Monday, August 19



Image result for photos of msekwa                As this is the opening article of the
new calendar year, I wish to start by wishing all our esteemed readers, a happy
and prosperous new year 2019, the fourth year of President John Magufuli’s
Administration.   I am hopeful that we
will all continue praying  for our dear
President, beseeching the Almighty God to continue granting him abundant  physical and mental health  throughout this new year, and through  all  the
remaining years of his constitutional mandate;  so that (in the words of the British national
anthem), he may “continue to reign over us. 
God save President Magufuli”. In connection therewith, I must also
express my personal gratitude to President Magufuli, for having enabled me to
start the New Year wearing a new academic gown of “Chancellor of the Mbeya
University of Science and Technology (MUST).
On appointment, University Chancellors are not required to swear the
statutory oaths that are applicable to other, full time appointments.  But still, in dedicated silence, I vowed to
deliver faithfully and with due diligence, what is expected of me in that high-level
Public Service position.
wa Baba wa Taifa. 
After those
preliminary remarks, let me now come back to the intended purpose and objective
of today’s article; which is a presentation in memory and sincere appreciation,
 of Mwalimu  Nyerere’s major contributions to the
development of the Kiswahili language.
Tanganyika Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) features a permanent programme titled
WOSIA WA BABA”, which is aired daily
in the early morning and late evening; in the form of a captivating stanza
which always opens as follows: “
Kama siyo
juhudi zako Nyerere, na Uhuru tungepata wapi?
 It is a history oriented educational
programme, which constantly reminds us of certain selected speeches which were delivered
by Mwalimu Nyerere in the course of his long-distinguished service to our
a student of Mwalimu Nyerere myself,
always listen to this programme, and that is what led me
  to choose, as my subject for today’s article,
 discussion regarding  Mwalimu Nyerere’s huge contribution to the
development of the Kiswahili language, which is, fortunately,
 now being rapidly adopted as a working
language by many other countries and International institutions, such as the
  African Union.  
I have also had the opportunity of reading an
informative book titled “Remembering
Mwalimu in Tanzania: History, Memory, Legacy”
(Mkuki and Nyota Publishers,
Dar es Salaam, 2015); which is a collection of contributions from a variety of
Tanzanian scholars.  Its editor informs us
that “this book is about how Nyerere is remembered by Tanzanians from all
levels of society, in what ways, on which occasions, and for what purpose . . .
It is about what Julius Nyerere stands for today, as well as about his
legacy”.    I was not invited to
contribute to that book; but it is what encouraged me to make this presentation
today, in which I will focus on Mwalimu Nyerere’s legacy in relation to the
development of the Kiswahili language, and in particular, his amazing feat in translating
into Kiswahili, two of Shakespeare’s famous  plays, namely “Juilus Caesar”  and  “The
Merchant of Venice”.
                                     I have
described his achievement in this scholarly venture as an ‘amazing feat’. And indeed,
it was. The dictionary definition of the word ‘feat’ is that it is ‘an action
or piece of work that needs skill, strength or courage to perform”. There is no
disputing the fact that Mwalimu Nyerere’s success in rendering more than 500
lines of dense Shakespearian verse into Kiswahili, was no mean feat!                                                    
intriguing questions.

In my opinion,
there are three intriguing questions which appear need answers. These are:               (i)Why did Mwalimu Nyerere choose to undertake this task at all?                                                     
  (ii) Why did he specifically choose these two Shakespeare’s

(iii) how did he find enough time for these scholarly undertakings?                                                         (i)  Why did he undertake this task at all?

          He must obviously have had his own
reasons and motives for doing so. But, presumably, one of them must have been his
‘desire and determination’ to show-case Kiswahili as being both capable and fit
for use as a literally language.  Just
imagine, for example, that by using Kiswahili, Mwalimu Nyerere was able to
render successfully all those pages of Shakespeare’s old English verse into their
Kiswahili equivalent! Mwalimu Nyerere was teaching at Pugu Secondary School at
the time when I was a student there, and I can remember that ‘English
Literature’ was not one of his teaching subjects.  But still, he must surely have had somehow
acquired very thorough knowledge of the two Shakespeare’s plays which he chose
to translate, the kind of knowledge which enabled him to preserve the true
meaning of each Shakespearian verse, as he delicately transferred them to the
Kiswahili language.

(ii)   How did he find enough time?
the fact that Mwalimu Nyerere undertook this task during the same busy years
when he had to invest most of his prime time working hours to the urgent tasks
of building the firm foundations for the economic and socio-political development
of the new Tanzania nation, It becomes quite obvious that he could only have done
these extra tasks during his spare evening or other appropriate times,
prudently squeezed out of his unavoidable daily busy schedules. This is
absolutely astonishing, given the fact that he was, at the same time, fully
engaged in the more pressing day-to-day tasks of building the foundations of a
new nation, as well as spearheading the pan-African efforts to eliminate
colonialism from the African continent, including the undertaking to drive out
the obnoxious apartheid regime from South Africa.                                                                

therefore wish submit,
 that this is one
good and pertinent lesson for the current generation of leaders, many of whom
tend to take refuge in the false claim of being “too busy” with their regular
  and therefore have no
spare time for even reading books, leave alone writing them! But If Mwalimu
Nyerere himself, with all his extra heavy leadership responsibilities could
still manage to find time, not only for
 reading, but also for  writing  translations of pretty heavy works like the
Shakespeare’s books mentioned above, plus the ‘New Testament’ of the Holy
 why should other leaders, who
carry a much lesser workload, fail to do so
 and even succeed so easily in ‘getting away with it’, by avoiding
censure or criticism from the public?

