By Mzee wa Atikali
July 23, 2023
Tel: 0754 744 557
Sunday, July 23, marks the third anniversary of the passing of former President Benjamin William Mkapa who served as the third President of the United Republic of Tanzania for a decade from November 23, 1995 to December 21, 2005. The late President Mkapa completed his earthly race on Thursday, July 23, 2020 at 2130 hours at the picturesque Emilio Mzena Memorial hospital in Dar es Salaam at the age of 81. In view thereof, it has been three years since the nation bid an emotional farewell to the late President Mkapa who went to be with the Lord.
William Shakespeare, an English playwright, poet & actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English Language, wrote on July 23, 1690 :
“The evil that men do lives after them, but the good is often interred with their bones”.
As “Mzee wa Atikali” does not want “the good” that the late President Mkapa did for our country to be ” interred with his bones”, he has, consequently, penned this Special _Atikali in his honour.
Mkapa came into the world on Saturday, November 12, 1938. Lupaso, a remote rural village in Masasi District, Mtwara region, was his birthplace.
Mkapa was the baby in the family of four children to his father, William Matwani and his mother, Stephania Nambanga. Two of Mkapa’s siblings, Marcella and Blassius, passed away before him. Marcella, who was the first born, passed away in 2000 while Blassius, who was the second born, passed away in 1993. Furthermore, Bernard _”Mwenye Mkuti”_, who was the third born, passed away early this week on July 17, 2023.
Mkapa’s tribe was the Makua and his surname, Mkapa, was his mother’s clan name because of the matrilinear nature of the Makua traditional society.
3. Mkapa’s Educational Journey
3.1 Primary & Secondary education
The late Mzee Matwani enrolled Mkapa at Lupaso mission school in 1945. Mkapa was the youngest and smallest student in the entire school. In 1948, he sat for Std Four exams. He was one of only two students, out of thirty students, who were selected to join Abbey Secondary school, Ndanda in 1949. In 1951, Mkapa joined Ndanda Secondary School and in 1952 joined Kigonsera Seminary in Ruvuma. In 1953, he returned to Ndanda Secondary School where he completed Std Ten in 1954.
Mkapa was a Super-brilliant student who was regularly awarded for being first in his class. His favourite subjects were English and Maths. In 1954, Mkapa was La crème de la crème after being named “Tanganyika One” ala Edwin Mtei who was named “Tanganyika One” in 1952. Mkapa divulged in his Autobiography “My Life , My Purpose” thus :
“I passed the Territorial Standard Ten National Exams well, being First in my class at Ndanda and given a First by the Ministry of Education”
In sync with that, the late Frank Mwanjisi, in an exclusive interview with the “Rai” Newspaper on August 5,1999, stated:
“In the final exams in 1954, there were about 600 candidates in the country. Among them only nine candidates scored Division One. I was among them. The other ones whom I remember are Ben mkapa and Francis Nyalali”. (Translation mine).
In 1955, Mkapa joined St. Francis College, Pugu. One of the teachers there was Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who taught him History before his resignation on March 22, 1955. Mkapa completed his studies in 1956 and scored, as expected, Division One in his final exams. Phillip Magani, Benno Nkane and John Kambona were some of his classmates and remained Mkapa’s lifelong friends.
3.2 University Education
In 1957, Mkapa enrolled into Makerere University, Uganda “The Harvard of Africa“. He studied History, Economics and English. Francis Nyalali, who was a contemporary of Mkapa, served as the President of the _Makerere Students Guild while Mkapa was the Deputy President. Mkapa also mingled and locked minds with fellow future notables. Kenyan Phillip Ndegwa, who was to become Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, was his classmate as was John Nagenda who would become a presidential advisor in Uganda.
Mkapa was a prolific writer and in 1958 he founded a magazine “Penpoint“. Kenyan James Ngugi, later Ngugi wa Thiong’o, arrived in 1959. Ngugi’s iconic literary tour of duty began here, writing three of his outstanding novels in Makerere and became the first East African to publish a novel in English “Weep, Not Child”. Mkapa and Ngugi were writing and publishing literary juvenilia in college magazines “The Makererean” and “Transition“. Mkapa eventually earned a BA (English) honours degree in 1962 and then returned to Tanganyika. In those days, being an ex- Makererian gave one enormous status.
