Saturday, May 07, 2016

Salute Women Pioneer Revolutionaries
April 27, 2016
Opinion & Analysis
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
Zimbabwe Chronicle

A very rare type of woman has been featuring in the media recently, some 103 years after her death in the United States.

Her name is Harriet Tubman and her picture will soon be on that country’s $20 bank note.

She was an Afro – American and former slave. Tubman escaped from the deep South and followed what was known as the underground route to get to Philadelphia from where she later vigorously campaigned for the emancipation of slaves, and for the abolition of the slave trade in the United States.

That was way back in 1820. One of the slave owners, Andrew Jackson, later became President of the United States.

The decision to honour Harriet Tubman was made by the country’s federal government headed by President Barack Obama, the first Afro – American to be elected the First Citizen of the United States.

The decision to remember and honour Tubman is a very, very important lesson for many African former colonies that struggled tooth and nail to throw off their respective colonial yokes.

Among the people who played leading roles in the liberation struggles of each of the relevant countries were some women.

Some of those women virtually pioneered the struggles as was the case with Mbuya Nehanda in Zimbabwe in the 1920s, Cde Jane Lungile Ngwenya who joined the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress (SRANC) in 1957 and soldiered on as a renowned patriot up to this very day.

In addition to Cde Ngwenya, we have a group of women who became political activists in the early 1960s when it took a lot of courage to oppose the colonial system.

Women who joined Cde Ngwenya in the struggle included Amai Dokotela and Amai Chirimuwuta in Harare’s Highfield Suburbs. In Gweru, there was Lizzie Ngole.

In Bulawayo and Salisbury in 1962, groups of girls came out of the fear – ridden cultural environment and joined ZAPU male activists. Some of those girls later clandestinely left the country to go abroad on the auspices of their party, ZAPU, to train mainly as stenographers.

The very first group comprised Joyce Sadomba, Beatrice Kutshwekhaya Ncube, Agnes “Tappy” Maseko, a Priska (whose surname I cannot recall) and Barbra Ncube who later got married to a well-known military cadre, Mbhejelwa Moyo who died in Harare several years after independence.

Beatrice Khutshwekhaya Ncube was for several years my secretary while in Lusaka where I launched the Zimbabwe Review, the then official mouthpiece of ZAPU. She later married Mazula Ndlovu, another ZAPU activist.

Khutshwekhaya now lives in Bulawayo’s Richmond Suburb. Agnes got married to a Malawian. Mbhejelwa Moyo now lives in Harare. Joyce Sadomba and Priska left ZAPU to join ZANU in 1964.

Incidentally Beatrice Mazula Ndlovu (nee Ncube) is daughter to Joshua Nkomo’s sister. Soon after that first group of girls had left the country for training abroad, another group which comprised Chipo Ndebele, Servie Zhanje, Melfin Sakupwanya, and one or two others followed.

They trained in Tanzania from where they returned to Zambia. Chipo and Melfin came back home immediately on their return from Dar es Salaam. Chipo returned to Lusaka years later and married Dr Isaac Lintswi Nyathi, a well-known ZAPU official, now deceased.

Melfin is a younger sister of the late Dr Stanley Sakupwanya, an originally ZAPU youth who studied medicine in Uganda. He returned home after serving the armed struggle in Zambia. Dr Sakupwanya is buried at the Harare National Heroes’ Acre.

Melfin joined Christian Care and served for many years as the secretary of the organisation’s head, Reverend Manguni.

Servie Zhanje returned home and was employed by an industrial firm. She continued to serve the liberation struggle as an underground operative until the birth of Zimbabwe.

A third group of female cadres went to train in Ghana, and was quickly taken up by commercial and industrial concerns abroad immediately after they completed their course.

One of that group is Ntombizodwa Dabengwa, Dumiso Dabengwa’s younger sister.

Some of these women showed remarkable commitment at a time when the struggle was joined by people of courage of steel and not those of the mentality of early or late majorities.

Those were women from the same mental mould as Tubman, Mbuya Nehanda, Jane Ngwenya and others who threw their lot behind a national cause at no personal pecuniary benefit to themselves.

We are now remembering Tubman and Mbuya Nehanda posthumously. Why? Because they died before political power was acquired by those who appreciate their sacrifices and contributions.

But people like Jane Ngwenya, Beatrice Mazula Ndlovu, Servie Zhanje, Chipo Ndebele, Melfin Sakupwanya, Mbhejelwa Moyo and those from other groups should be recognised during their lifetime.

Now that there is a ministry responsible for war veterans, more can be done to identify genuine pioneers of the liberation struggle as opposed to what the late Edgar Tekere rightly termed “omafiki – izolo”.

May I quickly explain here and now that this article’s intention is not to belittle the contribution of those who actively joined the national cause later than those whose names feature here.

No! Those who started the liberation struggle passed on the baton to those who came after them, a process that continued until the country was freed.

It is, however, morally and historically important to identify and recognise the genuine initiators and players in our historic revolution.

There are several people who played extremely important roles in the liberation struggle, but nothing is said at all about them.

Examples of such people are Benjamin Madlela, Tobias Bobbylocke Manyonga, Mark Nziramasanga, a certain Mudavanhu, William Takavarasha, Johnson Ndebele, Tommy Ndebele, Hebert Foya – Thompson, Frank Berman, Rev Kowo and Willibys Palu – Palu Sibanda.

A register of names of people who sacrificed fearlessly for the liberation of Zimbabwe can be complied especially for the period from 1957 to 1967. Opinion may differ on the length of the period, with some people thinking that the record should start in 1893 and end in 1979.

That is a detail the relevant ministry can handle. All this article is appealing for is the identification and official recognition of those who carried the torch of the national liberation struggle at the darkest hour of the history of this country.

It would be so much better to present those who are still alive publicly and officially to the nation while we are still under the leadership of some former freedom fighters, that is to say their former colleagues, than to talk about them after they are dead.

The War Veterans Ministry can perform that as one of its major projects, and that way greatly enrich the documented revolutionary history of Zimbabwe.

About the writer: Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo – based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. sgwakuba@gmail.

No comments: