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Lindi Notes - General - Politics



Politics and political involvement

At midnight of 9th December 1961, the British flag was lowered and the new Tanganyika flag was raised at Lindi’s King George VI Memorial Stadium (now Ilulu Stadium). 

The fervour of independence - Uhuru - could be seen among the population of Lindi. A competition for the best decorated place in town had been announced. The Ithnaasheri mosque got the first prize of Shs 1000/-. I remember the preparations done by the volunteers. The front entrance of the mosque was covered by a huge map of Tanganyika  made from ceiling boards which were painted green. The border in the map was made up of torch bulbs. As a kid, I could remember looking high up when Mohsin Banura, while standing on a ladder, was fixing the torch bulbs in little holes. The volunteers who helped in the Tanganyika Map Decoration were, as shown in the photo below, Yusuf Somji (now in Orlando), Late Jaffer Jusab, Mustafa Chandoo (now in Dar). Right: Gulam Hameer (Motabhai, in London), Late Mohsin Ismail, Roshan Gangji (currently in UK). The second prize went to the house opposite ours - my future in-laws - Rashid Versi who used a Xmas tree to decorate their home.

I remember the preparations for decorating our homes for the independence ceremony. At our home I observed my aunt Chachi Khatija cut pieces of black, yellow and green cloth into small triangular pieces. She would then sit on her sewing machine stitching the edges of the cloth pieces. A thick string would pass through these pieces and form a bunting to be hanged across the street. The streets of Lindi were full of such green, black and yellow cloth buntings. Two years later, I had a similar experience when we travelled to Zanzibar to visit my mom’s family. In Zanzibar, I  visited my aunt Chachi Fatma (sister of Fida Thakro Rashid Manek) and I saw her and her sister Laila busy making Zanzibar flags out of colored paper. I also joined them and helped stick the clove shaped papers on the flag. The flag was red in colour with a green circle in the centre and two clove buds in the circle. These were for the Zanzibar Uhuru celebration of 10th December 1963. My uncle Ali Versi even took me to the midnight flag ceremony but due to the crowds, I was not able to observe the ceremony and cannot recall anything. The Sultan’s Government of Zanzibar was overthrown one month later. 

In Lindi, there were some terrifying rumours that there would be looting on the night of Independence. However there was a lot of assurance about safety and this encouraged people of all races to go to the midnight flag raising ceremony at the Stadium. My father also went and they were back home after midnight and everything went on very well. On a later occasion I can recall how Advocate M G Pardhan addressed a gathering in the Imambara asking people to renounce their British citizenship and take up citizenship of Tanganyika. 

Late Akberali Abdulla Jaffer  was an active TANU member. He would accompany Mwalimu to villages near Lindi for Uhuru awareness. So much so that he was warned by the Colonial police to stop doing so otherwise he will be put into prison. He  ignored the warning. He was honoured during the celebrations for the independence held on eve of Independence Day at Lindi  Stadium. His wife, Late Fatma Jaffer, was  the first Asian lady in Lindi to become a UWT member and an active one as she was the honorary secretary for some time.

During the 1950s, the Asian migrant community was deeply involved in the local Town Council. Late Fazal Ladha Dinani had donated the Chain of Office of Chairman of LIndi Town Council (“Mayor”). Among the mayors, officially called Town Council Chairman, were Fidahussein Alidina (Manager Smith McKenzie), Mohamedhussein Bandali Versi (Managing Director, Rashid Versi), Shyam Thanki, Leslie R Edwards (father of Tony Edwards, author of the book with contents about life in Lindi - The Slope of Kongwa Hill) and Ayres Quirinus Braganza (Owner of Couths - Shop opposite our  house).

During the colonial days, Late Fazal Ladha Dinani would lay a wreath at the Lindi War Memorial Obelisk situated near Lindi port on Armistice Day (Poppy Day). He would be the only Indian invited to this ceremony - also called Remembrance Day - 11 November.  Late Fazal Ladha Dinani is also shown here in picture with Mwalimu Nyerere (before independence) at a Party hosted by the District Commissioner. Picture shows Shyam T Thanki, Julius K Nyerere, Fazal Ladha Dinani and Hirji Gordhandas.

One of the first involvements of the migrant community in politics was contest for the 1958-59 election of Member of Legislative Council (the then Parliament). It is believed that before the election, Mwalimu Nyerere met Thanki and Versi at a house near the Lighthouse where Mwalimu asked Versi to withdraw from the race. However Versi refused and lost the election to Thanki. Shyam Thanki was candidate on TANU ticket (Tanganyika African National Union - Julius Kambarage Nyerere - President) and M B Versi was candidate on ANC ticket (African National Congress - Zuberi Mtemvu - President). Thanki's slogan was - "Piga Kura Thanki - Aliyekubaliwa na TANU). Thanki was previously awarded an MBE (Member of British Empire) in 1953.

Civics was an interesting subject in school in the mid-sixties.  Our teacher Mr Nkwamu talked a lot about democracy and rights of expression. As students we believed we would be free to express our objections to some of the things happening at school. For example,  we were obliged to stand for hours waiting for Mwenge (torch) on the outskirts of the town towards Machole. We had never walked that long before in the hot sun – but we had to do it. Of course, the smart ones amongst us managed to sneak out from processions way before reaching Machole.

As if the political processions (maandamano) were not enough of a burden, the school authorities introduced chakamchaka (jogging). It was good for our health, they told us. Students  living in the hostels of Lindi Secondary School were asked to do Chakamchaka early in the morning. We would hear them jogging and singing through the streets in town long before dawn. For us, the day students – those living with their parents in town – we had to go for chakamchaka during the evenings. We would start from the school towards Rasbura. There would be prefects at the end of the route who would note down those who completed the rounds. Yasmin Hirji (now a doctor at Massachusetts) was one of those prefects. These jogging sessions were done at the end of the afternoon session in school (we had morning and afternoon sessions with lunch break to go home!) and this resulted in delaying our return home from the normal 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The school days had become terribly long. 

The 70s were the era of the Maandamano (processions). There was procession during every public holiday and the whole town would be at standstill with business closed. Loud announcements were made asking everyone to attend. People were forced to attend the processions. You could not watch processions from your window or balcony of your home. You would be immediately asked to come down and join. Sometimes, the authorities would just send people to homes and force everyone, men and women, young and old to join. Threats were normal. Although the forced processions were sometimes disliked, some of us took it as entertainment. With singing and clapping, we tended to forget that we were being forced to join.

Then came the era of the slogan - Siasa ni Kilimo – Politics is Agriculture. Everyone was required to take part in agricultural activities. In the rural towns like Mtama, shops could open only after 10 a.m. to discourage farmers not to go shopping and instead tend their farms. The traders in Lindi were asked to obtain a farm and go there every Sunday to do some farming. In one of my visits to Lindi I accompanied the group with Ramanbhai Patel, our de facto leader. It was a good opportunity for the traders to meet at one point, do some minimal work to show off, and then have a picnic – everyone with his tiffin. It was in fact an enjoyable session. It reminded us of our Sunday trips to Mitema. This, we can call, were good old days! Shamba, in other words, a picnic! 


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