4. Mkapa’s First Port of Call
Mkapa’s career began in local administration in Dodoma as an Administrative Officer in April 1962.
5. Mkapa Leaves for the United States
In August 1962, Mkapa travelled to New York, USA where he attended Columbia University. In 1963, he was awarded a Master’s degree in International Relations & Diplomacy. He then returned to Tanganyika and in 1964 became Personal Assistant to Hon. Oscar Kambona, the first Foreign Minister.
6. Mkapa Gets a Part-Time Job
Because of Mkapa’s grasp of the Queen’s idiom and his rich baritone voice, TBC gave him the opportunity to read news in English on part time basis. He once divulged:
“I read the news in English as TBC had asked me to do this because of my fluency in English”.
H.E Ambassador Ferdinand Ruhinda further narrated, on August 11, 2020-:
“Ben would come to TBC to read English language bulletins, as a part-timer. I was one of those preparing those bulletins. He liked my job and we became friends”.
7. Mkapa Appointed “ME”
Late one evening, in May 1966, President Nyerere appointed Mkapa Managing Editor (ME) of the TANU party newspaper namely The Nationalist at the tender age of just 28 after he had summoned him. A panicky Mkapa shortly presented himself before the Head of State only to be informed that he had been appointed ME. Mkapa once narrated :
“Mwalimu called me to his home. I remember being in awe of him, wondering what business he could possibly have with me. To my great surprise, he asked me to become editor of the party newspaper “the Nationalist“. He said: “Ben, I think you can help us. I want you to become the editor of the Nationalist. I think you can do it. I knew next to nothing about running a newspaper. But I realized it was a challenge I could not refuse. I said yes. In many ways, that decision shaped the rest of my life”.
Mkapa expressed his willingness and yet feared that he was too green for the job. President Nyerere, thus, sent him to UK for a six month training.
Thereafter, Mkapa’s stewardship saw the levels of journalism of the said newspaper increase, his tender age and inexperience notwithstanding.
8. Mkapa Ties the Knot
On Saturday, August 27, 1966, Mkapa and Ms Anna Joseph Maro were united in marriage. They exchanged wedding vows at the Christ the King Cathedral, Catholic Diocese of Moshi, Kilimanjaro. Mr. Anthony Nyaki, who was to become ambassador under Mwalimu Nyerere’s presidency, and Hon. Lucy Lameck (then Junior Minister) were the Best Man and Matron of Honour, respectively. Mkapa once divulged :
“I met my wife, Anna, at work. She was Secretary to the Minister of Home Affairs, I was Personal Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and our offices were in the same building. I dated her for two and half years before I married her”.
9. Mkapa Appointed Inaugural “ME”
In April 1972, Mkapa was appointed by President Nyerere the first Managing Editor (ME) of the government English newspapers namely The Daily News and Sunday News.
10. Mkapa Appointed PS
Mkapa’s vast experience in the news media led President Nyerere to appoint him his Press Secretary (PS) in 1974.
11. Mkapa Appointed Founding MD
In 1976, Mkapa was appointed by President Nyerere the founding Managing Director of the Tanzania News Agency, SHIHATA (Shirika la Habari Tanzania).
12. Mkapa Appointed HC
In the same year, 1976, President Nyerere appointed Mkapa High Commissioner to Nigeria, a key posting at the time, coming six years after that country’s civil war. It was a delicate moment as relations between Tanzania and Nigeria were frosty because Tanzania had recognised the secessionist Biafra and it was now time to mend fences. President Nyerere told Mkapa:
“I need someone there who can speak English well, who knows diplomacy, who is well educated and who can compete with those fellows. I have decided you should go”
13. Mkapa Appointed Minister
Mkapa continued to edge his way into a special place in President Nyerere’s political heart. In 1977, President Nyerere appointed Mkapa Minister for Foreign Affairs after he had been appointed and sworn-in as a nominated Member of Parliament.
Ironically, after the said appointment, Mkapa became the Foreign Minister while H.E Ambassador Anthony Nyaki, who was the Best Man at his wedding in 1966, became his Principal Secretary!.
14. Mkapa Transferred to MIC
In 1980, President Nyerere transferred Mkapa to the Ministry of Information and Culture.
