The Sunday Mail
We chronicle the political life of former Whawha detainee Cde Agrippa Samuriwo. Cde Samuriwo, who comes from a family of early black business people, narrates to our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati his childhood life and how he became active in politics during his youthful years.
Question: Cde Samuriwo, can you walk us through your childhood, where were you born and what is your educational level?
Answer: Before I dwell into my history, I feel I first need to pour out an issue that troubles me. I am a man who lives in pain.
I feel, together with the current old generation, we have let down the young people of this country by not telling them the history of Zimbabwe.
I say this because this interview is coming at a time when we are now old and some of the accounts are now out of our memories. I used to tell my children on how our route to freedom was and vividly understood the journey during my young days, but now it is just in bits and pieces.
We have let the young generation and the future of this country down by not documenting the events that led to the country’s freedom.
Look at how the British-led Pioneer Column has managed to document its colonisation of Zimbabwe.
Though exaggerated, they have managed to bombard us with how they came to the country and set up various structures as if our fathers didn’t know how to run Zimbabwe.
The Pioneer Column made it look as if they did not have any challenges and it was a flawless occupation.
People were dying as they marched to colonise us. Blacks were used in manners that resemble slavery. Some of our women were used as sex slaves.
There was a lot going on, but we read as if it was a smooth operation.
The opposite goes for our history. Today we say the young generation does not understand how the country got its independence, but are we, as the people who helped bring the independence, telling them how we got the freedom? No we are not, but we chastise them if they are hoodwinked to align with the people who yesterday denigrated us, treated us in inhuman manner and forced us to labour for low wages.
I am pained because I know there are several people who made various contributions towards our freedom who refuse to tell the nation the journey they walked. I say this because I know how, amongst ourselves, there is a lot of gagging and sensationalisation of issues related to the liberation struggle.
How then do we expect the young ones to understand the need to safeguard the country if we do not tell them its value? We must not blame the youths, it is us who should take the blame.
We need to contribute more information on how we soldiered to free this country if we want the young generation to safeguard our heritage.
I am sure many of the departed comrades are turning in their graves because the young generation has lost direction and we are not helping in redirecting them to the right path.
I say this because it is an issue that troubles me, but I also believe that it is not too late. Those of us still surviving should speak on what we know. The little information that I have is better spoken than being completely omitted.
But back to your question, I was born on 22 December 1941 in Mahusekwa, Marondera. My name is Agrippa Samuriwo. I am the youngest in a family of eight. The first was Violet, born in 1922, then Betty (1924), Jewel (1926), Martha (1930), Simaganiso (1934), Toborin (1937), Emma 1938 and myself.
My father was an agriculture extension officer or mudhumeni, as they were popularly called. He was a farmer and was born in a family that had managed to set up some businesses.
As I will tell you later, you will realise that the Samuriwo’s were known business people. That is the family I come from. In Mahusekwa, my father became a successful farmer, a master farmer to be precise, and we had lots of cattle.
In 1951 I started school at Samuriwo School, there, in Mahusekwa.
During that time, the white led government was establishing African Purchase Areas. These were farms ranging from about 20 to 100 hectares which were being sold to black farmers.
There were many such areas which included Wilshere in Enkeldon now Chivhu, Mushagashe near Chatsworth, Musengezi near Hartley (Chegutu) and Chitomborwizi near Sinoia (Chinhoyi).
Since my father was a farmer offering knowledge to other farmers, he managed to purchase 77 hectares in Chitomborwizi African Purchase Area in 1953. This is the same farm I run today with my family. When we came here it was between Chirau communal lands in the north and white owned commercial farms in the south.
I say it was because the whites are no longer there, I am happy our own people have benefited from that land.
So we moved here from Mahusekwa in April 1953 when I was doing Standard One. There were no schools nearby and I was just 12 years old. My father said I was young to travel the long distance to Chitomborwizi School, where my sisters and brothers had enrolled.
As such, I was trusted with cattle herding because we had a lot of cattle.
I was out of school between 1953 and 1955. When Matoranjera School opened near our farm in 1953, I managed to enrol in Standard One.
In 1956 I did my Standard Two, but withdrew at the end of that year after my leg got injured. I did not go to school for the whole of 1957 only to return in 1958 as Standard Three.
In 1959 I repeated Standard Three and in 1960 proceeded to Standard Four.
I was to enrol at Pakame Mission which was run by the Methodist Church in Shurugwi in 1961 for Standard Five; before going to Thekwane (now Tegwani) in Plumtree for Form One and Two in 1962 and 1963.
Question: The time you were in Form two was characterised by a lot of political activities, did you ever come across such issues?
Answer: At that time, political activism amongst the blacks, especially workers, had started. I knew there was Joshua Nkomo, James Chikerema, Ndabaningi Sithole and Jason Moyo who had formed Zapu.
I knew they were fighting against the white colonial domination and understood their calls for fair treatment of blacks both at workplaces and in rural areas. I should mention that the youths at that time became very active in politics.
They were the driving force of the political parties. There had been riots of 1960 and 1961 commonly known as the Zhii era and I took an interest to know what was going on. There was something that is difficult to explain, which gave many youths the zeal, enthusiasm or motivation to be involved in politics.
I cannot say we joined politics because many young men and women would just find themselves engaging in political activities. Waiwona wega wava nemweya wekuda zvematongerwo enyika. That is how it was. I must mention that in 1961, Rhodesia adopted a new Constitution which brought in electoral changes.
These electoral changes paved the way for elections in 1962 when my uncle Issac Samuriwo was elected a Member of Parliament. I want to mention him at this point because he was to later emerge while I was in detention.
The elections were held while I was in Form One and we were opposed to only 15 seats being reserved for Africans in Parliament. The elections were in December 1962 and since the Constitution had been passed in 1961, we would debate on its skewed nature in support of the colonial system.
At Thekwane, we used to hold secret meetings in the fields telling each other on what was going on outside the school and how Zapu was leading people to be free.
We began to realise how the whites were ill-treating our parents both at work and in the rural areas. In these school meetings, I remember we had the likes of Njera, Passwell Mutemasango and Africa Murori. They were older than us and were the leaders at these meetings.
In 1963, we rioted at the school after a series of arrests on nationalists such as Joshua Nkomo, James Chikerema, Daniel Madzimbamuto, Jason Moyo and others under the 1960 Law and Order Maintenance Act. The school was closed and I went back home to the farm. I thought I was going to be in trouble with my parents, but I discovered that in Mashonaland the political tension was spreading.
My father understood the position we had taken in school and I also discovered he was speaking against the whites and how the black people were unhappy to continue being led by foreigners. During that year, 1963, destructive acts targeting government infrastructure and white men properties increased. There were sabotage acts going on.
I was now fully involved in Zapu activities here in Chitomborwizi as a youth. My father tried to get me a place to continue school in 1964 at Chitomborwizi School, but failed because of my record of having left school in Plumtree after demonstrations.
I was also known in the area for speaking politics. My failure to get a place to continue school resulted in me dedicating much time to political activities.
I was with the likes of Killion Bhebhe, Wilson Murombo and Member. We were leading the destruction of tobacco in farms owned by the whites. I remember rampaging John Davis and Rex farms, putting almost all the crop to the ground during one night.
Our main leader, in organising these sabotage acts was Katsande, he lived in Chinhoyi.
To be continued next week.