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Devastated Kabendera to miss mum’s burial

By Sigomba Ramadhan Omar | January 3rd 2020

A combination photo of the late Verdina Mujwahuzi (Left) and her detained son Eric Kabendera. [Courtesy]

Today, when the family and friends of Verdina Mujwahuzi will be meeting to view her body ahead its burial tomorrow, one person will be conspicuously missing -- her son.

The public viewing of her body will be held Changombe, Dar es Salaam and it will be interred in Bukoba province.

Mujwahuzi is the mother of Tanzanian investigative journalist Erick Kabendera.

Kabendera has known no place other his prison cell since July 2019 when he was arrested, initially over his citizenship. He was charged with money laundering, tax evasion and leading organised crime.

The journalist was denied by a court the chance to pay his last respect to his departed mother owing to the nature of the charges.

Magistrate Janeth Mtega yesterday ruled that it wasn’t in her jurisdiction to allow Kabendera to attend the burial as those offences were not bailable.

The ruling drew the ire of the public and human rights activist who termed it inhumane.

Kabendera’s lawyer Jebra Kambole told reporters outside the court that his client was devastated by the ruling.

Kambole added that Kabendera said that the ruling was sorrowful to him and the reality of not burying his mother will hurt him for his entire life.

“We are seeing a ruling that has basic human rights. Some of our crucial proposals have not been considered. Preventing someone from burying his mother is inhumane,” said Kambole.

High-drama arrest

The last time late Mujwahuzi saw her son at home was during his July arrest when she witnessed plain-clothed police officers drag Kabendera into a car before speeding off.

Kabendera, who has a reputation for holding the authorities to account in his articles, was detained at Segerea Prison and has seen his case adjourned 10 times. 

His legal team warned that Kabendera could face up to five years in jail without trial now that the charges are not bailable.  

Kabendera’s mother died aged 80 on Tuesday at Amana hospital in Dar es Salaam where she has been receiving treatment.

Before her death, Mujwahuzi unsuccessfully pleaded twice with President John Magufuli to pardon his son.

“Your excellence President Magufuli, please have mercy on me and my son. Life has become tougher for me. I am sick and I cannot get medicine because my son was the only one who catered fo medical bills,” a tearful Mujwahuzi said.

She added: “When he heard that I am sick, he would stop everything and ran to Bukoba to check on me. I can’t live (survive) without Eric.”

Lawyer Kambole told reporters that Kabendera received news of her mother’s death in shock and remained mum for long.

“It was his toughest moment. He changed immediately and was not the usual Kabendera. We had to leave him alone for about two hours to digest the news,” he said

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