Cde Msipa was wise, man of the people
Cde Msipa, whose remains were interred at the National Heroes’ Acre on October 22, 2016, was also former Midlands governor and Zanu-PF Politburo member.
To be honest I felt I was not qualified to write his obituary given that I only worked briefly with him in the Midlands province when I was assigned to head our short-lived project (The Midlands Edition of the Chronicle publication) in 2009. I had of course interacted with Cde Msipa as a Midlands politician in the 1990s during my stint as Midlands Bureau Chief.
It was when I was going through my collection of pictures that I was convinced that I had something to say about this man who the nation has described as humble, honest and straightforward. A man who did not want to benefit from ill-gotten wealth or abuse his position for self-aggrandisement as is the case with many politicians today.
The pictures that compelled me to contribute this little I know about Cde Msipa were taken in 2003 when he was Guest of Honour at the official opening of a refurbished service station and cocktail bar in Zvishavane.
The two business enterprises belonged to the late Bulawayo businessman, Mr Timothy Mangezi, who hailed from Neshuro communal lands in Mwenezi district.
To the late Mr Mangezi, Zvishavane was his home town hence his decision to invest in the mining town.
I was tasked by Mr Mangezi who had become a very close friend, to invite Cde Msipa to officiate at the opening of his new look businesses.
Mr Mangezi told me that he had solicited the assistance of a war veteran to invite Cde Msipa as he felt he was not qualified to invite such a senior person in both the party and Government but the process was taking too long.
I told him that from the brief I knew about Cde Msipa, he was a very approachable governor who did not need much protocol. He then challenged me to invite him on his behalf. When I contacted Cde Msipa over the phone and explained why we wanted him to be the Guest of Honour, he said: “This is what we want and always encourage, I will definitely join you on the day”.
When I thought I had done my bit, Cde Msipa’s secretary contacted me a few days later when I was in Kariba attending a workshop.
She told me that Cde Msipa wanted to talk to me and I quickly excused myself from the workshop. My heart started thumping as I wondered what had gone wrong.
I was relieved when Cde Msipa told me that he had phoned to advise that since he did not have the background of Mr Mangezi and his business empire, I should send him a draft speech which I did as soon as I got back to Bulawayo.
I then contacted our then Midlands Bureau Chief, Arnold Mutemi, to provide coverage for the event. On the night of the event as we made last minute preparations, I advised Mr Mangezi that we should leave Bulawayo very early for the event because Cde Msipa was one senior Government official who was always on time.
The proceedings of the day were supposed to start at 10AM but unfortunately we had a breakdown just before Gwatemba and I had to hitch-hike to Zvishavane leaving Mr Mangezi behind as I feared both of us were going to be late for the event.
Mr Mangezi had said in the event he failed to make it on time, we were supposed to proceed with the programme. When I arrived in Zvishavane and as I expected, Cde Msipa who had given Mutemi a lift, had already arrived waiting for us at Nilton Hotel, just opposite the event venue.
I greeted him, apologised for being late and invited him and his delegation that included Government officials from Zvishavane, to tour the two business premises. I expected a tongue-lashing from him for keeping him waiting given his busy schedule but to my surprise the ever smiling Cde Msipa said he was sorry to learn that we had a breakdown.
When we were about to take seats just after the tour, Mr Mangezi finally arrived much to the relief of everyone who feared he was going to miss Cde Msipa’s address.
After the introductions and as Cde Msipa was about to address the gathering, the then MP for Zvishavane Cde Pearson Mbalekwa, who unfortunately was not on the programme as he had not been invited, walked in.
Cde Msipa then whispered to me as master of ceremonies to include Cde Mbalekwa on the programme. He, in fact, said as the MP for the area he should being given the opportunity to say a few words to which I agreed. It is such wisdom and fatherly advice that the nation at large has been robbed of following the demise of Cde Msipa.
He was that man who would not say he was too busy to attend to you. I remember at his 50th wedding anniversary in 2010 at Siboza Business Centre in Zvishavane where thousands had thronged the venue to join in the celebrations, he had a few minutes to chat with me and other journalists from the Midlands province despite a long queue of people waiting to congratulate him.
When we were about to leave he told us to grab one of the many cakes donated to him by companies and individuals and I remember him telling us not to forget to give a piece to Jacqueline Gwemende, a ZBC Midlands Bureau Chief.
The event was attended by the who is who in the Midlands and beyond and companies and individuals were jostling to provide services at the event of a man they loved so much. Talking to Cde Msipa about the land reform, I remember him telling me that he had allocated himself virgin land close to Ngezi River in Zvishavane where he intended to establish an irrigation scheme.
He said he wanted to start his own irrigation schemes as opposed to taking over an already established infrastructure or taking a farm with a homestead.
Cde Msipa, I believe, was a very accommodating person. What quickly comes to mind is when in the early 1990s he accepted to contest the ruling party Zanu-PF primaries in Gokwe despite the fact that his people wanted him in Zvishavane.
When he lost the primaries, you could tell from discussions later during refreshments at Kambasha Hotel at the then Gokwe Centre that he did not have hard feelings. All he could say was that he was surprised that Gokwe people were saying they did not know him despite his immense contribution to the liberation struggle.
Cde Msipa had to wait for another five years to contest in Zvishavane although the same year he lost in Gokwe, people in Zvishavane had asked one of the headmasters to represent him in the party primaries without even consulting him.
The representative lost by a very narrow margin to Cde Tsungirirai Hungwe, a confirmation that Cde Msipa could have easily won the primaries. Cde Msipa was that individual who did not hesitate to tell you straight in your face if he felt you were wrong.
I remember him bursting into our Gweru Office to complain about a report by one of our reporters who had covered him while officiating at Dadaya High School. He, despite the complaint, continued to invite our reporters to his functions and many of the times giving them a lift in his car, a confirmation that he did not keep grudges.
The Midlands province and indeed the nation has lost a father figure who will be hard to replace. The province and indeed the nation is poorer without the ever smiling Cde Msipa who could interact with any class or age.
What is however comforting is that the nation will be enriched by his legacy that will live forever.
May his soul rest in eternal peace.
From left, Cdes Cephas Msipa, Timothy Mangezi and Pearson Mbalekwa watch some of the invited guests dance to music soon after Cde Msipa officially opened Cde Mangezi’s refurbished business premises in Zvishavane in 2003.