George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
He has a deep groggy and booming voice befitting his huge frame. He rarely needs a microphone but it is the aftermath roughness of his voice, the unmistakable Karanga dialect and careful diction that has a telling effect to your ear.
Like or hate him, you are bound to listen whenever Sanders Magwizi speaks!
Cde Magwizi’s physical appearance dwarfs the majority of most mundane beings and so does his political tact, tenacity and vision that has dwarfed his political opponents and made him councillor for Ward 2 in Chivi for four decades.
The love between residents of Ward 2, Chivi and their larger-than-life councillor has been reciprocal for the past four decades.
He has represented the people of Ward 2 under Zanu PF in good and bad times and it is no wonder this exuberant servant of the people has many sobriquets.
To his liberation war-era peers, Cde Magwizi is simply known as ABC, a moniker given to him by guerrillas charmed by the ease and simplicity with which he handled problems associated with their welfare.
Others call him Mzee Nyerere, after founding Tanzanian President and Pan-Africanist Cde Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.
He also has to contend with yet more names as some of his ardent backers call him Kabila (after slain former DRC President Laurent Desire Kabila), which seems to depict the Pan-Africanist zeal in him, his huge frame and dark skin.
Peers who are familiar with his story know him as, “Bhuru rekwaChivi” (the bull from Chivi district).
However, the most prominent of all his monikers is “Magadzanhaka” (the one who enthrones or simply the king-maker).
His enormous stature can only be equated to his eminent role during the liberation struggle when his house in Madamombe communal lands, Chivi, was a common rendezvous for freedom fighters seeking clothes and food rations.
Speaking to The Herald from his home in the asbestos mining town of Mashava, Cde Magwizi said he would not stop contesting.
“As long as the people have faith in me to continue leading them, I do not see any reason why I should stop contesting. The only time I will stop is when I am lifeless having joined other dear departed in the next world,” he says.
After serving, loyally as councillor for Ward 2 in Chivi Rural District for this long, one is tempted to think that the affable Cde Magwizi has seen it all and is now ready to call it quits.
He has been councillor for his ward since 1980 when the country attained independence following a protracted war of liberation in which he was a key figure in his Chivi birthplace.
During the past 40 years in post-independent Zimbabwe, he has been councillor for Ward 2 for 37 years.
The break only came between 2005 and 2008. Cde Magwizi alleges Zanu PF factional politics saw him being sidelined to represent the ruling party in the 2005 general elections.
However, you cannot keep a good man down.
“Kabila’’ bounced back in 2008 and has remained in his position as people in his ward continue to vote him into office.
He attributes his lengthy service to the undying faith the people of his ward have given him.
“I initiated many developmental projects in my ward which is arguably the best in terms of development in Chivi. I pushed for the sinking of many boreholes and construction of small dams for small-scale gardening to boost incomes for people in my ward.”
He adds: “They have steadfastly sworn that I should be their councillor until I drop dead and who am I to oppose them? I have no intention to quit as councillor. I am in it until God calls me because for me serving the people is a calling,” said Cde Magwizi.
Born in a family where his father was an entrepreneur behind the once popular Magwizi buses, the 71-year-old councillor said his life revolves around serving others.
After attending Old Gato and Mukotosi primary schools in his Chivi homeland, Cde Magwizi completed his education at Pakame Mission in Zvishavane.
He later started retail businesses that were dotted across Chivi and even spilling to the Midlands Province.
In the 1960s when the winds of change were blowing across the African continent where blacks were pushing for self-rule, Cde Magwizi found himself in the thick of things.
His shops at Mhandamabwe and Madomombe in Chivi and Chenhope in the Midlands were common destinations for freedom fighters seeking food and clothes.
“At one point things became so tight as we were under close surveillance by Rhodesian special branch officers that I ended up hiding clothes for freedom fighters inside vehicle tyres to help the war effort.”
No wonder why in the 1980 elections, which signalled Zimbabwe’s independence, Cde Magwizi was duly elected councillor for Ward 2, on a Zanu PF ticket. This marked the beginning of a union that has continued to this day save for the blemish of three years when he was “technically knocked out”.
“I managed to bounce back in 2008 after I had been stopped owing to intra-party (Zanu PF) fighting. Since then I have won successive elections up until the last polls in 2018. I intend to contest again in 2023 if I am a still alive and I am sure no one will stop me because I have a contract with the people of Ward 2.”
For a man who loathes the spotlight, Cde Magwizi says he never saw the need to contest for the Chivi RDC chairmanship, preferring a seat on the sidelines where he acts as the repository of knowledge on the running of the local authority.
“I have virtually served in every committee of the council and currently I am a member of the Finance Committee but I don’t like the spotlight. I prefer watching from a distance while others do it and only come in when I see something wrong.”
Because of his generosity and an eye for talent, he is popular.
“I have groomed many people who have outgrown me politically because I can identify talent and believe our society and nation can only have a future if we are able to create and identify good and capable leaders.”
This, he said, was behind his most popular moniker, “Magadzanhaka”.
Cde Magwizi disclosed that he has enthroned and dethroned many political leaders from Chivi because of his close relationship with the grassroots.
Among the eminent figures he helped rise to political stardom, was former long-serving Masvingo Governor and now Zanu PF politburo member Cde Josaya Hungwe, the late former Minister of Finance, Cde Samuel Mumbengegwi, and late former Chivi North Member of Parliament and Deputy Minister Cde William Gumbochuma.
“One of them, (Cde) Killer Zivhu, is almost like my son now. I identified a talent in him and saw it fit to groom him to lead the people of Chivi first as RDC chair and now as National Assembly member of Chivi South. Most of the legislators in Chivi know that if you turn your back on Kabila (Cde Magwizi) your fate is as good as sealed.”
Cde Hungwe corroborated Cde Magwizi’s claims, saying the history-making councillor was synonymous with Chivi.
“Cde Magwizi is very right. He is Chivi itself, literally owns Chivi, it is his place and this is all because of the long history between the people of Chivi and the Magwizi family of which he (Saunders) is the most prominent of them all.”
Chivi RDC chair Councillor Godfrey Mukungunugwa said it was not surprising that Cde Magwizi continues to earn the trust of people in Ward 2.
“He is always there for the people in his ward and leading from the front and this led to him becoming virtually a link of development in his ward.
“As for council operations, his counsel has always been handy such that when the going gets tough people like Cde Magwizi will remain standing.”
While Cde Magwizi says his long tenure in council chambers saw him overseeing many projects that have improved the lives of ordinary people in his ward and the entire arid district, especially in areas such as water and sanitation and roads among others, he is still not happy over several issues.
“My main worry is failure by council (Chivi RDC) and Government to fully exploit major dams in our district to change lives of our people. We are home to most dams in Masvingo namely Tugwi-Mukosi, Muzhwi and Bindamombe, but our people grapple with drought every year despite the vast potential for irrigation.
“When Tugwi-Mukosi was commissioned our people from Chivi were promised fishing contracts and other benefits but only a minuscule faction has benefited.
“Muzhwi Dam, in particular, worries me. It was supposed to irrigate fields in Madamombe and Befura, creating a perennial greenbelt but 40 years after independence there is still nothing,” laments Cde Magwizi.
The fiery proponent of development exudes energy whenever a discussion about problems affecting the people of Chivi in general and his ward in particular crops up and this, alone, is testament that the marriage between the Bull of Chivi, Magadzanhaka, Kabila or Nyerere if you like, is here to stay.