Abigail Mawonde and Nyemudzai Kakore—
President Mugabe has described Vice President Simon Muzenda’s widow, Maud, as “an epitome of African motherhood” and branded national hero Cde George Rutanhire “a giant of the struggle” as he grieved over their deaths.Amai Muzenda died on Tuesday, while Cde Rutanhire passed on on Saturday. Said President Mugabe in a statement last night: “I learnt with deep sadness of the death yesterday (Tuesday) of Amai Muzenda, wife of the late Vice President, Cde Simon Vengai Muzenda.
“An epitome of African motherhood, Gogo Muzenda stands tall as a symbol of the triumph of motherly femininity over adversities imposed on the African family unit by demands of our struggle against settler colonialism. Betrothed to a fierce nationalist and freedom fighter in the mould of our late Vice President, Gogo Muzenda was, for a long time, fated to raise the Muzenda family without support from her husband who would either be operating underground, or would be languishing in prison inside the then Rhodesia.”
President Mugabe said Amai Muzenda single-handedly raised the family. “Once freed, the late Vice President went into exile, leaving Ambuya Muzenda to shoulder the burden of raising the family single-handedly. She thus bore unaided the brunt of parenthood, itself no easy role given the broad socio-economic pressures faced by African families surviving under settler colonial conditions, and of course the direct political hostilities and open harassment to which families of nationalists were subjected by the racist regime. Still she held firm as the sole head of the family, even then while still playing her part in supporting the greater cause of our liberation struggle.”
The President said Gogo Muzenda also bore children for the struggle. “Like most mothers, she too bore children for the struggle, even losing one of them in one of the many bombings on our camps by the racist Rhodesian regime. As we mourn her sad departure, we thus recognise and celebrate this exemplary family’s given-ness to the national cause.
“Gogo Muzenda’s death comes barely a week after we laid to rest another heroine, Senator Shuvai Ben Mahofa, and just a few days after the sad departure of Cde George Rutanhire, himself, a giant of our struggle.
“It spoke highly of Cde Rutanhire’s commitment to the national cause that he abandoned his role of a catechist in the Roman Catholic Church for the struggle in the early 1970s, and did so together with his newly-wedded wife, Cde Susan, who survives him, said President Mugabe.
He said Cde Rutanhire deserved the national hero status bestowed on him. “It therefore comes as no surprise that the nation has honoured Cde Rutanhire by according him the status of a national hero. He more than deserved this honour.
“It has been a very difficult month for our nation. Yet we must all remain strong and hopeful, converting this buffeting emotion from repeated tragedies into a lasting passion of affinity and togetherness for our nation as it goes through this dark and difficult patch.
“On behalf of the party, Zanu-PF, Government, our entire nation and on behalf of my family, I wish to condole with both the Muzenda and Rutanhire families as they grieve over their saddest losses. We stand with them, as indeed we pay deserved tribute to the fallen comrades so dear to our hearts. May their souls rest in eternal peace,” said President Mugabe.
Yesterday, First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe and leaders across the political divide visited the Muzenda family home in Harare to pay their condolences. Daughter to Amai Muzenda, Senator Tsitsi Muzenda said the First Lady urged unity.
“The main message of her Excellency the First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe was that she was very grateful for the work that Mbuya Muzenda played in her lifetime. She said as a country we should be appreciative of what women like her did.
“She also said that those women sacrificed so much in their lives but they never gave up supporting their husbands, therefore as women of Zimbabwe, we should take a leaf from these women who sacrificed so much. We are here now with tremendous freedom but sometimes we forget that there were others earlier who sacrificed their lives for us,” said Sen Muzenda.
“She urged sincerely that as women of Zimbabwe, we should be focused to building our beautiful country because us as women we are the pillars of families, we are the pillars of our beautiful country and that if we emulate the good works that other women did before, we shall go a long way.”
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko also visited the Muzenda family. “I do not have words but just to say l am sorry for your loss. We will be advised on the programme and arrangements when the President has spoken. This will make things easier for us as we will then know the way forward. At the moment we are still waiting as nothing has been said. We will wait for the President,” said VP Mphoko.
Zanu-PF Politburo member Cde Josaya Hungwe and Masvingo political commissar Cde Jappy Jaboon said as Masvingo Province, they have written to the Politburo recommending that Amai Muzenda be declared a national heroine.
“Our province has recommended that she be declared a national heroine because of the role she played during the war and after the war. As you know Ambuya Muzenda was a nurse by profession, she was supplying medical drugs during the war to the comrades. She played her biggest role in looking after our late Vice President,” said Cde Jaboon.
“We have lost a unifier of Masvingo Province and of Zimbabwe as well. Her wish was for us to continue supporting the ruling party and its leadership. We need to emulate life yaAmai through discipline and dignity.”
MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai also visited the family yesterday. He narrated how Amai Muzenda paid him a visit to pass her condolences when his wife Susan Tsvangirai passed on and how she played a critical during the time he sought audience with the late Vice President.
‘’There is an episode l experienced with her when the late Vice President Simon Muzenda was the acting President. There was a nurse strike and l came here. He could not speak to me until Amai Muzenda said these are your children and if you become angry where do you want them to go,” he said.
“She definitely was an influential woman. We have the liberation generation, the nationalist generation which is going one by one. They will leave a legacy but that legacy does not illustrate their personal life and what they were experiencing during those hard days. It is always the women who carry the burden and l am sure she was one of them.”
Her son Tongai Muzenda said as a family, they were grateful as people from all walks of life were assisting in the administration of the funeral as well as with transport and food. He said her mother is survived by six children, 20 grandchildren and 15 grand- grandchildren.
Other dignitaries who visited the homestead were, Defence Minister Cde Sydney Sekeramayi accompanied by service chiefs, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda, Deputy Ministers of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (Crop Production) Davis Marapira, Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Mathias Tongofa, Mines and Mining Development Fred Moyo, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Deputy Minister Tapiwa Matangaidze.
Mourners are gathered at 43 Lewisam Avenue in Chisipite Harare.