Isdore Guvamombe Reflections
One Friday afternoon in September 2008, I left Harare for the proverbial land of milk, honey and dust, Guruve.
As the routine for many people of Mashonaland Central Province, I stopped over the popular food court along Mazowe Road for my last shopping.
Inside the food court, there was a disorderly queue of clients at the pizza section.
There were not more than 10 clients though, but it seemed hard to follow an orderly streak to the buying point.
The manager decided to put order and straighten up the queue.
On the tail of the line, one tallish man was reading a book and seemed not in a hurry.
Clad in a pair of jeans, a grey T-shirt and a cap, he graciously obeyed the instructions, but between him and me one was supposed to be in front of the other.
I chugged my Coke.
Using hand gestures, I offered him to be in front, but he backed off and offered me using the same gesture, his book in one hand.
I insisted, and he insisted.
“Go in front our Villager. I will come after you,” he said in a deep groggy voice.
The Villager being the popular sobriquet I am known within many circles. I looked up, only to realise it was Air Marshal Perrance Shiri.
I chugged my coke again.
In our previous encounters, I had called him Horomba, the big baboon, because he was a Mukanya or Soko totem, the same totem with my mother.
We officially exchanged greetings and laughed off the confusion, then started talking.
After paying, we sat by a table, waiting for the pizzas.
The court seemed to have problems with the dough, so we had to wait a little bit longer. But we only got that information after buying, against customer courtesy.
We sat close because it was not Covid-19 time and talked freely.
I asked where the “big baboon” was headed to at night, for, baboons do not normally travel at night and neither do they feed after sunset.
“The Villager has started,’’ he laughed. “Where do you get these sayings. I don’t miss your column on Friday because I like those expressions.’’
During the conversation, I chugged my Coke again and again, until he asked me if it was real Coke or some concoction.
We laughed it off by making him buy another coke, this time a can.
Soon he said he was headed for the farm in Shamva and was having problems with his banana plantation.
He was such a humble human being that many people in the food court did not notice him.
Time seemed short because before we knew it, the pizzas were ready. We set a date to meet at his farm later because I was interested in his banana plantation.
A few weeks later, he was shot at by some unknown assailants on his way to the farm and I was to bump into him with one hand bandaged at a restaurant somewhere in Chisipite.
Somehow, we lost each other for many years, but twice I passed by his farm to copy the banana project.
Each time he was not there, but I would call him on his cellphone.
The dam at the farm was well kept and its environs lush green.
In 2016, I visited my father, Mishrod Guvamombe, at his house in Chisipite and after discussing a lot of family matters, on a dry throat, I decided to stop by a restaurant near the then Redan Service Station, again to buy a Coke. I dashed in and did not pay attention to two figures seated by a table, but on my way out I noticed it was Cde Shiri.
“The Villager and his Coke,’’ he said with a mouth-corner smile.
I accused him of playing war-time hide-and-seek guerilla war tactics on me at his farm. And, he paid back with a two-litre bottle of Coke.
That time I was editor of ZimTravel magazine and he wanted to turn his farm into a tourist resort, especially the area around the dam.
We discussed at length about tourism and he paid a lot of attention to detail and asked a barrage of questions.
We were later to meet at the farm one weekend and I linked him to some experts in the industry, most of them at the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.
Today, I have a banana plantation coming up fast at my farm courtesy of his inspiration, although at some stage he told me he was doing away with bananas.
I also copied farming tourism from him.
He told me that many former commercial white farmers had tourism licences and that our farmers who got land under the land reform should follow that.
When he became Minister of Agriculture under the New Dispensation, I was especially happy that he had a passion for field work.
I, however, knew that many journalists would run into trouble with him in terms of refusing interviews. He was media shy. He never wanted to grand stand.
He liked letting his juniors speak while he did the work. His farming was not in the newspapers, but with the people out there.
We have lost a great man. We have lost a dedicated farmer. Go well “Big Baboon”. Your footprints will remain interred in our history.
Fare thee well Cde.