The last of the Tanganyikans are dying. Long live Tanga za Nyika.
It’s a terrible joke but I’ll tell it anyways: A delegation of Tanzanian worthies were visiting Nairobi on some political mission or other. The master of ceremony at the event they were attending introduced them thus: “Here we have King’ung’e Ng’ombale Mwiru accompanied by his fellow Ving’ung’e.”
Apparently the Kenyan MC had mistaken the comrade’s first name for a title and proceeded to grant it in its plural form to the rest of the Tanzanian guests. Can you blame him? The name certainly sounds like an appellation of nobility.
King’ung’e Ngombale Mwiru passed away last Sunday, may he rest in peace.
As he was one of the last self-avowed Marxists, I like to think that the late Ngombale Mwiru would have been quite annoyed at the idea of being called nobility. In that sense he was the embodiment of a certain era of Tanzanian self-realisation. One marked by hard work and sacrifice, sure, but also a vision that was very particular.
There was some good.
There was some bad. It is with some trepidation that some of us mark the passing of an original nationalist and consider what the present is presenting, and what the future holds.
As an advocate for youth and change and the embrace of modernity — in its progressive forms — I was thoroughly disturbed to realise that this space to be vocally and adamantly critical of the old guard has actually been a gift of the circumstances they created.
Just as one cannot stand up if you don’t have a skeletal structure, muscles, and gravity to push up against your feet, a commentator cannot stand against that which is not firm. Like, say, the shoulders of giants masquerading as regular folks who tell you to “just call me comrade.”
Our generation, Independence is not going to be with us forever. I don’t think I can explain how deeply spoilt we younger Tanzanians have been by the continuous flow of our post-colonial history, bumps and all.
Folks like Ngombale Mwiru gave us the luxury of taking them and the systems they created for granted. His passing was a shock because he has always been there, and it is easy to assume that nationalists are just going to stick around forever, patiently enduring whatever gets thrown at them.
While keeping the Green and Gold together, mostly. And being the repositories of histories that we don’t take the time to ask them about because they are immortal, right? And providing calm ports during stormy political weather. And, and, and... the last of the Tanganyikans are dying. Long live Tanganyika.
And then they grow old. As time licks her fingers to turn the pages of history from one era to the next, and the old guard passes on the baton to we youth whether we are ready for it or not, a question has been rearing its head: What are we going to do? The old man passed on and somehow it feels like he left us all a personal challenge to step up to.
- Be stubborn about what’s worth fighting for.
- Marxism is neither stupid nor dead.
- Should you get an opportunity to serve your nation, swear to do so to the best of your ability on the Constitution of the United Republic, like he did.
- Uphold respect for people’s faith — swear on your holy book, sure. But swear on the Constitution also, so you mean it to all of us, not just yourself and your faith.
- Tanzania first, not in an obnoxious way, but because people are worth loving and one should practice that at home.
As we wish him to rest in peace, and as someone who has had his protection all her life I say thank you. For many things but mainly for opening a door to be challenged as the next generation: Who is going to Ving’ung’e us next? I suspect he would say we should do it ourselves. Eh, baba.