Mzee was everyone’s father

Senator Tsitsi Muzenda
On September 20, 2017, Zimbabwe commemorates the 14th anniversary of the death of Vice-President Simon Muzenda. In the lead-up to the day, The Sunday Mail is running a series of articles on the national hero fondly remembered as the Soul of the Nation. Last week, our Chief Reporter Kuda Bwititi spoke to Deputy Minister of Energy and Power Development Senator Tsitsi Muzenda, daughter to the late VP Muzenda, on life with the national hero. We publish Sen Muzenda in her own words.

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He was a father not only to us his biological children but to anyone who came to him to seek assistance.

Growing up, I was a typical daddy’s girl, as I was always at my father’s side.

What I remember the most about my father is that he was a people’s person. He loved to be with the people; be it family, friends or colleagues.

I believe that it was this characteristic that made it easy for him to become a leader because he identified with the people, he was always willing to listen and empathise with the people.

My father was a kind-hearted man. He encouraged us to invite our friends to our home for meals. He was always ready to assist the less fortunate.

My father also prioritised education.

Back in those days, books were not easily available but he went out of his way to make sure that books were readily available at our house. He set up a library at our home, which was full of books and he referred to this library as Logic, and he constantly encouraged us to read widely.

So in a way, my father was am educationist in his own right because he made sure all of us received good education for us to advance in our lives.

During his time in restriction at Whawha, he was keen to see us focus on our studies. He would dedicate his time to helping us with our school work.

He was also a carpenter par excellence who carved outstanding works of carpentry like sofas, chairs and tables.

I always asked him how he had mastered the art of carpentry and he always responded by sharing his experiences from Marian Hill College in South Africa.

As a young girl, I was so fascinated by his skills that I imagined I would grow up to become a good a carpenter like him.

Nehanda Nyakasikana

I will never forget the incident when my father was arrested by the colonial regime’s for reciting the famous poem, “Nehanda Nyakasikana”.

I vividly remember that day, it was in 1962 and I was an 11-year-old girl.

We had attended a rally which dad was addressing.

When he started reciting the poem, you could sense that the crowd had been instantly captivated.

Even at my young age, I could sense the revolutionary spirit from the poem.

The poem generated a deluge of excitement from the crowd, as it symbolically reincarnated Mbuya Nehanda

However, the euphoria created by the poem incensed the Rhodesian police. They responded swiftly to disperse the meeting.

In no time, they surrounded the stadium to make sure that no one escaped.

They immediately went after my father, arrested and bundled him into a truck.

As the truck was about to leave, I ran as fast as I could, pleading with the policemen to let go of my father.

The police had dogs ready to attack, but I was oblivious of the threat posed by the hounds because all I wanted was for them to let my father go.

I shouted as loudly as I could, “Let my father go, please let him go!”

Apparently, because of my childhood naïveté, I had assumed that somehow I would be able to save my father.

My father heard my cries and he shouted back to me, “Tsitsi go back. Do not worry about me my child, I will be OK.”

After his arrest, we spent a number of weeks without seeing him, as he received punishment from the Rhodesian goons.

I later went to live in Zambia with my father in Zambia in 1975.

I had completed Secretarial Studies as well as a teaching course so Lusaka was a good option for me to further my education.

Another incident that I vividly recall was in 1970 when I went with my mother to pay him a visit at Harare Remand Prison.

We were not allowed to have any contact with him but could talk to him through the glass barriers through the phone.

My mother brought a new jacket for him and handed it to him through the prison officers.

Dad then gave back the jacket to mum after putting a letter which contained sensitive information.

Unfortunately, the letter was intercepted and its contents caused commotion among Ian Smith’s goons.

In the letter, Dad had written a long narrative of how Leopold Takawira had died.

Prison wardens did not want this information to be made public because they had neglected Takawira.

Takawira was diabetic and the prison authorities did not allow him to get his medication and he died as a result of this mistreatment.

After that incident, my mother and I were placed under arrest. We were detained at Central Prison for a number of days while undergoing interrogation.

It was a horrendous experience and at one time the police officers threatened to kill us.

They accused us of smuggling letters into the prison, an offence which they wanted to elevate to treason.

Our time in detention was very difficult for us. My mum took it particularly hard.

After spending a number of days in custody, we were eventually released but slapped with a punishment of prohibited immigrant from Salisbury.

So for some time, the two of us were not allowed to visit Salisbury.

The PI (Prohibited Immigrant)order was lifted after some months and we resumed the visits to dad.

One of the characteristics that stood out in my father was that he was a straightforward man.

How was also soft-hearted but tough.

When I see some of the things happening in the party and in Government today, I reminisce about my father because I think he would have helped in some way to resolve some of our disputes and challenges.

He steadfastly believed that in a society we should treat each other as equals.

When he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in 1980, the high office never changed him from the simple man that he always was.

He taught us to work hard and not to ride on his name.

Our father always implored us not to soil his name.

He remained a friend and colleague of the people of Gutu when he established vibrant projects such as piggery and irrigation to empower people in the area.

The rationale behind these projects was that he wanted to prove to people that even if one had a small piece of land, that small hectarage could still produce huge rewards.

He was a father not only to us his biological children but to anyone who came to him to seek assis- tance.

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