Sir Andy Chande on freemasonry

Saturday January 7 2017

Sir Jayantilal Chande at his home in Masaki, Dar es Salaam. Right, Chande, left and other grandmasters. PHOTO | PETER MUTHAMA | COURTESY

Sir Jayantilal Chande at his home in Masaki, Dar es Salaam. Right, Chande, left and other grandmasters. PHOTO | PETER MUTHAMA | COURTESY  

By PETER MUTHAMA

Sir Jayantilal Keshavji Chande, a former District Grand Master of East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the Seychelles) between 1986 and 2005, although retired, is still considered a giant in Tanzania’s commercial, political and social life. He is an astute industrialist, philanthropist, trustee and a social pillar.

Sir Andy Chande, as he is popularly known, is a candid and amiable old man with a disarming smile in which one can sense honesty and sincerity. Aged 88 and dogged by poor health (he has had open heart surgery), his brain is still sharp, with a cheerful disposition, making people around him comfortable.

When I sat down with him for an interview in his home in Masaki, Dar es Salaam, it was a relaxed talk.

I arrived 30 minutes late for the interview, and was very apprehensive, considering Sir Andy Chande’s stature in society. But as we settled in his unpretentious but beautiful outdoor patio surrounded by breath-taking greenery, he made no mention of my lateness.

In the interview, he relived his days in the formative pre-independent Tanzania as a member of the Executive and Legislative Councils; his private work and current economic and political scene.

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But who is Mzee Chande?

Born in Mombasa, Kenya, in 1929, he was the Freemasons’ District Grand Master for East Africa from 1986 to 2005. But that is only one facet of his life.

He was, in his working days, an industrialist, philanthropist, author and politician. He has served a member of the Executive Council (Cabinet), as chairman of many company boards including Tanesco (Tanzania’s national electricity utility company), the National Milling Corporation, East African Standard Newspaper (now The Daily News), Tanzania Railways Corporation, Tanzania Harbours Authority, Air Tanzania Corporation, National Bank of Commerce, Barclays Bank... the list is almost endless. 

Sir Andy Chande has close links with Tanzania’s retired presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete and this started way back with Tanzania’s founding father, Julius Nyerere.

He has also rubbed shoulders with political leaders from around the world.

Retired president Kikwete describes him as “an exceptional nationalist who has for many years served the country diligently.”

Former president Mkapa said: “I am struck by his deep conviction; readiness to sacrifice and readiness to serve, his deep loyalty to family relations, traditions and expectations, his ardent advocacy for fairness. He is a person with clear identity and vision.”

His works

Among his published works are Transition of A Life, Collected Works; A Knight in Africa, which is an autobiography and Whither Directing Your Course, a communique to the various Masonic bodies in East Africa and overseas. The proceeds from these books go to charity.

Sir Andy Chande’s mien is that of a self-actualised man. Among his most important accolades is the knighthood. He was knighted by the Queen of England in 2005 and in March 2006, the Duke of Kent conferred on him the most prestigious award of Order of Service to Masonry which is available to only 12 living Freemasons.

Sir Andy Chande was initiated into the craft (Freemasonry) in 1954 after a two-year wait and rose through the ranks to District Grand Master. “At the height of colonial rule, non-Europeans could not be easily admitted into the craft. It took me some two years to be accepted,” he said.

What is freemasonry?

Freemasonry has been in East Africa since the first Lodge was opened in Zanzibar in 1905, but Masonic Lodges back then were reluctant to initiate people of African and Asian descent. 

There was only one Lodge (established in 1931) that admitted Asians as members and they too were very selective. In Whither Directing Your Course, he writes that the sole purpose of Freemasonry is to influence the forging of standards, virtues of brotherly love, relief and truth.

“Freemasonry seeks to develop the character of a man, cultivating loyalty to the country, family, to God and fellow human beings. A Freemason is exhorted to maintain high ethical standards in his business and when dealing with customers and the public,” he writes.

As the District Grand Master, he was called upon to explain the workings of the Masons by a commission in Kenya that was set up by President Moi in the early 1990s to investigate allegations of devil worship against the society. Then, Kenyans were fixated with the devil and satanic symbolism.  

Sir Andy Chande says that everything about the craft, except symbols and signs of recognition are open and available. One can obtain them from bookshops or on the Internet and they give information on the ceremonies of various Masonic degrees. 

“The only thing you will not find there is the mode of recognition used by Freemasons worldwide,” he says.

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Chande shares knowledge on the craft

Mzee Chande notes in his book Whither Directing Your Course, a communique to Masons, that Freemasonry teaches great truths concerning the nature and existence of one Supreme Deity (great architect of the universe) and the existence and immortality of the soul.

The Masonic philosophy utilises the teaching of all ages and the symbolism of the builder’s art. He builds on principles, namely, brotherly love, relief and truth reflected in the sacred books, which preach the adherence to the truth, love for neighbours and belief in God. If you are a Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew or Sikh, you are exhorted to be a good one.

He further writes that Freemasonry seeks to cultivate and improve the human mind, spirit and personality. Harmonious relationships with all religions are viewed as necessary to diverse outlook on life.

Contrary to the general perception that Freemasonry enriches its members, the book stresses that the motive of joining the movement should be thoroughly vetted. Freemasonry admits a good man with a view to making him better.

“Human beings sometimes ask questions even though they know the answers. Some ask questions to be enlightened but they have already made up their minds.

“Freemasonry confers no financial benefit on a member. A member is prohibited from commercialising it. He is not allowed to use Freemasonry to advance pecuniary or other advantage. At meetings, members are prohibited from discussing politics or religion. Charity and helping indigent members of the community is one of the objectives of Freemasonry,” says Mzee Chande.

The craft is not a substitute to religion. Although the masons make use of symbolism and allegories, the key holy books – the King James Version of the Bible, the Gita and the Koran — are available in the Lodges.

Freemasonry has been in existence for over 300 years and has drawn members from royalty, heads of state and industry. But global membership has gone down in the past 30 years from six to three million.

In 1738, Pope Clement XIV issued a Papal Bull forbidding Catholics from joining Freemasonry.