In the past week or so, Tanzania mourned two prominent citizens in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. In Dar es Salaam we lost Mark Bomani, first African attorney general under the first president, Julius Nyerere, and the second one was Salim Turky, member of Union Parliament for Mpendae constituency in Zanzibar.
I knew the first of the two since my early youth, hardly knew the second personally except through the media, and I doubt they ever knew each other, but their passing deserves almost equal mention because they both were great men.
Bomani was a public servant to the core, his trade being the law. Being the first African topmost legal officer soon after independence, he had major influence on the way Tanzania evolved in the 1960s and 1970s. He helped Nyerere in establishing a political system which was hinged on a constitutional dispensation of a single party, Nyerere’s preferred way of ensuring the country was closely guided along a developmental path.
But, although, like Nyerere, he had espoused the virtues of a single-party governance, he always strived as well as he could to ensure it was as equitable as it could. Plus, when Nyerere became the foremost advocate of ‘multipartyism’ in the early 1990s, Bomani became one of his principal legal architects of the new dispensation.
In the interim he had worked for a number of years in Lusaka, Zambia, as a United Nations expert training and readying the future leaders of Namibia, mainly working with the Namibia liberation movement, SWAPO. He also worked with Nelson Mandela in the tough Burundi peace talks which allowed for a new constitutional order in that troubled nation. What many people who knew him remember of him is his unfailing friendliness, his easy smile and accessibility for the young as well as for the aged.
When I went to offer my condolences to his widow, Rahma, the grieving lady sobbed in my hands, “Mark was a good man,” and I immediately recognised a major understatement. Mark was much more than good; he was almost saintly. He always sought to play for justice in a world where most lawyers are slick operators in the pay of deep pockets — state or private — trying to secure unfair advantages for their principals. Though he was quintessentially a Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) man — he was even a party trustee — he treated the other parties equally as he wrote the rules, almost as if he could be a referee in a match where his own team was playing.
For all I know, Turky had little in common with Bomani. He was basically a businessman, the difference being that he believed one could do well and do good at the same time. He was known as a philanthropist who gave to people he did not know and did not wait to receive thanks or acknowledgements. He was famous for his ‘good heart’ to all who came in contact with him in Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and elsewhere around the country.
But one act of his stood out above the rest. When, on September 7, 2017, our famous ‘unknown people’ attacked the president of the Tanzania Law Society in Dodoma and left him for dead having pumped 16 bullets into his body, Turky provided the plane which carried him to Nairobi, and safety. Turky was a CCM legislator and certainly knew that there was no love lost between his party leadership and the man who had been attacked, but all that was overridden by his humanness, which did not think of possible reprisals from those who had attacked his fellow MP. By doing what he did, he probably saved Tundu Lissu’s life, a fact that was acknowledged by Lissu during his campaign meeting after his benefactor passed.
It is something straight from Jesus Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan in Palestine some 2,000 years ago. That story mentions Pharisees and other clerics who saw a dying man by the wayside who had been attacked by robbers; all passed by as they did not see that it was their duty to come to the poor man’s help, except for one Samaritan, (who in the eyes of Jewish society was not worth much), who was moved to pity the badly wounded stranger, carried him to an inn and paid for his care and upkeep before going on with his travels.
In Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, a particularly stingy man is shown in his study early in the morning buried in his books, and Dickens quips that he must have been trying to prove his theory that the Good Samaritan was a bad economist’. There must have been people around Dodoma on that day who must have thought that Turky was a bad CCM party member. Why would any good party ember help someone who has been relentlessly attacking party leaders?
In the severely lopsided world of Tanzanian politics, these two men were exceptional. For the past five years, President John Magufuli has allowed himself to have free rein on the political stage from which the opposition has been all bad prohibited. The ruling party has accepted Magufuli’s diktat principally because its leadership thinks it is favourable to them and that elections will be easy for them since the opposition has been muzzled. They may have deluded themselves, and one is tempted to think that they should have had many more members in the ilk of Mark Bomani and Salim Turky.