His Excellency President Kenneth Kaunda has served as President of Zambia since October 1964. He is a personal friend of Julius Nyerere of long standing and has shared with him many concerns, including his devotion to the cause of African liberation.
When one accepts to prepare an article about a close personal friend, one must expect accusations from the reader of biased praises. In this respect I am happy to say that no such accusation would hold water, because the life of Julius Kambarage Nyerere, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, is an open book.
His contribution to the birth and growth of Tanganyika and, later on, to the birth and growth of Tanzania is something that needs no biased praise. It just needs correct recording of facts which speak volumes for the man’s contribution to the development of mankind as a whole.
I first met President Nyerere in Dar es Salaam in the first half of 1958. I had gone to attend the World Assembly of Youth Conference held in the capital town of Tanganyika as Secretary-General of the African National Congress of Northern Rhodesia. I should mention here, by the way, that at that time he was being prosecuted for some offence. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but it was a political offence for trying to blow up the British Empire like many other political leaders in the colonies at that time. Hundreds of TANU supporters naturally came to attend his trial. Back to my story of my early meetings with President Nyerere.
Between September and October 1958 the Northern Rhodesia African National Congress was split and I led the Zambia African National Congress, which was banned after only five months of existence. Out of it was born the United National Independence Party. As President of the new Party, I was enabled to meet President Nyerere as leader of my own party and in my own right. We then struck up a friendship that has given me this rare opportunity to write about him.
Julius Kambarage Nyerere is a man of rare qualities, an outstanding intellectual – honest intellectual, I might add – mass mobiliser and organiser, administrator and lover of mankind all rolled into one. His humility is very appealing. An outstanding visionary, he is also a Pan-Africanist and internationalist of great courage.
His achievements abound! He led the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) in the struggle for independence completely on a nontribal and non-racial basis. The construction of a strong and unified nation has stood the country in very good stead. It was a well calculated and well organised base. Tanzania is rated to be one of the poorest countries in the world, but he has taught his people to believe in self-reliance.
This belief in and acceptance of self-reliance has led to Tanzania being one of the most literate populations on the continent of Africa. The unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar and the consequent stability of the United Republic, the readiness of the people of Tanzania to shoulder their responsibilities towards struggling colonial peoples in the Southern African Region, are only a few of his achievements. Tanzania’s contribution under Julius Kambarage Nyerere’s leadership to the liberation of Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe and, indeed, the continuing liberation struggle for the independence of Namibia and the fight against apartheid in South Africa are too well known to need elaboration now.
It is sometimes forgotten that he was the moving spirit behind the expulsion of the Republic of South Africa from the Commonwealth of Nations because of apartheid. It is in grateful recognition of his services to all of us former colonial peoples in Southern Africa that I personally proposed his name for the Chairmanship of our Front Line States, a post he has held up to this point in time. Only a man of his calibre and commitment to the cause of man the world over could have enabled us to work together so well and so effectively in our tasks of assisting the various liberation movements in our Region of Southern Africa to fight and defeat the evil forces of colonialism.
Of course he has created problems for himself too and these are real ones! In his determination to take power to the people, he nationalised all the major means of production and distribution. In my opinion that was not wrong. He was – as leader and servant of his people – merely implementing the decision they, the people of Tanzania, had made as a result of their deliberate and conscious national agreement that led to the Arusha Declaration. But as he has himself admitted publicly, he and his colleagues failed to realise the importance of developing a dependable leadership cadre in the management of those enterprises – an ongoing process in any given human situation. It is not policy that was wrong, it is the execution of those policies that ran into difficulties. There is a difference between the two.
Unfortunately, the situation was made worse by the intermittent droughts and conditions laid down by some lending institutions for Tanzania which he could not accept for very understandable reasons. The result was discussions were deadlocked. He took this line in defence of his people’s interests. People anywhere on earth can only take so much and no more. This was a fair and just stand.
Typical of the man, he has used the last few months that he is serving his country as President of the United Republic of Tanzania to fly to many, many countries from which the country received various forms of aid to go and thank them all in person.
I should have pointed out that many Heads of State and Government as well as close colleagues and friends – I am one of them – tried to dissuade him from retiring, fearing the irreplaceable gap he would leave behind both nationally and internationally would be difficult to fill. But Julius Kambarage Nyerere had made up his mind and there was no going back!
From the little I have catalogued of his activities, the balance sheet is clearly in favour of Julius Kambarage Nyerere. His monumental achievements for Tanzania and the people of Southern Africa, and indeed beyond, cast into insignificance whatever errors he might have committed as a human being. From what I have been able to witness of his activities, I am in total agreement with the people of Tanzania for giving him the name of Mwalimu – meaning the teacher. He is! He will always be!
‘The vital necessity for increasing self-reliance as a method of development as well as an objective of development is now absolutely clear … we now know the bad effects of anger or enthusiasm flaring up and dying out like a flame and which takes no account of the interconnections of different aspects of development . . . we have recognised that it is false economy to ignore the upkeep of investments already made . . . And we have learned also that when you have decided on the top priority of one sector or aspect of development, that has to be given top priority in action and the allocation of resources … In other words, To Plan is To Choose.’
Julius Nyerere – Farewell Address to Parliament