Dr Mzee, ‘the nim­ble-footed dancer’

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - CHRONICLES FROM THE SECOND CHIMURENGA - Sekuru Sun­gai Shuro

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.

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