• December 15th, 2019

Acknowledging Mwalimu’s great determination


Professor Peter Katjavivi

The board of the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) met in Butiama, the Tanzanian birthplace of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, recently. This was a deliberate choice in order for us to honour late Mwalimu, the Founding Patron of SARDC, 20 years since his passing. 

It was particularly pleasing to celebrate Mwalimu’s life at his birthplace and final resting place, in Butiama.
Members of the board were taken on a guided tour of Butiama by Mwalimu’s son Madaraka Nyerere, who is also a member of the board of SARDC. Highlights of the tour included the family house and personal library, the museum and the mausoleum where Mwalimu Nyerere was laid to rest in October 1999.

I was honoured to lay a wreath on Mwalimu’s grave on behalf of the board, and planted a tree at the site.

Honouring the work and vision of Mwalimu Nyerere
Our board meeting was held in Tanzania to connect with this country and the work and vision of this great son of Africa.

As a regional think-tank with board members from different Sadc countries, the SARDC Board took the opportunity to reflect on Mwalimu’s contribution towards the struggle for the freedom and independence of Southern Africa, and the legacy he left behind. 

We acknowledge with great appreciation, Mwalimu’s determination to strengthen the unity of the continent in general and to defend Zambia, in particular, against the attempts by the white minority regime of Rhodesia to strangle it during the course of the liberation struggle of the Southern Africa sub-region. This is how the Tazara Railway was born, with help from our friends in China, to provide relief against the economic stranglehold on Zambia.

The board also recognise the fundamental role Mwalimu played, in championing the policy of self-reliance in the field of socio-economic development.

Mwalimu was Chairman of the Frontline States and a founding father of the Organisation of Africa Unity, which provided support towards the liberation of the continent through the OAU Liberation Committee, based in Dar es Salaam.

The SARDC Board visited the site of the OAU Liberation Committee, which is under renovation, and looks forward to visiting it again when it is open to the public as a heritage site. 

SARDC’s role in enhancing regional integration and development
SARDC was established in 1985, during the time of the liberation struggle, and its first focus was on exposing the attempts by South Africa to destabilise the southern African region. 

It has become a centre that researches and publishes specialised studies on the region and policy briefs, aimed at strengthening regional unity and integration. These include publications on water, energy, gender, infrastructure development, environment and climate, etc. that are regularly updated.

SARDC works closely with the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and publishes Sadc’s monthly newsletter SOUTHERN AFRICA TODAY. This relationship is governed by a formal Memorandum of Understanding.

The knowledge products provided by SARDC provide a basis for understanding regional realities, and thereby contribute towards policy development, regional cooperation, and the fostering of harmony between peoples of the region.
SARDC is based at Julius K. Nyerere House in Harare, Zimbabwe, and works throughout the 16 member states of Sadc. Board members are drawn from various countries and disciplines in the Sadc region. The Vice Chairman is Arlindo Lopes from Mozambique

The value of history
Mwalimu’s contribution to the cause of Africa’s freedom and self-determination deserves to be highlighted and passed on to the younger generations in Africa.

As we talk of a shared past in our region, we need to inform our youth about where we have come from and cultivate their minds for our shared future! 

The work of SARDC is to ensure proper research and documentation of this shared past, as well as its work on current and future realities. At present, SARDC is working with Unesco on a history project aimed at developing film and print knowledge materials on the liberation struggles of the region, aimed specifically at the younger generation. Tanzania’s role in hosting liberation movements from southern Africa will be suitably acknowledged in these materials.

A personal journey
I first came to Tanzania in December 1962 and spent some years in the 1960s living and working in Dar es Salaam and Mbeya. I was part of the leadership of Swapo in Tanzania.

When I crossed the border from Zambia (still Northern Rhodesia at that time) to Tanzania (then Tanganyika), I was overwhelmed by the fact that I had arrived in independent Africa with the national flag flying with pride. Tanzania will always hold a special place in my heart, and in the hearts of all of us who were hosted by this country as we fought for our own independence.

During this visit, I have retraced some of my footsteps, and have visited various places of historical significance to me and the regional liberation movements. These include the former offices of Zanu, PAC of South Africa, ANC, Frelimo and MPLA. I also tried to visit the former office of Swapo. The building has been demolished but we identified the place on Kaluta Street where it once stood.

Dar es Salaam has grown tremendously. Although I recognise some parts of the city, many changes have transformed the city so that it is not always easy for me to find my way as I used to in the old days.
The city holds so many memories for me. I had to pause and reflect on those days and accept that it was indeed remarkable what we went through in those challenging years. We have achieved our freedom, and in Namibia, we are coming up towards our 30th anniversary of independence. 

Today’s challenges are to build systems, rules and strengthen regional integration to promote cooperation among the nations of our region, in order to fulfil the dream of unity that our founding fathers and mothers held so dear.

* Professor Peter Katjavivi is Speaker of Namibia’s National Assembly. The original version of this interview appeared in the Tanzanian Daily News published on Saturday 6th July 2019.


Staff Reporter
2019-07-15 09:27:59 | 5 months ago

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