Cde Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa was assassinated in 1962 by the security agents of the white minority government, about 15 km from Shangani while on his way to Bulawayo on a party mission. The state agents tried to conceal his brutal assassination by staging a car accident at the Heany Junction level crossing.
Cde Parirenyatwa was a man of many attributes; a medical doctor, social worker, politician and revolutionary patriot. He met his tragic death when he was barely 40 years old. Yet in that short span of life he had completed a medical degree, making him the first black African doctor in the country, risen to the level of deputy president of Zapu and was a dedicated medical practitioner.
Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa was born on July 17 1927 in Makoni, near Rusape, to Sophia and David Deme Parirenyatwa. His father had been a cook in the household of a Rhodesian governor. He had subsequently advanced himself through night school to become a lay preacher and teacher of repute. In 1930 the family moved from Rusape to settle in Murehwa.
Cde Samuel Parirenyatwa’s maternal and paternal grandparents were both linked to early black resistance against colonialism. David Deme’s grandfather was Chief Chingaira, a hero of the First Chimurenga who died at the hands of the colonialists. Tichafa’s mother, Sophia Rugare Parirenyatwa, hailed from the Tangwena tribe, who during the reign of the late Chief Rekayi Tangwena, confronted the imperialists head-on to repel the seizure of their land and resisted white imperialist designs in the Gaerezi Ranch.
Indeed for Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa, resentment to foreign white oppression was in his blood.
For his primary education, Tichafa went to Murehwa Primary School. He later moved to Howard Institute before enrolling at Adams College in Natal, South Africa.
For young Tichafa, it seemed the sky was the limit. Determined to pursue the career of his dream, he proceeded to Fort Hare University, where he acquired a BSc degree in Biology. It was at Fort Hare University where his political career started. At this institution he became one of the chief organisers of the African National Congress Youth League in the Thyeumie Branch of the political movement. Besides being a popular student during his college days, Samuel exhibited dynamic leadership qualities.
Tichafa Samuel next secured a place at Witwatersrand Medical School in South Africa. He was among the first few black medical students to enrol at the Medical School. In 1957 he qualified as a medical doctor and became the first black medical doctor in the then Rhodesia. Combining work and politics, Tichafa actively participated in the defiance campaign against the abhorrent Apartheid Laws. It was during these campaigns that Cde Parirenyatwa proved to be a militant and fearless fighter against injustice to the extent that he nearly got expelled from South Africa.
On his return to Southern Rhodesia, Dr Parirenyatwa worked at the then Salisbury North Hospital (later Andrew Fleming, now Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals). He was the first black doctor in Zimbabwe working among hostile racist whites who stopped at nothing to find mistakes in his work. However, his dedication to duty, medical prowess and professional approach to work earned him the envy of his white counterparts, who later ended up befriending and respecting him.
Being the only black doctor made him the pride of the black population in Rhodesia. Dr Parirenyatwa’s name became a household name. He had broken the myth that practising western medicine was a preserve of the whites. However, the prospects of a high social status brought by his professional attainment did not make Dr Parirenyatwa lose sight of what he saw as his societal obligation that is, fighting for social justice, equality and black majority rule.
Dr Parirenyatwa was later transferred to Antelope Mine Hospital in Kezi, Matabeleland South, where he once again met a hostile white community which could not hide its hatred at the appointment of an African Medical Officer to serve at the hospital. The manner, in which Dr Pari expertly performed surgery and treated both blacks and whites professionally, made him an asset to the community. Soon the whites were even inviting him to their homes. Contrary to their earlier attitude when Dr Pari first arrived in Kezi, members of the white community took the lead in opposing his departure when he was called back to Harare.
As the wind of African nationalism swept across Africa and indeed Southern Rhodesia, Dr Parirenyatwa felt he was not doing enough in speeding up the liberation of Zimbabwe. He decided to give more time to the .nationalist cause. He, therefore, resigned from the Federal Government Service and opened his surgeries in Highfield and at Amato along today’s Julius Nyerere Way in Harare. Freed from a scheduled work timetable in Government practice, Dr Pari would get more time to attend to political activities while in private practice. He was soon elected to the position of Deputy President of Zapu at the launch of the party in December 1961.
When the National Democratic Party was banned, it was decided that the new Zapu needed a more sophisticated approach to fight settler governments. Dr Parirenyatwa devoted more and more of his time to working for the party and working out strategies that were effective in confronting the settler minority. He travelled around the country addressing rallies and opening new party branches. Through his work both in the medical and political spheres, Dr Parirenyatwa inspired many young people not only to actively participate in the nationalist struggle but also to become medical doctors.
Many viewed him as a militant who was anxious to move away from the politics of accommodation to military confrontation with the white establishment in order for black majority rule to be a reality. Dr Parirenyatwa saw the situation culminating into the armed struggle not only as necessary but inevitable. On April 14 1962 the Doctor, as the deputy president of Zapu, at a launch meeting of the Rhodesia National Affairs Association even predicted that while he advocated confronting the white settlers, the planned takeover of the country was going to be through a constitutional process but not spearheaded through white Parliament.
In order to expedite the process towards black rule, Dr Parirenyatwa worked hard to turn and make Zapu into an efficient political force, with broad based national membership for Zimbabwe and well organised structures from branch to the national level. He recognised the importance of grassroots mobilisation. He even established a Research unit for the party to get deeper appreciation and understanding of issues at stake.
Dr Parirenyatwa stressed discipline within the party and professionalism in the administration of party affairs. His dynamism, persuasiveness, popular appeal and humility were a treasure to the party which made him a formidable force, seen as a threat by the white government.
Because of his selflessness, dedication and the sacrifices he made in order to free Zimbabwe, the Government saw it fit to name one of the leading hospitals – Parirenyatwa Hospital – in his honour.
The ruling party went further to declare Dr Tichaona Samuel Parirenyatwa a National Hero in 1984.
A Guide to the Heroes Acre.