Tanzania: Job Lusinde's Eventful Life Inside the Corridors of Power

Arusha — The date was August 6, 1998. The venue was Mpanda Town in the then Rukwa Region.

President Benjamin Mkapa was gracing the extension of Katavi National Park, which would later become the name of a new region. After some remarks on wildlife conservation, the Head of State turned to Lusinde, the retired politician seated next to him.

It was not by coincidence that Lusinde was there. He was the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa).

Mr Mkapa had memories of him dating back to the early 1960s when he (Mkapa) joined the civil service upon graduating from the Makerere University.

The president openly admitted if it was not for Lusinde, then a minister, he may have not climbed the ladder to the position where he was.

Fresh from the college in 1963, Mr Mkapa joined the government as a district officer and his first work station was Mpwapwa.

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But the young civil servant had ambition for further studies he believed would enable him to serve the nation better. There was muted opposition from several technocrats for Mkapa's release on grounds the country was short of educated people.

It was only after the intervention of Lusinde as a minister for Local Government that he was allowed to proceed for further studies in the US.

The retired politician, who was now much concerned with wildlife conservation, smiled as the President poured praise on him during the event.

Lusinde, who passed away at Mloganzila Hospital early yesterday, is the last member of the first cabinet of Tanganyika after independence.

There were a dozen or so of them. Although some of them were professionals-turned-politicians, they are largely seen as independence struggle heroes. In pre-independence days, such front- liners were elected on the basis of zones or provinces and Lusinde represented the central zone.

At a time of the mutiny by soldiers in January 1964, he was the minister for Home Affairs. Alongside with Oscar Kambona, the powerful minister in charge of Defence docket, he calmed the soldiers who were demanding fast pace of Africanisation.

He was awoken by the rioting soldiers in the wee hours and was ordered to show where President Nyerere and his vice Rashid Kawawa were.

The physical threats could not subdue him. He managed to get into the State House where he found Mama Maria Nyerere and Sophia Kawawa safe.

From the State House, it is said, he communicated directly with all the ministers, pleading with them to stay indoors for their safety.

The confusion as to the whereabouts of Nyerere and Kawawa ended after Lusinde, Kambona and Bhoke Munanka traced the duo in Kigamboni.

The two principal leaders of Tanganyika were later escorted back to the State House where the embarrassed Mwalimu addressed the nation.

He described the mutiny as 'a shame' to the nation. Mwalimu admitted, however, he was forced to call in the British paratroopers to bring order. For the rest of the 1960s Lusinde remained a senior minister but appeared not among those overzealous with politics.

For many years, he held the Communications, Transport and Works dockets as key departments in the same ministries kept on changing. He was generally quiet but firm in his decisions, some of which landed him in collision course with other powers-that- be.

As the holder of the Communications/ Transport/ Works dockets, he oversaw the realization of mega infrastructure projects and was beside Mwalimu as the latter inaugurated one project after another.

The included the negotiations and construction of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (Tazara), the Tanzania-Zambia Pipeline (Tanzam) and the highway to Zambia.

Lusinde's political career nearly took a nosedive in the 1970s through several of his non-consultative directives In 1974, for instance, he ordered public employees, especially in Dar es Salaam, to pay fare for the 'free' transport they enjoyed to and from work.

It was short-lived and quashed. How- ever, his directive was an indication the state had started to be overburdened by the high costs of public transport as its coffers started to dry.

The following year (1975), he lost membership in his Dodoma constituency and later deployed to China as the country's envoy. He was back to the national scene a decade later (mid-80s) when he was appointed Tanzania's first High Commissioner to Kenya and on retirement Tanapa Board of Trustees chair.

Dodoma, where he was born in 1930, was his political base. He was a contemporary of Mr Kambona, as they studied and taught at Alliance (later Mazengo secondary school).

In much more recent years, he earned himself an opinion maker through TV interviews during commemoration of national holidays.

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