President Mugabe greets the son of the late Vice President Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo,Sibangilizwe, at the official opening of the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo on Sunday December 22, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
A page from President Mugabe’s memoirs
Sunday, 26 January 2014 00:00
Lincoln Towindo, Edwin Mwaseand Dzidziso Nyadzayo
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail
Fashioned in the blistering furnace of hardships and adversity, he rose, against all odds, to become a revered national leader — a nationalist encumbered by the weight of expectations of millions of his countrymen.
A cruel series of adverse circumstances punctuated by poverty, hardship and death defined his early life leading to his inadvertent placement as de facto head of household at the age of 21.
But it was these circumstances bestowed upon him by the cruel branch of fate that shaped the man who is now revered across the African continent and beyond as an inimitable leader.
Having suffered the heartbreaking loss of two elder brothers, Michael and Raphael, before he attained the age of 10, another bolt was to strike when his father, a carpenter and breadwinner, threw in the towel, citing alleged rampant human-manufactured misfortune in the village.
His father moved to Bulawayo only to return 10 years later, just months before his death. It was during this lengthy absence of the family leader that a new one was born.
President Mugabe’s inspirational life story reads like a typical tale of a fight against the natural order.
It is a dramatic story of determination, diligence, commitment and perseverance in the face of adversity.
It was at the burial, in Zvimba, of his remaining sibling from his mother’s womb, liberation war heroine Cde Bridget Zvenhamo Mugabe, that President Mugabe, in his hour-long heartrending eulogy, gave an insight into his early life.
He told of how as a 21-year-old primary schoolteacher he had the mantle of leadership thrust upon his young shoulders.
His early life injected an enthusing energy into the old adage which says, “Leaders are not made but born”.
President Mugabe came to choose a teaching career aged only 17.
Back in those days indigenous Zimbabweans were given the option of becoming medical orderlies, teachers or agriculture demonstrators after completing primary school. So, young Robert chose to teach.
After teaching at different schools, he came face to face with the injustice of the colonial regime.
The Marist Brothers, who ran the schools at the time, wanted to pay him less because he was a primary schoolteacher and a local at the same time.
The leader-in-the-making was, however, adamant that he was supposed to be rewarded handsomely.
“Yakasvika nguva zvino takasiyana nemabrothers zvikanzi, ‘Wanga uchiticha kuday school; ava vanoticha kuboarding ndovatichapa mari yakawanda. Imi munodya sadza rekurima pamba.’
“I didn’t understand the logic ndikati: That’s the more reason we should get more money nekuti tinozvirimira. Ava munovapa sadza. Zvikanzi, ‘Aiwa, imimi inyore nyore.’ Ndopatakasiyana neMarist brothers on that subject,” said President Mugabe.
This probably was the making of a man who would later lead Zimbabweans against white domination.
He gave an account of how he had to take his father head-on for abandoning the family back home in rural Zvimba. He wrote a scathing letter, rebuking him sharply.
“Vana baba vaenda; 1934 and 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, handikumbodzoka kumusha. Baba uyu ndakatozombo munyorera tsamba muna 1938 ndichimutuka ndichiti: baba, ko sei musina ndangariro?
“Ndakazotsiurwa namadzisekuru kuno uku ndikanzi, ‘Aiwa, ndozvinoitwa here? Ko ungatuka baba kudaro here?’ Ndakazoita apologise hangu, ndikati ndine hurombo.”
He later visited Bulawayo in search of his father. The two were reunited at President Mugabe’s uncle’s house after which they rode on bicycles to Tsholotsho to meet his father’s second wife and his two step-brothers, Albert and David.
But it was the death of his father in 1945 that finally nailed in the characteristics of true leadership after years of frustration, anger and separation.
Following the death of his father, Robert looked after a huge extended family, which also included his father’s in-laws.
“So tiripo, 1944 iye yandanga ndirikuDadaya, baba vadzoka kuno kumusha after 10 years now, vaenda 1934, vakati ndavakuda kudzokera kuno kumusha tipei hoko; pekugara.
“Zvino maline akanga auyaka aya ndokubva vapihwa hoko ipo apa pane imba yamainini ipapo. Ndopavakanzi nababamunini wavo, VaMatibiri, apa chiisa imba yako ipapo.
“1945, yandaiuya kumaholidays aingova once a year in June; three months holiday — June, July, August — two terms chete. Ndouya nomuBulawayo kumauncles; ndoenda kuna uncle vainzi Peter, munin’ina wababa, zvikanzi, ‘Uchimuno iwe Robert? Hauna kunzwa kuti baba vakashaya? June. Why?’
“Ndobva ndakwira chitima kudzokera kumusha kuuya kuno. Ndozoenda kwaMatibiri, zvechokwadi baba vakanga vadzoka.
“Vakanga vatenga mombe dzavo. Rakakwidzwa chitima danga rose remombe nembudzi nehwai; zvese ndokuchiuya nemhuri.
“Vana vatatu, vatezvara vavo, ‘handingavasiya vatezvera vangu’. Vakauyiwa navo. Vambuya vavo, ‘handingavasiya ambuya vangu’. Vakauyiwa navo. Kwete chete izvozvo. ‘Varamu vangu handingavasiye’.
“Zvino nhayi baba, murikuuya asi marwara? Ini ndouya ndoona baba vatovigwa. Zvino mondisiira mhuri yose iyi? I’m only 21 years old, what shall I do? Oh God, my God!”
After initially baulking, he asked for advice from his mother.
The two planned how they would take on the challenge.
From that point on, he became a man.
But having to take up such a mammoth responsibility at such a young age and on a teacher’s salary was not easy. He assumed the responsibility of paying for his siblings’ education and the late Bridget was sent to a teachers’ training school.
Despite the mammoth tasks he faced as the leader of the family, he realised the need to advance academically.
He then enrolled at Fort Hare University where he was to attain his first Bachelor of Arts degree through the University of South Africa (Unisa).
He later spent two years pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree at Fort Hare University majoring in English.
But in all this, he strived to pass on life-changing opportunities to his siblings through education.
He mentioned how his sisters, Sabina and Bridget, were gifted differently. Sabina was practical while Bridget was more academically inclined.
“Right, it was now my responsibility kuti ndione kuti vese ava vabudirirawo. I didn’t want in the future kuti kana vakura vozoti tichengetei, tipei, tirikutambudzika.
“The weapon must be giving them skills, education and training. That was a policy.
“Get them educated and this is what we try to do in the family and it became, you know, the tradition of the family kuti tiite uplift even our children.
“Now, even the grandchildren go in the same direction. Twaitadza twaitadzawo zvatwo, but taiti dzokororai; do studies and so on.”
Despite such humble and tough beginnings, Robert soldiered on.
His traits as family head are distinctly reflected at a grand stage — national leadership.