The late Mwalimu Nyerere has been documented as man of courage in his prime by many writers. He’s the founding father of the Tanzania. Nyerere is a symbol of unity among Tanzanians; as he planted seeds of nationalistic spirit among people and self-reliance.
Every one of us is somewhat touched by Nyerere in our life and some of us want to go further by manifesting this nation’s heroic figure impacts brought their way.
As Tanzanians, we are remembering his commitment, patriotism, determination, integrity, diligence, wisdom that has helped to grant us, a much sought after complete independence in 1961. And then, was gain this, lionheart who shaped the current reposeful Tanzania.
We are proud land that the world admires to have, with growing democracy and political stability, legacies left by our founding father, Mwalimu Nyerere.
What is untold is, there are other individuals whose lives were glorious, immensely impacted by overzealous Nyerere who wished better future for every one during his heydays.
Mama Kuku is among the women who experienced the life of Mwalimu Nyerere, and she wants to share on how she remembers this conquering hero prior to commemoration of Nyerere Day in 14th October.
Mama Kuku touching story
As you might remember, in October 1973 coffee farms in Moshi area were nationalized. Our estate, Mawingo, was amongst them, and my family and I lost everything in one sweep, becoming penniless overnight.
Within a month my father was diagnosed with diabetes and cancer, which according to Dr. Wright at KCMC was brought out by the shock of the nationalization, and he recommended a cancer operation to be done in the UK, away from the depressing environment of nationalization.
Sympathetic friends rallied around supporting us financially, one very touching contribution I would like to mention was from our farm workers of many years, now on the nationalized farm, who gave us a collection of 600/- (which came to approx.£30 at that time) with a letter wishing “Mzee wetu” a good recovery. One of the staff at that time, Wilson, is still working with me. We are both getting old!
My father had the honor of meeting Mwalimu Nyerere when he was campaigning for TANU in 1960. He was very impressed with him and when in 1973 my father was in hospital in London for a cancer operation, penniless and homeless with no idea what the future held, he remembered this encounter and urged me to write of our plight to President Nyerere requesting that we be allowed to retain the house and garden on the nationalized farm. This compassionate President issued a Presidential Directive that we pay a token rent of 20/- a year for the house and 5 acres.
Nationalization was one of the best kept secrets! The first we knew about it was when the police came to check my father’s guns, having checked and found all was in order, they put them in their vehicle, I requested a receipt, and was told it was not necessary, but that I should be at the Chagga Council at 2pm.
We all met at Chagga Council at 2pm and were told that there was no problem with us but the Government Policy was that any farm over 50 acres was to be Nationalized and when we returned to our farms we would find they were occupied and we were not to interfere.
True enough when I got back to Mawingo I found the Army camped in our garden! I personally cannot say anything but good about this because all the Army officers were very polite and understanding.
Following nationalization of the estates both the quantity and quality of Tanzanian estate coffee suffered dramatically. The nationalized estates, which were owned and managed by primary societies, faced major managerial difficulties and had very low yields. Many were practically abandoned.
However, our problems came in other ways for example one of our dairy cows had given birth and the afterbirth had not come away. The herdsman seeing the danger of the cow dying, came to the house and asked me to help. Without a second thought I went to assist him, it was only later that I was told that, “you were warned not to interfere, if this cow dies you will be charged” the cow lived!
Another time a tractor driver, by mistake, used weed killer to spray the coffee, the coffee trees were burnt, and I was investigated because they thought I had planned this. Luckily the investigators found I was innocent.
Everything was removed from us, even the type writer and adding machine, and our bank account frozen, we had no money to even buy food and when the late Mr. Juma Mawalla found me in Ramzan’s grocers being refused groceries on credit, he gave his personal guarantee.
I then started making marmalade and golden syrup at home and exchanging these for groceries, the amusing part is that a few months later Ramzan the shop keeper left the country owing me money!
Every week the new owners of Mawingo would have a meeting at the house, they would bring 20 chickens from the farm and cooking oil and order us to cook the chickens for them. After about 6 months I asked the RDD if this was really necessary - it stopped immediately!
The farms at West Kilimanjaro were bought out by the British Government, we were given the chance to join this scheme but declined, hence when compensation was not forthcoming and we asked the British High Commissioner for help to pay my father’s return fare to UK for the cancer operation, we were told that the policy was to “buy out” but Britain would never compensate for “nationalization” so we could not expect anything!
Things were hard, when I returned from the UK with my sick father, the rains had started, the roof was leaking, my father would sit with an umbrella over him, when he died and I was taking him to the mortuary I could only think, as we drove past the coffee, that used to be his pride and joy that was now derelict and over grown with weeds, that it was a good thing he could not see what had become of his beautiful Coffee Estate.
