“A VERY STRANGE PERSON INDEED”
It was in these terms that Mwalimu Nyerere described Nelson Mandela in introductory remarks before Mwalimu presented him to the multitude of people who thronged the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam on March 6th 1990. ‘It beats the mind’, wrote the ‘Daily News’ in its second lavishly illustrated special supplement on the visit, ‘how, after spending 27 years of physical and psychological torture in the jails of currently the most brutal regime in the world, he can still maintain a razorsharp mental alertness and physical fitness’.
As early as 10 am, the account continued, although people knew that his plane was not due until 5 pm the road to the airport and the airport itself was beginning to be filled with excited people. Although there was a heavy downpour of rain immediately before his arrival, plus the fact that Dar es Salaam has chronic transport problems, hundreds of thousands of people stayed along the route to give Mr Mandela the biggest reception ever seen in Dar es Salaam. Everyone went wild with excitement at seeing the man they had only heard about or seen in pictures.
“It is a distant dream come true”, “I cannot believe my eyes”, “This is great”, “I can now die in peace” exclaimed people as they saw Nelson Mandela and his beautiful wife Winnie triumphantly pass by in the ceremonial Rolls Royce with a beaming Mwalimu at his side.
Mwalimu was visibly a proud man because Tanzanians, were once again demonstrating their political maturity, for, as he once said, Tanzanians can tell a comrade from a friend.
The 100,000 plus mass of people in the National Stadium on March 7th heard Mr Mandela speak. Although old, his voice was still strong and forceful, his reasoning disarming. Mr Mandela was awarded the ‘Order of the Torch of Kilimanjaro of the Second Class’ which is normally presented to Prime Ministers and other leaders of great distinction and eminence.
For four hours the following day normal business in Zanzibar town was paralysed as thousands of islanders poured into the streets, jammed the airport and the Amaan Stadium to welcome ‘Comrade’ (as he was described throughout his visit) Mandela.
‘Amandla’ the capacity crowd roared as the open Landrover drove round the stadium. Mr Mandela recounted his encounter with the late Isles President, Abeid Karume, in Addis Ababa in 1962. Mr Mandela requested to be taken to Mr Karume’s grave and he was shown the place where Mr Karume had been assassinated. Mr Mandela, who had last visited Tanzania shortly after independence in 1962, spoke highly of the Union between the former Tanganyika and Zanzibar and said that other African leaders searching for the unity of the continent should study the Tanzanian formula.
By this time the visitor was enjoying himself so much that he said to the delighted crowd that he contemplated sending Winnie back to Soweto so that he could enjoy Tanzanian hospitality more freely.