15. Mkapa Appointed HC
In 1982, Mkapa was appointed by President Nyerere Tanzania High Commissioner to Canada. Some foreigners were surprised as they considered this a demotion. However, Mkapa’s response was-:
“My friends, you must get to know Mwalimu better. There are some key bilateral issues with Canada that need to be addressed and Mwalimu thinks I am the best person for it. We do not stand on rank and titles in our place”.
16. Mkapa Appointed Ambassador
In 1983, President Nyerere appointed Mkapa Tanzania Ambassador to the United States.
17. Mkapa Appointed Foreign Minister
In 1984, President Nyerere appointed Mkapa Minister for Foreign Affairs.
18. Mkapa Elected MP
In 1985, Mkapa ran for a parliamentary seat in Nanyumbu, Mtwara and won.
19. Mkapa Re-Appointed Foreign Minister
In November 1985, H.E Ali Hassan Mwinyi, who served as the second President of Tanzania from 1985 to 1995, re-appointed Mkapa Minister for Foreign Affairs.
20. Mkapa Transferred to MoI
In 1990, President Ali Hassan Mwinyi transferred Mkapa to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting after he was re-elected as an MP for Nanyumbu Constituency.
21. Mkapa Transferred to MoS
In 1992, President Ali Hassan Mwinyi transferred Mkapa to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education as founding Minister.
22. Mkapa Contests the Presidency
Mkapa had no any intentions whatsoever to run for presidency. However, there are some “Bongolanderz” who coaxed him to pick forms to vie for the presidential nomination on his CCM party ticket. These were Hon. Joseph Warioba, Ambassadors Ferdinand Ruhinda, Adam Marwa, Saleh Tambwe & Suleiman Hemed. Others were his friends namely Kabenga Nsa Kaisi, Mateo Quares, Patrick Qorro, Edgar Maokola-Majogo, Hon. Jenerali Ulimwengu, Walter Bgoya and Yusuph Mushi.
Consequently, on Sunday, May 7, 1995, Mkapa announced at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education building that he would contest the presidency. While making the announcement, he was escorted by Hon. Joseph Warioba, Hon. Jenerali Ulimwengu and Ambassador Ferdinand Ruhinda. Mkapa ultimately threw his hat in the presidential ring and was one of 17 CCM stalwarts who picked nomination forms.
On Saturday, July 22, 1995, the CCM’s Congress picked him as the party’s flag bearer. Thereafter, Mkapa was elected and sworn-in as the third President of the United Republic of Tanzania on November 23, 1995. As Mwalimu Nyerere had endorsed him and campaigned for him throughout the country, his detractors dubbed him Mwalimu Nyerere’s “errand boy” and considered him incompetent and a total waste of space!.
Mkapa immediately embarked on a new economic journey as the country was wobbling in severe economic doldrums.
23. Mkapa Retires Gracefully
Mkapa retired gracefully at the end of his second term, on December 21, 2005, as has become the custom amongst presidents in Tanzania. Mkapa’s detractors who had, in1995, considered him unfit for presidency, were all very impressed by his achievements. No wonder Mkapa said that he was leaving office a happy man. Betterstill, Mkapa won kudos nationally and Internationally for rejecting calls to extend his rule beyond the constitutional limit of two, five years terms.
24. Mkapa’s Post Presidency Life
After retirement in 2005, Mkapa did not want to sit idle and do nothing. So, he occupied himself with various political & development issues. Mkapa stated -:
“We may have retired but we are not tired. What we have retired from is active politics but we have not said we are not going to put in our shares of energies solving our country’s problems”.
25. Mkapa & Anna Mark Golden Wedding Anniversary
On August 27, 2016, Mkapa & Anna celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at St. Peter’s church, Oysterbay. H.E Ambassador Anthony Nyaki who was his best man on August 27, 1966 was also in attendance. Unfortunately, Hon. Lucy Lameck who was the Matron of Honour wasn’t there as she passed away on March 21,1993.
26 Mkapa’s Grand Attributes
26.1 Mkapa was an excellent debater
Being a good debater requires a mastery of facts, issues and a good command of languages. Mkapa was an excellent debater who fitted perfectly Mwalimu Nyerere’s axiom “Dont Shout, Argue”. Mkapa was an ace and eloquent debater whose skills of constructing arguments were a rarity in the crop of the leaders of his time.
