Opinion & Columnist

The dirge that consumed a nation

Robert Mugabe

Elliot Ziwira, Senior Writer

The year 2019 was great in its own heart-rending way; and now that it has run its full course, we may reflect on how it has robbed us as a nation.

It was a year in which a great lyricist strummed his last tune on his larger than life guitar, crooning, “Kwaita mabasa kuno”.

In that sad year, a wordsmith coined his last line; an epitaph really: “Today I am wearing blue, tomorrow I will be in white, and you will be in black.”

During the course of that year, a guerilla fighter, one among the first Group of 12 to undertake military training in Egypt in 1962, detonated his last grenade, declaring that Zimbabwe would be a colony no more.


In the persistent dark cloud, a liberation struggle stalwart unlocked his last intelligence puzzle so far away from home before he also was consumed.

It will be remembered as the year that claimed two sons of the soil on the same day.

The one shelled his last missile from the Motherland’s sod and the other launched his last salvo from a foreign turf, declaring: “Africa is for Africans. Let us sing”.

Oliver Mtukudzi: Heroism more than a guns affair

His guitar was a more powerful machine gun; a bazooka, a landmine and an AK47, all rolled into one. And boy, did he know how to use it?

Oliver Mtukudzi

He could shoot from all angles; he could shoot from the hip with such precision that could only take the ear by storm and mellow the heart.

No matter the situation, he had just the right ammunition for it. He would hit you hard, with a combination of strumming salvoes and wordily exhortation, but you would feel no pain; the dosage would be just therapeutic, just fine.

He was a unifier, and to say that he strummed his last would be doing injustice to art; an immortal phenomenon. But well, on January 23, which today is last year, Tuku, like a griot, cried out, “Tumirai mhere kuvakuru kuno kwaita mabasa . . . Kwaita mabasa kuno”, and we all rushed to his Pakare Paye Arts Centre in response to the village crier’s desperate call.


The legendary Tuku had crossed to the other side of life. That he was declared a national hero was befitting, for heroism is more than a guns affair.

He fought for the Motherland in his own musical way; doing proud to the bogeyman forever used to frighten children, for musicians in our backyard had not always received societal sanction.

As the only, or maybe the first musician to be declared a national hero, Tuku remains a musical icon, and, indeed, a true beacon of what it means to be Zimbabwean.
He was a unifier and remains that soothing voice that booms closer to the heart.

He fought the good fight with the Motherland’s flag draped around his gargantuan shoulders in his own lean way.

He, like agriculturalist Gary Settled Tamayi Hlomayi Magadzire before him, proved that there is more to heroism in the quest to build a nation than a guns affair.

Buried at his rural home in Madziwa on January 27, the legendary Tuku left a legacy of love, endurance, perseverance, unity and patriotism.

Charles Mungoshi: The master of metaphor lives on

Promoted to the other side of life on February 16 last year at the age of 71, barely a month after Tuku, and interred on February 19 at his rural home of Chivhu, Charles Mungoshi is a hero, a national hero, nay global hero.

Charles Mungoshi


It is sad that he was not officially recognised as a national hero.

He is to Zimbabwean and African literature what Mtukudzi is to Afro-pop music. There is no aspect of life that could escape Mungoshi’s telescopic gaze and metaphor remains his forte.

In his condolence message to the Mungoshi family, President Mnangagwa said: “The death of our prominent writer, Dr Charles Mungoshi, barely a couple of weeks after we lost Dr Oliver Mtukudzi has come as a heavy blow to the arts industry and to our nation as a whole.

“The late Dr Mungoshi ranks high among a pioneering generation of national writers who used their pen to creatively engage the national question, especially in colonial days when issues of decolonisation and African cultural self-expression and self-assertion ranked high.

“What put the late Mungoshi in a league of his own was his use of both, this mother tongue, Shona, and the foreign English language to express himself, thus shaping a broad, bilingual, literary tradition for our nation.

He added, “We, too, thank him for his outstanding role in mentoring young writers during his days as a writer-in residence at the University of Zimbabwe, and a founder-participant in the Zimbabwe International Book Fair.

