‘Dr Mzee’ de­fied the odds to be­come a lu­mi­nary

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Entertainment -

THE late Vice Pres­i­dent, Dr Si­mon Muzenda, a key fig­ure in the pre and postin­de­pen­dence pe­ri­ods of Zim­babwe’s his­tory, was born in a peas­ant fam­ily in Gutu dis­trict in Masvingo Prov­ince on Oc­to­ber 28, 1922.

He died 13 years ago, about a month be­fore his 81st birth­day.

Dr Muzenda, also known as the Soul of the Na­tion, had three broth­ers and a sis­ter.

He was brought up by his grand­mother, tend­ing cat­tle in the ru­ral ar­eas un­til he was 14.

He later started his pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion at Nya­mande in the same dis­trict then pro­ceeded to Gokomere Mis­sion, a Ro­man Catholic-run in­sti­tu­tion near Masvingo.

Young Si­mon later moved to Dom­boshava where he did his Stan­dard Six af­ter which he trained as a teacher, one of the few pro­fes­sions open to blacks dur­ing the colo­nial era.

He taught at Em­pan­deni Mis­sion near Plumtree in Mata­bele­land South for four years.

Not sat­is­fied with his mod­est qual­i­fi­ca­tions and teach­ing job, young Muzenda left the coun­try for South Africa’s Mar­i­an­hill Col­lege, where he at­tained a diploma in car­pen­try.

He spent two years teach­ing car­pen­try at Mayville in Durban at the Mazenod Catholic School.

At the same time he was cor­re­spond­ing for his Na­tional Se­nior Cer­tifi­cate.

Later he re­turned home and mar­ried Maud in Masvingo and shortly af­ter their mar­riage, the cou­ple moved to Bu­l­awayo where Dr Muzenda landed a job as a clerk at a ply­wood fac­tory.

He changed em­ploy­ers when he joined Fur­ni­ture Fac­to­ries and later Wil­fred Mart.

Around that time he de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in pol­i­tics.

He had an il­lus­tri­ous po­lit­i­cal ca­reer which saw him hold­ing se­nior posts in a num­ber of the early po­lit­i­cal par­ties such as the Voice As­so­ci­a­tion, Na­tional Demo­cratic Party, Zim­babwe African Peo­ple’s Union and Zim­babwe African Na­tional Union and later Zanu-PF.

He played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the for­ma­tion of the Voice As­so­ci­a­tion and fit­tingly be­came its sec­re­tary gen­eral in 1953.

He worked with the late na­tion­al­ist Ben­jamin Burombo, then pres­i­dent of Voice As­so­ci­a­tion. They both helped put up a strong fight against dra­co­nian colo­nial laws such as the Na­tive Land Hus­bandry Act.

In 1961 when the NDP was formed, he was elected chair­man of the Mvuma branch be­fore he be­came its or­gan­is­ing sec­re­tary. But soon the colo­nial regime of the day banned the NDP.

Dr Muzenda, to­gether with other na­tion­al­ists such as the late Vice Pres­i­dent Dr Joshua Nkomo then formed Zapu.

He got the post of ad­min­is­tra­tive sec­re­tary of Fort Vic­to­ria (now Masvingo) branch. His po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism pre­dictably got him into trou­ble with the colo­nial regimes.

As a re­sult, he was ar­rested and de­tained on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.

He was de­tained at Wha Wha, Sikombela and Gokwe prisons and later the Harare Max­i­mum Pri­son in 1965.

For six years he was kept in colo­nial jails with sev­eral other free­dom fighters un­til he was re­leased in Novem­ber 1971.

Dur­ing his time in de­ten­tion, Dr Muzenda stud­ied sev­eral aca­demic sub­jects.

He at­tained a diploma in eco­nom­ics and an­other one on the Bri­tish con­sti­tu­tion.

At one point, Dr Muzenda was ar­rested in Zvisha­vane af­ter he pub­licly re­cited a poem, Ne­handa Nyakasikana which was al­most a na­tional an­them for blacks at the time.

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