By Idah Mhetu
SWAHILI speaking Tanzanian leader John Pombe Magufuli, on Wednesday turned President Emmerson Mnangagwa into a translator, after it emerged none among the aides at the State House function in Harare could do it except for the Zanu PF leader.
Magufuli was in Zimbabwe on a two-day State visit and in his final address to the media, spoke mainly in Swahili, the biggest language in East Africa forcing his host to help bemused local journalists with translation.
He was set to depart for home but was reportedly said to have extended his stay.
The Tanzanian leader was announcing his government had a maize surplus and was ready to help hunger stricken Zimbabwe.
After speaking exclusively in his native Swahili, Magufuli turned to the journalists present and said: “I know you will cut some of the words.”
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba tried to translate but could only manage one word.
“I just heard ‘mwaka’ meaning season,” Charamba said before Mnangagwa, noticing the handicap among his countrymen, turned translator.
Earlier on Tuesday, at a banquet held at State house, Magufuli told the media that he could not find a translator for his speech hence would read his written speech which was in English.
Introducing him to the media, Mnangagwa jokingly said President Magufuli was ready for questions but only spoke Swahili.
“With me here is President Magufuli of the Republic of Tanzania, who came here by invitation reciprocating my visit to Tanzania. We have had discussions to promote, deepen and to consolidate relations, he is at your disposal if you want to ask questions but he speaks only Swahili,” Mnangagwa said.
Mnangagwa had asked Magufuli if he had a translator among his staffers to which the Tanzanian responded in the negative before carrying on.
Translating his first brief, Magufuli further said he came to Zimbabwe to cement bilateral relations between the two nations. He said the two leaders had agreed on several issues which included trade, tourism and infrastructure.
“I came here to cement bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and Tanzania. I am only a catalyst and I am confident that the talks between the two nations will continue,” he said resorting to Swahili before breaking into laughter.
During the liberation struggle Mnangagwa operated as a guerrilla in Tanzania were Zanu had several bases from which he probably learnt Swahili.