My last moments with Mkapa: Msekwa

Dar/Dodoma. Former Speaker of the National Assembly Pius Msekwa has said the former President Benjamin Mkapa had expressed his surprise that the retired leaders were not given an opportunity to advise the current government for the entire duration of five years it has been in office.

Mr Msekwa was speaking to journalists after signing a condolence book at the late Mkapa’s residence in Masaki, Dar es Salaam, where he recalled his last moments with the former President.

Mkapa died in the wee hours on Friday after a brief illness. He was admitted to an undisclosed hospital in Dar es Salaam.

Mr Msekwa said Mkapa’s death has caused him great pain, especially because they were close during their political careers.

“What hurts me most is when I recall a few days ago, precisely 10 days, when we attended the CCM Central Committee meeting in Dodoma and endorsed President John Magufuli to run as President for the second term,” he said.

He said after the meeting, which ended on Saturday, the former leader called him on Sunday for a brief talk on the current political landscape. He noted that among issues that came up was the roles of retired leaders including retired presidents, both in the Mainland and Zanzibar and CCM deputy chairpersons.

“In the five years of Magufuli, he has never sought our advice, although it is not a condition that retired leaders must meet to advise the government. I told Mkapa, we are a council of advisors and we cannot force to give our advice unless we are sought to do so,” said Mr Msekwa.

Speaking about Mkapa’s experience, Mr Msekwa, who was Speaker between 1994 and 2005, said Mkapa respected the State organs including Parliament.

“He once told me the importance of Parliament which endorses the government’s budget and therefore he, Mkapa, built a relationship between government and Parliament, and told me that if the government did not have a good relationship with Parliament there was likely a chance it could make things difficult for them,” he said.

He recalled how he advised Mr Mkapa regarding the appointment of the then Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye in 1995.

“He was not sure whether the legislators would endorse Sumaye because he was not well known despite being the minister for Agriculture, but I assured him that they would vote for him, of which they did,” he said.

He said that when Sumaye was named as the running Premier. The MPs accepted him and voted him in. He said he also advised him on the then retired Zanzibar President Salmin Amour’s intention of trying to extend his term of office outside the constitution requirement and further threatened to remove CCM from the Isles.

“Mkapa wanted to know my stance on the matter, and I told him to look at what the constitution said, further I told him that Mwalimu Julius Nyerere had cautioned that no leader should be allowed to make a decision that is outside the constitution as well as the Presidential term should not exceed the two terms limits,” said Msekwa.