Unexpected violent end of a fearless businessman

Wednesday December 18 2013

Mabina, who was lynched by a mob last weekend,

Mabina, who was lynched by a mob last weekend, was a powerful political force in the Lake Zone. PHOTO|FILE 

By The Citizen Correspondent

Mwanza. Social media is characterized by the swiftness of collection and dissemination of information.

True to its nature, social media in Tanzania, which had for over a week been buzzing with the news of the death of South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, quickly picked up news of the stoning to death on Sunday of former Mwanza CCM regional chairman Clement Gregory Mabina.

Reports from the scene of the incident said a mob beat Mabina to death after he allegedly shot dead 11 year-old Temeli Malemi, who was part of the crowd that had confronted Mabina, accusing him of grabbing their land.

Mabina was born in Kisesa, Mwanza, in 1955. He was raised and attained his education in his home area of Kisesa.

He later moved to Kenya where he established business connections that he took advantage of upon his return to Tanzania.

He got involved in the successive  business ventures, including distribution of beer mainly from Kenya and oil and fuel as well as  printing.

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His stay in Kenya cultivated his interest in land.  Little did he know that love of land would lead to his death.

Because of his aggressiveness, in early 1990s, he was among the most feared businessmen in Mwanza city.

He was nicknamed wembe, Swahili for razor, because of his style of doing business in those dark days when smuggling of beer, fuel and other consumable items from Kenya was rampant in the Lake Zone regions.

He became the leading distributor of beer from Kenya Breweries, earning him tens of millions of shillings, and making him one of the richest persons in Mwanza by the mid-1990s.

However, a few years later, he became highly indebted to the extent of losing most of his fortune.

When his business empire crumbled, he decided to pursue politics from the year 2000, hoping to gain his lost glory.

Like all rising entrepreneurs in Tanzania, and indeed Africa, Mabina developed interest in politics that went beyond supporting and influencing policies.

He joined the opposition party United Democratic Party (UDP) that selected him as its candidate for parliament seat representing Magu constituency. He lost in the election.

He later on switched to Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), where he went on to be elected a councellor for Kisesa Ward, and subsequent chairperson of Magu District Council.

In 2007 he was elected CCM regional chairperson for Mwanza Region, but lost it when he sought  re-election in 2012. Until his death, he was the sitting councillor of Kisesa Ward.

Despite losing the regional party chairmanship six years ago, Mabina remained one of the most powerful politicians and figures in Mwanza Region.

He was also a sitting board member of the Tanzania Cotton Board responsible for the promotion of cotton which is one of the cash crops cultivated in the Lake Zone region of Tanzania.

He was an aggressive entrepreneur and some viewed him as arrogant. 

His peers referred to and addressed him as razor (wembe). However, the aggressiveness, bullishness and intimidating behaviour could be accounted by his physiology and his socialization especially the time he spent in Kenya.

His Kenya socialization shaped his way of doing things that could not have gone down well with his indigenous men.

On the other hand, little understanding of what he was actually involved in while in Kenya became a source of much speculation, which will remain just speculation- good for whiling away time.

But  suffice it to say that the fact that Mabina was a community leader who first emerged as an opposition politician and then a member of the ruling party speaks volumes about the way he went along with those he interacted with.

Mabina was believed to be among a clique of rich people who became fabulously wealthy through shrewdness and fearlessness.

He was also a person who could not let an opportunity to make a quick buck pass him by.

Some business associates said Mabina was a self-made millionaire who used his business acumen and close ties with the system to  rise from virtual obscurity in the early 1990s to one of the most influential people in Mwanza Region and the entire Lake Zone.

Mabina, who is expected to be buried today, is survived by two widows and nine children.