By Tendai Mugabe and Elita Chikwati
Thousands of people yesterday gathered at the National Heroes Acre to bid farewell to Gogo Maria Msika — the widow of the late Vice President Joseph Msika, who died at her Highlands home in Harare last Friday.
Gogo Msika died at the age of 89 and her burial drew a bumper crowd at the national shrine. Burial proceedings started early in the morning, with Mbare residents lining the streets to catch a glimpse of the funeral procession as it came to Stodart Hall for body viewing.
People started assembling at Stodart Hall as early as 8am, while others climbed up tower lights to catch a better view of the proceedings.
Members of the Mbare Chimurenga Choir belted different revolutionary songs in support of the liberation struggle, Gogo Msika and President Mugabe. Not to be outdone were youths who were toyi toying around the hall, while others joined the choir on the dance floor.
Flag waving mourners ululated as dignitaries arrived and the tempo rose when the cortège that included the hearse with the body of the late Gogo Msika arrived for body viewing. Cabinet ministers started arriving around 8:30am, followed by service chiefs and Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko. President Mugabe, accompanied by the First Lady Grace Mugabe, arrived at 10am.
President Mugabe then led mourners, who included Cabinet Ministers, Zanu-PF Politburo members and Zanu-PF supporters in viewing the late national heroine’s body.
Mourners at Stodart Hall described Gogo Msika as a humble, but brave woman, who contributed immensely to the liberation struggle and stood by her husband during the war. Others expressed gratitude to the late heroine for championing women emancipation.
After the body viewing, the cortège proceeded to the National Heroes Acre where President Mugabe gave a keynote address. Mourners at the national shrine were treated to various melodies by the Police Band and Mbare Chimurenga Choir. Others were waving banners inscribed “Gogo Msika an Epitome of African Motherhood” while others had: “Mai Msika you played your part.”
Family spokesperson Mr Maxwell Msika left the mourners in stitches when he said that soon after his parents’ marriage, some villagers in Chiweshe were gossiping that his father had married a white woman because of his mother’s light complexion.
He said Gogo Msika fended for the family when his father was jailed by the Smith regime. “My mother was detained several times as a way of forcing my father to come out of hiding,” he said.
Mr Msika said when the late VP Msika was arrested, Gogo Msika was only allowed to visit him once a year and later the terms were relaxed slightly to a week per year.
“My mother also participated in the demonstrations held in the 1960s together with the likes of Jane Ngwenya,” he said. “She single handedly looked after us when our father was arrested.”
President Mugabe, who was the guest speaker at the burial, said Gogo Msika contributed immensely to the liberation of Zimbabwe.
“Vana Joseph Msika vanova vavaruri vemusangano weANC nevamwe,” he said. “Vachivarura kudaro vakanga vasiri voga. Madzimai aivepo aivabikira, madzimai aivapo aivapururudzira, madzimai aivepo aichengeta vana.
“Ndiwo madzimai, mamwe takamaviga pano vana Mai (Maud) Muzenda, nhasi Mai Msika. Nhoroondo yavo inhoroondo yevarume vavowo. Zvaiita varume ndozvavaiita vachitsigira vari kumba. Saka tinoyemura basa guru iroro rakaitwa nemadzimai edu.” President Mugabe said he had a close relationship with the late VP Msika, whom he met as a bachelor when he was teaching in Bulawayo.
He continued: “To the Msika family, therefore, let me say your loss is our loss together. While the nation is in mourning we should take solace and comfort from the fact that God allowed her time to attain accomplishments for the nation, her family and herself.
“I wish to take this opportunity on behalf of the party Zanu-PF, on the part of Government and the part of my family and on my own behalf once again to extend my sincere and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved members of the family, especially the children who have lost a caring and loving mother who was their pillar of strength. May they take comfort from the knowledge that the nation is mourning with them during this hour of their grief.”
Mashonaland Central Provincial Minister of State, Advocate Martin Dinha, who is in South Korea on Government business, also consoled the Msika family. “We will miss Gogo Msika so much,” he said.
“I have fond memories of her as a boy. We would visit her and she would console us after we visited my late father and other detained ex-political prisoners from Zapu, who included Cdes Msika, Joshua Nkomo and President R.G Mugabe.
“She was supportive of us as affected families during those difficult years when breadwinners were in detention. We can never underestimate the role these powerful women like Gogo Msika, Muzenda and Mama Mafunyana played alongside their husbands during the liberation struggle.” The Herald