YESTERDAY’S sudden death of Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Dr Augustine Mahiga (74), sent shockwaves in the country, especially in diplomatic circles in Tanzania and the East African region at large, with President John Magufuli leading the mourning process for the career diplomat.
From the corridors of the United Nation’s headquarters in New York, United States to his home continent (Africa), the late Dr Mahiga was decorated as a top class diplomat who, over different periods, worked in conflict-ravaged areas before he was called home by the President to serve in ministerial portfolios after the 2015 general elections.
Dr Mahiga, according to a statement issued by the Director of Presidential Communications, Mr Gerson Msigwa, died at his home in Dodoma after a short illness.
It was stated that the veteran diplomat fell ill at his home and died along the way while he was being rushed to hospital.
President Magufuli sent condolences to the family of the deceased, speaker of parliament, Job Ndugai, Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs as well as the residents of Iringa Region, eulogizing the deceased as a dedicated worker who served diligently in several top positions in and outside the country.
"He was a renowned diplomat who represented Tanzania well in the international arena for a long time. Despite his age and experience and the high government positions he held, Dr Mahiga remained obedient and humble in all the assignments that I gave him," said President Magufuli in the statement.
The deceased served in positions that included Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation from 2015 to 2019.
He was also Tanzania's Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2003 to 2010 and the UN special representative and head of political office for Somalia, 2010-2013.
Thousands of people, including diplomats, yesterday sent their condolences shortly after the news of his death broke out. In the list include the United Nations, as well as German and the French embassy to Tanzania.
The United Nations Office Tanzania office described the late Dr Mahiga as a good friend of the entire UN family.
"We join the country in mourning the loss of Balozi Augustine Mahiga. Balozi Mahiga was a good friend of @UnitedNationsTZ& the entire @UN global family having served as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in #Somalia @UNSomalia. May he rest in peace," read the tweet.
The Germany Embassy to Tanzania said in the tweet that, they received the news in a greet shock.
"We are shocked and saddened by the sudden and unexpected death of Dr Augustine Mahiga. A wonderful personality, great gentleman and skillful diplomat. Germany is losing a great friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family," said the embassy.
The Ambassador of France to Tanzania Mr Frederic Clavier said the embassy and him personally, had learned with great sadness the death of Dr Mahiga.
The two ambassadors have been friends for the past 10 years.
He described Dr Mahiga as a person who represented the best of diplomacy, courtesy, discretion, listening and strategy skills.
"Honorable Mahiga was greatly appreciated by all the French diplomats with whom he worked, notably as a permanent representative to the United Nations. He will remain an example for the young generation of Tanzanian diplomats, we will all have something to remember from him," read the statement.
Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu was among government leaders who shared their condolences.
On her social media accounts she wrote, "A good heart has stopped beating, my heartfelt condolences to his family, May God give strength to the family of the deceased."
Other Members of Parliament who mourned Minister Mahiga on their social media accounts are Special Seats MP Catherine Magige, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla and Chalinze MP Ridhiwani Kikwete.
In their condolences, they all expresses their shock, describing him as a good leader and patriot who spent the entire part of his lifetime serving the country.
The East African Community (EAC) also conveyed a condolence message to President Magufuli.
In his letter, the EAC Secretary General, Ambassador Liberat Mfumukeko, said that it was with profound shock and grief that the Community received the sad news of the demise of Ambassador Mahiga who had also worked as a minister responsible for EAC affairs before being transferred to the other ministry.
"On behalf of the EAC and on my own behalf, I convey my heartfelt condolences to your Excellency, and through you to the family, relatives and friends of the late Ambassador Mahiga, the Government and the people of Tanzania.
"Ambassador Mahiga was a dedicated East African who firmly believed in regional integration for the benefit of the people of East Africa, thus his unwavering commitment and support to the regional bloc during his tenure as Tanzania's Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation from 2015 to 2019," noted the diplomat.
Ambassador Mahiga-the seasoned diplomat, forged ever-stronger international partnerships for the region besides deepening the Community's ties with the rest of the world.
The demise of Ambassador Mahiga is therefore a big loss to Tanzania and the Community.
"The entire EAC and I share with the family of the late Ambassador Dr Mahiga, and the Government and people of Tanzania, the feelings of great loss at this time of grief," said Mr Mfumukeko, asking God to rest his soul in eternal peace.