How “October 14” haunt Tanzania

How "October 14" haunt Tanzania

As Tanzanians mark the 22nd commemoration of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s death in 1999 today, some may wonder as to why Thursday has turned out to be a ‘black day’ for the Nation.

Two of the retired presidents, including the founder of the nation, Mwalimu Nyerere, and two ex-prime ministers died on a Thursday.

Tanzania was sent into grief and deep mourning when the-then President Benjamin Mkapa announced Mwalimu’s death on a Thursday, October 14, 1999.

Although Mwalimu’s condition at St Thomas Hospital in London had been critical with daily updates to the public, the announcement sent shock waves across the country.

For millions of Tanzanians, the fallen leader had become a symbol of the nation and some could not contemplate how Tanzania would be without him.

The death, according to the official announcement, happened on a Thursday, a day that the majority of Tanzanians who have been closely following national events would not easily forget.

It was on a Thursday in 1984 – 15 years earlier – (1984) that Mwalimu himself was in tears as he announced the death of one of his trusted lieutenants, Edward Sokoine, then Prime Minister.

The tough-talking premier, famous for his war against graft, died on April 12, 1984 in a road crash in Morogoro Region when he was travelling back to Dar es Salaam from a National Assembly session in Dodoma.

Sokoine had become so popular with ordinary citizens that it was not easy for them to forget his demise, much so because Mwalimu’s tenure as Head of State was coming to an end.

Just a few weeks after Sokoine’s state burial, the country was hit by another disaster which again sent shock waves – although no life was lost.

The Bank of Tanzania (BoT) building in the heart of Dar es Salaam was consumed by fire and it appears that nothing was salvaged from the building.

That was on another Thursday, and Tanzanias were quick to ask what ghost was haunting the nation after the mysterious death of the premier?

The central bank building should, by all standards, be one of the safest places in town, being the economic pillar of the country and key regulator of the financial sector.

It was no wonder that from that a section of Tanzanians started to become ‘skeptical’ of Thursdays; seeing it as a ‘bad omen’ day, given the two tragedies.

There may have been some disasters or deaths happening on the day in the following years but were not given any importance because of the little impact.

But Thursday – associated with the god of Thunder in ancient civilizations – was to turn its ugly head in later years with the deaths of the prominent people. One of Nyerere’s closest associates in the struggle for independence – and, later, his long-serving premier – Rashid Mfaume Kawawa died on a Thursday: Dec. 31, 2009.

Rashidi Mfaume Kawawa was the Prime Minister of Tanganyika in 1962 and of Tanzania in 1972 to 1977.

Eleven years later, the third phase (1995-2005) President Benjamin Mkapa died on Thursday July 23, 2020 at a hospital in Dar es Salaam.

That was about two weeks after the death of the last member of the first Tanganyika ministerial cabinet, Job Luside, in Dodoma on July 7: a Thursday!

President John Magufuli breathed his last, late on Wednesday March 17, 2021 with the official announcement made by his successor, President Samia Suluhu Hassan, at 11pm.

However, it was on a Thursday, March 18, that the majority of Tanzania, in their millions, learnt of his demise – thus sending the nation into deep mourning: the first death of a sitting president.

Incidentally, the 22nd anniversary of Mwalimu Nyerere’s death is being marked today, a Thursday, as preparations are underway to mark the founder of the nation’s 100th birthday anniversary next year.

By The Citizen

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