The Sunday Mail
Zanu Women’s League founding secretary Gogo Maria Chakonda has implored the women’s wing in Zanu-PF to return to its founding principles and values.
The 88-year-old nationalist bemoaned the confederacy’s “departure from the spirit of ubuntu”.
Gogo Chakonda, who was elected Secretary for Women’s Affairs at Zanu’s first National Congress in Gweru in 1964, made the remarks ahead of Zanu-PF’s Special Congress scheduled for this week.
“I have been watching these kids from afar. I have never been invited to any of their (Women’s League) meetings. That is probably why they had sort of lost direction. Gwara rakapfuvhunuka kare-kare. They need to consult vaSorojena (the elderly) in preserving the party’s ideology and legacy,” she said.
Former First Lady Mrs Grace Mugabe was heading the Women’s League until recently when she was expelled from Zanu-PF for fomenting discord in the party and national leadership.
Reflecting on Mrs Mugabe’s colourful tenure during which she publicly blasted senior party and Government officials, Gogo Chakonda said she had reservations “on that leadership style”.
“Takangoti ndezve vana vadoko as the elders were humiliated. Besides, she was wife to the President; you can’t criticise vakuru,” she said.
Going forward, she added, Zanu-PF can only grow stronger.
“Gwara ranga rarasika, asi zvinogadzirika izvi if the new leadership listens to the people’s concerns. The time for selfish leaders is up; everything should be about the people.
“Create jobs and every woman will be very happy because when our children are employed, we are content; women cherish their children more than anything else and we are not pleased to see them suffering.”
She is also passionate about women leading.
“There is no ant colony without a queen ant. Women bring a crucial dimension to leadership. Even going back in time, it was not a coincidence that Sekuru Kaguvi was working with Mbuya Nehanda.
“We need women to work with their male counterparts in those top posts,” she said.
Gogo Chakonda also took this writer down the annals of her own colourful history.
Despite a colonial law that forbade arresting legally-married women, in 1962, she spent two months in a prison in Masvingo for working with freedom fighters.
Gogo Chakonda would provide food and accommodation to Cdes Simon Muzenda, Edson Zvobgo, Marimbe and Mahwema, amongst others.
And when things got tough, with Rhodesian security agents banging on her door, she would hide them under her bed.
Having been one of the few brave female activists during that era, she was elected Secretary for Zanu’s Women’s League at a Congress in the then Gwelo (now Gweru).
She occupied the hot seat from 1964 until Independence in 1980.
“Mai Chitepo was the Acting Secretary at the time and she needed to hand over to someone else since she was travelling a lot with her husband on other national assignments.”
However, Gogo Chakonda’s new position left her in a messy quandary since it was a punishable offence to address political gatherings.
“This made my role very difficult because you could get arrested for meeting even as a small group of five,” she said.
But the witty Secretary was not to be outdone by the Smith regime; she registered a cooking and sewing club in Bikita.
Armed with official documentation, she would produce it whenever her party meetings were ambushed.
“Whenever we were approached by police, I would simply produce the paperwork for the club,” she said with a naughty chuckle.
That trick carried the women’s wing through the intricacies of colonialism until the dawn of Independence.
“Jostling for positions in the Women’s League started in 1980 and that is when l decided to take a back-seat so as to allow the younger and more educated women to take the lead. Besides, l had done my part and it was time for new blood.”
Gogo Chakonda has been a member of the party’s Central Committee since, observing the goings-on in the Women’s League from the periphery.
She has been less active in politics, though, after suffering a stroke in 2013.
All she wants for Christmas is to shake President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s hand and congratulate him on his latest appointment.
Meeting Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantino Guveya Nyikadzino Chiwenga will be the icing on her cake.