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Some Reflections on Student activism and the Pitfalls of Celebrity politics in Zimbabwe

By Blessing Vava ''Student activism is a highly conflict-filled terrain with very passionate individuals and groups involved&...

Friday, 21 October 2011

Obituary: In memory of Learnmore Judah Jongwe, 1974-2002



This orbituary was written in 2009 during my time as the ZINASU National Spokesperson and published by nehandaradion.com
Obituary: In memory of Learnmore Judah Jongwe, 1974-2002
By Blessing Vava
On the 22nd of October 2009, the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) will mark the 7th anniversary on the death of one of our illustrious sons and leader Learnmore Judah Jongwe (pictured) who passed away on the 22nd of October 2002 in a prison cell at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.
At the time of his death he was serving as the Member of Parliament Kuwadzana constituency and Spokesperson for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).


Learnmore Jongwe with his wife Rutendo on their wedding day
Learnmore Jongwe with his wife Rutendo on their wedding day
The Movement for Democratic Change President Morgan Tsvangirai blamed Robert Mugabes government for Jongwes death. He said ZANU PF wanted to eliminate as many opposition MPs as possible to create a big enough majority for the ruling ZANU PF party to change the constitution. He was in government custody and, without any explanation of the circumstances [of his death], they are accountable, Mr. Tsvangirai said.
As ZINASU, we are firmly convinced that he was killed by the state while in detention. We remember his revolutionary and unwavering commitment and contribution to the students movement and the nation at large. Jongwe was neither a hawk nor a dove, but a person who dealt with difficult situations in a creative way.


Learnmore Jongwe with then UZ Vice Chancellor Graham Hill
Learnmore Jongwe with then UZ Vice Chancellor Graham Hill
He was remarkably bright and brave; relentless in his fight for justice; unsparing in his criticism of those, even within his own party, who had become a threat to social justice. There can be no denial of Jongwe’s stature as one of the most luminary and inspirational youthful figures of the emergent generation of Zimbabwe’s leaders.
The tremor of disbelief, anger and outrage which shook the country following his murder testifies to the importance of his leadership and the deep significance of his life. Learnmore was born in Samambwa village in Zhombe on the 28TH of April 1974. He did his Advanced Levels at Lower Gwelo Mission from 1993-94 before enrolling at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) in 1995.He was elected the UZ Student Representative Council (SRC) President in 1996.
In July that same year he led numerous demonstrations at the institution and was later suspended together with his vice president, classmate and friend Daniel Molokela. The students were reinstated after a few weeks.


