By Walter Nyamukondiwa
CHINHOYI – Former Mashonaland West Governor and Resident Minister and Zanu-PF Central Committee member Nelson Tapera Crispen Samkange has died. He was 82. Samkange, who was also former Zimpapers board chairman, succumbed to breathing complications early yesterday morning.
The Zanu-PF Mashonaland West provincial committee has since written to the Politburo requesting that Samkange be declared a national hero. Funeral arrangements and the hero status were yet to be finalised by late yesterday.
Samkange, a former National Assembly Member for Zvimba West, was taken ill at around 4am yesterday at his Rukoba Farm outside Chinhoyi complaining of difficulties in breathing and died on his way to hospital.
“We have written to the party requesting national hero status for one of the pillars of the province Cde Nelson Samkange who played a pivotal role during the land reform programme as Governor and Resident Minister,” Zanu-PF Mashonaland West provincial chairperson John Mafa said.
“He also played a role in the country’s war of liberation.”
Mafa said although he did not succeed in primary elections to retain his parliamentary seat in the July 31 harmonised elections, Cde Samkange remained resolute in supporting the party to a resounding victory.
He described Samkange as a good listener and down-to-earth person who had an open-door policy in his office.
“It’s a great loss to the party and province because we have lost a pillar of advice to the leadership,” said Mafa.
“This is very painful because we never heard about him not feeling well only to be told that he has died.”
Hailing from Motsi Village in Zvimba, Samkange crossed into Zambia to join the liberation struggle in 1964 and came back at independence in 1980.
He was posted as a tourism attaché to Britain in the same year where he carried the responsibility of turning around the perceptions of people in Europe who had lost faith in the local tourism industry due to the protracted liberation war.
His role included convincing Europeans that the war was over and there was a new Zimbabwe waiting to welcome them.
Samkange remained in Britain until 1985 when he returned and joined the Zimbabwe Tourism Development Corporation as the assistant director general for marketing before assuming the post of director-general.
ZTDC changed its name to Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and he became its chief executive in 1996. He left ZTA to form his own tourism consultancy, Research and Development Associates Zimbabwe.
Samkange had a stint as Zimpapers board chairman from 1999 to 2000 before serving as Mashonaland West Governor and Resident Minister from 2003 until 2008 when he became the legislator for Zvimba West.
His political journey began in 1954 when he was an African National Congress youth member before becoming the first president of the Rhodesia Students Union in 1960.
A tourism consultant and former journalist, Samkange was educated at Waddilove Institute and Goromonzi High School and was among the first black people to write Advanced Level examinations which he sat for in 1955.
From Goromonzi, he proceeded to the then University College of Rhodesia where he graduated with a degree in economics. Samkange worked as a journalist for the African Daily News before leaving the country for the liberation struggle in 1964.
Former Zanu-PF secretary for Information and Publicity Nathan Shamuyarira once worked as editor of the African Daily News. The paper covered news from an African perspective, highlighting problems faced by blacks under the Ian Smith regime.
Mourners were gathered at Samkange’s Rukoba Farm. The Herald