Sport poorer with­out Amai Muzenda

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Big Read - Obit­u­ary Phineas Muk­wazo

APART from last year, but in as many years, and to ev­ery Oc­to­ber of each year, the crème de la crème of Zim­bab­wean ath­let­ics trooped to Mpan­dawana, Gutu to be part of the Si­mon Muzenda Gutu half marathon.

Gutu al­ways re­minded us of what or­gan­is­ers of sim­i­lar events of­ten over­looked per­for­mance should be re­warded and that hos­pi­tal­ity should be the hall­mark.

The Gutu ex­pe­ri­ence al­ways led us to re­flect on the dy­nam­ics of or­gan­is­ing ath­let­ics events, the well-chore­ographed pro­ceed­ings from the word go, the en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port from the com­mu­nity, the treat­ment of jour­nal­ists, the hu­mil­ity of the host fam­ily led by their iconic mother Amai Maud Muzenda, and the ec­static spec­ta­tors all led to any event from the top shelf.

To cap it all the won­der­ful at­mos­phere of the well-or­gan­ised event that epit­o­mised the beauty of ath­let­ics, and the beauty of Mpan­dawana, was un­for­get­table.

The ath­letes most housed at Paradise Mo­tel, an en­tity owned by the Muzenda fam­ily, was al­ways a hive of ac­tiv­ity as ath­letes and of­fi­cials jos­tled to be trans­ported in trucks to a place near Zvava­hera, the home vil­lage of the late icon and na­tional hero Si­mon Muzenda, were the race cul­mi­nated.

The Gutu half marathon was founded by the late vice-pres­i­dent 22 years ago un­der the theme “pro­mot­ing sport in ru­ral ar­eas in a sus­tain­able

On the com­mand struc­ture there were changes here and there, re­mem­ber Man­gena had died and left a void which was filled by Mafela and also Mafela him­self had left his po­si­tion va­cant. The new struc­ture then be­came like this, Mafela tak­ing over as Zipra com­man­der deputised by Ben Dubhu Mathe (Re­tired Brig-Gen­eral Tshile Nleya), Enoch Tshangane (late Ma­jor-Gen­eral Je­van Maseko) be­came chief of staff, Sam Mfakazi who had briefly taken over as chief of lo­gis­tics when now VP Phelekezela Mphoko had other du­ties in Mozam­bique af­ter ZIPA was sent to Tan­za­nia as the party’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive and was re­placed by now Re­tired Colonel Thomas Ng­wenya who had two deputies, the late na­tional hero, Re­tired Col Masala Sibanda who was in charge of sup­plies — arms, food and so on and James Nyaira who was in charge of trans­port. The late Gedi Ndlovu (Rtd Col Richard Dube) be­came the army po­lit­i­cal of­fi­cer. Prior to that Gedi, Dubhu, Mar­shal Mpofu and Cephas Khupe had been sec­onded to the Zam­bian army where our reg­u­lar forces were be­ing trained. Oth­ers were my­self as chief of tech­ni­cal engi­neer­ing, Dumezweni man­ner.’’

It was at Zvava­hera where the 21km race started, and ev­ery morn­ing in as many years, the race couldn’t start be­fore the bless­ings of the vice-pres­i­dent Muzenda’s wife, Amai Muzenda of­ten in her tra­di­tional dark glasses, who most of the time would be ac­com­pa­nied by her chil­dren that in­cluded Ton­gai and Tsitsi, among oth­ers.

The race couldn’t start be­fore the motherly pres­ence of Amai Muzenda aided by a walker, and her fam­ily who set the ball rolling by tak­ing part in a mini-race be­fore the ex­pec­tant ath­letes took to the road.

At times she would come as early as 5.30am, ad­dress, and wish her “chil­dren’’, as she af­fec­tion­ately called the ath­letes, the best of luck.

“You are all win­ners vana vangu by be­ing part of this race,’’ she would say.

Af­ter bless­ings from Amai, the race ar­guably then the best and must-at­tend on the Na­tional Ath­let­ics As­so­ci­a­tion of Zim­babwe cal­en­dar in terms of or­gan­i­sa­tion, at­ten­dance and prizes, would then start.

As the day’s pro­ceed­ings wore on, it was ev­i­dently clear that the suc­cess of the pro­ceed­ings was largely due to the in­flu­ence, and in­spi­ra­tion of Amai Muzenda, as many among the at­ten­dees took time to swarm her.

The late Nel­son Man­dela once said: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to in­spire. It has the power to unite peo­ple in a way that lit­tle else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was pre­vi­ously only de­spair. Sport speaks to peo­ple in a lan­guage they can un­der­stand.’’

Amai Muzenda and fam­ily spoke to us through the Gutu Half Marathon.

They pro­vided a plat­form for us to iden­tify each other, taught us the sacro­sanct val­ues of team work, dis­ci­pline, lead­er­ship as well as re­warded suc­cess in equal mea­sure.

In a nut­shell, I do not want to sound like a bro­ken record as the thun­der has been stolen from me by many peo­ple who have spo­ken glow­ingly about Amai Muzenda’s good works since her un­timely demise last week.

As we mourn a great woman who cer­tainly has left us poorer let’s think about how we can cel­e­brate a life well lived.

For us who are as­so­ci­ated with sport, and for many years with the Gutu Half marathon, the clar­ion call is “Please let’s not watch the noble pro­ject die”.

Last year the event couldn’t take place be­cause of a myr­iad of prob­lems largely to do with sponsorship.

The lost lus­tre, es­pe­cially in terms of sponsorship need to be re­couped in or­der for us to con­tinue nur­tur­ing ath­letes that meet in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

We can do that Big Time in honour of Amai Muzenda, mak­ing sure that this year’s edi­tion takes place. Amai Muzenda’s spirit will for­ever stay in our heavy hearts. She was de­clared a na­tional hero­ine for her role be­fore and af­ter in­de­pen­dence and was laid to rest at the na­tional shrine in Harare. May her dear soul rest in peace!

The late Amai Maud Muzenda

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