“We owe it to the prominent writers like the late Charles Mungoshi that Zimbabwe today stands tall as a literary nation.

“On behalf of our nation, Government and on my behalf, I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to the Mungoshi family, and in particular, to Amai Jesesi Mungoshi and the children, on this their saddest loss.”

Mungoshi is not dead; he lives in the depth of our literature; the literature of combat which resonates with yearnings of a world that we wish to live in, and yet seems to be ever receding to the horizon.

He lives among us today, tomorrow and forever, just as he used to do yesterday.

The master of metaphor cannot be silenced because he never uses his mouth to speak, for his words are not meant to be heard. Their silent screams will echo from the millions of pages cutting across the universal landscapes of the oppressed; even after his body and soul partake their inevitable separation.

The metaphors of drought, wounds, waiting, streams and hunger that Mungoshi effectively uses in “Waiting for the Rain”, “Coming of the Dry Season”; “Walking Still” (1997) and “Branching Streams Flow in the Dark” (2013), capture the spiritual, cultural, intellectual and creative crisis at the centre of the national psyche.

Mungoshi held the pen in his shaky hand, as his family kindles hope through publication of his latest book “Branching Streams Flow in the Dark”.

Misheck Velaphi Ncube: Pioneering the struggle

On April 29, Zimbabwe lost one of its pioneer guerrillas under the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra), Cde Misheck Velaphi Ncube.

Cde Ncube lost the battle to a diabetes-related ailment at the United Bulawayo Hospitals at the age of 82, and was buried at the National Heroes Acre on May 9.
He was among the first Group of 12 to train in Egypt in 1962.

In 1966, Cde Velaphi Ncube and his colleagues raided Congolese rebels, poisoned them and looted their weapons.

He was arrested following his involvement in smuggling weapons into Southern Rhodesia and was jailed at Grey Prison, now Bulawayo Prison.

Dumiso Dabengwa, a liberation struggle stalwart

The Grim Reaper visited the nation of Zimbabwe again on May 23. This time to claim a liberation stalwart popularly known as the Black Russian; Dr Dumiso Dabengwa.

Dumiso Ndabengwa

The liberation icon died in Kenya en-route to Zimbabwe from India where he had been rushed for medical treatment.

He was buried on June 1 at Manxeleni Village in Ntabazinduna, Umguza District, about 37 kilometres from Bulawayo.

Vice President Kembo Mohadi, said he was in touch with the liberation icon, whom he served under during the struggle, and his family as he was receiving treatment in India.

“Cde Dabengwa was actually my commander,” he revealed.

“We’ve been communicating and I spoke to him while he was still in India. The Government facilitated his trip to India for treatment and we were in the process of sending a private plane to pick him up because he was too weak to be flown in a commercial plane.”

Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube, who was a member of the Zipra high command, and the last chief of communications, said Dr Dabengwa was one of the pioneers of the revolution.

He said: “He started when he was very young and worked closely with the founders of the revolution like Joshua Nkomo, Robert Mugabe, Leopold Takawira among many others,” he said.

“In actual fact, he taught a lot of youths that they can play a vital role in the liberation struggle. Back then, the liberation struggle was for the old and educated, but when the youth came in the tempo of the liberation struggle changed.”

Rtd Col Dube said Dr Dabengwa, working with the late Jack Ngwenya and Edward Bhebhe, was pivotal in the recruitment of guerrillas to engage in the liberation struggle.

Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda described the late liberation icon as an undisputed veteran of the struggle.

Major-General Trust Mugoba

On September 6, the motherland suffered a double blow. It was the day that claimed former president Robert Gabriel Mugabe and former Zimbabwe National Army Chief of Staff Major-General Trust Mugoba.

Maj-Gen Mugoba (60), whose Chimurenga name was Joseph Zulu, passed on around 8.30am at the Avenues Clinic in Harare, after returning from Ethiopia where he was Chief of Staff in the Office of the Commission on peace and security in Africa, which is part of the African Union.

Born on November 2, 1959 in the Midlands Province, Nuanetsi District, Maj-Gen Mugoba did his primary education in Mberengwa and Chivhu.

