The interesting part of that trip has to do with dressing. Not that I am that much of a dresser, neither should it be taken that on that particular day I was dressed like some joker or a wizard of Rorya District, who was in the company of Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda.
At times the way you dress depends on what you are going to do. If you are going to dance, you will be dressed accordingly for that particular jig, be it traditional or an Olympic performance. And if you are going to do some sports, you will, likewise, put on what that activity demands for its optimum performance. If I may remind you, the PM was travelling to that ex-Portuguese colony to participate in a tripartite maritime agreement between Tanzania, Mozambique and the Mauritius.
Obviously it was a significant trip on that account. It was going to be an event that would affirm the existent maritime boundaries of the three countries. Every member of the trip was more or less casually dressed, so to speak. That did not surprise me. You are at liberty to dress in your wedding suit or some wind cheater for a field walk before you board the plane, if you like. Flying may be exciting but chances of survival are slim if anything goes wrong.
Aircraft pundits do their best to ensure you it is faultless before it leaves the ground. Indeed those acquainted with travel vessels argue an aircraft is one of the safest means of travel if not the very best. That did not affect the way I was going to dress for this trip, neither did I think it was going to influence any other person on the trip. Coincidentally though, most of the people were either dressed in a short-sleeved Kaunda black suit or a long-sleeved one. Just a few were otherwise dressed.
What one wore on the Dar-Maputo trip did not seem to matter. So here we were – on this 26-seater state plane. It was my first time to fly aboard this aircraft and I felt particularly excited. Eating with the king is no little matter. Flying with the country’s third-in-command is not either. My head felt so big I thought there was perhaps a big stone attached to it. One thing I noticed on the plane. The Prime Minister had a special compartment reserved for him.
That was of course to be expected. Even if we all sat at random, his seat must be well spelled out and significantly done so. How the rest of us sat did not appear to me to matter. I would discover I was wrong on the return trip. After we landed and went to our allocated rooms, every one of us changed into their best for the occasion for which we had taken nearly the four-hour flight down south. I donned a brown western suit and given my ebony-black complexion, the contrast must have been mesmerizing.
After all, you live only once and I may as well make the most of the situation. All went well. Mr Pinda, who was representing our President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete at the occasion, gave a speech. So did his host, Mozambique’s president Armando Guebuza. The Comoros leader Ikililou Dhoinine, too gave the gathering a speech. All said and done, we relaxed and killed the night comfortably, everyone of us in their own way before we boarded our plane the next day for a flight back home in Dar.
I could see every one of us had changed into something different for the return flight. Who told them I would be in a blazer shirt I came to Maputo in the day before? I had chosen my dress this time carefully and deliberately I had done so merely out of taste for I wanted to make a grand return home. Flying back from Maputo had some significance of its own to me. Going there had evoked memories of the country’s first president Samora Marchel. A couple of children in my mother province of Rorya, then part of Tarime or North Mara in those early years of our independence, had been named after the Mazambique hero.
While I worked at the Dar es Salaam International Airport – today Julius Nyerere International Airport, as an immigration Officer I had rubbed shoulders with the late Mozambique’s founder leader. He had been staying in Tanzania then as a freedom fighter. Returning from his country was a great satisfaction for my curiosity about him and the trip had answered that puzzle about what his country looked like. So I dressed accordingly, but what I wore was what some of us had won when we flew from Dar es Salaam: a Kaunda Suit.
The only difference perhaps was that it was tailor-made, a dress that set off my form in a sterling figure. I felt like some prince, the son of a peasant though I am. We boarded the bus and were swiftly driven to the airport and boarded the plane. The leader of the trip was already aboard, directing people to their proper sitting position. On our trip to Maputo, I had sat at the middle of the plane, a short distance from the back.
That was where I headed for now. But the trip leader blocked my way and politely said: “No, Sir. That is not your place. You sit there,” and he pointed back where I had just walked from -- to a seat in the cabin of the Prime Minister, just after the cockpit. I thought to myself that our leader, as it were, must have been mistaken and I remained standing in the aisle as he directed the others to their seats.
Moments later I decided to move on to a seat towards the back. The man was coming my way again as I walked on. Again he blocked my way in no uncertain terms that I was going in the wrong direction and had a place on the plane particularly reserved for me somewhere behind me. “No sir, you are not supposed to sit on this side,” he said again in a low but stern voice. “You are a manager and managers sit back there, not this way.” He pointed to the cabin for the Prime Minister with his aide-de-camps.
Who the dickens had told this man I was a manager, a manager for what? I wondered. Resplendent in the grey Kaunda-suit, I must have struck him as some administrator. Without a word, I took the seat he pointed to way back behind me. PM’s Press Secretary Saidi Nguba was on a seat in front of me on the other side of the aisle. He turned back and saw me. “Hi, Lawi, what are you doing there?” he asked.
“I have been directed to sit here,” I said. “No, you are in the wrong place. Your position is up there.” He pointed to where I had been sent back from. I rose and walked to the place I had all the time meant to sit in, towards the back of the plane. ne thing rang in my mind. Dressing well lifts not only one's appearance, but adds to it dignity. Allow me to blow my own trumpet. When I am well dressed, I am indeed a sight for sore eyes. I was not surprised then that the man thought I was some manager. I looked to him noble enough.