Dr Mzee, ‘the nimble-footed dancer’
LAST Wednesday, Zimbabwe commemorated the 14th anniversary of the death of Vice-President Dr Simon Muzenda. To celebrate the life of the Son of the Soil as Dr Muzenda who was affectionately known,
The Sunday Mail is this month running a series of articles on the gallant hero. Our Chief Reporter Kuda Bwititi was recently in Dr Muzenda’s rural home, Zvavahera, Gutu in Masvingo province, where he had a têteà-tête with Sekuru Sungai Shuro, one of the oldest remaining figures in the village.
We publish here excerpts of Sekuru Shuro’s reminiscence of Dr Muzenda.
NOT many people may know this but the most vivid memory I have of Dr Muzenda is that he was a nimble footed dancer. My name is Sungai Shuro and I was born in 1933, here in Zvavahera. This is the area where Simon Muzenda’s father Mavhiya Muzenda relocated to, because he had relatives that also lived here.
I started knowing the late Simon Vengesayi Muzenda when I was still a child.
When we were growing up, Muzenda was a bit older than myself, but we watched him attend school. He received his primary education at Nyamandi Primary school. We knew him as one of the typical boys from the village but amongst his characteristics, his love for dancing stood out.
His favourite pastime was performing at the Gokotokoto traditional dance festivals. He was never one to miss such occasions. He would dance until nightfall.
He loved swaying to the sound of the drums, artfully moving with the rhythm.
He was without doubt one of the best dancers in this village at such festivals.
When he started being involved in nationalistic politics, he did not come to Zvavahera much.
For many good years we missed him as we did not see him for a long time. During the time he was away, I missed his dances.
I also missed the time we spent together as boys, when we alternated the chores of herding cattle.
During the time he was away, I was afraid that he was going to die, especially when we heard that he had been imprisoned.
We always communicated with his brothers and other relatives who informed us that our friend was okay.
After many years away, Simon Muzenda returned to this area in the 1980s. Although he had now assumed the prestigious status of being the Vice Prime Minister of the country, he remained humble.
He never forgot about us and he remained approachable to everyone in the village of Zvavahera.
In the 1980s, one of my sons was attending secondary school and when I asked Dr Muzenda for assistance in paying school fees, he gave me more than what I asked for by undertaking to cater for his school fees until he completed his education.
It was a known fact that anyone who had challenges in paying school fees in the area could get assistance from vaMuzenda.
He did not only help us with school fees for our children but with many other things.
When he upgraded his house at his homestead in the 1980s, he offered to assist the whole village to also upgrade their houses.
He was so passionate to see development in his home village that at one time he gathered us at his homestead for a meeting where he requested us to choose a development project that we would also benefit from.
It was after those discussions that he facilitated the setting up of a fully-fledged irrigation project for more than 40 homesteads.
He used his personal funds and also received assistance from donors to set up the irrigation project, which receives water supply from Vazizi Dam.
Because of his efforts, the entire Zvavahera village is blessed with irrigation. This is a lasting legacy which he has left in the village.
One of Dr Muzenda’s outstanding attributes was his humility.
When he came to the village, he chose to move around without his security officers so as to interact intimately with us.
He never stopped his habit of gathering up the whole village to ask them about issues that were affecting them.
His motto was that he did not want to see hunger in the area, so he encouraged us to direct our energies to our fields so as to get good harvests.
Our community flourished because of his works. There was no hunger in this area, especially after the setting up of the irrigation project.
Dr Muzenda was the epitome of selflessness. He wanted to see the entire village succeed.
He encouraged us to live in harmony and to refrain from bickering among ourselves. One of the phrases he loved was “Vanhuwe, musanyangadza musha, garisanai zvakanaka, muchirima mune zvakanaka (Uphold the good in my village, stay away from disputes and work hard on your fields).
Even though he held the high office of Vice-President, he remained humble.
One of his favourite hobbies was to play the game of checkers popularly known as draught.
While playing the game, he chatted animatedly and one would be tempted to forget that this was a man who held the post of Vice-President.
Dr Muzenda also loved cracking jokes while playing draught. He was a rib-cracker who would drop a joke and make everyone laugh, even when we did not anticipate it.
His status did not stop him for taking part in the Gotokoto dance festivals.
Even in his old days, he still loved to dance.
I will always remember Dr Muzenda as the nimble-footed dancer as this leaves me vivid images of how such an important man made himself available to the ordinary folks because of humility and affable characteristics.