The Tanu fall-out that spelt doom for Kambona’s career

Saturday April 20 2019


By Prof Azaria Mbughuni @ AzariaTz

Another major showdown came at the Tanu Annual Conference of March 5 to 8, 1965. Oscar Kambona was reprimanded at the Tanu Annual Conference. The elders of the party made a recommendation for President Julius Nyerere to remove Kambona and his supporters.

At a stormy and contentious Cabinet meeting of early March 1965, Kambona was supported by Lusinde, Babu, Kamaliza, and Maswanya. Most of the rest of the Cabinet sided with Nyerere and Kawawa who came down hard on Kambona.

According to some sources, Nyerere decided to reshuffle the cabinet and remove Kambona. He did not go ahead with the decision at the urging of Abeid Karume who told him that it was not the time to change the cabinet. Kambona would soon lose the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The gathering storm did not prevent Kambona from performing his duties. He was part of a Presidential Commission that was tasked with studying and making recommendations for a one-party state. The Commission presented its final report to the President on March 22, 1965. The Commission was appointed on January 28, 1964 to work out recommendations for a one-party state.

Kambona was a member of the Committee. Rashidi Kawawa was its Chair. Other members of the Committee were Lucy Lameck, Junior Minister for Commerce and Co-operatives, Bhoke Munanka, Minister of State, Joseph Namata, and Chief Petro Marealle. Mtoro Rehani and other members from Zanzibar were added after the Union. The recommendations of the Commission set Tanzania on the path to a one-party state. Kambona would later claim that he had opposed the idea of a one-party state and that he refused to sign the bill claiming it would impede democracy.

Kambona was appointed Minister for Local Government and Rural Development in 1965. He was gradually removed from sensitive ministries over the course of 1964 and 1965. The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development opened an opportunity for him to travel around the country and connect with Tanzanians from all corners of the country.


He still retained the position of Secretary-General of Tanu and remained Chairman of the African Liberation Committee. Kambona would later lament at the turn towards one-party state after Nyerere returned from China in 1965. He became increasingly disillusioned with the policies implemented by Nyerere. Yet he had been part of a small group of people who came up with the policies and then implement them; he eventually had a change of heart and would denounce many of the policies he helped set up.

Nyerere held a secret meeting with members of the Parliament and Ministers in February of 1966. He informed them of a plot to overthrow his government. Nyerere said that he knew names of individuals involved in the plot, including government servants, soldiers, and police. Although Nyerere did not appear to have mentioned people by names, circumstantial evidence pointed to Kambona as one of those involved.

Kambona and other officials had been placed under surveillance since the end of 1965. There were reasons to suspect Kambona. As far back as late 1963, there were reports that Kambona was taking money from Communist sources. Foreign diplomats reported at one point that Kambona had received $10,000 from the Chinese.

There was the printing press scandal in which he was given a printing press for Tanu; the printing press was held up by customs until Kambona appealed to Nyerere. The printing press ended up in the hands of Kambona’s brother who ran a printing press called Ulimwengu. The government changed laws in June 1965 requiring people to get permission to send and receive money from UK. The new law eventually gave officials a window into money transactions of government and party officials. In time officials were able to collect a treasure trove of financial transactions of people of interest.

Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in Ghana in February of 1966. Nkrumah and Kambona became good friends. During OAU meeting on February 1966 Kambona disregarded instructions and pledged armed support to restore Nkrumah to power in Ghana. Tanzania was willing to support Nkrumah secretly and it did eventually send money to Nkrumah; however, this was not a matter they wanted to address publicly. Kambona was going rogue and acting on his own accord.

Nyerere convinced Kambona to take a sick leave once again. Nyerere sought courtesies and facilities of the Netherlands Charge d’Affaires in Dar es Salaam for Kambona to receive treatment for “heart condition” early March 1966. Kambona’s decision to disregard instructions at the OAU was problematic.

Kambona stayed in the Netherlands until beginning of June 1966. Doctors in the Netherlands treated him for general “fatigue and a nervous condition.” His departure from Tanzania allowed officials to proceed with a thorough investigation of his bank accounts. Officials discovered that Kambona had £50,000 that he could not account for. Kambona’s bank accounts in Tanzania were frozen.

The government would claim after Kambona escaped from Tanzania that almost one million shillings was deposited into his accounts in Tanzania and abroad between 1965 and 1966. Nyerere gave a speech at Saba Saba on July 7, 1966 warning leaders against amassing wealth at the expense of the people.

He talked about dangers of remaining bastion of colonialism in southern Africa, and then proceeded to warn of the dangers of leaders turning against their own people for personal gains. Nyerere was talking about Kambona and several other government and party officials.

According to one leader who had been a critic of Nyerere’s government, Chief Fundikira, then Chairman of East African Airways in 1966, the young radicals were “on their way out, and that their leader, Oscar Kambona, is finished as a political force.”

The government moved in on some of Kambona’s close allies starting in the middle of June 1967. Eli Anangisye, MP from Rungwe North and former Secretary General of Tanu Youth League, was arrested in the end of July 1967. Hamisi Salumu, bodyguard of Abdullah Kassim Hanga, former Union Affairs Minister, was also arrested.

Anangisye and Salumu were accused of trying to subvert the Tanzania People’s Defense Force (TPDF). Next came the arrests of Wynn Jones Mbwambo, Juma Zangira, and K. Geugeu. Mbwambo, Zangira, and Geugeu who were close associates of Kambona. Mbwambo was the Chief of Protocol under Kambona when he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mbwambo was responsible for overseeing a small intelligence unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that was answerable to Kambona. Mbwambo was sent to Addis Ababa to work as Embassy Counselor after Kambona left Foreign Ministry.

He was later called back to Dar es Salaam from Addis Ababa after an investigation discovered that he owed the government Sh16,000. Zangira was supposed to be a Protocol Assistant to Mbwambo, but he was member of Mbwambo’s special intelligence unit. The arrests of some of Kambona’s associates in June and July of 1967 signalled that the walls were slowly closing in on him.

Professor Azaria Mbughuni is Chair, History Department, Lane College, US. He can be contacted on: Email -; and Twitter - @AzariaTz