Despite his status as one of Tanzania’s richest people, residents here described him as their fellow village mate who mingled with everybody and treated people with utmost respect.
And with generous contributions the philanthropist gave towards socio-economic development of the community, Nkuu Sinde-Kisereni village in Machame East ward, Hai district of Kilimanjaro region is one of the places in the country where Dr Mengi’s demise was felt with an exceptional intensity, and his legacy will be remembered forever.
‘Welcome home mzee, we will remember you forever.’ This was the message the villagers displayed in a banner that received the hearse carrying Dr Mengi’s remains upon arrival here for burial on Thursday.
Villagers stood behind the banner as they received the funeral cortege at the main road and led the way up to his home with people jostling to participate in carrying the coffin, to welcome the departed village elder to final resting place.
To them, apart from his being the village’s most famous and richest person, Dr Mengi was a good neighbor. He was a de facto representative of the villagers in the country and beyond who liked to engage them whenever he visited the village on various issues.
"Whenever he visited us, we knew it was time to visit his house, have a good time with him and tell him issues affecting the community," said Jonas Mosha on behalf of his fellow villagers during the burial ceremony.
Entrance was however restricted during the burial ceremony, to ensure that guests and officials accompanying the body had adequate space for the ceremony. It happened that some of those who were barred outside the gate were the villagers who felt they deserved to be allowed in, Mosha noted.
The villagers who missed the opportunity to be at the grave were unhappy that they failed to have access to the burial of a man whom they had access to in life but seemingly not in death, thanks to the status of those who attended.
They said they loved Dr Mengi and felt proud to introduce themselves as Kisereni villagers wherever they went in Kilimanjaro because he had made them proud.
"He was a symbol of Machame. We were very proud to have such a person in our village,” said Mosha.
Police had a tough time controlling the crowd who came in their large numbers to a village located some 50 plus kilometres from Moshi municipality.
Speaking on behalf of the government, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa who officiated at the burial ceremony described Dr Mengi as a special person and industrialist who will be remembered for the unique spirit he harboured against poverty and through that he spent his lifetime encouraging and enabling others get out of the poverty trap.
On Wednesday, President John Magufuli, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, scores of public officials and a large crowd of city residents paid their last respects to Dr Mengi at Karimjee Grounds.
Dr Mengi who died on Thursday last week in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, was laid to rest next to the grave of his son Rodney Mutie.