He later received military training at Takawira Training Camp in Mozambique and advanced training at Nachingweya in Tanzania.

Maj-Gen Mugoba was buried on September 11 at the National Heroes Acre.

In his eulogy, President Mnangagwa said Maj-Gen Mugoba selflessly dedicated his life to the liberation of the black people.

“It is that record which has earned him a place in our hearts, indeed which has inspired our decision to lay him to rest at this shrine of honour, the National Heroes Acre,” he said.

“At independence, the gallant freedom fighter was attested into the ZNA in August 1981 at the rank of Lieutenant. He served in various capacities and ranks.”

The late national hero was promoted to the rank of Maj-Gen in 2008 where he assumed the post of Chief of Staff Administration and Quartermaster Staff at the Zimbabwe National Army headquarters.

In January 2012, he was appointed Chief of Staff Administration Staff.

In 2015, Maj-Gen Mugoba was appointed Chief of Staff General Staff and in September of the same year, he was appointed General Officer Commanding Sadc Special Forces Exercise, which was held in Kariba, where 10 Sadc countries participated.

He later led Exercise Amani Africa II; a continental exercise held in South Africa.

The late liberation icon was awarded the Independence, Liberation, Service, Long and Exemplary Service, Mozambique Campaign, DRC Campaign medals and the Grand Officer of the Zimbabwe Order of Merit Award.

Robert Mugabe: One of Africa’s strong pillars

In the early hours of September 6, a dark cloud hung over Zimbabwe, and, indeed, the rest of Africa as news that one of the continent’s strong pillars had thrown his last salvo, filtered in.

World leaders converged across the globe to pay tribute to a true pan-Africanist and liberation fighter.

Thousands of Zimbabweans thronged Rufaro Stadium in Mbare, Harare, to pay their last respects to the national hero, former President and revolutionary icon, who died in Singapore aged 95.

When his body arrived in the country five days after his death at Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore, hundreds thronged Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, while thousands more lined the streets to pay homage to the cortège.

Hordes of people from all walks of life had earlier on gathered at the Blue Roof, the revolutionary icon’s home in Harare’s Borrowdale suburb, with various musical bands in attendance, serenading locals, international visitors and VIPs.

The presence of a number of African Heads of State and representatives from China, Cuba and Russia attested to the revolutionary icon’s larger than life stature.

Among the continent’s luminaries in attendance were Zambia’s founding President Dr Kenneth Kaunda (95), President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, former Namibian President Sam Nujoma, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.

President Nguema was the last sitting Head of State to see former President Mugabe before he died.

He was buried on September 28 at his rural home in Zvimba.

Because of his stance on the land issue, and the need to empower his people, not merely by giving them an electoral voice, but through equitable distribution of the means of production, former President Robert Mugabe was vilified and demonised by some in the Western world.

When brickbats were thrown his way, and Western gangs waylaid him for his beliefs, and imposed sanctions on the Motherland, Robert Mugabe defied the odds, and ascended to the African Union (AU) throne, much to the chagrin of his detractors; and, indeed the enemies of all the people of colour.

Robert Mugabe could speak, and tread where everyone else dared not, for fear of angering Big Brother, whom they knew to think only of himself and his progenies.
Africa needed someone like him, and the continent could redeem itself with such minded Pan-Africanists.

The whipping boys snare that Africa contends with polarised global politics, will not snap as long as revolutionary voices as epitomised by Robert Mugabe are gagged, either through death, threats or fear.

As we reflect on his momentous assumption of the AU reins in 2015 against all odds, we remain mindful that when the wheel of fortune turns in favour of God’s people, the devil always finds ways of throwing spanners in its spokes.

In his acceptance speech as the AU Chair, the outspoken son of the soil aptly said: “African resources should belong to Africans and no one else. Except those we invite as friends, friends we shall have, yes, but imperialists and colonialists, no. Africa is for Africans, let us sing.”

It is this hard talk that the revolutionary icon, whose values are respected the continent over, which he was vilified for; it is this same talk that he was revered and loved for, and it is, indeed, this candid talk that he used to address Africa’s unfair treatment at world platforms like the United Nations.

Africa, indeed, lost one of her strong pillars.