Dodoma — It is an undeniable fact that some nations, particularly those of the Southern African Region, still remember and place high value on Tanzania for many good reasons, but the major one is for its sincere support during the liberation struggle.
The countries include Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Some of the freedom fighters from those countries once lived in the areas of Kongwa, (Dodoma), Mazimbu (Morogoro) and Magomeni (Dar) in Tanzania. Tanzanians, who have happened to live and rub shoulders with them, have many good stories to tell about their lives.
Former Namtumbo MP Vita Kawawa is one of them. He has spoken of the lives of the freedom fighters that they were full of love, happiness and peace and that the big thing that he still remembers is the secrecy in their lives.
Kawawa, who is a son of former prime minister Rashid Kawawa (the lion of war), remembers how he lived with some freedom fighters including the first president of free Namibia, Samuel Nujoma (1990 - 2005), who, he describes, was more than his (Vita) relative.
According to Kawawa, there were no neighbours, who happened to learn that Nujoma and fellow leaders were part of the freedom fighters. Instead, they (neighbours) viewed them (leaders) as refugees from war torn countries.
"I still remember many freedom fighters, but two happened to have lived with us harmoniously, particularly Samora Machel.
"However, I would like to speak of Sam Nujoma, whom we regarded as our father. Actually, my biological father (Rashidi) and Nujoma were more than friends," Vita recounts.
He reveals that between the house in which Nujoma lived and the house in which the Kawawa family lived there were three other homes in which some refugees lived.
All about Nujoma
"First of all, he was a person, who loved to mingle with other people, say, in misfortunes and functions in which he attended, however, rarely seen. We later came to discover that he (Nujoma) was a freedom fighter and how serious he was about every issue,"says Kawawa.
He described Nujoma as a leader, who was sometimes seen with some young people and who sometimes vanished. He (Nujoma) was even able to mingle with some ordinary Tanzanians and even take part in sports," he says.
However, Vita says he remembers how the former Namibian leader spent most of his time with Mzee Kawawa (father), discussing various issues, but as children, he says, they could not figure out what was going on.
Kawawa helps Nujoma clear weapons from port
According to Vita, Nujoma was unable to clear weapons that were blocked at Dar Port, but his father, Mzee Kawawa, consulted President Nyerere, who allowed Nujoma to clear the weapons without any obstacle.
"However, Nujoma failed to clear the weapons from the port, despite Nyerere's support. That's when my father (Rashid) went to the port together with then Chief of Defence Forces Mirisho Salakikya and ordered that all the weapons be cleared," says Vita.
He narrates that the clearance of the weapons from the port was preceded by some other weapons given by Mwalimu Nyerere.
However, he said, the weapons given by Mwalimu had to wait until the weapons at the port were first taken to Namibia, a move that made Nujoma have huge confidence.
Vita says sometimes the government of Tanzania secretly held talks with the freedom fighters under heavy security but neighbours knew nothing.
Nujoma becomes president
After several years Nujoma became president of Namibia. It is during that time that his Magomeni neighbours started to realise that Nujoma was not a refugee, but a freedom fighter, who lived systematically.
According to Kawawa, when Nujoma left the area of Magomeni it remained unclear whether he had gone to Kongwa or Mazimbu camps that harboured freedom fighters.
However, he says they heard that Sam Nujoma was president of Namibia, something that left many residents with mouths agape and stunned that they were living with somebody influential.
Vita says it took time for the residents of Magomeni to believe that Sam Nujoma was the one who lived at Magomeni and they believed so when Nujoma visited Tanzania as president who greeted them and spoke Kiswahili fluently.
Kawawa's family invited to Namibia
Vita says one of the incidents that he remembers well is when then president Nujoma invited Rashid Kawawa and his family (Vita included) to go to Namibia.
He says he remembers how Nujoma left the State House of Namibia for them to stay temporarily and instead the president went to stay at a state lodge, which, he says, he does not remember it well, but, he explains, it was overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
According to Kawawa, Nujoma told Kawawa the reason of being invited to the State House.
"He (Nujoma) remembered me well as he used to call my name. When in talks, Nujoma told my father the reason for him to leave the State House for my father to stay for several days.
"Nujoma told my father that he left the State House because of the big support they got from Tanzanians when he was in Tanzania and that he had no doubt for our stay at the State House," says Vita.
Vita remembers the day the two leaders used Kiswahili in their talks as if they were from the same area.
He reiterated that many people did not know what was going on the liberation struggle for Namibia.
About freedom fighters' camps
Kawawa says he wishes the buildings that were used by the leaders of the freedom fighters were honoured and turned into a historic place for the next generations.
He slams mistreatment of Tanzanians in liberated states
Vita has also spoken about the occasional mistreatment of Tanzanians living and working in Southern African liberated countries, saying that it was no good and unacceptable and that the relevant countries have forgotten history.
Kawawa says the time has come for leaders of those countries to tell their sons and daughters about history that we are all brothers and sisters and that they should not harm or segregate Tanzanians in the Diaspora.
Finally, Vita says his dream is to see that one day Tanzania sets its records correctly about the lives of the freedom fighters.