During the 1995 General elections, a Presidential debate was organised and conducted involving four leading presidential candidates at the then Kilimanjaro hotel. In that hotel, Mkapa’s formidable debating skills were in full display. In a booming, clear and confident voice, he delivered a masterful performance and stole the show surprising many including NCCR’s formidable and widely popular candidate, Hon. Augustine Mrema, who had dubbed Mkapa “Bubu” prior to the debate. When it came to defending his position, like his mentor Mwalimu, Mkapa was like a lion who would send his opponent shivering. On that day, Mkapa magnificently set the stage for him to become the third President of Tanzania. No wonder, Patrick Rutabanzibwa, wrote on August 11, 2020-:
“Mkapa’s extraordinary intellectual ability had been well known since his days as a newspaper editor. However, many Tanzanians did not actually witness it until 1995, during the first and only televised presidential debate in Tanzania. Mkapa’s seriousness, eloquence and ability to effortlessly assemble facts to make his point, impressed many”.
26.2 Mkapa was a Devout Catholic
26.2.1 Mkapa rarely Missed Sunday Mass
Mkapa was a devout Catholic faithfully attending Sunday Mass wherever he was. “Mzee wa Atikali” had the privilege of attending Sunday Mass with him for many years at St. Immaculate Conception church in Upanga. Mkapa was always punctually present at the second Mass which was said in English at 8.30 am. Mind you, this was an intellectual who was rubbing shoulders with different presidents and prominent people in the world but every Sunday morning made a commitment to spending time with God!. When Mkapa assumed the presidency, he changed and started attending the Seven O’clock Swahili Sunday Mass. Mkapa was a well known figure in the church and even on days when he did not attend Mass, out of respect, loyal fellow worshippers, would leave his seat open. On the day he was to be sworn- in as president, Mkapa began his day praying the morning mass at St Immaculate church and then proceeded to the National stadium to assume the mantle of leadership from President Mwinyi. Similarly, on the day he was passing on the batton/leadership mantle, he started his day at St Immaculate church and then proceeded to the National stadium to hand over the leadership batton to H.E President Jakaya Kikwete.
No wonder, the Archbishop of Dar Es Salaam, Yuda Thaddeus Ruwa’ichi, said in a video message on Julai 24, 2020-:
“Mkapa was a Parishioner of the St. Immaculate Conception Church, Upanga and I dare say he was a good Parishioner…….”.
In the same vein, Mr. William Erio, the Director General of the Fair Competition Commission (FCC), informed “Mzee wa Atikali” that:
“My uncle was, indeed, a devout Catholic. Even when Covid-19 was at its peak with many people having opted to stay home, he never skipped Sunday Mass”.
Betterstill, Mkapa also respected other people’s faiths. Mkapa was a Catholic who married Ms Anna Maro, a Lutheran, and he maintained that cordial and peaceful coexistence with her. As the head of state, you would expect him to pressurise his wife to convert to Catholicism but he never did that and Mama Anna is still a Lutheran.
Mkapa gave government buildings to religious institutions to establish universities eg he handed over Mazengo Secondary School buildings to the Anglican church to establish St. John’s University. He gave the Tanesco buildings in Morogoro to Bakwata to establish the Islamic University, he handed the Iringa bank college buildings to the Catholic Church to establish the Ruaha University and he handed over the Magamba Secondary School buildings to the Evangelical Lutheran Church to start their Moses Kolowa Memorial University.
26.2.2 Mkapa Never Authorized Death Sentence.
Immediately after being sworn-in as President, Mkapa made a personal commitment never to sign execution orders while in office. He stated
“For as long as I remain President, I will not execute a death warrant”.
Mkapa, was, consequently, the first Tanzanian president to desist from authorizing the execution of inmates on deathrow throughout his 10 years tenure of office commuting them to life imprisonment instead. This was due to his religious belief that one human isnt justified in taking the life of another. He was firmly of the view that God is one who gives life and he is the one with the right to take a life, not another human being. His predecessors, Mwalimu Nyerere, who served as the founding president of Tanzania and H.E Ali Hassan Mwinyi, who served as the second President of Tanzania, authorized 10 and 82 execution orders respectively. It is worth noting that all successors of President Mkapa have emulated him and no one sentenced to suffer death by hanging has been executed. Thus, although the death sentence is still on the statute books, there have been no executions since 1994. In the same vein, the recent International Federation for Human Rights report is to the effect that :
“In Tanzania, no executions have taken place since 1994”.
