Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Cde Thomas Deve: Remembering the life of an activist (Dec 1962-Sept 2014)

By Lenin Tinashe Chisaira

This month, two years ago, journalist, civil society activist, leftist and Pan-Africanist Thomas Deve died at the age of 52. He suffered a cardiac arrest in the early hours of 7 September 2014, barely a month after attending the SADC Peoples Summit in Bulawayo.

Figure 1: Cde Thomas Deve (right) next to the writer during the 2013 Zimbabwe Social Forum at Railton Sports Club, Harare
Figure 1: Cde Thomas Deve (right) next to the writer during the 2013 Zimbabwe Social Forum at Railton Sports Club, Harare

Besides Justice Andrew Mutema, the High Court Judge and national hero who made a ruling that made the University of Zimbabwe reinstate me back to school after an unjust indefinite suspension for student activism, Cde Thomas Deve is the only other person whom I have decided to make time and write an obituary on, however delayed by two years.

I met Cde Thomas Deve soon after I finished law school and was working for a civil society that dealt with social and economic justice. Cde Deve’s workplace and mine were housed on the same premises in the Eastlea suburb of Harare. We got along very well and he quickly became an unofficial mentor, mainly due to our shared leftist world outlook.

It was also rather ironic that the last activity he made a presentation at was a media sensitization workshop on the right to water that I had organised for journalists in central Harare.

Within a week of that workshop, I and the world heard of his passing in the early hours of that September weekend. Obviously he had spent the night at a show at the Book Café which featured Transit Crew, the reggae band that he loved, followed and reportedly mentored.

The ideals of Cde Deve were well-rooted in leftist politics and movement building. The discussions that we shared were almost always focused on the methods he and his comrades have tried to open up a leftist student organisation whilst at university.

Later on, he had dedicated his life to research and campaigning against the harmful effects of globalization and capitalism in the Southern African region as well as the entire Third Word.

In following his ideals, he worked either directly or as a consultant for organisations such as the Deep Roots Foundation, Southern African Trade Information and Negotiation Institute (SEATINNI), Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe chapter (MISA) and the Southern Africa Political Economy Series Trust (SAPES). He was also greatly active in forums such as the Zimbabwe Social Forum and the SADC People’s Summit.

With his passing, it was obvious that some civil society movements of which he had been a key advisor or anchor of, were going to go under mainly as a result of ideologically bankrupt programming.

It is also disheartening to note that forums such as the Zimbabwe Social Forum of which he was a key participant and which we were both instrumental in organising in 2013, was last held in three years ago. Efforts to resuscitate such a critical platform any time soon appear very remote.

With a 2016 that has seen the rise of protests in the country, it is anyone’s guess that such activism in the absence of basic theoretical understanding of elementary political economy are bound to go round in circles.

In a year like this, Zimbabwe and the Thirds World must surely miss one of the most dedicated leftist activists and journalists of our time, in the name of Cde Thomas Deve. Adieu.

[Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is an activist and lawyer based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He tweets at @LeninChisaira and is interested in Economic Justice, Human Rights, Leftist Politics and Environmental Justice]