I am of course aware of the many Tanzanian
scholars, whose propensity to write books and other works, is apparently
measureless. This includes University lecturers, who are basically ‘compelled’
by the relevant rules, either” to publish, or perish”; which means that they
cannot advance up the ladder of their teaching careers, unless they produce evidence
of having published enough relevant material in their respective academic
 But there are also a few
others, like one Nkwazi Mhango, a Tanzanian scholar based in Canada, who
appears to have an insatiable appetite for writing and publishing, even though
he is not bound by any such disciplinary rules.
Kudos to him and his like-minded comrades, for their productive
endeavours in the advancement of knowledge.

Why did Mwalimu Nyerere choose Shakespeare’s tragedies?

This, indeed, is a most fascinating question. Why did this brilliant
man, who was placed in a unique position at a watershed moment in the country’s
history, deliberately choose to translate these particular Shakespeare’s
plays?  More specifically, why did he
select Julius Caesar for his first
translation; and what actually determined the timing of its publication?  It should be noted that his book ‘Julias Kaizari’, which is the Kiswahili
version of Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’,
was published by Oxford University Press (OUP) in 1963.  Thus, considering the huge amount of work
involved in undertaking such a monumental task, it can only be assumed that he
was actually working on this translation during the very pivotal years of 1961
and 1962; at the same time when he was extremely busy mobilizing the people of
Tanganyika for independence, and negotiating with the British Government for
Tanganyika’s independence, and the same time laying down the foundations for
the new nation’s welfare and development. Thus, how do we explain both the
motive, and the timing, of his undertaking this onerous task?  I leave that as ‘food for thought’ for our
keen readers.              

his recent book titled “Shakespeare in
Swahili Land’ 
(William Collins,
London, 2016); Edward Wilson-Lee submits that “the key to understanding
Nyerere’s choice of Julius Caesar lies
in looking beyond the intrigue and assassination recorded in the first half of
the play, to the conclusion which these events actually prepare”.                                               

One major conclusion, or result thereof, is
the loss of friendship among former ‘comrades’, which is depicted in the
emotional climax when Brutus, the leader of the insurrection, accuses his friend
   co-conspirator Cassius, of using his newly acquired
power to enrich himself. On his part, Cassius is astonished at being so turned
upon by his closest friend.
friendship had in fact been irreparably polluted and damaged by the acquisition
of power.
 Edward Wilson-Lee submits that
“it is this ‘loss of friendship resulting from the acquisition of power’, which
worried Mwalimu Nyerere; for
    he was
apprehensive that a similar fate (of losing close political friends after
independence), might befall him too”. To support his assertion,
  he quotes reliable evidence from the records,
 which show that “in the course of his
discussions with Governor Richard Turnbull (the last Governor of Tanganyika
before independence), Mwalimu Nyerere, while talking about the challenges that
  he would be facing after the achievement of
 also shared with him  his premonitions that, “like Brutus, he will
have to choose between his friendship with some of his closest colleagues, in
his honest dealing with some of the problems of the new country”.
 Knowing Mwalimu Nyerere as well as I did, I am
full persuaded by this line of reasoning.

However, I will quickly dismiss the innocuous
suggestion which was made by some callous observers at the material time, that
Mwalimu Nyerere might have “been attracted by the similarity of names between
his own Christian name Julius, and that of the play’s name Julius Caesar”!  No, the truth of the matter is that Nyerere
was NOT named “Julius” after that Roman tyrant called Julius Caesar at all.                  

                 It is in the catholic tradition and
established baptismal ritual, that whenever ay person gets baptized, he or she
is given what is commonly known as a “Christian name”, usually selected from a
list of the names of catholic saints. Thus, Mwalimu Nyerere was duly given the
Christian name ‘Julius”, at the time he was baptized as a catholic faithful,
with no reference or inference whatsoever to the said Roma tyrant.

           In the same vein,  I also happen to  remember a few other occasions when Mwalimu
  literally ‘went to great length’
to teach the use of correct Kiswahili to some members of the CCM National
Executive Committee (NEC), who kept on using the word “masaa” as
 plural for 
the Kiswahili word “saa”. On one occasion, he even brought with him a
Kiswahili Dictionary to a meeting of NEC and read out loudly to all of us who
were assembled there, the dictionary explanation that the word “saa” has no plural
  Therefore, in mentioning the
number of hours spent, say in traveling from one location to another, if it takes,
say ‘sixteen hours’, or whatever the actual number may be; the correct
rendering is “saa kumi na sita” and NOT “masaa kumi na sita”.
That was Mwalimu Julius Nyerere,
actively promoting the correct usage of the Kiswahili language.

Source: Daily News and courtesy of Cde Msekwa.


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