Sport poorer without Amai Muzenda
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