The Sunday Mail
Belindah Mutayiwa and Precious Masakara
Tomorrow, Zimbabwe celebrates National Heroes Day, an important day on the national calendar to honour the gallant sons and daughters of the soil who made extraordinary sacrifices to liberate the country from white minority rule.
In line with the Heroes Day theme “Lest we forget”, we take time to reflect on the 12 heroines who are interred at the National Heroes’ Acre for their invaluable contribution to the birth of a free Zimbabwe. Though married to liberation stalwarts, they also distinguished themselves in their own right.
Sally Mugabe (June 6 1931 – January 27 1992)
Sally Francesca Heyfron — first wife to former President, Robert Mugabe — became the first heroine to be buried at the National Heroes Acre.
The Ghanaian-born former First Lady is largely honoured for her unwavering support for underprivileged members of society and her passion for children’s welfare. After marrying the former president in 1961, Cde Sally, whose country of birth became the first to gain independence on the continent, is known for aggressively pushing for the black majority rule. Her role in promoting and supporting the war effort was widely acclaimed. In December 1961, she was charged with sedition and sentenced to five years in jail after leading protests at the Prime Minister’s Office against the Constitution.In 1964 she gave birth to her only son, Nhamodzenyika who, however, tragically passed on in Ghana in 1966. Cde Sally Mugabe was elected the deputy secretary of the Women’s League at the first Zanu Women’s congress held in Mozambique in 1978. After the country’s independence in 1980 she actively campaigned for women’s rights.
In addition to being patron of Mutemwa Leprosy Centre, she established the Child Survival and Development Committee for Zimbabwe with the assistance from the United Nations Children’s Fund.
She is highly regarded for her worldwide fundraising efforts. In 1989, she became the first secretary of the united Zanu-PF Women’s League. She was also secretary for women’s Affairs in the Politburo.
She died in 1992 of a kidney failure.
Johanna Nkomo (September 18 1927-June 3 2003)
Born Johanna Fuyana, she was affectionately known as Mama MaFuyana. She is described as the mother of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. Wife to Father Zimbabwe and liberation hero Joshua Nkomo, Mama Mafuyana worked tirelessly for the unity of Zimbabweans.
She also focused on the welfare of underprivileged children through the Child Survival and Development Foundation. Of her countless brushes with the illegitimate settler regime, she had her Pelandaba home raided by a unit of the Southern Rhodesia Special Branch in 1964.She died on June 3, 2003 after complaining of severe stomach pains.
Julia Tukai Zvobgo (November 8 1937- February 16, 2004)
Cde Zvobgo became a member of Zanu at its formation in August 1963. After her studies in the United States, she joined her husband Edgar in the armed struggle in Mozambique, where she was elected administrative secretary for the Women’s League. At the end of the Lancaster House Conference in December 1979, she was among the first group of Zanu cadres to return to Zimbabwe as part of the elections directorate.
She helped open the party’s offices at the then 88 Manica Road (Robert Mugabe) in Harare.
An educationalist, social worker and fighter for women’s emancipation, Cde Zvobgo was elected as Member of Parliament for Zvishavane in 1980. She died of a heart attack following a stroke she had suffered.
Ruth Chinamano (February 16 1925 -January 2 2005)
Born Ruth Lottie Nomondo in Cape Town, South Africa, she met the late Josiah Chinamano in Port Elizabeth (South Africa) in 1949. The two married a year later and they then moved to Zimbabwe.
As a trained teacher, she found employment at Waddilove Institute in Marondera.
Ruth later joined African National Congress after being introduced to James Chikerema and George Nyandoro by Stanley Moore. Together with other nationalists, she staged the first ‘black slash’ demostration against the detention of veteran nationalists James Chikerema, Daniel Madzimbamuto and George Nyandoro.
She was one of the founding members of the National Democratic Party(NDP) and her shop in Highfield became the party’s office. When NDP was banned, she joined Zapu.
She was known for her fight for gender equality.
In 1963, she held the post of secretary for the Salisbury district of the Zimbabwe African Women’s Union (Zawu) and the Highfield branch of the People’s Caretaker Council.
On April 16 1964, Cde Chinamano was detained at Gonakudzingwa together with her husband and the late Joseph Msika. With her being the only female inmate, she and her husband were transferred to Whawha Prison until their release in 1970. They were, however, not given total freedom as they were confined to travel within an 8km radius. She was to be arrested again the same year in Marondera and released in 1974 following the people’s violent response to the Smith regime. She was PF Zapu’s representative at the Lancaster House Conference and was the first woman Member of Parliament for Lupane. Cde Chinamano strongly fought for gender equality and participated in the Unity Accord negotiations of 1987.In 1991, she called upon Government to abolish all beer halls situated near schools and turn them into domestic science centres where women would learn how to look after their homes.
She criticised the West for what she believed were deliberate attempts to wipe out blacks in Africa through the supply of contraceptives and legalising abortion, while dismissing the belief that Africa was over-populated.
After suffering a stroke which left her wheelchair-bound, she succumbed to diabetes.
Sunny Ntombiyelanga Takawira (July 2 1927-January 13 2010)
She hosted nationalists when they held secret meetings at her home in Highfield.
Because of her role in the liberation struggle and being married to a veteran nationalist, Leopold Takawira, she suffered brutality at the hands of the racist regime.