26.4 Mkapa was a Staunch “YANGA” Fan
It is well documented that Mkapa was a staunch Yanga Fan. In sync with that, the late President Joseph Magufuli said on July 28, 2020 at the “Uhuru” stadium:
“I have heard that the late Mkapa was an ardent Yanga fan” (Translation mine).
26.5 Mkapa was a Workaholic President
Mkapa always lived the code of life of his Benedictine missionary teachers- “Ora et labora” ie Pray & Work. He valued work and gave it the best he had with amazing discipline. He wrote-:
“My sons, Stephan and Nicholaus, ask me – “When are you going to settle down and rest? This country will always be there”.
26.6 Mkapa was a Peacemaker
Mkapa was an indefatigable peacemaker at the forefront in brokering peace deals during conflicts in Africa. Hon. Job Masima, Tanzania’s Ambassador to Israel, gave one example on July 25, 2020 to buttress this view:
“In 1997, Kenneth Kaunda, the first President of Zambia, was arrested and imprisoned at Mkubeko in Kabwe, Zambia. Mwalimu Nyerere was the one who went and enabled him to get out of prison after discussions with the then President of Zambia, Chiluba. The man behind all this was Ben Mkapa. He was the one who had tirelessly discussed with Chiluba and then asked Nyerere to intervene. Ben was the one who facilitated the whole issue and Nyerere finalized it “.
Furthermore, in DRC, Mkapa served as co-mediator along with former President of Nigeria, H.E O. Obasanjo; and in Kenya where he was a member of a panel comprising Eminent African personalities namely Dr. Koffi Annan and Graça Machel helping the country to return to peace after the 2007-08 election violence.
No wonder, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, on July 24, 2020, hailed Mkapa for being “a close friend and brother, who stood with Kenya during some of our darkest hours”.
In the same vein, UN Secretary General, Hon. Antonio Guterres said on July 24, 2020-:
“Former President Mkapa was an experienced diplomat and a respected regional peacemaker“.
26.7 Mkapa was Philanthropic
Mkapa was a generous human being who inspired, guided and helped many people before, during and after his presidency. Mr. Jenerali Ulimwengu pays witness to this fact. He wrote, on August 5, 2020-:
“I first met Mkapa when I was a first year Law student at Udsm and had gone to Addis Ababa to attend a Conference in 1970. Mkapa was then the Managing editor of the TANU newspapers ie The Nationalist and Uhuru. He was a jovial man and quite helpful. He helped me out with the airport fee that one had to pay before flying”.
In the same vein, one Ms Benigna Joseph, stated on July 29, 2020-: “I am one of the beneficiaries of Mkapa’s generosity. In 2002, he paid school fees and other costs for 17 students from Masasi who had passed their exams, but their parents couldn’t afford to pay the costs. I was one of them. He paid for all four years of secondary education”.
Along the same lines, former DSM RC, Hon. Paul Makonda, on his part, narrated on February 17, 2020-: “In 2012, I was among contestants in CCM elections scheduled to be held in Dodoma. So, I went to visit Hon. Mkapa at his residence for guidance and financial assistance as I was struggling financially. He listened to me patiently, guided me and assisted me financially. That was the beginning of my political journey” (Translation mine).
Mkapa also once wrote-: “When I was appointed Managing Editor in 1966, my personal car was the office car, with the journalists often joining me at home for dinner and Anna was very supportive“.
These four examples, out of many, suffice to show that Mkapa was, indeed, a model philanthropic politician.
26.8 Mkapa was a Bookworm
Mkapa was a voracious and an avid reader of books. He had an insatiable appetite for books. He once stated -: “My favourite hobby is reading. I read alot especially biographies as other people’s lives fascinate me. When I travelled abroad, I always wanted to spend a little time in a bookshop. Sadly, so few people read nowadays”.
This was echoed by his former Personal Assistant, H.E Ambassador Ombeni Sefue, who stated on July 14, 2021-: “Ben liked to read- newspapers, journals and books. He read alot. I often helped him identify and acquire new books and journals., he would strive to find time to visit bookshops to browse and buy. If he didnt have the time, I will do this for him. He preferred reading books to idle chatter or self- serving flattery”.
