WITHIN minutes of the news coming out morning that Juma Salum Kilowoko had passed away, crowds began gathering at his Tabata-Bima residence in Dar es Salaam.
The homegrown actor, producer and director, who is popularly known as 'Sajuki,' had taken his last breath at the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), minutes before seven o'clock on Wednesday morning, when he was only 26 years of age.
His father, Juma Issa Kilowoko, told the 'Daily News' that Sajuki was the fourth of his six children he had with his first wife.
He had come to Dar es Salaam, together with Sajuki's mother Zaituni last week (Tuesday), after receiving a telephone call from this same son while in hospital two days before, informing him of his failing condition.
According to him, on arrival to the MNH from their home in Songea District, Ruvuma Region, they saw that his condition was not what they would have liked because he was already using an oxygen machine.
Unfortunately, he stayed on this machine until his end yesterday morning. However, they had left the hospital on Monday evening with very optimistic expectations. "When we arrived from Songea, Juma (Sajuki) was talking but you could see that his health was deteriorating. He used to be propped-up and given porridge to drink.
But on Tuesday he ate a lot. This even gave us hopes that he was on the way to recovery. He drank porridge, he ate ugali and he also ate pawpaw," the elder Kilowoko explained in a solemn tone. It was in a mood full of optimistic expectations that Sajuki's parents left him at the hospital on Tuesday evening. Now before dawn they left the home in Tabata-Bima for the hospital, in a similar feeling that their son was on the way to full recovery.
However, while on the way, before reaching Mandela Road, Sajuki's father received a phone call showing him that the situation had worsened at the hospital. This news came as a surprise to him, in connection with the way they had left their son the previous evening.
In view of this news he tried to persuade his wife to return to the house but she refused. Now by the time they got to Mandela Road he received another phone call telling him his son had passed away. He used all the self-control he had to remain calm and did not tell the others in the car what he had just heard. They soon found out what had happened as soon as they had reached the hospital.
While people continued pouring into the compound yesterday, the late Sajuki's mother and widow Wastara remained inside the house comforting each other. According to the information released late in the morning, after the elders had sat together, it was decided that Sajuki's body would be put to rest on Friday, at one o'clock in the afternoon.
The family's spokesman, Cosmas Chidumule, the late Sajuki's uncle, told those who had gathered at the home that the family had agreed to have the burial at the Kisutu Cemetery here in Dar es Salaam, as opposed to Songea for two main reasons.
"We have decided for the late Sajuki to be buried at the Kisutu Cemetery because there are other members of the family who have been buried there. Now in line with the family's principals and the arrangements of the Muslim religion, it was decided it was better for his body to be placed to rest there.
This will also provide the opportunity for the majority of Tanzanians who gave what they could for him to get treatment, to participate in this final activity concerning him," Chidumule said. It was decided to conduct the burial tomorrow instead of today, so that relatives in Songea, who should be arriving in Dar es Salaam on Thursday, can also be present for the burial.
Chidumule also said that the Tanzania Film Federation (TAFF) had been given the responsibility to handle all the arrangements for the burial, on behalf of the Kilowoko family. By mid-day on Wednesday they had established a number of committees with their members, for this purpose.
Meanwhile, President Jakaya Kikwete has sent a condolence message to the Minister for Information, Youth, Culture and Sports, Fenella Mukangara folloing the death of Sajuki. Kikwete described Sajuki as one of the best actors and his death was a big blow to the local film industry. The late is survived by his wife Wastara and a five month old daughter.