I am not often at loss for words. But today I am finding it very difficult to put words together to describe Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, the First Vice President of Zanzibar and National Chairman of ACT Wazalendo, and to pay homage to Maalim.
Words are not enough today.
They are not enough because Maalim was larger than life. The Maalim that you heard of and that you saw from TV or Radio was impressive; the Maalim in real life was even more impressive. He was history, he was freedom, he was a conscience.
Words are not enough to describe Maalim’s legacy. Maalim’s legacy is of a true, modern day freedom fighter, fighting for the freedom that he believed was fundamental for Zanzibar and for Tanzania. Fighting with the means- whether words or action- that he had at his disposal throughout the decades. Maalim continued the struggle until he could not anymore.
When faced with eventual sack from his government duty and even membership of a ruling party then, Maalim gave his word to the people of Zanzibar. In December 1987 at Tibirinzi grounds in Pemba he said “I am with you now, and I promise to be with you whether I shall be in the government or outside the government. I will be with you whether I am in the party or outside the party”. He lived these words. Maalim is the man of words but words will never elaborate about him fully. Maalim stayed with people to the end of his life. Grieving from friends and foes is an obvious evidence.
Words are not enough for Maalim because he himself did not believe words were enough. Maalim was eloquent, a people’s orator, someone who could move crowds with his words. But even Maalim believed that words had a limit and that action had its space. Maalim therefore led by example, even when it put his life at risk, Maalim was never scared to put words to action.
Words will never be enough for Maalim because the gap he leaves behind will never be filled. There is no ‘future Maalim’ waiting in the wings to put on his coat. It will take all of us, continuing Maalim’s legacy, continuing his struggle, to fill a fraction of the hole he has left behind.
We are here today because of Maalim, because of Maalim’s spirit of forgiveness. Some of us are still angry, some of us are still bitter, some of us cannot be as forgiving as you Maalim. But we are here because reconciliation is the legacy you have left us. You have gone at the time all of us, supporters and detractors are forced, willingly or unwillingly, to work together to bid you farewell. That is you Maalim. The Man of Muafaka. The Man of Maridhiano. The pillar of Zanzibar nationalism. The bedrock of Zanzibari democracy and Zanzibari pride as people and community.
Words will not be sufficient to describe the lessons that Maalim leaves behind. Perseverance, tenacity, stubbornness, forgiveness, empathy. Maalim was a people’s person- he reached out to everyone that he met and struck them with the force of his persona. Maalim was a people’s person to the very end- putting his health and wellbeing secondary to his role as a leader. He told us the reason for his sickness. He was open about being hit by COVID 19 virus and asked other people to take measures to avoid being infected. What a leader to have a stand to the last breath of life.
You are the human being that words cannot describe you with completion. Here we are today everyone is grieving. Zanzibar is grieving. But not all who are grieving are grieving. Some were counting your days to prove their points. But they cry louder than your comrades. We see them, we hear them. But as Allah says in Surat Ya-Sin, verse 76 “So Let not their speech grieve you. Indeed, we know what they conceal and what they declare”, Allah knows better than us.
Words are not enough to describe who Maalim was to me. My hero, My Mentor, My Father, My Comrade.
Thank you Maalim to grant me and this generation of leaders this noble duty to take you to your eternal rest. We take this a signal to us to refuel the Torch and run towards the goal set. Kwa Heri Maalim!
Zanzibar, February 18th, 2021