TANZANIA TIMES
The Times of Tanzania

Nyerere describes bride price as ‘evil’ in Posthumous Bio

Few people know that the father of the Nation Divorced his ‘First Wife’ in Tabora, in 1945 even before their arranged ‘Marriage!’


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The Founding President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere hated the idea of paying bride price, in fact he abhorred the custom so much to an extent of terming it ‘Evil!’

Nyerere who died 22 years ago at Saint Thomas Hospital in London, is quoted as saying dowry turned girls and women into slaves.

“Paying for bride price is like buying women.” Mwalimu maintained.

(Left to Right) Rosalynn Carter, President Julius Nyerere and Jimmy Carter, on 4 August 1977

The fact that they are ‘bought’, the man treats them as his property, and that he can beat them and mistreat them without any sanction from the community, while constantly reminding them that they were paid for with bride price,” Nyerere maintained.

That is part of an excerpt taken from his Biography, authored by Prof. Issa Shivji, Saida Yahya Othman and Ng’wanza Kamata.

Terming dowry as ‘evil’ Nyerere was quoted as saying he views it as a purely commercial transaction, in which women are commoditized and sold for a price.

Nyerere pointed out that, even men eventually fall victims of the horrid dowry system, because it only works in favor of the rich. A poor man without the requisite number of cows and goats would not be able to get a wife.

Mwalimu Nyerere (Center), with wife Maria (Right), Greeting Nelson Mandela (Left)

The former President of Tanzania also hated arranged marriages.

And he should have known, as he was a victim of such matrimonial arrangement.

Working as School Teacher in Tabora, Nyerere was subjected to an early engagement with a girl, Magori Watiha dispatched to him by his father, Chief Burito, all the way from their Butiama home village.

Nyerere could not sustain his betrothal to Magonis who was sent to him while he was teaching at Tabora. He sent the girl back to her parents, escorted from Tabora by his half-brother Joseph Muhunda.

Magori Watiha was still very young when she arrived in Tabora; Nyerere had agreed that she go to primary school while staying with him.

But he soon discovered that Magori had no interest in school, and Nyerere was not prepared to marry an uneducated girl.

Besides, Magori was apparently unhappy, as evidenced by her constant tears. However, an additional motivation for Nyerere returning Magori to her parents may have been his continuing opposition to arranged marriages, especially between young girls and older men.

Mwalimu would later Marry a fellow schoolteacher, Maria Waningu Magige in 1953 and she became the country’s First Lady in 1964

As champion of Gender Equality, Nyerere addresses the 4th world conference on women in Beijing (1995)

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