An icon of the liberation struggle

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THAT General Hashim Mbita died on April 26, a day of significant proportions to Tanzania is an unblemished indicator of the impact this great man had on African politics and its quest for freedom from colonial rule. General Mbita was no ordinary man. He was an influential and instrumental figure in many respects. It is difficult to imagine what Africa would have been if Tanzania had not given us this man. What will Africa’s 52nd anniversary without this man be like? General Mbita, that Tanzanian Army General and icon of the Southern African liberation struggle did not die on April 26 2015. Rather, he chose to further perpetuate and strike us with more memories of his role in the freedom of the southern part of Africa on this day, Union Day. He was, is and will forever be our hero, the hero of our freedom. Heroes do not die they say, but fade away. General Hashim Mbita, our legendary figure did not die. No he didn’t. He chose to sleep forever on this day. Union Day, celebrated on the 26th of April is the day that Tanganyika and Zanzibar were united 51 years ago to give birth to what is now known as the United Republic of Tanzania. Yet this man did not belong to Tanzania alone. He was for us all, we the colonised; we the oppressed. He was our eye, the vision of a downtrodden people. He was our strength, the fighting spirit against colonial rule and domination. He was our feet, the legs that gave us the strength to walk to freedom. His heart belonged not to Tanzania alone. It belonged to Africa, his beloved motherland. It beat for Africa, a place he called home. It spoke for Africa, with unity and freedom the key words. General Hashim Mbita, that great man; that true hero of Uhuru. Born in 1933 in Tabora, in Western Tanzania, his father a clerk at Tanganyika Railways got him into the elite Tabora School. Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Tanzania’s founding President was among those who attended this prestigious school. He became active in politics at a tender age, participating in the cooperative movement that gave Tanzania most of its early leadership and joined the pro-independence party, the Tanganyika African Nation Union (TANU) in 1958. In December 1961, when Tanzania was preparing for independence, he left for Dar es Salaam. General Mbita the retired Executive Secretary of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Liberation Committee which he served for 22 years from 1974 until his mission was accomplished when democratic elections were held in South Africa in 1994, died at the Lugalo Military Hospital in Kinondino Municipality in Dar es Salaam. He served as Tanzanian Ambassador to Zimbabwe from 2003 to 2006.During his lifetime, Mbita also served in various leadership capacities, including Army Officer with the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF), Press Secretary to President Nyerere and a politician. A recipient of many honorary medals, he was honoured by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) currently chaired by President Robert Mugabe with the Sir Seretse Khama medal and by the African Union (AU) with its first ‘Son of Africa’ award. The last occupation Mbita did was to oversee the Hashim Mbita Project which was launched in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in August 2014 during the 34th summit of the SADC Heads of State and Government.It was during this summit when Zimbabwe conferred Mbita with the Royal Order of Munhumutapa in recognition of his contribution towards the liberation struggle. The Royal Order of Munhumutapa, named after a significant pre-colonial empire, is the highest award that Zimbabwe can bestow on a foreigner. The honour is bestowed on mostly political leaders of the Frontline States who supported Zimbabwe’s independence and that of the Southern African region as a whole. The recipients of the honour are, former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, the late Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, and the late founding Presidents of Angola, Botswana and Mozambique, Agostinho Neto, Seretse Khama and Samora Machel respectively.As of August 2014, The Royal Order of Munhumutapa has been awarded to these six individuals. Tanzania is the only nation that has two recipients of the award. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said General Mbita was known to all freedom fighters in Southern Africa, a befitting honour to his contribution. “The late Brigadier General Hashim Mbita served as the OAU Liberation Committee Executive Secretary for two decades during which he was at the forefront of the liberation of most of southern African countries from colonial regimes,” said President Kikwete. “There was no freedom fighter in Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa who did not know the immense contribution made by Mbita.” During their Extraordinary Summit in Harare last month, SADC leaders observed a minute of silence for General Mbita. “It was he, working under Julius Mwalimu Nyerere and the Government of Tanzania, who oversaw the formation of our organisations, the programmes, the search for materials that we needed, where and how we could get them, type of programmes for the training very crucial for the cadres learning to use the gun for the first time and the deployment that was required,” President Mugabe said. “The fact that we are now what we are, a free people, independent and running freely, our own political systems, no longer with racism here of the Rhodesian settlers or in South Africa, the apartheid systems of the Afrikaners, that achievement he could claim to have been not just ours, but his as well.” Fare thee well General Mbita, you will forever live in our hearts and minds.

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