Likewise, Ms Rose Magnus Mkapa (95), Mkapa’s maternal aunty, narrated more or less the same on July 31, 2020-: “Benjamin was a boy you could never meet in the village wandering aimlessly. It was him and his books. He was doing extremely well in school” (Translation mine).
26.9 Mkapa was a Humble Gentleman
For some who did not know Mkapa well, he wrongly seemed arrogant. This was because he possessed this aura of being confident and authoritative. No wonder Mwalimu Nyerere once said-:“You know, Ben is an intellectual. He is intellectually arrogant. He doesn’t entertain stupidity and when some people want to chat, Ben doesn’t have time for that “.
26.10 Mkapa Hated the Cult of Personality
Mkapa was a devout Catholic whose religious beliefs didn’t allow him to see any man, including a president, as being “Mtukufu“. It is therefore no surprise that when he was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs on November 5, 1985, he sought an appointment with H.E President Alhaj Ali Hassan Mwinyi and with great humility, he informed the President that he would address him as “Your Excellency the President” and not “Mtukufu Rais”. President Mwinyi, being a humble man himself, understood Mkapa’s proposition and promptly agreed with him.
In the same vein, on November 28, 1995 when announcing his Cabinet in the presecence of invited guests and reporters, Mkapa refused to be “glorified” and only wanted to be called “Mr. President” or “Your Excellency” and not “Mtukufu Rais”. He also refused to have his picture on national currency. He clarified in his Autobiography :
“I dislike glorification. I was the first Tanzanian president not to have my face portrayed on our currency. I also insisted I shouldn’t be addressed by the usual honorific title of “Mtukufu”.
Ambassador Ruhinda summed it up nicely on August 11, 2020-: “Ben was almost a complete human being. All the good qualities of a good human being, Ben had. True, he was also a severe and no-nonsense person. But all these are good human qualities”.
26.11 Mkapa was a selfless President
Unlike some past & present African presidents eg Mobutu Sese Seko of DRC, Mkapa was not the type of person to favour his native home village, Lupaso ala Mobutu’s Gbadollite. Mkapa always looked at the country as home not just where he was born. In fact, even the tarmac on the road to Lupaso was poured in under Dr. Magufuli’s presidency. Dr. Magufuli stated, on April 4, 2019, when launching Mbonde Heath Center in Masasi-:
“Is it wrong to construct a road going to Mkapa’s village? Yes am building for him so that when the time comes for his burial, the body would pass on a paved road” (Translation mine).
26.12 Mkapa was a Patriot Par Excellency
Mkapa was a true patriot and a brilliant public servant who dedicated his entire life serving his nation with honour, dignity and excellence. H.E Jakaya Kikwete said thus, on July 24, 2020-:
“Mzee Mkapa lived a remarkable life of service, civility and patriotism. Today, we grieve the loss of a lifelong public servant “.
Mkapa was not a populist who sought to just please people but was prepared to annoy them or lose friends if that was the price to pay for the interest of his country.
26.13 Mkapa was an Even-Handed Person
Mkapa was an even- handed person who always stood for justice. He hated injustice. This is evidenced by the following unique example.
On May 6, 2012, Mkapa, in an unprecedented move, made history by becoming the first retired Head of State in Tanzania to appear in person and testify before the court. He appeared before the Kisutu RM Court as a defence witness in a 2.5B theft case against Prof. Costa Mahalu, former Tanzanian Ambassador to Italy, regarding purchase of the Embassy building in Italy. This is because Mkapa had been shocked to find Prof. Mahalu charged while he was the one who had authorized the said purchase as President.
Eventually, Prof. Mahalu was acquitted.
26.14 Mkapa was a Stickler for Punctuality
Mkapa’s former bodyguard and former Regional Commissioner for Arusha, Hon. Idd Hassan Kimanta , narrated on July 26, 2020-: “Mkapa’s time- “consciousness was out of this world”.
In the same vein, former CS, Ambassador Matern Lumbanga who served alongside Mkapa, stated, on July 25, 2020-: “Mkapa was a very smart President. He was very conscious with time. If the meeting was set to begin at 10.00 am, he would step in the boardroom at 9.55 sharp”.
