Magufuli’s birth place of Mwanza pays last respect
Derek Otieno and Agencies
Hundreds of thousands of residents turned up in Mwanza to pay their last respects to President John Pombe Magufuli at his home town, drawing in one of the biggest crowds witnessed in a social gathering in the country.
While the country prepared to give a befitting send-off to one politician who equally divided opinion, authorities announced a raft of measures for people paying their last respects to the 61-year-old Fifth President of the nation.
At a region that he drew the largest ever campaign crowd in Tanzania’s history; President Magufuli was accorded a deserved welcome from the mourners who braved the scorching heat lining up the streets of Mwanza to wave bye as the cortege snaked its way through some of the infrastructural projects the fallen president brought to the region- his birthplace.
Regional Commissioners for Mwanza and Geita announced new visiting procedure for the two regions to avoid possible stampede and other risks, as it happened in Dar es Salaam where five people were reported to have been trampled on during a mass to honour the leader.
Mourners braved advice
Several people collapsed, with reports showing that several others died in the chaos that erupted as some mourners braved security advice and forced their way into the stadium to pay their last respects.
The bodies of five relatives who died after being trampled on at the funeral procession of the late John Magufuli at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam will be buried today.
In Mwanza, the preparations were almost complete at the CCM Kirumba Stadium where tents and other facilities were already in place for the big event.
In Chato, where the deceased will be buried, the preparations were at an advanced stage, with the government warning people not to gather at the grounds earmarked for family members and leaders.
“The gates will be open from 4 am to allow people enter without crowding,” said Mr Mongella who briefed the media at the stadium.
Geita RC Robert Gabriel who urged children, the elderly and those with health issues to follow the funeral through televisions issued similar directive.
Saying last bye
However, he asked others to line up along the roads where the body will be passing through and say their last goodbye to their former leader.
“Many people are planning to come to Chato for the funeral events of their beloved late president but I want to tell you that Chato has become too small to accommodate everyone,” said Mr Gabriel.
“I know the pressing desire for the residents to pay their respects to their hero President Magufuli, but the area allocated for the activity is small and will only be used by family members, government leaders, religious leaders and some special groups which will represent other members of the public,” he added.
Some residents of Chato who reacted to the new directives could not believe, with others maintaining that they must attend the event to see Magufuli’s face for the last time.
Upon arrival in Mwanza, residents followed the vehicles ferrying Magufuli’s body from the airport to CCM Kirumba Stadium.
Songs of remembrance, praise and shouting rented the air as a procession made way through the town.
“Magufuli lala salama, mwendo umeumaliza,” they chanted.
In celebration and mourning, they lay branches and kangas on the road as a sign of respect for the fallen leader.
Body viewing procession
Magufuli’s body was ferried from Zanzibar to Mwanza yesterday, as a week-full body-viewing procession takes places in major Tanzanian towns.
From here, the body will then be ferried to Chato ahead of a private funeral service of the immediate family and close relatives.
He will be laid to rest on Friday at his home in Chato, Tanzania.
Tanzanians were granted the wish to view the president’s body following his death last week on March 17, announced by President Samia Suluhu Hassan. Magufuli succumbed to heart-related complications.
At the weekend, his body was in Dar es Salaam for viewing. It was then moved to Dodoma on Monday for the last repects, and proceeded to Zanzibar on Tuesday.
Today, it lays-in-state in Mwanza, after which it will be transported to Chato tomorrow, ahead of the burial on Friday.
President Samia Suluhu now faces a full in- tray after Friday’s funeral. Her first priority is the appointment of a vice-president.