Felex Share Harare Bureau
AFRICANS should honour the legacy of founding fathers such as former Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere whose far-sightedness saw him pioneering and nurturing the roots of Africa and China relations which continue to benefit the continent today, President Robert Mugabe has said.
Launching a book titled Julius Nyerere: Asante Sana, Thank You Mwalimu at State House yesterday, President Mugabe said Nyerere’s commitment to the liberation, unity and development of Africa was “legendary”.
The book is a compilation based on statements and speeches Nyerere made over a 40-year period, from 1959 to 1999.
It was co-published by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (Sardc), House of Books, National Gallery of Zimbabwe and African Publishing Group in Zimbabwe as well as Mkuki na Nyota of Tanzania.
President Mugabe, who penned the foreword of the book, said it was Nyerere who initiated the Look East policy after seeing the hypocrisy and evil operations of Western countries.
“He showed us a way that our struggle can also have friends not just in Africa but also outside Africa,” he said.
“So his links with China became our links with China, his role in establishing China-Africa relations became also our China-Africa relations in due course. And I was later to develop that China is indeed our greatest friend. The West will pretend, the West will demand, the West will punish but look east, you have a friend who will always feel like you, a friend prepared to be in the same trench with you, a friend who will share your struggle with you. We were shown the way, we followed his tracks to the East and today our relations with China are solid. The beginnings (are) in Tanzania.”
Added President Mugabe: “In the 1960s, a period during which China was not yet a global political and economic player, Mwalimu foresaw its eventual emergence as a key player in the global body politic. He forged close ties with China’s revolutionary leaders, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Today China-Africa Cooperation, symbolised in FOCAC, has deepened tremendously.”
The President said a shining example of the Look East policy during that time was the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia railway line, popularly known as TAZARA.
He said Nyerere, who was the inaugural chairperson for the Frontline States, considered himself not free as long as his neighbours were still under subjugation from the yoke of imperialism.
“Mwalimu firmly believed that freedom and independence could only be achieved when people were united, working together with a sense of common purpose,” he said.
“This, he demonstrated by first unifying his own people through the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, before embarking on a journey to liberate the rest of the African subcontinent. He was fully cognisant of the fact that Tanzania’s independence would be meaningless without the total liberation of the rest of Africa from the evils of colonialism and apartheid.
“As each of our countries waged its own struggle, Mwalimu together with his own enduring people, the most charitable people of Tanzania were also carrying the burden of the struggle. We concentrated on our own but he had this multiple function of carrying the burden of us all.”
President Mugabe said Mwalimu’s love for unity saw him pestering Zanu and Zapu to unite ahead of the Geneva Conference in 1976.
“We met as Zanu and Zapu and said to ourselves, please let us not disappoint people who are assisting us,” he said.
“Let’s form togetherness and we said what shall it be? We agreed the name should be Patriotic Front. That’s where the name came from.”
He said he was pleased to learn that, after his repeated calls to honour Nyerere, the African Union Peace and Security Council Building under construction in Ethiopia would be named after him.
Nyerere, who died in 1999, is also a recipient of the highest national honour Zimbabwe bestows on a person from outside its borders, The Royal Order of Munhumutapa.
President Mugabe said Nyerere also played a pivotal role in the establishment of Pan-African Freedom Movement of East, Central and South Africa (PAFMECSA), a precursor to the OAU which saw liberation movements’ representatives convening for discussions.
President Mugabe spoke glowingly about Phyllis Johnson, one of the editors of the book, chronicling how she worked with progressive movements in Southern Africa and how after independence “she continued to pay immense attention and to write about our achievement in a very glorious manner. When we got our independence, she decided to reside here (having been born in Canada),” he said.
“She is still with us, still doing the good work. You are a marvellous woman, a rare species. You don’t find very many like her in the western world. It’s not just the fact that she has the pen nor is it just the fact that she has the mind but it is also the fact that she has a large heart and that’s why she is here.”
Johnson said: “The idea of doing this book emerged from comments made by President Mugabe two years ago on the occasion of his 90th birthday when he spoke passionately about Mwalimu and the need for Zimbabwe and Africa to honour him for his role and support for the freedom we enjoy today. He repeated that again last year in August.”