11 March 2018

Tanzania: Scholar's Political Ambitions Cut Short


Visiting the Facebook account of Baraka Nafari, a Tanzanian university lecturer who killed last month while undertaking PhD studies in South Africa, one quickly notices that he was a political activist per excellence.

Almost all his posts had to do with political activism. From sharing his outrage over the attempt assassination of Tundu Lissu, the disappearance of journalist Azory Gwanda to the killing of the National Institute of Transport (NIT) student Aquilina Akwilini by a stray bullet as police were dispersing a Chadema protest, Nafari, who was a member of Chadema, made his displeasure known over the current state of affairs in the country.

Nafari, who was buried on Friday in his home district of Kasulu in Kigoma Region also shared, in his Facebook posts, a lot of activities of his party. Political ambitions of Nafari, an Economics lecturer at the St Augustine University of Tanzania (Saut) but who were taking a PhD in Economics from the University of Johannesburg, were not imaginary.

His cousin Uwezo Edward who lives in Cape Town in South Africa told The Citizen over the telephone last week that Nafari, who also served as a research assistant within the Department of Economics and Econometrics at the UJ, had plans to vie for a parliamentary seat, probably in the next elections. "He was a member of Chadema and the last time he visited me, in November 2017 in Cape Town, he had talked about his plans to run for Parliament," Mr Edward said.

In November and December 2014 he posted on his Facebook page photos of public rally that he addressed. The photos show that he was a crowd puller. Was his death an assassination?

The motive of killing Nafari, 37, seem as murky and mysterious as they can get. The South African Police has not been forthcoming about the investigations, which they only launched, apparently, after pressure from the Tanzanian embassy. Witnesses' accounts collaborated by CCTV camera footages indicate that Nafari and his college mate were seen running towards the UJ's Kingsway Campus in Auckland Park, on the night of February 23 while being pursued by a vehicle that looked like a cab. There were two men in the vehicle.

The vehicle, then, singled out Nafari, who was by now running towards a pavement but who was then stuck at a fence. The driver of the vehicle pursued him in the pavement and hit him against the fence of the University of Johannesburg's Sophia town residence in Auckland Park several times and killed him, his cousin Mr Edward says.

Reports further say that the driver of the taxi and his passenger were but released on bail without charge. The driver was arrested for driving without a license. When protests from the university community got louder the police said they were investigating the case.

But this did not stop students from accusing the UJ's leadership of inaction. The students say the university handled over the CCTV footage to the police five days after the death of Nafari. The African Diaspora Forum in South Africa released a statement demanding justice for Nafari. The forum's Marc Gbaffou called for those behind the murder to be put behind bars. "We're calling upon the South African Minister of Police [Bheki Cele] to come and assist. This case cannot be hidden in this way," Gbaffou was quoted as saying in the statement published by the Eye Witness Network's website.

The Saut Vice-Chancellor Thadeus Mkamwa says the university community is struggling to understand why their colleague died that way in South Africa. "Until now I have no idea whether he was murdered or not. But I am very shocked over reports circulated on social media outlets suggesting that he was murdered," he explained.

He called authorities in South Africa to thoroughly investigate the matter. Nafari was born in May 2, 1981 in Kigoma Region.

He has left a wife and two children. He earned a Diploma in Accountancy from the College of Business Education in Dar es Salaam and later a BA in Economics from the Saint Augustine University of Tanzania.

He then went to the Université Catholique de Lovain where he took a General Master in Economic Sciences and a Specialized Master in Economic Sciences.


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