2. Impressions – Trevor Huddleston

Bishop Trevor Huddleston CR is the President of the Britain-Tanzania Society. During his time as Bishop of Masasi in southern Tanzania, 1960-68, he was active in promoting the objectives of independent Tanzania throughout the diocese.

This booklet is written by various hands to pay tribute to Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and to draw out the many-faceted contribution he has made to the life of his country and its people. My aim is much simpler: a brief and very personal sketch of a friendship going back nearly thirty years never, in the nature of the case, intimate, based on very occasional meetings and correspondence, but nevertheless an inspiration and a continuing joy for which I thank God. The only way I can describe it is by recalling those short moments of meeting at different times and to leave them to speak for themselves.

I arrived in Dar es Salaam in 1960 as Bishop-elect of Masasi, knowing very little of what I would find in those last days of the run-up to independence. Much to my surprise, I learned that the Chief Minister (Mwalimu) had arranged a party for me in the garden of his house to give me the opportunity to meet some of his colleagues and some of the wider community in Dar es Salaam. It was a simple social gathering under the stars. I had with me the African priest, Father Leo Rakale, from South Africa, whom I had invited to preach the sermon at my episcopal consecration. For both of us it was the first time to be in an African country with an African Chief Minister and government: the first time outside ‘apartheid’ South Africa – though the same stars shone above us. I have never forgotten the sense of liberation we shared at the realisation that we were in a country free of institutional racism and ready to take its place as a sovereign independent state. And we were talking together with the man who – above all others – had led his country to that moment of hope. And how young and vital he was himself in 1960!

In Alan Paton’s ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ there is a moment when a young white priest is talking to his equally young black colleague. And the black priest says: ‘I have one great fear in my heart, that when they (the Whites) are turned to loving, we shall be turned to hating!’ The black priest was, in fact, Leo Rakale and the white priest, ‘Father Vincent’, was myself. For both of us, in Mwalimu’s garden, the man who stood talking and laughing with us was a symbol of what could become true in South Africa if only . .. And no-one has been a more dedicated leader to that end than Mwalimu. This has been part of the ‘golden thread’ of our friendship through more than a quarter of a century and has certainly helped me to go on hoping against hope as ‘the sky grows darker yet and the sea rises higher’ in that Beloved Country.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of independence in 1971 the President and his government invited a large number of guests to visit the country for two weeks. The guests included the former Governor General, Sir Richard Turnbull, senior civil servants and ex-Provincial Commissioners and some churchmen like myself. I have yet to hear of any former colony (or the equivalent) making such a generous gesture and carrying it through with such an attractive programme of events. Mwalimu, of course, received all his guests at State House. There were safaris to the different Regions, a great parade in the stadium and a state banquet. Each guest on arrival paid his or her respects to the President and brought some gift as a token of congratulations on the anniversary. I brought with me a small book – of no great monetary value – called The letters of Sir Thomas More from Prison, because I knew Mwalimu would find it interesting. The fortnight came to an end and I asked the Chief of Protocol when I could call on the President to thank him for such a wonderful visit. I was told that as Mwalimu would be very busy with official farewells to the VIPs a letter would be sufficient and would in fact be a kindness at such a time. Of course I fully understood. But when I was eating a solitary meal at my hotel I was told that the President wished to say goodbye personally and would I go straight to his private house. He was alone in his study. Almost the first thing he said was ‘Thank you very much for that book. I’ve read it all and I found it fascinating.’ How many Heads of State at the end of an immensely busy fortnight of public events would have found the time to read such a book, let alone arrange to thank the donor personally?

And so I could go on. I recount these very unimportant personal anecdotes for only one reason – and I could recount many more. They show me the quality of a great human being who has always treasured his human-ness (his humanity, if you like) more deeply than his office; who has always preferred approachableness to protocol; and who in leading his country through the first most testing years of its life as a sovereign independent state has set an example sans peur et sans reproche, which few others can rival and none surpass. For it is an example not only of humanity, but of humility. And that quality, in politics and statesmanship today, is rare indeed: as rare as truthfulness itself and as desperately needed in this turbulent world.

‘The single most important task … which I set out in my inaugural address in December 1962 was that of building a united nation on the basis of human equality and dignity … I believe I can say without hesitation that in this most basic of all our objectives we have, after less than 25 years, great reason for pride. We do have a nation – a united nation. We do have a nation based on the principles of human equality. And we have made great progress towards making that equality a reality.’
Julius Nyerere, Farewell Address to Parliament, 29th July 1985

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  1. Pingback: Tanzanian Affairs » THE NYERERE YEARS

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