via Nyamubaya died a true freedom fighter – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 10, 2015
TICHAONA Freedom Nyamubaya (pictured), who died this week at the age of 55, was a truly unique and remarkable individual, whether male or female.
By Conway Tutani
Nyamubaya combined rare talents. In addition to being a freedom fighter who was tried and tested on the battlefield after being deployed to the front as the first female operations commander in 1978 at the height of the armed struggle against the white racist Rhodesian regime, she went on to establish herself as not only a literary giant after the liberation war, but became a development activist through providing agricultural development assistance to small-scale farmers, especially women, having become a farmer in her own right. Furthermore, the flame of genuine freedom did not extinguish in her as she spoke out against the initially creeping repression, which then quickly spread.
So, besides being multi-talented, Nyamubaya was multi-skilled. A new set of skills and progressive ideas is required for these fast-changing times, not endless “revolutionary” talk about this and that which has bogged us in the past.
I had several interactions with Nyamubaya soon after independence in 1980 when she was still largely an obscure figure. Those were heady days when freedom fighters were not only respected, but also revered. It was a most exhilarating, exciting, thrilling, stimulating, invigorating, galvanising, rousing, electrifying time — I run out of superlatives, not the expletives you hear in public places today from people who are sick and tired of the hardships inflicted on them from the very top.
This is not to suggest that she was infallible or faultless, but Nyamubaya’s intelligence and earnestness shone through even then. The insightfulness, sharpness and discernment — should I call it giftedness or braininess? — coupled with purposefulness, intentness and resolve were there. She did not flaunt her background as a war veteran to muscle her way. Or use femininity to turn on the charm which, by the way, she clearly had, to have men eat out of her hands. She was “one of the boys”, as it were.
She didn’t want anyone to treat her like a lady. Without saying as much in words, she didn’t like to be patronised, but you could really get the stern message. She demanded to be taken as she was. And her space was her space — not yours. Can it be fairer and clearer than that? I am not really surprised about what she went on to become and achieve because she was true to herself. She was her own person. She was in control of her life and did not allow other people to tell her what to do.
In her poem For Suzanne, about sexual abuse in training camps, she wrote that women were used as “a church/For high-ranking monks to relieve their stress/From hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness”. This superb imagery cannot be bettered. She had the courage of conviction to raise the abuse soon after independence when it was not politically correct to be vocal and active in speaking against the government.
This is in total contrast to Oppah Muchinguri who only raised the issue this year — some three decades later — for the selfish political purpose of further destroying the image of her arch-enemy Didymus Mutasa by alleging that he was one of the “high-ranking monks”. Muchinguri cannot — by any stretch of the imagination — be the best female brain in Zanu PF, as seen from her latest gossiping escapade revealed last week in an audiotape in which she venomously attacks Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene, among others. Muchinguri pales in the shadow of Nyamubaya.
With her brainpower and captivating charm, Nyamubaya could have risen to a lofty political post, but she wasn’t one for political prostitution. She had too much self-respect to ever contemplate stooping that low. Self-respect starts with me, starts with you, starts with us.
That honest and independent streak made Nyamubaya see the “good, bad and ugly war experiences . . . chastising hypocrites and false leaders . . . shameless opportunists who have hijacked the revolution . . . the loss of freedom’s values . . . and sidelining of genuine liberators when rewards are finally handed out”, to quote celebrated poet Musa Zimunya.
Indeed, many — not necessarily most — liberators been corrupted by power and greed — absolutely so. Whoever thought in those heady days in 1980 that time would come when they would stray from those lofty ideals of freedom and equality? But here we are.
Zimbabwe is now a banana republic, ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, corrupt politico-economic oligarchy. They have no moral values and respect for the nation they are robbing. They use lots of different schemes to fill their pockets, such as setting up tollgates, but the funds not being channelled to repair roads, smuggling out minerals like there is not a single diamond at Chiadzwa, to mention but two. That is the Zimbabwe tragedy which the likes of Nyamubaya saw coming soon after independence.
In 2010, Nyamubaya joined hands with fellow Zimbabweans across the political divide in establishing the Zimbabwe Peace and Security Trust for the “effective and sustainable modernisation and transformation of the security sector in Zimbabwe”.
Nyamubaya clearly saw that Zimbabwe was hurtling into the worst type of corrupt dictatorship. She saw that some of her erstwhile comrades-in-arms, seduced by privileges thrown at them by the regime, had become more interested in defending the government than in solving serious and grave national problems. They have lost touch with the people and the public good.
For Zimbabwe to move forward, we need people like Nyamubaya who are prepared to break the mould. We need people who are ready and willing to do something differently after it has been done in the same wrong way for a long time. We must say: “No mas! (No more!),” as it is tersely and expressively said in Spanish.
Nyamubaya achieved in her own right, through her own ability and efforts, rather than through association with someone else.
This in total contrast to the political careerism we see today where the same characters have been in charge since 1980, claiming that it is unAfrican and undemocratic to have term limits, but this does not stand up to historical and political scrutiny. In fact, this has bred incapacity, ineptitude, corruption and repression. For democracy to flourish, we need term limits to prevent the abuse of public power by entrenched incumbents.
Zimbabweans have grown weary of this “permanent government” that dominates every aspect of their lives. Ask the vendors who are now being tossed around by the very same regime that allowed them onto the streets in droves in the first place.
Nyamubaya saw all this unfolding and had the courage of a genuine freedom fighter to speak out — she said what she meant and she meant what she said.
Rest in peace, Freedom.