Sleep well Gogo Muzenda!

Munyaradzi Huni Deputy Editor
“Ini hug ndiyo yandaigara ndichimhoresana nemurume wangu. I hugged him tight and kissed him right in front of the people,” said Gogo Muzenda with a beaming smile.

“Right there, in full view of everyone?” I asked. “Ahhh, kwazvo! Why not? I hugged him and kissed him. You may want to know that ever since we got married, I always greeted my husband with a hug and a kiss. Handina kumboera ndaita Baba vekukwazisa nemaoko. No, it was a hug and a kiss. Ahhh, kwazvo! Ivo Baba vaibva vafarawo,” said Gogo.

We all laughed as Gogo Muzenda narrated, during an interview in July 2013, how she welcomed her husband, the late Vice President Simon Muzenda at the Zimbabwe Grounds after the liberation struggle. This was one of the most touching yet fascinating interviews as I embarked on the journey to interview heroes from the Second Chimurenga.

When I heard that Gogo Muzenda had passed on last Tuesday, I was crushed with grief and sorrow but I quickly vowed that I was not going to mourn her departure but celebrate her exemplary life. Gogo went through a lot during the liberation struggle when her husband was in Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique engineering the war and so this was not a time to allow death to continue the suffering. I quickly found solace in listening to the almost three-hour interview I had with her at her home at Mpandawana Growth Point in 2013.

Always calm and collected, Gogo Muzenda narrated how she met Cde Muzenda at Gokomere Mission and their wedding at the same school in 1950. She narrated the difficult years when she was separated from her husband by the colonial regime. Occasionally, she would stare at me with those kind of eyes that seemed to say; “muzukuru, there are no words that can explain the pain I have been through.” She would just stare at me and heave a huge sigh of relief.

“I was used to having a husband around and now he was gone. We now had eight children and honestly life was very tough … I also had taken it upon myself to explain to the children that their father was in jail … I was allowed to visit Baba while he was in prison and during those visits we could not speak a lot about politics … Even if things were very difficult for me outside, during those visits whenever he asked how we were coping, I would give him the impression that all was well so that I would not worry him too much …

“I persevered because I understood what politics was all about. I came from a family that also understood politics and so I understood that this pain and suffering was part of politics. I understood that for us to be free as blacks, we had to go through such pain. Taiziva kuti zvinorema as zvichanaka chete uye tichatonga nyika yedu,” said Gogo Muzenda.

Of course, I was with my Gogo and she gave me lots of lighter moments. During my interview with the late VP Muzenda, he sang quite a few songs for me and so I challenged Gogo to also sing for me. She gladly obliged saying before going to work when she was still a nurse in Mvuma, she would always sing the song that goes something like:

The Sunday Mail Deputy Editor Munyaradzi Huni speaks to Gogo Muzenda during an interview
The Sunday Mail Deputy Editor Munyaradzi Huni speaks to Gogo Muzenda during an interview

“Usiku hwatosvika, nyenyedzi dzopenya. Asi nyenyedzi yedu, ndimi Mai Maria. Mwana wenyu unotya, kufamba murima. Ndizvo ndokumbirisa kuti ndione nzira.’ I sang this song many times seeking God’s guidance,” she said.

Gogo Muzenda’s humility was so infectious such that sometimes I even forgot that I was a journalist. She made me feel so comfortable that I sometimes found myself behaving like muzukuru ana Gogo vake just catching up under a big muhacha tree.

“All my children are now into politics. I have two children who passed away — one who died at Chimoio during that bombing and one who died in Harare in an accident, but the remaining six are all politics in their own right …

“I am very happy that all my children have an interest in politics. Their father did a lot for this country and it brings me a lot of joy to see my children fighting to safeguard and keep the country that their father fought … even my grandchildren like politics a lot. I sometimes sit down with my grandchildren and tell them what I went through … I have over 20 grandchildren and they all know about the history of this country,” she said with a voice full of pride and satisfaction.

The interview was never going to be complete before asking Gogo Muzenda whether she was aware of the several jokes that sort of mocked her husband. Before responding, Gogo laughed as if she had just remembered one of the several jokes. “Yes, I have heard a number of jokes about him. (laughs) I see that many people didn’t really understand vaMuzenda. But as the Zanu-PF slogan says, ‘vasingazivi ngavadzidziswe!’ VaMuzenda was someone who really liked to always joke with people and if you remember he used to enjoy kuimba kwevanhu vechurch yekwaMutendi. He was related kuna vaMutendi, but our church as a family is the Roman Catholic,” said Gogo.

She went on to explain that even when her husband moved from Zambia to Lusaka, she still could not visit him because “there was no time for such luxury. We were in a war situation and this was not the time for such visits. I never visited him. All the time I was with the children here still staying in Mvuma. The children would ask me why their father never stayed at home, but I explained to them and they understood.”

How many mothers can do this today? Choosing to stay away from their husbands for the sake of the children? What is even more humbling is the fact that Gogo Muzenda, despite the fact that her husband was a high-ranking official in Zanu, she chose to continue staying in Mvuma when she could have requested to relocate to the affluent suburbs in the then Salisbury.

But then I was a very bad muzukuru on this day. I made Gogo cry. When I asked her how she felt when her husband fell sick and passed on, tears suddenly flooded her eyes and started rolling down her cheeks.

“Baba vakarwara ini ndichinzwisisana nemurume wangu. Ndakafara kuti Baba vari kundisiya nyika yedu yasununguka. We were in the process of taking our land. Although he was sick, he used to tell me that Zimbabweans should always protect their freedom and independence. Baba vakaenda zvavo asi basa ravo richaenderera mberi. His children and grandchildren have taken the baton from him. His efforts will not be betrayed and will not be in vain. Baba, rest in peace! (long pause)

“Zvinogozha asi tichafa tese tikatevera. Neni ndichatevera. Basa ravakaita ndinorikudza. The children and the grandchildren were given the foundation to this struggle and they should carry on. Zvinorema as ndakazvigamuchira saizvozvo. Ndinotenda kuti ndine vazukuru vanondivaraidza,” said a tearful Gogo Muzenda.

She continued: “Sorry muzukuru I am crying. It’s the pain and memories. I remember kugara kwedu kwakanaka nekuita zvakanaka kwavaiita. I will always remember. For me to be what I am, if he was not the kind of husband he was, I wouldn’t be here. Makaita Baba, you did a lot for me and the country and tinoramba tichingokurangarirai.”

I then asked her my signing off question; “Gogo, when your time comes to pass on, how would you want to be remembered?” I was expecting a mouthful, but Gogo remained modest.

“I want people to remember me for the good things I did for them. I want people to remember me for the things we did for them together naBaba. We both loved this country and sacrificed a lot for it,” she said.

We will forever remember you Gogo! Your life was a lesson for us. Rest in Peace Gogo! Ohh, by the way Gogo, now that you have joined Sekuru in the world yonder, give him that tight hug and a kiss right in front of all the angels. He has been waiting and he deserves it. Todiiko nhai Nehanda Nyakasikana? Sleep well Gogo!

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