Former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere dies



Thursday, 14 October 1999

On 14 October 1999, the first president and father of Tanzanian independence Julius Mwalimu Nyerere died of leukaemia aged 77. Nyerere became a symbol of the struggle against colonialism in Tanzania and to other African countries including South Africa.  His commitment to the liberation of Africa from White minority rule was demonstrated through allowing several liberation movements to have bases in Tanzania. For instance, the African National Congress (ANC), the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), the Frente de LibertaÁƒÂƒÂ§ÁƒÂƒ£o de MoÁƒÂƒÂ§ambique (FRELIMO) led by Samora Machel and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU).

In 1961, Nyerere joined other African leaders in denouncing the racist policies of the apartheid government in South Africa and declared that, if the apartheid regime remained in the Commonwealth, Tanzania would never join. Nyerere also spoke out strongly against the British Prime Minster Harold Wilson's government for not taking military action against Ian Smith's Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1965. When the crisis in then Rhodesia worsened he mobilized and campaigned for majority rule through the frontline states (Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Botswana and Mozambique). When the UK government considered the possibility of resuming limited arms sales to the apartheid government in South Africa, Nyerere expressed his concern.

In 1975 the Tanzanian government donated a sisal farm of five thousand hectares of land to the ANC in Morogoro. The land was developed and the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SAMFCO) was constructed. As the youth fled political persecution in South Africa many found their way into Tanzania and landed at SAMFCO. In 1992, the piece of land was handed back to the government of Tanzania. In recognizing the role played by Nyerere and people of Tanzania in the struggle against apartheid, Nelson Mandela the president of South Africa in 1997 declared that:         

"The people of Tanzania gave unstinting support to the liberation of South Africa. They gave recognition of the most practical kind to the principle that our freedom and theirs were interdependent."

• Anon (1999), Julius Nyerere, from the UK Guardian, 15 October 1999 [online] Available at: [Accessed 05 October 2010]
•  Anon (1997) Speech by President Nelson Mandela at a banquet in honour of Julius Nyerere, from the South African Government  Information, 17 October 1997 [online] Available at: [Accessed 05 October 2010]
•  Kaufman, M.T (1999) Julius Nyerere of Tanzania Dies; Preached African Socialism to the World, from the New York Times, 15 October 1999 [online] Available at: [Accessed 05 October 2010]
•  Khamisi, J. (1999) Julius Nyerere, the elder statesman of post-colonial Africa, dies, aged 77 from The UK Independent,  15 October 1999 [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 September 2010]

Last updated : 14-Oct-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011