The Sunday Mail
WE continue our discussion with Mr Henry Kambizi Matemba Mutasa, one of the many Zimbabweans who, for various reasons that were beyond their control, were born and grew up in foreign lands during the days of the liberation struggle.
In our previous edition, Mr Mutasa narrated to us the circumstances that resulted in him being born and growing up in Mwansa, Tanzania. This week, he continues with the discussion with our Senior Reporter TENDAI CHARA (TC). Read on as he emotionally recollects how, from childhood, he was haunted by a deep sense of belonging.
Q: Mr Mutasa, we rounded up last week’s discussion with you narrating to us how you felt when Tanzanians of your age often referred to you as a “Mukimbizi”, meaning refugee. Kindly tell us what you went through from your childhood up until your return to an independent Zimbabwe.
A: Like I said previously, my father was banished from coming to Rhodesia after he had written articles that annoyed the Rhodesian government. It was not good to grow up in an environment in which I was occasionally reminded that I was a foreigner. When I was a youngster, Tanzanians would often say oh sorry, you are a “Mukimbizi,” meaning a refugee. Of course, they were sympathising with me but it was not pleasant growing up in such an environment. It is never a good thing to be called a refugee. It was worse for me because I felt like I was never going to come out of this situation. It was a nightmare. Fortunately, Independence came and I came to a free Zimbabwe.
Q: Are you grateful to the Tanzanians for accommodating your family?
A: Oh yes! I am grateful. How can I be ungrateful to a people that accommodated my family for so long? I am grateful to the Tanzanians for accommodating me and for even allowing my father to marry their daughter. They could have just said no, our daughter cannot be married to a foreigner. The fact that they allowed my father to marry my mother shows how good Tanzanians are. They allowed my father to work there as an advisor to President Nyerere. That was a very high-ranking job.
Q: Did your father have a keen interest on what was going on in Rhodesia and if so, how did this affect you?
A: My father was very much interested in what was happening back home. Whenever he was home, he would, every morning, sit next to the radio, listening to news from Rhodesia. He would tune in to Radio RSA between 6 am and 7:30 am and listen to the daily war updates. I remember there was also a Rhodesian radio station that he often tuned in to. There was also the BBC and the Voice of America. He would listen carefully. I would be with him, seating next to him, listening as well. I was the typical ‘Daddy’s Boy’ and I still listen to the radio up to this day. After listening, he would discuss with whoever was in the house about the goings-on in Rhodesia. He was very keen on the developments. There was a time when an offer for a Tanzanian citizenship was dangled in my father’s face, but he flatly refused.
Q: Did listening to the radio with your father contributed in any way to your interest in Rhodesia?
A: As I was listening to the radio, I would look at his body language and I could see that he was stressed. There was so much negative news about Rhodesia those days. He could hear of the way the Smith administration was speaking about those that spoke against the colonial regime. There was so much propaganda which intimidated people to support the Rhodesian government. Listening to the radio made me realise that I had a future role to play in the liberation of Rhodesia. I knew that if I could not help liberate Rhodesia, then I would be stuck in a foreign country forever. I subconsciously developed the spirit of a freedom fighter. I remember when I was still in primary school a group of senior war veterans from both ZANU and ZAPU visited our school and asked about the need for people like me to support the war effort in whatever way.
Q: How did you receive the news of Zimbabwe’s Independence and why did you not immediately come to Zimbabwe?
A: In 1980 when we got Independence, I was in Grade 7 and I remember listening to Radio Tanzania when they announced that the next day was going to be a national day in Tanzania to celebrate the Independence of Rhodesia. That was how close Tanzania was to the people of this country. I remember spending that day listening to the independence proceedings that were happening in Rhodesia. In Tanzania, there were lots of speeches by Tanzanian leaders as they celebrated the Independence of this country. I felt extremely happy that day. I knew that the possibility of me going to Zimbabwe was now there. I knew that even in Tanzania they would not call me a Mukimbizi anymore. I knew the Tanzanians would now call me a foreigner living here as opposed to being called a refugee. I also knew that I could go back to Zimbabwe anytime since the country was now free.
Q: Tell us about your coming to the newly independent Zimbabwe
A: My coming to Zimbabwe proved to be a very difficult process. It was a nightmare that I had not anticipated. My parents had divorced and my father relocated to Zimbabwe. I was left in the custody of my mother. In court, I was given the option of choosing who to stay with between my parents only if I would have attained 18 years of age. In my mind, I told myself that once I turn 18, I was definitely going to Zimbabwe. When I was approaching 18, which was in 1986, I started making preparations for my coming to Zimbabwe. A Tanzanian pastor who was a family friend one day visited us and told us that he was going to Harare for a church meeting. So the pastor said if we had anything that we wanted delivered to our father in Harare, we could give him. We wrote a long letter to my father telling him of our intention to join him in Zimbabwe. In a month’s time, my father responded, advising us that we were welcome to come to Harare. My mother didn’t like us coming to Zimbabwe. After passing my “O” Level, I then enrolled for my Lower Six and my intention was to pass so that I would go to Zimbabwe for my university education.
Q: Why were you so keen to come to Zimbabwe?
A: Zimbabwe was my home and I simply wanted to go to the land of my ancestors. I felt like a prisoner who had to be released from jail and was eager to go home.
I didn’t care much about what I was going to do in Zimbabwe, all I wanted was to go home. After realising that I wanted to go to Zimbabwe after “A” Level, my mother and her brothers refused to pay for my school fees.
I missed a whole term of study. Luckily, I passed and was selected to study at the University of Dar es Salaam. I was determined to study in Zimbabwe but the odds were stacked against me.
In our next instalment, which is our last with Mr Mutasa, he will narrate to us the joy of finally coming home. He will also tell us about the extreme difficulties that he encountered when he finally came to Zimbabwe.