa.
President John Magufuli is expected to deliver his speech for about 20 minutes from 3:10am followed by condolence messages from individuals and institutions.
After the President’s speech, military funeral procedures will then take place. President Magufuli arrived in Mtwara yesterday ready for the burial ceremony.