26.15 Mkapa was an Economic Reformist
When President Nyerere retired on November 5, 1985 , the economy was in shambles. Consequently, President Ali Hassan Mwinyi had to send Mkapa to Zimbabwe & India to ask for economic assistance. They rescued us. H.E Mwinyi divulged this after the death of President Mugabe on September 6, 2019. Likewise, when H.E Ali H. Mwinyi retired on November 22, 1995, the economy was also a shambles !. Ultimately, it was Mkapa who brought the country back from the brink of bankruptcy in 1995. Mkapa stated thus -: “I was sworn in on 23rd November 1995, and in the following morning my Chief Secretary Matern Lumbanga held a frank meeting with me which really shocked me- the economy was a shambles!”.
Mkapa was the first Tanzanian President in history to leave the country economically stable at the end of his presidency in 2005. Consequently, H.E Jakaya Kikwete, who served as the fourth President of Tanzania, thus, inherited a solid economy.
Furthermore, Hon. Anthony Mtaka, Regional Commissioner for Njombe, wrote on July 28, 2020-: “The late Mkapa had an impressive record in building state institutions (TRA, Tanroads, TACAIDS, NHIF, TNBC, PCCB, NEEC and TASAF)” .(Translation mine).
No wonder thus, the late President Magufuli admitted at the “Uhuru” stadium, on July 28, 2020-: “Many of the successful projects that we see today were initiated by Mzee Mkapa…. Even the National vision to make our country a middle- income economy was established by him…”.(Translation mine).
27. Mkapa’s Last Public Appearance
Mkapa’s last appearance in public was on July 18, 2020 at Azania Front Church where he went to pay his last respects to the late Philemon Mgaya (Former RC, IGP & Mwalimu Nyerere’s Aide de Camp). On the other hand, Mkapa’s last public speech happened just a few weeks before he died, at the foundation stone laying ceremony for construction of the Chamwino State house on May 30, 2020. With eloquence and his hallmark authoritative voice, he put the record straight by highlighting the foundational work by previous administrations.
28. Mkapa Goes to Meet his Maker
“There is time for everything : a time to be born and a time to die”.(Ecclesiastes 3:2).
Tanzania woke up on July 24, 2020 to the shock news that the Almighty had called Mkapa home. Mkapa bid adieu to the world on Thursday, July 23, 2020 at the Emilio Mzena Memorial hospital, Dar es Salaam at 9.30 pm. Mkapa’s sudden demise, which shocked the entire nation, was announced by the then President, the late Dr. John Magufuli.
Mr. Erio divulged the following info on Sunday, July 26, 2020-: “Mkapa was admitted for malaria treatment on Wednesday. He had shown signs of recovering on Thursday and I was with him until 8.00 pm. After watching the evening news bulletin, he died of cardiac arrest”.
On Wednesday, July 29, 2020, Mkapa was heroically laid to rest close to his father and mother in the clan’s graveyard in his natal village of Lupaso, Masasi, Mtwara. Lupaso’s most famous son had come home and the world shared in the grief of his family.
It marked the end of an extraordinary journey of Mkapa who was survived by his wife, Mama Anna, his two children Mr. Stephan Mkapa & Mr. Nicholaus Mkapa and his wife, Mrs Foster Mkapa, as well as his two grandchildren namely Nigel Mkapa & Nathaniel Mkapa.
29. Concluding Remarks
Mkapa was a towering and multi-faceted personality.
There is no president who did not have their shortfalls. Mkapa was not perfect in any sense of the word. His work, like the work of many other presidents, has its highs and lows.
“Mzee wa Atikali” concurs entirely with Her Excellency, President Samia, that the History of this country cannot be written without a Golden Chapter of the late President Mkapa who has left behind a shining legacy. No wonder, President Magufuli stated:
“I will always remember Mzee Mkapa for his love for his country, the fear of God and hardwork”.
Consequently, “Mzee wa Atikali” calls on everyone to tap into Mkapa’s legacy and ensure that everything he stood for lives on. Dr. Hellen Senkoro- CEO of the Mkapa Foundation stated thus on july 14, 2021 :- “The late President Mkapa did so much to his country while in office and after his term in office. He dedicated his life to the poor and underserved. We feel strongly that we have a duty to honour his life and celebrate his legacy. We are determined to carry over from where he ended and do our level best to keep his ideas and conviction immortal and impactful. It is why we commemorate this day, from now onwards”.