Statement at the Memorial Service for the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Pretoria – 1999/10/18

Pretoria October 18 1999

Your Grace Archbishop Daniels,
Your Excellency, High Commissioner of the United Republic of Tanzania,
Deputy President of the Republic,
Your Worship the Mayor of the Pretoria Metropolitan Council,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors, High Commissioners and members of the diplomatic corps, Leaders of political parties,
Ministers, Premiers, MEC’s, Mayors and other elected representatives,

Representatives of organisations of civil society, Leaders of the public administration, Distinguished participants at this solemn service of commemoration, Comrades and fellow mourners:

First of all, I would like to thank Archbishop Daniels and the Catholic Church for giving us, as South Africans, the opportunity, at short notice, to come to this Cathedral to pay tribute to one who was a leader of both the people of Tanzania as well as ourselves.

We have gathered here to mourn the loss of a rare human being. We have met to stretch a collective hand of comfort to a Tanzanian family and the Tanzanian people.

We have gathered at this sacred place to grieve at the immolation of an African jewel.

Our heavy hearts demand that grief should be our burden. Bereft of the anchor of Mwalimu Nyerere’s corporeal presence, we see in our mind’s eye a terrifying void.

The sense of deprivation, at his departure, afflicts us seemingly with greater intensity than the fond regard we had for Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, while he lived.

While he lived, we assumed he would always live. Now that he is gone, we know that the pain that he has ceased to be, and the love for him that we carried with an assumed light ease, will linger in all our hearts until we too, make our eternal farewells.

But it cannot be that the mournful dirge should accompany Mwalimu Julius Nyerere to his final place of rest.

The mournful sounds of the wailing of the living cannot be the travelling companions of such as he, who was always full of cheer, laughter and hope, whose eyes and face sparkled with life and energy and perpetual inquiry.

As we bear his body to his grave, we should march to the melodic sound of an African benediction.

“God bless Africa!
Give her glory!
Hear our prayers!
Shower on us your blessings!”

Some will accuse us of extravagance of thought and phrase when we say that Africa has been blessed by the presence among its peoples of Julius Kambarage Nyerere.

But only the uncharitable or the mean of spirit will contest our view when we say that, today, we speak of a glorious future for Africa, because Julius Nyerere dared to speak and act in a manner which said that since the African nightmare had its beginning, so will it also have its ending!

We were mere schoolboys when we saw the black star rise on our firmament, as the colonial Gold Coast crowned itself with the ancient African name of Ghana.

We knew then that the promise we had inherited would be honoured. The African giant was awakening!

But it came to pass that the march of African time snatched away that promise. Very little seemed to remain along its path except the footprints of despair.

Along those footprints of despair lie,

  • The million dead who were massacred in the genocide of the people of Rwanda;
  • the millions who have died in the savage wars that have raged from the Sudan to Sierra Leone, from Liberia to Somalia, from Angola to Algeria;
  • The millions who suffer as displaced persons and as refugees;
  • The millions of young lives that have been cut short by hunger and raging disease, while some among our leaers have pillaged our countries to satisfy an immoral greed.

Those footprints of despair are marked also by the path of destruction carved out by the apartheid hordes as they perpetrated a crime against humanity in South and Southern Africa.

Among those who left these footprints of misery are:

  • They who turned their guns against elected governments;
  • The master sergeants who have killed in countless coups d’etats so that they could declare themselves Presidents, with the right to oppress and to loot;
  • Those who transmuted themselves into Life Presidents;
  • They who have treated our countries and resources as a personal patrimony to be owned and disposed of, according to the personal wishes of these, who have proclaimed themselves masters of all they survey;
  • (some of the footprints belong to) those who, driven by supreme contempt for the people, have sworn themselves in as Emperors, to preside over a desolate human landscape they have cooperated to produce; as well as,
  • The system which, in its functioning, ensured the impoverishment of the poor and the enrichment of the rich, both within our countries and between our countries and the countries of the North.  The march of African time has seen crime adorn itself with the garments of statecraft.

And yet, we were blessed that we had titans such as Julius Nyerere to redeem our honour and rekindle hope in all our hearts. Even when we did not hear him speak, yet we knew that so long as the tyrants and the thieves continued to sit on their illegitimate thrones of power, so long would he repeat to himself:  “O pardon me thou bleeding piece of earth, That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!”

Had the teeming African millions not heard the voices of those such as Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, even as he extended an apology to the wretched, might we not, in those millions, ourselves have turned into brigands and robbers!

Today the wretched of our Continent have begun to walk with a firm tread in their step, confident of a better future for themselves and for the African motherland.

They walk tall, with straight backs, no longer afraid to look into the eyes of those who had sought to set themselves up as rapacious demi-gods.

Once more the wretched of our Continent are assuming their rightful place as their own liberators from tyranny, from fear, from poverty and from dehumanisation.

New generations of Africans have attained, and are coming into, their maturity, which generations must also constantly rebuke themselves for being meek and gentle with the butchers, for as long as these butchers remain the blemish on our polity that they are.

On the shoulders of these generations rests the duty to answer the drawn-out cries of those who were enslaved and colonised by strangers and abused by their own kith and kin.

They rest on firm ground because they stand on the foundation of stone that Mwalimu Julius Nyerere built.

In it are infused the passions which constituted his wealth – love for the people and loyalty to their cause; commitment to the cause of peace; attachment to principle; honesty, simplicity, humility and personal integrity; courage and a great intellect; the capacity to sustain hope at the most difficult moments; the determination to ensure that the sun shone over Africa, to banish the dark centuries which have been our heritage.

It can be said of this great son of Africa, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, that in his life he honoured the principle – cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days!

Perforce, we have to say – farewell Mwalimu!

By choice, we must say that your spirit will never die because we, too, will try to walk the difficult road you took, knowing that if we, like you, cast our bread upon the waters, we too will find it after many days.

Because of what you have done:

  • Africa shall be at peace!
  • Africa will prosper!
  • No longer will her children be the despised of the earth!

This is the everlasting monument we will build, at which you, Mwalimu, must gaze fondly through the great expanses of time and space, which misfortune has placed between you and these masses throughout the length and breadth of our Continent, who claim you as their own.

You are our own Julius – not Roman, but African!

Not a Caesar, but a teacher!

Not a conqueror, but a liberator!

May you rest in peace.

 

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