Not many Africans are recognised for the discoveries they made in their countries. It is not surprising that many of the ‘discoveries’ on the continent are credited to the colonialists. Many of the colonialists even have towns, cities and rivers named after them. The story about the discovery of the Tanzanite gemstone is a tale hardly known and told.

The Tanzanite gemstone was discovered in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in 1967 by a Tanzanian man,  Jumanne Ngoma, who until recently wallowed abandoned in poverty .Ngoma, a Maasai herdsman was recognised by the Tanzanian government as the discoverer of the blue-purple gem. Other people that claimed to have discovered the precious stone incude another Maasai man, Ali Juu Ya Watu, and Manuel de Souza, a local prospector.

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President Pombe Magufuli said “Mzee Ngoma is a veritable Tanzanian hero. But what did he get after discovering Tanzanite about 50 years ago? Nothing. Nothing at all. In fact it is people from other countries who have benefited more from this unique gemstone.”

Tanzanite
These precious stones known as Tanzanite are only found in Tanzania. President Magufuli built a 24.5km wall around the mines with only one exit point manned by the army. Photo: Twitter/

President Magufuli’s comments came when he unveiled the 24km wall that was built around the mine that has the precious stone. He referred to Ngoma as “the hero of the nation who has for long been forgotten and neglected.”

A sum of $44,000 was awarded to Ngoma who despite having been recognised by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and given a certificate of recognition by the government in 1980 and 1984 for his scientific discovery, was never rewarded financially.

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President Magufuli stressed on the importance of recognizing heroes within the country. Ngoma is half paralysed and part of the money given to him will go into treatment.