Though time was flying we still referred to this period as the “Dangerous Years” because we lived in continued fear. I remember being investigated for Economic Sabotage and the claim was that I was wasting foreign exchange. This was because before we were nationalized, encouraged by Bob Makani of the Bank of Tanzania, I had started up breeding broilers locally. The charge was because I was bringing these day old breeding chicks from the UK by air instead of bringing by sea. At first, I thought it was a joke, but when I was instructed to attend a meeting at the Bank of Tanzania to answer questions, I had to request my lawyer to accompany me because I was so afraid as I had read a remark at the bottom of the letter which said “Hii ni kesi nzuri sana” on seeing that, my heart plummeted – however, after the interview at the Bank of Tanzania we did not hear from them anymore on the subject!
These were sad and hard times, but some beautiful things occurred, I discovered so many friends and the support was great from all directions. The late Mr. Shedrack Ngowi, Chairman of TANU at that time on hearing of my father’s death came to the farm to offer that we bury him on the farm, and when at my father’s funeral, Rev Haydon gave a moving eulogy in which he said “although we are burying Mr. Sims today he actually died on 23rd October 1973 everything he had worked for all his life was taken from him”. The same Ngowi sitting next to me squeezed my hand, offering sympathy and comfort.
I recollect that President Nyerere placed an emphasis on Self Reliance; his inspirational words gave me the courage to start up a flourishing chicken breeding farm, which is now the Kibo Poultry you see today. We always strive to meet the highest standards of performance, so ultimately we make a significant impact on the lives of our customers and our employees. We never underestimate the impact of this which is also felt by our team. We have 8 people employed simply to visit and advise the farmer on broiler keeping and so improve people’s lives. We follow the Rotary 4 Way Test which is based on Truthfulness, Fairness, Goodwill and being Beneficial to all. Because of this our customers trust us.
A few years later he visited us; it was such a great honour to meet him again. I still remember how nervous I was as I walked him around the farm to show him the development. He was very polite and asked many questions, as I was explaining why we usually separate the young male from the females because the females bullied the males at feeding time, I totally forgot the English word for ‘bully’ and finally blurted out the word - ‘Wanaonewa’ I still remember how he looked at me as he said politely ‘I do speak Kiswahili you know’! I immediately relaxed. Understanding the disease risks with visitors entering a poultry farm; Mwalimu left his entourage outside the gate but a few minutes later he sent for his Minister of Livestock to show him what I had accomplished after nationalization with so little money. This was very encouraging to me.
However later on the Ministry of Livestock and I did not agree on some issues and we ended up in Court. Mwalimu Nyerere was very concerned when he learned about this misunderstanding and when we met on the graduation day of the African Wildlife College he questioned me about it, finally asking “so you are challenging the doctors?” with sweat pouring down my spine I agreed, yes I was. As a result he requested the then Regional Commissioner for Kilimanjaro, Hon. Pius Msekwa to find a solution for an amicable agreement.
However due to the nature of the misunderstanding the Ministry told me that they were coming to slaughter all the chickens at Kibo, although they could not give a valid reason for this. I had to quickly obtain a Court Injunction to stop them entering the premises and the case continued in the High Court in Arusha; Thank God we won with costs. The Judge stating “I am satisfied that the Director Ministry of Livestock acted unprofessional and or maliciously and I quash the quarantine in toto”.
The other incident which I recollect happened in the Arusha Conference Centre where I had been asked by Professor Kombe to present a Paper on Poultry Production in Tanzania, President Mwalimu Nyerere officiated and he cited me as an example to farmers. Fortunately I was seated in the aisle and as he was leaving he stopped and asked me ‘how is your case?’ I replied ‘it is finished’ he went on to ask ‘What was the result?’ suddenly I became very nervous; realizing the case was against his Government, but I replied ‘ I will send you a copy of the Judgment Sir’ ‘No’ he insisted ‘just tell me’ ‘l won’ I told him ‘Congratulations, I knew you would’ he said and moved on.
I also recollect once being with my late husband, Derick who was the General Manager of General Tyre, when Mwalimu visited their rubber plantation in 1981. Derick was holding the camera trying to discreetly take some good photos of Mwalimu as he was making a point, ‘Quick, he is smiling’ I said, the President heard me and quick as a flash asked ‘don’t I always smile’ what a great sense of humour!
Mwalimu was a symbol of unity as he planted the seeds of nationalist spirit, integrity, diligence and wisdom which helped to shape the whole nation. He was very supportive of Peace, Unity Education, Health, Water and Sanitation, Women and Children and Development.
Those who knew Mwalimu, will also remember him as a humanist who brought humility into politics and who; consistently strove to make, not just Tanzania, but many emerging nations, more humane societies. The world knew him as a great leader, but I will always remember him for his compassion, concern, fairness and even humility coupled with a wonderful sense of humour.
Now to commemorate the 20 years of his passing, we at Kibo would like to present to his widow, Mama Maria Nyerere a post humus recognition “will provide a living memorial through the Foundation’s program to further international understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.
President Julius Nyerere; (Mwalimu) will never be forgotten.