The Sunday Mail
While some were mourning the tragic passing of Honourable Vimbai Tsvangirai-Java and that of the wife of the grandiloquent Talent Chiwenga and other church colleagues, something remarkable also took place in Zimbabwe last week.
A man called Randolph Simms, better known as Cde Coltrane Chimurenga, made a huge statement albeit in death.
Cde Chimurenga silently made his final RETURN to motherland accompanied by fellow freedom fighters and close family members. The man whose life pragmatically personified African brotherhood joined the ancestors on May 13, 2019 in the United States.
A leader of the Brooklyn-based December 12 Movement, Field Marshal Chimurenga devoted the better part of his adult life to the freedom of black people in America, the Diaspora and beyond.
Born in California, Cde Chimurenga had numerous run-ins with the US establishment as he led numerous civil disobedience demonstrations against the continued racial discrimination and injustice meted against black people.
It was during the formative years of Zimbabwe’s nationalist struggles in the early 1960s that Cde Chimurenga organised the “College Struggles” in Oakland, California and also met the Cde Tirivafi Kangai who was to Christian him Chimurenga — a name that was to replace Randolph Simms.
It was during his revolutionary interaction with Cde Kangai that the African-American political activist broadened his struggle scope and developed a practical and lifelong affinity to the native land of Zimbabwe, which until his death remained his HOME.
It therefore came as no surprise that he confided with close family relatives and struggle colleagues that he be buried in Zimbabwe.
In a way, Cde Chimurenga became one of the true African-brothers to successfully follow through Marcus Garvey’s call for repatriation under the “Back to Africa” movement.
Cde Chimurenga’s life epitomised the practicality of “Writing Back” to Empire.
Living in ‘belly of the beat’ never at any time intimidated Cde Chimurenga from defiantly pursuing the struggle for black people and proved beyond doubt that it was possible to effectively “Write Back to Empire” and change certain ingrained perceptions about black people.
In response to the increased murders and attacks on black people across New York State, Cde Chimurenga together with Cdes Viola Plummer, Sonny Abubadika Carson and Father Lawrence Lucas formed the December 12 Movement.
Under his stewardship, the December 12 Movement organised “Days of Outrage” which brought to the fore the brutal discrimination of the security forces against the black people.
New York was brought to a standstill and that brought awareness to law makers for action.
And in pursuit of Malcom X’s call for collective action of the black race and place the American struggle in the world arena, the December 12 Movement formed an international secretariat with Cde Chimurenga being the general secretary.
The man understood the entire essence of the black struggle world-wide.
He understood, as Malcom X did, that for long black people have been deprived of being a collective mass and were deprived of not only their “civil human rights but also their dignity.”
Indeed, of all the prominent Afro-American activists that I have come across like Louis Farrakhan, Jessie Jackson and even Cornel West, Cde Chimurenga’s impact world-wide looms large particularly his passionate love for Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular.
He was a giant of a man — physically and spiritually. But his was not a religious inspired struggle. His foundational motivation for black freedom came from his direct experience as a downtrodden black kid in the ‘belly of the beast.’
And as an adult, he made a commitment to ‘Write Back’ to Empire through his actions which sought to give a different narrative of the black people’s existential value.
Those who have followed Cde Chimurenga’s life were not surprised that he refused to be buried in the citadel of the Empire. He decided to go back to Africa for good where his soul reunited with his ancestors.
Paying tribute to a fellow freedom fighter, President Mnangagwa described Cde Chimurenga as a dedicated Pan-Africanist and son of the soil whose love for Zimbabwe will remain etched in the annals of Zimbabwe’s history.
“He steadfastly stood by Zimbabwe during colonialism and after independence as we fought the illegal sanctions regime,” the President said.
Surely, there could be no better person to understand how Empire operated than Cde Chimurenga who had lived all his life in the ‘belly of the beast.’
His dedication and love for Zimbabwe was the motivation behind him adopting his surname in solidarity with Zimbabwe’s war of liberation from colonialism.
Although their worlds were divergently different, Cde Chimurenga was what Flora Veit-Wild said of Marechera — someone who remained till the end a “Black Insider” who was nakedly conscious of the “predicament of exile and the black identity” and examining living conditions under the fear of the Bomb.
Cde Chimurenga was not a banal political activist.
He combined the brute pragmatism of a foot soldier and the strategic thinking of a transcendentalist.
He was a man who epitomised the idea that intelligence rules the world while ignorance carries the burden.
He was a man who also believed that great principles and ideas know no nationality.
Marcus Garvey’s words ring louder when he says, “If I die in Atlanta, my work shall then only begin, but I shall live, in the physical or spiritual to see the day of Africa’s glory.”
Unlike Garvey who was not unfortunate to set foot on the African soil, Cde Chimurenga fulfilled his long held wish.
Long live freedom fighter! Long live Cde Chimurenga! Your fight was Never in vain.