After the arrest of her husband in 1964, she smuggled letters and information in and out of Whawha, Gonakudzingwa, Sikombela and Salisbury Central Prison. Even after the death of her husband in 1970, she continued to work for the liberation of Zimbabwe. As a nurse, she treated both civilians and those who were injured in the armed struggle.
Through her involvement in demonstrations organised by nationalists’ wives whose spouses were languishing in detention, Cde Takawira was often detained at Harare Central Police Station alongside Cde Ruth Chinamano. In 1980, Cdes Takawira, Tsitsi Munyati and Bridget Mugabe welcomed liberation fighters from Mozambique at the Salvation Army Church in Mbare. She was appointed senator for Midlands and retired as a nurse.
Cde Takawira succumbed to complications which developed from an operation of the womb.
Sabina Mugabe (October 14, 1934-July 29 2010
She served as the Zanu-PF Member of Parliament (MP) for Makonde East from 1985 to 1990 and for Zvimba South from 1990 to 2008.
Sabina left Rhodesia under an assumed name in 1975 and studied home economics and nutrition at Battersea College of Technology and Richmond College in London before going to Nova Scotia, Canada, to study for a diploma in social development at a Catholic college.
Prior to leaving Rhodesia, she had been sheltered by the Silveira House Catholic seminary, on the outskirts of Harare, while her brother Robert was leading Zanu guerrillas fighting former Rhodesian leader Ian Smith’s forces from bases in Mozambique.
Sabina suffered a stroke in 2007 and retired as an MP in 2008. She died in Harare on July 29, 2010, aged 75.
Victoria Chitepo (March 271928-April 8 2016)
Cde Victoria Chitepo became involved with the National Democratic Party (Rhodesia), a nationalist movement that campaigned for political rights for Rhodesia’s black majority in 1960. She was wife to Herbert Chitepo. She led a women’s sit-in at Salisbury’s Magistrates’ Court in 1961 to promote the campaign for black citizenship. In 1962, she travelled to Tanzania with her husband where for three years she worked as a social worker aiding black Rhodesian refugees. After her husband was assassinated in Lusaka, Zambia by agents of the Rhodesian Government in 1975, she remained in Tanzania until the birth of Zimbabwe. Cde Chitepo was found dead at her Mt Pleasant home.
Vivian Mwashita (September 26, 1958-April 8, 2016)
In April 1975, Cde Vivian Mwashita crossed the border into Mozambique to join the liberation struggle under the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla). Three years later, she was deployed to the battlefront in Tete, which was one of Zanla’s operational provinces.
Some of the toughest battles she was involved in include the Hwata and Patamukombe, where fighting lasted for 14 hours, from 7am to 9pm.
She was actively involved in politics after independence.Cde Mwashita was diabetic and also suffered a stroke before her demise.
Shuvai Mahofa (April 4, 1941-August 14, 2017)
During the liberation struggle, Cde Shuvai Mahofa worked with the late Dr Simon Mazorodze to ensure that medical provisions, clothes, food and other accessories were received at the war front.
She held various posts, which included Deputy Minister of Youth Development, Gender and Employment Creation, Deputy Minister for Women Affairs and Political Affairs and Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs. She was a legislator in both the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament.
She made significant strides in removing obstacles to women’s participation in all spheres of public and private life. Cde Mahofa died after collapsing at her Rhodene home in Masvingo.
Maud Muzenda (October 8, 1922- August 22, 2017)
Ambuya Maud Muzenda was a towering figure in the struggle for Zimbabwe’s independence as she was constantly hounded by colonial authorities for supporting her husband.
She was married to former war hero and the late Vice President, Simon Muzenda.
After independence, Ambuya Muzenda played a key role in tackling issues affecting women, particularly in her home district of Gutu and the entire province of Masvingo where she initiated projects that uplifted the lives of people in rural communities. She died on August 22, 2003 after battling hypertension and diabetes.
Maria Msika May 17, 1928- September 22, 2017
Maria Msika was born Maria Dzingilani Mathumo Tjuma (Tshuma) at Tsetsebe in Botswana.
She was wife to the late former Vice President, Cde Joseph Msika. Maria Msika looked after several people during and after the liberation struggle. Gogo Msika fended for the family while her husband suffered in prison during the liberation struggle.She died at her Highlands home in Harare after having been ill for a long time.
Thokhozile Angela Mathuthu (March 26, 1957- August 13, 2018)
Cde Mathuthu was a Zanu-PF Politburo member and Matabeleland North Member of Parliament.
Born Thokozile Angela Gumbo in Bulawayo, she became active politically in the 1970s. Between 1975 and 1978, she was a committee member of the Zapu Youth Wing and assisted combatants operating in the Tinde and Kamativi areas.
She was also involved in the integration committees during talks between Zanu and Zapu.
Cde Mathuthu was elected secretary for administration for the Matabeleland North provincial Women’s League between 1987 and 1993. She became secretary for transport and social welfare in the national executive of the Women’s League between 1994 and 1999. In 2000, Cde Mathuthu was appointed deputy secretary for transport and social welfare in the Politburo and was promoted to secretary of the portfolio in 2005. Between 2015 and 2016, Cde Mathuthu was Deputy Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services.
She died after battling cancer.