OBITUARIES

by Ben Taylor

Professor Nathan Shamuyarira, Zimbabwean academic and politician, died on June 4th, 2014, aged 85. From 1968 Prof. Shamuyarira taught at the University of Dar es Salaam, where he was instrumental in developing and teaching a course on “Imperialism and Liberation in Southern Africa”. At the same time, he was an influential player in the struggle for Zimbabwean independence and democracy. This later took him away from Tanzanian academia; in 1980 he became Zimbabwean Information Minister and then Foreign Minister between 1987 and 1995.

Shamuyarira was at times a controversial figure. In June 2006 he accused the International Crisis Group think tank of calling for a coup against President Robert Mugabe. Shamuyarira said the ICG had “sponsored violence” by the Movement for Democratic Change. Later that same year, he sparked outrage when he praised the Gukurahundi, a series of state-sponsored massacres in the 1980s. At his funeral, President Robert Mugabe said that Shamuyarira “died a poor man and this was Nathan, but rich of course in his views.” He was writing a biography of Mugabe at the time of his death.

Nkwabi Ng’wanakilala, media practitioner and scholar, has died in Mwanza, aged 69. Ng’wanakilala spent several years at the University of Manchester, UK, graduating first with an Advanced Diploma and then a Masters in Mass Communication, sandwiching time teaching at the University of Dar es Salaam. During his career in media practice, he served as Director of Information at the government Information Services Agency (MAELEZO), Director of Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam (RTD), and Director the Tanzanian news agency, SHIHATA. Later, he moved back into academia as Senior Lecturer at Saint Augustine’s University of Tanzania.

He authored several books on politics and the media, including “A Summary of Liberation Struggles in Southern Africa”, “Mass Communication and the Development of Socialism in Tanzania”, “Morons, Thugs and Journalism in Africa”, “The Dark Side of Power and Freedom Beyond Independence”, and “The Footsteps of Julius Nyerere”. President Kikwete sent a condolence message to the funeral: “This death has taken from our nation a very vibrant and courageous public servant. The media industry has lost a strong leader.”

Fides Chale, leading gender activist and founding chair of the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP), has died aged 64 in Dar es Salaam. In a statement, TGNP described Dada Fides as “a teacher and leader who touched the lives of many people in Tanzania, a strong advocate and defender of the rights of women, girls and others on the fringes of society. She was a people person who enjoyed a joke, who lived her life with love, humanity, empathy and a smile on her face.”

William Gibbons or “Bill Gibbons” (89) and father of David Gibbons a BTS and TDT committee member, passed on peacefully in his sleep in County Cork, Ireland.

Bill’s association with Tanzania began when from Ireland, he answered the advert for Agricultural Field Officers in 1952. He found himself travelling out to Tanganyika on the MV Dunnottar Castle to help in the aftermath of the Groundnut scheme. On arriving in Tanga he was diverted to go to Lushoto to work on the Usambara Development Scheme, and so began a long association with Tanzania and her people. He married June in Lushoto in 1953.

At independence in 1961, President Nyerere requested that Bill be kept on to help the country develop and by 1964 he was a Senior Agricultural Officer responsible for all agricultural matters in Mwanza, Musoma and Shinyanga regions, and for cotton in the 7 regions of Western Tanzania. He was proud of his achievements in helping build up the cotton industry to be one of the major export crops at this time. In 1968 Bill was made Assistant Director of Agriculture, and continued in this role until 1975, when he joined Louis Berger International as advisor and manager on the Water Master Plans in the Tri region around Lake Victoria and Tabora region up to 1981.

Bill enjoyed receiving his copy of Tanzania Affairs, devouring it from cover to cover, with many added comments and advice on different matters chipped in as he read it. He was known to be a hard worker, who had high standards. He served the country of Tanzania well over many years and spanned both pre- and post-independence years. Over so many years he built up a rich store of stories of his times in Tanzania, which he enjoyed sharing with his children in later life. (Thanks to David Gibbons for this – Editor)

John Crawford “Chon” Cairns passed away in May 2014, aged 93 and surrounded by family, poetry, and song. John was born in Galt, Ontario, to a family of Scottish immigrants and worked briefly as a bank teller before joining the Royal Canadian Air Force in September of 1941. He served until 1945 in India and Burma, following which he attended the University of Western Ontario where he fell in love with the artistically talented Beverley Woolmer. They were married on October 25, 1951, sailing immediately to Tanganyika, East Africa, where John worked for six years as a District Officer and Commissioner, one of the few Canadians in the British Administrative Service, while Beverley organized the export of local carvings. Those days in East Africa were among the happiest in John and Beverley’s life, and saw the birth of daughters Sandra and Lisa, postings in Kilwa, Mikindani, Morogoro and Dar Es Salaam, and long safari journeys to remote tribal villages. John’s experiences in East Africa were distilled in his book Bush and Boma: The Life of a District Officer, illustrated by Beverley and published in 1958.

Following his time in Tanzania, John had a long and distinguished career working in the education sector, including on Canadian aid programmes in Nigeria and Cameroon, and notably as Director of UNESCO’s Experimental World Literacy program. In 1972 he was appointed Secretary General for the Third International Conference on Adult Education in Tokyo, Japan. (Thanks to Beverly Cairns for this – Editor)

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