Dar es Salaam. The Chadema deputy chairman for Tanzania Mainland, Tundu Lissu, told the party’s supporters not to be cowed by what he termed “persecution” threats yesterday, saying such maltreatment can only make them stronger.
“Gold must pass through fire for it to glitter,” he told Chadema supporters at the party’s headquarters in Dar es Salaam yesterday.
Mr Lissu - who was a former Singida East Member of Parliament (MP) - talked to the party’s supporters and journalists shortly after he arrived in the country from Belgium where he had been undergoing treatment following several gun shots he received in Dodoma on September 7, 2017.
On that fateful day, unknown gunmen sprayed Mr Lissu’s car with bullets outside his house in Dodoma. Lissu, who had picked nomination forms to seek the party’s endorsement to challenge President John Magufuli’s reelection bid during the October 28, General Election, arrived at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) at around 13:40 hours East African time.
Chadema’s supporters and Lissu’s sympathizers thronged the airport and escorted him all the way to the opposition party’s headquarters at Kinondoni in the city.
It was not until 18:00 hours that they arrived at the party’s headquarters and started delivering his message.
He spent a good part of his speech thanking God, his party’s leadership, Kenyans, Belgians and the international community at large, while simultaneously, describing how his body looked like after going through the ordeal.
“Our God is good! Our God is good,” he chanted!
“Under normal circumstances, I was not expected to be alive. I was not expected to be with you here now. But since our God is full of grace, I am now here with you. I can now walk but I was not supposed to be alive,” he said.
He said his body was full of scars and steel braces.
“If I undress here, all of you will run away. This body, with an exception of the head and the face, is a map of scars from bullets and doctors’ scissors. This body has too many steel braces to name,” he said
He said one bullet was still in the body but medical doctors said it was safe for it to remain inside than to try to remove it.
“This body has a lot of issues to tell. Our God is good and I am now here walking. Our God is just…I can’t kneel down and one arm cannot be straightened but our God is good,” he said.
He said those thinking about him as having gone through unexplainable ordeal, should also find tiem to consider the feelings of parents and relatives of those who lost their lives or went missing during the past five years, including Akwilina Akwilini, Azory Gwanda and Ben Saanane among others.
“I am fortunate to be alive,” he said, quoting from some speeches by South African anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela, saying: “There is no easy path to freedom”.
I apparent reference to dozens of the opposition party’s members who defected to the ruling party on ‘cheap excuses, Mr Lissu said the party has seen those who could not go on with the journey.
“Some have run away. Others have put themselves on sale. More others have been threatened while many more have been defrauded…,” he said.
He thanked party members and supporters for their solidarity as leaders when the party was passing through difficult moments.
“When I was denied my treatment rights as a legislator, you and citizens of Kenya and other parts of the world organized a fundraiser for my treatment…my body constitutes blood from Tanzanians, Kenyans, citizens of Belgium and many others across the world,” he said.
Mr Lissu conveyed a message of condolence to President John Magufuli, the ruling party CCM and the general public, following the death of former President Benjamin William Mkapa.
“He was the CCM chairman for 10 years. He was the country’s president and the commander-in-chief of defense forces. Therefore, the whole nation mourns his demise and we must go to mourn him,” he said.
Welcoming Mr Tundu Lissu to the podium at the party’s headquarters in Dar es Salaam, national chairman, Mr Freeman Mbowe said he would not talk because the party members were only waiting for Mr Tundu Lissu.
He asked the party’s members to stand and remain quite for one hour in honour of former Head of State, Benjamin Mkapa who died on the wee hours of Friday, last week.
“You are welcome back. We have worked hard under very difficult circumstances. The party remains strong and ready for the elections,” said Mr Mbowe.
Mr Tundu Lissu announced last year that he would return home on September 7, 2019, after two years of absence.
He said he would return home to be in time for the local council elections which were held across the country in October 2019.
“I am returning home on September 7, on the second anniversary of the attempted assassination,” he said last year.
In November last year, the Kisutu resident magistrate court heard that Mr Lissu had recovered from bullet wounds he suffered in September 2017 but he has failed to return to the country for fear of his safety.
Mr Lissu’s surety Ibrahim Ahmed told the Kisutu resident magistrate Thomas Simba on Thursday November 21, 2019, when a sedition case facing Mr Lissu and three others came for mention that Mr Lissu’s homecoming was only being shadowed by fears over his safety.
Earlier, hundreds of supporters for the opposition Chadema braved police warnings and turned up to welcome Mr Lissu.
Prior to his arrival, there have been verbal exchanges between the police force and Chadema, with the former warning the latter against mobilising people so they can gather at Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) with the aim of cheering Lissu’s arrival.
“When you want to mobilise a gathering like the country-wide gatherings being organized by Chadema, the law requires the organisers to notify the police 48 hours in advance,” said police spokesman David Misime.
On Saturday, police issued a statement warning against any assembly at the airport for the purpose of welcoming Mr Lissu, who is also one of the presidential aspirants through Chadema.
But that notwithstanding, hundreds of the opposition party supporters flocked to the JNIA on Monday as they sought to cheer the homecoming of their leader who narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in 2017.
Surprisingly, the police force allowed them in and contrary to widely-held expectations, there was no any form of confrontation between the opposition party supporters and the law enforcing organs.
The opposition party leaders hailed the police force for what they termed as ‘wisdom’.
Those that spoke on the issue included: outgoing Arusha Urban Member of Parliament Godless Lema, Peter Msigwa (Iringa Urban), Joseph Haule (Mikumi) and former Dar es Salaam City Council mayor Isaya Mwita.
“I represented other MPs in escorting Mr Lissu to Nairobi after a failed assassination attempt. The situation was terrible and therefore, it is a blessing to welcome him back as we witness him walking on his feet,” said Mr Msigwa.
After a failed assassination attempt in 2017, Mr Lissu was airlifted from Dodoma to a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya before he was transferred to Belgium for specialized treatment.
The outspoken politician doubles as former Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) and ex-Chadema’s head for Legal Affairs department.
Working through his agents, Mr Lissu collected the party’s presidential nomination form, seeking the leading opposition political party’s endorsement in order to challenge President John Magufuli’s reelection bid at the October 28 General Election this year.