Zimbabweans yesterday commemorated the 24th anniversary of the death of national heroine Amai Sally Mugabe.
Amai Sally Mugabe, who was President Mugabe’s first wife, died on January 27, 1992 from kidney failure.Amai Sally Mugabe was a teacher who was an assertive political activist and campaigner. She was raised in Ghana where she went to Achimota Secondary School before proceeding to university for further studies.
Amai Sally Mugabe demonstrated activism as early as 1962 when she was active in mobilising African women to challenge the Rhodesian constitution, which saw her being charged with sedition and sentenced to five years imprisonment, part of which was suspended.
She met President Mugabe at Takoradi Teacher Training College in Ghana and they were married in April 1961 in Harare, then Salisbury.
In 1967, Amai Sally Mugabe went into exile in London. She spent the next eight years campaigning for the release of political detainees in Rhodesia, including her husband who had been arrested in 1964 and was to remain incarcerated for ten years.
Their only son, Nhamodzenyika, was born in 1963 during this period of detention and imprisonment. He succumbed to malaria in Ghana and died in 1966. An incarcerated President Mugabe was denied the opportunity to bury his son.
The release of President Mugabe from prison in 1975 and his subsequent escape to Mozambique saw Amai Sally Mugabe rejoining her husband in Maputo.
She found herself challenged to a new role of a mother figure to thousands of Zimbabwean refugees and revolutionaries who had fled from Rhodesian governmental oppression.
In 1978 she was elected Zanu-PF deputy secretary for the Women’s League. In 1980 she assumed a new, national role as wife of Zimbabwe’s first black Prime Minister. She was elected secretary-general of the Zanu-PF Women’s League at the party’s congress in 1989.
Amai Sally Mugabe founded the Zimbabwe Child Survival Movement and launched the Zimbabwe Women’s Co-operative in the UK in 1986.
She also supported Akina Mama wa Africa, a London-based African women’s organisation focusing on development and women’s issues in Africa and the UK.
In 2002, to mark the 10th anniversary of her death, Zimbabwe issued a set of four postage stamps of a common design, using two different photographs.