Gladys Hlatshwayo, Nelson Chamisa, Trust Mamombe, Philip Pasirayi and Pedzisai Ruhanya at the unveiling of Jongwe's tombstone
Gladys Hlatshwayo, Nelson Chamisa, Trust Mamombe, Philip Pasirayi and Pedzisai Ruhanya at the unveiling of Jongwe’s tombstone
As the leader of the UZ SRC, Jongwe was instrumental in the revival of the national students mother body (ZINASU). In March 1997 Jongwe was elected the National President of ZINASU with other luminaries, who included Daniel Molokela as the vice president, Charlton Hwende Secretary General and Job Sikhala, Information and Publicity secretary.
From 1997, he served the students union with passion and commitment, such that ZINASU became a force to reckon within the countrys political landscape. During the 1998 food riots, Jongwe led countywide students protests against the rising cost of living in the country. Jongwe served as ZINASU President from 1997-1999, and was succeeded by Hopewell Gumbo.
At that moment, there were growing seeds of discontentment amongst Zimbabweans because of Mugabes misrule. Together with the working class movement, and the poor masses, the students union played a critical role in the formation of an alternative political force, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Several comrades from the students union including Tafadzwa Musekiwa,Job Sikhala, Nelson Chamisa went on to grab very influential posts during the newly formed party. Learnmore became the first National Chairperson of the MDC Youth Assembly, and was later succeeded by former Nelson Chamisa who at the time of the formation of the MDC, was at that time the secretary general of ZINASU.
Jongwe later became the Spokesperson of the party, a position he held until the time of his death. As spokesperson of the party, he became a darling of the press because of his eloquence, articulacy and clarity as he debated, defended or when articulating the policies of the party. In one of the televised current affairs debate sessions he outshined and disgraced Sunday Mail columnist and ZANU PF apologist, Tafataona Mahoso. 
His favourite school subject was history; his favourite activities debating and volleyball.
Jongwe was also a devouted christian being an Adventist, he was neither a drinker nor a smoker.
Jongwe was unique in one further respect. Unlike any other leader of the emerging movement, he had a solid urban and rural base. He was a leader of such popular standing in where he came to be regarded increasingly as a unifying figure both rural and urban areas.
His impeccable credentials as ZINASU leader and his charismatic appeal to the alienated youth, gave the MDC credibility among the countrys most disgruntled, volatile constituents. Without him, it has become hard to sell to disadvantaged and oppressed groups any kind of apparent compromise
It is one of the saddest ironies of our time that many of the greatest of student and youth leaders, and indeed many of the brightest beacons of hope for the future, have been assassinated in their prime.
For all Zimbabweans, for all the struggling masses in our world, Learnmore Jongwe’s death, like that of so many other young visionaries killed in the first act of the struggle for democracy Batanai Hadzizi, Christopher Giwa, Lameck Chemvura, Gift Tandare Better Chokururama, Tonderai Ndira, Godfrey Kauzani, Cain Nyeve, Tichaona Chiminya, Talent Mabika, Trymore Midzi- will be more painful if the work for which he laid down his life is not carried forward.
A close friend to the late Learnmore Jongwe, and one of the pioneers of the Learnmore Jongwe Trust, Earnerst Mudzengi said that the death of Jongwe was a painful episode in history. What happened seven years ago was a painful episode in history, we lost a cadre who will be difficult to replace and whose qualities, character and strength would be difficult to get.
Jongwe left behind a daughter, Tawana, now doing grade two. As part of this years commemorations ZINASU and the Friends of Learnmore Jongwe Trust will hold a quill talk in Harare were various speakers who include his friends, family members former student leaders and the current crop of student leadership will address.
As ZINASU, we demand that an independent commission of inquiry be established to look into the death of Jongwe and other comrades, nationalists who died under unclear circumstances. The list includes Batanai Hadzizi, Christopher Giwa, Hebert Chitepo,Eddison Sithole, Rashiwe Guzha and Josiah Magama Tongogara to mention just but a few.We want to remember Jongwe for the light he shed that others might see; for the life he shared so selflessly; and for the vision, the wisdom, the dedication, and compassion he dispensed so generously.

He will be remembered as the husband, father, brother, friend, and comrade that he was. We want to remember him for the cause that he espoused, which turned into his own life’s quest for a humanity liberated from the stranglehold of tyranny, fear, hatred, prejudice, ignorance, and rapaciousness.
Rest in Eternal Peace
Blessing Vava
National Spokesperson
(Zimbabwe National Students Union)

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Orbiruary Tongai Dhewa Moyo



By Blessing Vava





I have always followed the late Tongai Moyo’s music and live performances. I have known fans to mob him and cheer each time he stepped on to the stage. But it was only at the recently held Chibuku Road to fame finals at the Glamis Arena where giants Oliver Mtukudzi, Alick Macheso and Allan Chimbetu were also performing   that  when Dhewa went on stage, it was not the usual happy cheers.
Muchina Muhombe entertains fans at a show

Instead a sombre atmosphere engulfed the whole stadium as the thousands who were in attendance  shook their heads in disbelief seeing how their favourite musician's body had deteriorated due to non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Having known this man as a fighter who did not want his condition to stop him from dishing out his star studded performances had deteriorated so rapidly.

He nevertheless gave his best performance. I and hopefully all other fans, thought the man was going to recover, but unbeknown to me, that was the last time I was to ever see him alive.




 As news of his death on Saturday  the 15th of October filtered, Zimbabweans went into deep mourning.  Dhewa was one of the country’s  finest sungura musicians having carved his own niche of music over the last two decades. A  great entertainer whose outstanding contribution to the music industry is unquestionable. I received the news with great sadness and disbelief,  for he was a musician whose humble beginnings was an inspiration not only to other younger musicians but to all in the entire arts industry.

For a musician who hailed from a small town like Kwekwe it is only hard work and sheer determination to reach the levels of Dhewa. The colourful Kwekwe based musician who was affectionately  known in the music circles with an array of names including Dhewa, Samanyemba, Murozvi Mukuru, igwee, Mopao Mokozi, Father Flower or Muchina Muhombe died on the 15th of September after a long battle with cancer.

I first knew of Dhewa in 1996 when he released his debut album Vimbo, an album laced with classic hits such asChechete,  Chenesayi nzira and Ndinotenda Dhiya to mention but a few. Though the album was well received critics went guns blazing on him accusing him of being a mere Leonard Dembo copy cat, and this marked the beginning of a long musical journey which had its success and wonderful moments that earned him a permanent place as a top sungura musician whose only challenge was self proclaimed sungura king Alick Macheso.

