THE death of former President Benjamin Mkapa sent shock waves throughout the Nation, mainly because it was untimely and unexpected.
There was nothing to prepare the Nation that something ominous was hanging in the horizon. The media has done its best to inform us on what has been going on since the former President’s death was announced on Thursday night, till his burial in his home village of Lupaso, Masasi District, Mtwara Region, on Wednesday 29th July.
May he rest in peace! Much as this is a period of grief, there is room to look at some of the articles published in the local media, on the life and achievements of the late Mkapa, to unearth some language goodies. I am looking at one that appeared in the authoritative daily of July 27.
In this article, the writer asserts that: “The news of his death was absolutely shocking to everyone who ‘herd’ it”. My reference dictionary is quick to point out that “heard” is sometimes confused with “herd”. The past tense and past participle of “hear” is not “herd” but “heard”.
If I was to rewrite this sentence, my version would be: “News of his death was absolutely shocking to everyone who ‘heard’ of it”.
In the second paragraph of the article, the writer points out that the late President was well-grounded in scholarship: “His latest scholarly production is his ‘autobiography book’ titled: ‘My Life My Purpose’; which he inaugurated on the ‘anniversary date’ of his 81st birthday, 12th November last year”.
Are we not being spoon-fed here? For, an autobiography is in most cases a book written by oneself on one’s own life. At the same time an anniversary is a date on which an event took place, or an institution was founded in the previous year.
Therefore, instead of saying: “an autobiography book”, I would just say: “an autobiography”. Instead of saying “anniversary date”, I would just say “anniversary”. So, in extolling Mkapa’s scholarly virtues, I would say: “His latest scholarly production is his ‘autobiography’ titled: ‘My Life My Purpose’; which he inaugurated on the ‘anniversary’ of his 81st birthday, on 12th November last year”.
The writer reminds us that Mkapa was President when Mwalimu Nyerere died in August 1999, and because Nyerere was renowned: “this event attracted a huge gathering of distinguished guests, including: “a large number of foreign ‘Heads of States and Governments’”.
On NO! Much as you have in mind, many dignitaries coming from different countries, the plural of “Head of State”, is not “Heads of States”. Likewise, the plural of “Head of Government” is not Heads of Governments”. It is “Heads of State”, “Heads of Government”. And, yes, at your University, you have: “Heads of Department”.
Resist adding that second “s”. When referring to Mkapa’s book, most writers called it “an autobiography”. Some however thought it was his “memoirs”. Is there a difference? As pointed out above, an autobiography is an account of a person’s life, written by that person. The narrative spans the writer’s entire life.
On the other hand, a memoir is a narrative, written from the perspective of the author about an important part of their life. Mzee Mkapa could have written his memoirs covering his stay at State House (1995-2005).
In this respect, there would be no coverage of his birth in 1938 in Lupaso, the primary schools he attended, his sojourn at a Seminary, his stay at St Francis Secondary School, Pugu, or at the Makerere University College. Finally, there is this photograph carrying the following caption: “President Mkapa speaks to ‘Prosper’ A.
Mascarenhas of the University of Dar es Salaam’s Institute of Resource Assessment at the State House. (15/05/1996)”. I am 100% sure that President Mkapa was not talking to a Prosper. He was talking to a Professor, Professor Adolfo Mascarenhas.
Born in 1937, in Mahenge, on 11th of February 1937, Professor Mascarenhas was a year older than President Mkapa, and he possibly received a Shikamoo from him. “Requiem aeternam dona ei Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei, cum sanctis tuis in aeternum, quia pius es. Requiescat in pace, Amen”. firstname.lastname@example.org