Death should be a unifier

21102015HER-MAI-HAR-10Hildegarde The Arena
LEGENDARY English playwright William Shakespeare in the tragic play Macbeth says, “Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break,” or, “Put your sorrow into words. The grief you keep inside you will whisper in your heart until it breaks.”

On Saturday, October 17 at 3:20pm a bereaved father put his sorrow into words. Zimbabwe’s Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo informed people about the death of his daughter through his Twitter handle @ProfJNMoyo.

The message was curt but loaded with the sorrow that comes with the death of a loved one. “God’s people my angel daughter Zanele is no more” was all he said.

The 20-year-old Zanele was a student at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and her father was informed about her death when he was meeting faculty members at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo.

We later learnt that Zanele was found dead in her apartment on Saturday, near the UCT campus. The announcement was necessary, but it was also not meant to dignify the death that had robbed him of his fourth-born daughter.

Like death messages we have heard in the past, it was not meant to be a platform for Prof Moyo’s known and unknown enemies to pour so much scorn and vitriol on him and his family.

It was a death cry, which had to be transmitted through the fastest means — social media, for it could not be kept forever as Oliver Mtukudzi sings in “Mabasa”:

Haiwa, haiwa, ndozviudza aniko?

Kwaita mabasa kuno?

Tumirai mhere kuvakuru

Kuno kwaita mabasa . . .

As a wordsmith, I analysed the statement. He didn’t say, “Cdes my angel daughter Zanele is no more,” but this was a death message to “God’s people”, and God’s people are different from all and sundry. They are compassionate; they care and empathise with you during such a difficult time.

But, I must say that in as much as I can never get used to the idea of losing a loved one, and also seeing other people lose their loved ones, I have found the attitude that has gotten into our culture not only absurd, but also inhuman.

Because Prof Moyo is a public figure, it was only natural to find out from the various ICT platforms what had happened to his daughter.

My first port of call was the ZBC website, which confirmed that indeed Zanele had been found dead in her apartment in Cape Town. Searches on the Internet produced a few other websites:, Zimeye and another.

Since it was a developing story, the inclination was to check the comments, because some people give you clues to a story through those comments.

It was disheartening to read dozens and dozens of comments on, the majority of them lashing out at Prof Moyo, Zanu-PF, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, President Mugabe and a whole lot of other people. There were countless conspiracy theories a few hours after the story broke. That’s natural when we have so many people with fertile minds.

But as we join the Moyo family in mourning the untimely departure of their daughter, it is time for us to also mourn about the demise of the “hunhu/ubuntu” among the people of Zimbabwe, especially the social media users who believe that they can hide their identities through the pseudonyms they use. The Shona saying, “Afirwa haatariswe kumeso” (You don’t look at the bereaved straight in the eye), still stands.

A good number of them showed their disdain for Prof Moyo, but the million dollar question is: what has this got to do with the death of his daughter?

Surely, the comments that I read were not coming from children who might not understand the implications of their actions, children who might not know that death visits every family.

They were written by adults, some of them mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, and all of whom have lost loved ones at some point in their lives. It is pointless to repeat the tasteless comments floating around on social media and some websites, for to do so would be to dignify these uncouth commentators’ behaviour.

Our elders taught us that if you laugh at a fool’s antics during a funeral wake, don’t be surprised when the fool takes the body and runs away with it (Mukasekerera benzi parufu, rinotiza nechitunha).

Dear reader, I have written about funeral etiquette a number of times, but with ICTs “tiri kusekerera mapenzi parufu, anozotiza nechitunha.”

On June 16, 2011, I wrote: “Bereavement should bring people together in unity instead of causing animosity and divisions.”

This was in response to a reader who had shared my sentiments following the uncouth behaviour displayed by some mourners during the burial of national hero Cde Edgar Tekere.

That reader remarked: “I just want to express my utter shock and disbelief at the way the mourners are reported to have behaved towards (then Prime Minister) Mr Morgan Tsvangirai at the funeral of our national hero Cde Edgar Tekere . . . I am not so much into politics, but to treat a mourner along political lines is really unAfrican.

“We are not invited to attend a funeral but it’s something that comes from within. As my veteran President (Mugabe) put it some time back, even if he had not been invited to Susan’s (Mrs Tsvangirai) funeral, he would have paid his condolences because that’s the proper thing to do . . . I think supporters from all political parties should desist from such behaviour and take a leaf from our President who also taught our Prime Minister that there is more that unites us than what divides us, especially on such occasions.”

Disagreements come and go, but they give us an opportunity to reflect on our behaviour, some of which might lead to us forgiving each other.

Death is that ultimate unifier because we know that the deceased is gone for good. This is why people are very conscious about paying condolences to the bereaved.

But when we bash and disrespect the bereaved, are we also not disrespecting the dead person? My view is that when you personalise your hatred using the death of that person’s daughter, you are actually wishing that person dead, and that is deplorable and inhuman.

It is everyone’s hope that the responsible authorities both in South Africa and Zimbabwe will professionally investigate the cause of Zanele Moyo’s death, and also professionally inform the people. She wanted to be alive, and her parents wanted her to be alive as well. They want to mourn her in a dignified manner, and not to see their daughter’s tragic death turned into a circus by people who think that social media is the be all and end all.

To Prof Moyo, his wife and children my parting shot is, don’t mind the people who make it look like bereavement is for other people and not them. Remember Carrie Jones’ words of counsel in ‘Captivate’: “Losing people you love affects you. It is buried inside of you and becomes this big, deep hole of ache. It doesn’t magically go away, even when you stop officially mourning.”

All those people grieving with you are doing their best, but when they finally go away, you are the only ones who will feel Zanele’s infinite absence, and you are also the only ones who have to see how you pick the pieces and move on.

May her dearly departed soul rest in eternal peace!

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