After years of singing what sounded like Dembo's music, Dhewa finally carved his own beat, a fusion of sungura and rhumba and that move earned him respect in the music industry. This is one lesson young musicians should learn from the late sungura maestro that music is all about originality if you are to make it in this highly competitive industry.

For years i had been a Macheso fan who rarely missed his shows but it was Dhewa’s all time great Zvinoita murudo from the album Chingwa that transformed me into a great follower of his music.    Dhewa was a sungura musician with a  difference, he  redefined the fashion of sungura artists where in the past sungura musicians were identified with shabby dressing but he was always smartly dressed.   

He had style, swag and full of confidence and he changed the complexion of live performances by his well choreographed and unmatched performances equalled to none in the local music fraternity so far. Gifted with a great voice, composing and guitar playing skills, Dhewa was a polished entertainer whose departure will be sadly missed by the entire nation and even beyond.

Many had hoped that after managing to acquire the much needed drug to save his life, he was going make it and hopefully carry on with his work. But sadly that was not to be, as the man above called decided that his time was now up and called him home to rest, in a painful way though.

During his last shows you could hear Dhewa chanting, mandiregerera, (you are letting me down) maybe this was in reference to  those in the arts industry whom he felt they  had left him at the greatest time of need. Surely Dhewa had to struggle on his own for six months to raise US$15 000 to raise his medical bills. This is despite statements by some musicians and promoters who promised to assist Dhewa but nothing materialised until his condition became critical. Maybe had it that the  funds  had been availed for Dhewa’s medication the story could have been different today. Dhewa’s death is a call to in the arts industry to assist one another when befallen by such unexpected calamities.

We should not wait until the situation gets worse like what happened to Dhewa. His death has also exposed Zimbabwe’s decaying health delivery systems, for with better and up to date medical facilities Dhewa could have lived long. He has gone but his great works will continue to entertain us. We all hope that those he left behind, Peter and the rest of the Utakataka Express ensemble  will continue from were Muchina Muhombe left from.

Sungura musician Alick Macheso consoles Dhewa's wife
Dhewa's son Peter to take over Utakataka Express
They should remain focused, united and determined for them to remain a force reckon even despite that Dhewa is nolonger there. Peter should be inspired by Sulu, Tryson and the Dembo brothers who are keeping their late father’s legacies. 

Rest in peace our great musician till we meet again. 




Harvest House fracas deeper than WikiLeaks


Harvest House fracas deeper than WikiLeaks

KELVIN JAKACHIRA, POLITICAL EDITOR | HARARE - Oct 17 2011 08:17


Disturbances that rocked Harvest House last week are a result of ongoing factional feuding and not cable disclosures that some senior MDC-T members allegedly undermined party leader Morgan Tsvangirai during discussions with United States diplomats.

Political analysts say the fracas that characterised the MDC-T national executive meeting was a result of long-standing unresolved feuds which were aggravated at the party’s congress held in Bulawayo early this year.

MDC-T leaders on Wednesday said the ghost of October 12, 2005 had returned to haunt them after a heated debate over the WikiLeaks cables degenerated into near fisticuffs pitting Senator Morgan Femai and Thamsanqa Mahlangu, Nkulumane MP, against national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa and Charlton Hwende, a member of the national executive of MDC-T.
MDC Organising Secretary Nelson Chamisa
The analysts said Tsvangirai should stamp his authority and work to mend divisions within his party if he had any hopes of winning the next election.

Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka played down the mêlée at Harvest House saying: 

“The Prime Minister’s position is a matter of public record. His position is the position of his party which position was taken by the national council when it met on 10 December 2010, which is to the effect that Wikileaks are a non-issue in the MDC.”

But analysts said the real reason behind the near fists incidents had little to do with the leaked US diplomatic cables, but long-standing power struggles within the MDC-T.

“I do not think it’s about WikiLeaks,” said Charles Mangongera, a Harare–based analyst. 

“WikiLeaks revelations are being used to settle scores. What we are seeing is post- Barbourfields unhealed wounds. It is indicative of unresolved tensions not only at Harvest House, but in other structures of the party.”

Mangongera said individuals that lost at the congress were now fighting back, adding party leader Tsvangirai should quickly move in to stamp his authority.

“I do not know what the party should do because I thought people should respect democracy. Those that lost at Barbourfields are looking at opportunities to fight back,” he said. 

