Dar es Salaam. Today, September 15, Zacharia Hans Poppe will be buried in his ancestral home in Kihesa Iringa, near where his father was buried some 42 years ago.
The final farewell comes after Dar es Salaam residents and Simba Sports Club fans on Monday and Tuesday paid their last respects to the businessman and soccer devotee at Karimjee Grounds and then at his home.
Since his death, which was announced on September 10, enthusiastic eulogies have been written about a man seen by many as a reassuring figure in the Simba Sports Club boardroom and indeed the crowds in Karimjee confirmed it.
Although known by many for his portfolio in business and sports, Zacharia, a grandson of a German citizen, was a war veteran who served in the Tanzania People’s Defense Force (TPDF).
Unknown to most, Zacharia and his brother Harry were among the soldiers who fought in the Kagera war that broke out in late 1978 and led to the overthrow of the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
Although not much has been documented about his involvement in this war, ironically eight years before the outbreak of the war, Zacharia’s father, Hans Poppe, who was the Senior Assistant Chief of Police for the West Lake (Kagera) Region ( SACP), had been killed by Idi. Soldiers of Amin.
His body was stored at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, for eight years after he was given permanent embalming and it was not until after the TPDF conquered Kampala that his remains were repatriated to Tanzania in 1979.
Four years after his heroic deeds in Kagera’s war, a different chapter was added to Zacharia’s resume after he and his brother were arrested for an attempted coup.
In early January 1983, there was a failed attempt to organize a coupe d’état against the Julius Nyerere regime.
Godfrey Mwaikikagile captures the events leading up to the coup and what happened afterward, in his book “Nyerere & Africa: End of an Era”, where Zacharia remembers him.
According to Zacharia, in 1982, Tanzania was going through an economic crisis with an acute shortage of basic products. He says that much of the blame fell on imaginary enemies, internal and external.
“Some of us got fed up and decided to seek a change. The only viable option to achieve change at that time was through the use of force. We had nothing personal against Nyerere. The only thing was that he was surrounded by hypocrites whose survival depended solely on maintaining the status quo, ”he relates.
The plot, he says, was designed by one Pius Mtakubwa Lugangira in November 1982 and was to take place on January 9, 1983.
However, the plot never saw light, because the system learned of the arrangement and the conspirators were arrested two days before the execution.
On Friday, January 7, 1983, around 3:00 p.m., the conspirators were to meet at a house in Kinondoni and then go to another house to receive final information, since the coup was to take place the following night.
“I was near the house when I saw Mohammed Mussa Tamim being chased by three people. Shortly after that, I heard gunshots and Tamim fell out of the pick-up truck that he had jumped into in his attempt to escape. “
Zacharia followed closely to see what would happen next when Tamim’s body was taken to the morgue.
“When I saw that the body was being taken to the morgue, I approached the assistant, gave him some money, and asked to see the body.”
He says that what the assistant told him was very scary.
“He said those guys took a piece of paper from Tamim’s pockets that had a list of names with military ranks.”
She immediately returned to the home in Kinondoni, to her utter dismay, he found her surrounded by uniformed and plainclothes policemen.
“I found some of my colleagues arrested. I saw some floating over the perimeter fence of the house. I went and informed them of what had happened. It was 2000 hours and there was nothing to do to save the situation. “
At that time, it was each for himself, because everything had collapsed!
“Some decided to flee to Kenya where they were given asylum. I was married and had a one-year-old daughter. Not knowing what would happen to them, I decided to stay and ride out the storm. “
Zacharia was arrested that same night.
“They arrested me around 3:00 am and took me to the central police station where I found my brother Harry, who was a captain and a pilot. As in the army, they call us by last names, there were two of us with that name.”
He adds: “My brother was arrested first because he was staying at the air wing barracks. They didn’t know where he was staying until they asked my brother. The next morning my house was searched in my presence, but nothing significant was found. We went to my office again and found nothing. “
Zacharia relates that he was not physically tortured although there were several threats to do just that or to harm his family.
“We were not allowed visitors until a rumor began to circulate that some of us were dead. To show that we were alive, they allowed our relatives to visit us and bring some food. “
Identification parades were held and three weeks after his arrest they were indicted.
“Initially 30 people were charged and all the military were detained in Ukonga while the civilians were taken to Keko.”
Among those who appeared in court, along with Zacharia Hans Poppe, were Lieutenant Colonel Martin Ngalomba, Captain Suleiman Metusela, Lieutenant Colonel Martin Peter Msami, Lieutenant, Major Reverian Bubelwa, Captain Vitalis Gabriel Mapunda, and Captain Dietrich Oswald Mbogoro.
Others were Captain Rodric Roshan Roberts, Captain Abdul Feshi Mketto, Captain Harry Hans Poppe, Captain Manyama Athumani Kazukamwe, Lieutenant Badru Rwechungura Kajaja, Lieutenant Pascal Christian Chaika, and Lieutenant John Alphonce Chitungui.
Also on the list were Lt. Mark Augustine Mkude, Lt. John Simon Mbelwa Mzimba, Lt. Gervas B. Rweyongeza, Lt. Othar Thomas Haule, Lt. Nimrod Theophil Faraji, and Lt. Michael Mwigulu.
In court, it was alleged that Zacharia Hans Pope and his colleague Tamim and others conspired to assassinate the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Tanzanian Armed Forces.
They were charged with conspiring to overthrow the government between June 1982 and January 1983.
The case, which was the second treason case in the history of mainland Tanzania after another in the 1970s, was heard for the first time at the Resident Magistrates Court in Kisutu, Dar es Salaam, on Friday, April 28. January 1983, a week after the government reported that conspiracies to overthrow the government had been unearthed.
However, the case, which was originally against 30 people, was dropped on Friday, June 17, 1983, just days after the first defendant, Pius Mutakubwa Lugangira, aka Father Tom, and the second defendant, Hatty McGhee or Hatibu Gandhi, escaped while in custody.
All the accused were arrested.
However, the worst was yet to come for the fugitives, after a year, Kenya and Tanzania repatriated the fugitives.
Mcghee and some others who had escaped during the first arrests were extradited, while Tanzania returned Rasa soldier Hezekia Rabala Ochuka, also known as Awuor, who were the masterminds of the August 1, 1982 coup against the regime of president Daniel Arap Moi.