Mwinyi Senior pours his heart out in ‘Mzee Rukhsa’ memoir

Sunday May 09 2021
Mwinyi pic
By Jacob Mosenda

Dar es Salaam. A memoir by Retired President Ali Hassan Mwinyi was launched yesterday revealing a lot of unknown facts about his life--both private and public--pouring out his heart on key issues that challenged him and the decisions he made.

The retired Head of State gave his candid assessment of his stewardship of the country in a 491-page autobiography that President Samia Suluhu Hassan launched yesterday in Dar es Salaam at a colourful and well-attended function.

The memoir becomes the second of such writings by Tanzania’s former Head of State after former President Benjamin William Mkapa’s “My Life, My Purpose”.

The memoir, titled Mzee Rukhsa: Safari ya Maisha Yangu Kiswahili for ‘Mzee Rukhsa: Journey of My Life’, was published under a project that aims at preserving records of public leaders in Tanzania and other countries in Africa coordinated by Uongozi Institute.

Presenting his review of the book, Prof Rwekaza Mkandara said the 491-page book had its introduction written by the late president Benjamin Mkapa.

“In this book, Retired President Ali Hassan Mwinyi attempts to answer the many questions he was facing everywhere he went, such as: ‘how did he succeed Nyerere when he was not the first choice, why did he decide to resign from the ministry?” explained Prof Mukandara.

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In the review, Prof Mkandara also touched on how, Mzee Mwinyi, as the first leader to hold both Zanzibar and Union presidencies far fought for drastic economic transformations, a move that changed the image of the country at the time and earned him the name ‘Mzee Rukhsa’, Kiswahili for someone who ‘okays nearly everything’.

Moreover, according to the review, the book describes the challenges the leader faced during his tenure, including the violence of religious leaders who accused him of favouring Muslims in the appointments of leaders to his government.

Mwinyi also expressed outrage at strikes by university students and public servants where the latter were demanding salary increments while the economy remained in tatters.

“One of the things that bothered me was when I failed to increase workers’ salaries on May 1, 1994 celebrations, leading to the group that abhorred me and not inviting me to the 1995 celebrations and instead preferred Julius Kambarage Nyerere...,” says Mzee Mwinyi in his memoir.

Mwinyi, however, explains that he had to be brave and uphold his beliefs even though he was annoyed sometimes, in a bid to take the country to where he intended at the time.

Samiam pic

President Samia Suluhu Hassan displays a copy of the memoir by Retired President Ali Hassan Mwinyi titled: ‘Mzee Rukhsa: Safari ya Maisha Yangu’ immediately after launching it at Julius Nyerere International Conference Centre in Dar es Salaam yesterday. PHOTO | STATE HOUSE

The book also discloses that for his entire life, retired President Mwinyi has never borrowed any money saying it was due to his self-confidence and the wish to safeguard the economy of the country as well as his private life.

Speaking in front of the participants at the launch of his book, Mzee Mwinyi explained how the term of the presidency was very short in carrying out major government responsibilities.

“The president’s term is very short, you have no time for leisure and that is why the late President John Magufuli maintained the theme of ‘Hapa Kazi Tu’. It takes the grace of God to fulfil people’s expectations,” said Mzee Mwinyi.

He gave the reason for writing the book in Kiswahili, saying it was in a bid to contribute to the spread and preservation of Kiswahili in and out of the country in line with the government’s goal.

“I thought it was best to contribute to this effort. To make this language spread across countries as our leaders have shown,” said Mwinyi to the keenly listening audience.

Present at the function included retired presidents, with President Samia Suluhu Hassan as the chief guest.

President Hassan said she had already read the book twice. The first time she was taken aback by the revelations made in the book about what it meant to be a leader of this country. The second time was for the purpose of drawing lessons to help her lead the nation.

She described the former second phase President as the ‘Country’s Reformist’, outlining the many things that the retired president had done, including ushering in multi-party system in the country since 1992.

President Hassan also described how Mzee Mwinyi brought about economic reforms in the country.

“With all the things that his book describes about him, I personally can describe him as a reformist and a role model to many of us,” said President Hassan.

The President said the book carried lots of messages that would contribute to shaping the leadership among the current and future leaders.

“I want to encourage all of us to get a copy of this book for our own good, in terms of social life and leadership tenures, we will learn and relearn a lot,” she said.

The President also insisted on making Kiswahili one of the main languages in use across the continent as she acknowledged the use of other official languages.

“I encourage the use of other languages selected as official ones, but we should not forget about our Kiswahili as it should too be promoted,” she reiterated.

Concerning the publication of the book, Uongozi Institute chief executive officer Kadali Singo mentioned the intention and reason for the government of Tanzania as well as that of Finland to continue publishing memoirs of retired presidents and leaders.

“In 2019, we were here to congratulate President Benjamin Mkapa on his book My Life, My Purpose which was the beginning of a continuation of the preservation of these presidential records,” he said.

He said Mwinyi’s book, which took about four years to complete (2017 to end of 2020), had been published in Kiswahili to commend the government’s efforts to promote Kiswahili regionally.

“This inauguration ceremony took place today because it is the day that baby Ali Hassan Mwinyi was born, so today he’s celebrating his 96th birthday,” said Mr Singo, as the brass band and all attendees sang him a happy birthday song.

He noted that the institution aimed at helping improve leadership in the country and in Africa through the autobiographies and biographies of various leaders, in order to also increase the sustainability of democracy.

“We are developing a career profile for leaders, not just personal, but focused on key issues in the future development of the African country and the continent, especially to shed light on young leaders,” he said.