Political observer Blessing Vava agrees. 

“The chaos is obviously emanating from the congress power struggles. These are mere personality differences which are neither ideological nor objective. It also signals the power struggles and succession battles within the party,” he said. 
Political Commentantor Blessing Vava

Vava said those agitating for the party to discuss disclosures in leaked US diplomatic cables were undermining the leadership which had resolved the matter was a “non- event”.

“The party had made a position that the WikiLeaks saga is now water under the bridge, but surprisingly some executive members are still raising the matter which signals that they have other scores to settle,” he said.

Mutare–based social commentator James Mupfumi said while factionalism was the main reason behind the disturbances at Harvest House, the WikiLeaks disclosures had evidently wreaked havoc in both the MDC-T and in Zanu PF.

“Obviously, the bottom line is factionalism which has been brewing in these two parties over a while,” Mupfumi said from Mutare.

“Both Zanu PF and MDC want the public to believe that they have not been deeply affected by the WikiLeaks revelations, but an honest assessment here will tell you that both leaders of these parties will eventually carry out serious purges and they will be victims.”

Africa’s hero, Machel to be remembered


Africa’s hero, Machel to be remembered

VENERANDA LANGA, SENIOR FEATURES REPORTER - Oct 14 2011 07:59
Samora Machel


It is five days before Africa commemorates the death of one of its most illustrious revolutionaries, former Mozambican President Samora Moises Machel. He died in an air crash in 1986.

Political analysts in Zimbabwe have described the late President Machel as a man who played a pivotal role in promoting revolutionary ideologies in African countries as well as aiding the liberation fighters of neighbouring countries, including Zimbabwe.

According to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Samora Moises Machel was born on September 29 1933 in a farming village of Chilembene in the Gaza Province of Mozambique.

He later trained as a nurse and while working for the then Lourenço Marques hospital (now Maputo), Machel became attracted to Marxist ideologies under whose teachings he began to notice salary discrepancies between black and white nurses with similar qualifications.

Inspired, Machel decided to join the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique in 1962.

Eight years later, he had risen through the ranks to become the party leader following the assassination of party President Eduardo Mondlane.

Takura Zhangazha one of the organisers of the commemorations of the life of Machel, which normally attracts speakers from organisations like the National Constitutional Assembly, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Zinasu and other interested individuals, described the late Machel as a man who pursued democracy and freedom at all costs.

“President Machel made a major contribution towards the liberation of Zimbabwe and other liberation movements, including Southern Africa, and in that respect he left a legacy that must be acknowledged and respected by Zimbabweans and people in Southern Africa,” said Zhangazha.

“He fostered solidarity between the people of Zimbabwe and Mozambique as well as freedom, social and economic justice, and gender equality in pursuit of democracy and he continued to touch on these issues in the collection of his speeches,” he said.

A political commentator, Blessing Ivan Vava said Machel was like a brother who gave all to assist another suffering brother.

“He is a man who gave it all in assisting a brother (Zimbabwe) who was still suffering at the hands of a racist settler regime. Mozambique became a second home to the revolutionary fighters during the war of liberation and he was a comrade who never lost his passion and belief in regional solidarity as shown by his role in the formation of the (Southern Africa Development Co-ordination Conference) now Sadc.”

However, Machel was accused of forcing some estimated 200 000 Portuguese out of Mozambique, resulting in serious economic and financial collapse of the country.

The late Mozambican leader died together with 33 passengers on October 19 1986 on his way from an international meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, when his Presidential Tupolev Tu-134 aircraft crashed in the Lebombo Mountains near Mbuzini in South Africa.

The incident was investigated by the Margo Commission set up by the South African government, which concluded it was caused by pilot error.

But, Machel’s widow Graça Machel was adamant then that it was not an accident and she dedicated her life to tracking down her husband’s alleged killers.

In 2007, one of Machel’s confidantes in Frelimo, Jacinto Veloso suspected the death was due to a conspiracy between the South African and Soviet Union secret services, both of which he said had reasons to get rid of him.

According to Veloso, the Soviet Ambassador once asked Machel for an audience to convey the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ concern about Mozambique’s apparent “sliding away” towards the West, to which Machel supposedly replied Vai a merda (Be damned!). This was interpreted to the Russian envoy who was then convinced Machel had irrevocably moved away from their orbit.

The Soviets allegedly did not hesitate to sacrifice the Russian pilot and the whole crew of their own plane carrying Machel.