As part of a series on the heroes honoured in eThekwini’s new street and building names, Swazi Dlamini profiles Julius Nyerere

Julius Nyere Avenue Formerly Warwick Avenue JULIUS Kambarage Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, and earlier Tanganyika, was a muchadmired statesman and pan- Africanist, but history has been less kind in its judgement of his domestic policies and indigenous brand of socialism. Born on April 13, 1922 in Butiama, in what was then Tanganyika, Nyerere was the son of the chief of the small Zanaki tribe. He was 12 before he started his formal education. He attended the Tabora Government Secondary School. His intelligence was soon recognised by the Roman Catholic fathers who taught him. With their help, he trained as a teacher at Makerere University in Kampala (Uganda).

On gaining his diploma, Nyerere taught for three years before receiving a government scholarship which allowed him to study for a Master of Arts in history and political economy at the University of Edinburgh. He was the first Tanzanian to study at a British university and only the second to gain a degree outside Africa. In Edinburgh, partly as a result of his exposure to Fabian thinking, Nyerere began to develop his particular vision of connecting socialism with Africa communal living. On returning to Tanganyika, Nyerere was forced by the colonial authorities to choose between politics and teaching. He was reported as saying he was a schoolmaster by choice and a politician by accident. Working to bring a number of different nationalist factions into one grouping, he achieved this in 1954 with the formation of the Tanganyika African National Union.

He became President of the Union (a post he held until 1977) and entered the Legislative Council in 1958. He became Chief Minister in 1960. A year later Tanganyika was granted internal selfgovernment and Nyerere became Premier. Full independence came in December 1961 and he was elected President in 1962. Integrity Nyerere’s integrity, ability as a political orator and organiser, and readiness to work with different groupings was a significant factor in independence being achieved without bloodshed. A committed pan- Africanist, Nyerere provided a home for a number of African liberation movements including the African National Congress and the Pan African Congress of South Africa, Frelimo when seeking to overthrow Portuguese rule in Mozambique, Zanla (and Robert Mugabe) in their struggle to unseat the white regime in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

He also opposed the brutal regime of Idi Amin in Uganda. After a border invasion by Amin in 1978, a 20 000-strong Tanzanian army along with rebel groups, invaded Uganda. It took the capital, Kampala, in 1979, restoring Uganda’s first President, Milton Obote, to power. The battle against Amin was expensive and placed a strain on government finances. There was considerable criticism within Tanzania that he had overlooked domestic issues and had not paid proper attention to internal human rights abuses. Tanzania was a one party state – and while there was a strong democratic element in organisation and a concern for consensus, this did not stop Nyerere using the Preventive Detention Act to imprison opponents.

In part this may have been justified by the need to contain divisiveness, but there does appear to have been a disjuncture between his commitment to human rights on the world stage, and his actions at home. His collectivisation of the country’s agricultural system caused output to plummet and only World Bank and IMF loans averted bankruptcy. In 1985 Nyerere gave up the presidency but remained as Chairman of the party – Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). He gradually withdrew from politics, retiring to his farm in Butiama. In 1990 he relinquished his chairmanship of CCM but remained active on the world stage as chairman of the Intergovernmental South Centre. One of his last high-profile actions was as the chief mediator in the Burundi conflict (in 1996). He died in a London hospital of leukaemia on October 14, 1999.