By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
You fought all the way, Save, and then some. You have lost your battle against cancer, the prayers of millions on your behalf not answered. And then you left, way too early.
You fought all the way for Zimbabwe, and then some. We saw you that day at Zimbabwe Grounds, when the cowardice of Robert Mugabe saw him send armed security forces against people armed with nothing but conviction and their voices.
Teargas swirled and created clouds on a dry savanna day, and when the smoke cleared, there among the maimed mothers and motherless children, blood gushed down your forehead. The pain in your eyes was not from the wound, but because this was Zimbabwe, letting its children down again.
You fought all the way through the tricks of 2008, and held your head high even when you made the sacrifice to save lives and let your victory be stolen. You had no bitterness, and spent the next five years not fixing the system to make yourself win, but lifting the lives of Zimbabweans back to respectability. You supped with the thief of your victory, and maintained your dignity and humanity, remained true to Zimbabwe.
When many of us fell and faltered by the wayside, you fought on all the way. The insults we hurled towards you did not deflect you from your path, instead you opened your arms and made it known that all were welcome in your big tent. That day when I tried to apologise for my share of the insults, you smiled and merely said, “you are young”, as if that excused everything.
You fought for your country, and have not died in vain. Vimbaishe Musvaburi, a child I watched grown up and now a woman known for her activism, summed it all: you paved the way for all of them.It was anathema to stand against Mugabe in 1999, but in less than two decades since you dared, the people took him down. You built that.
Even though you never were President, the people you paved the way for, the Vimbai Musvaburis of today, will one day walk into Dzimbabwe House and say: he opened the way.
You will have been disappointed with what was happening to the MDC at the time of your early departure, but that is not necessary. For your legacy is not the MDC, but the fact that you made people dare to question our leaders and speak truth to power. They can do that in MDC-C or MDC-K but that does not take away from the fact that you inspired that. One seed can start a forest, and some trees in that forest will disappoint, but they will all owe their being to the seed.
You fought all the way, for your beloved Zimbabwe. You loved your beloved Elizabeth, but I know even she will admit that you loved Zimbabwe even more. That day when a donor tried to twist your arm into agreeing to something you knew was wrong for Zimbabwe, you walked away from all the money, preferring to be a poor candidate than a rich sellout against your country. And, because she asked, you did not disclose your principled stand. Class.
You fought all the way, and a man’s victory is often counted in how their opponent stops to salute them. The American Civil War is remembered for a lot of things, not least the close to 500,000 dead on the Southern side. At the most decisive encounter, the Battle of Gettysburg, there were 51,000 casualties from the two armies. That battle proved a turning point, and in no short order, General E Lee surrendered and the Southern States were defeated.
When President Lincoln heard about Lee’s surrender, he asked the army band to play a song. It was not a victory song, or some other celebratory ballad. Instead, he asked the band to play the song ‘Dixie’, the de facto national anthem for the defeated Southern States. The Confederate Army had lost yes, but they had fought all the way, giving everything for what they believed. Even though they lost, their sacrifice was no less noble, no less heroic. It had to be remembered.
So, when you are made a National Hero, for you must, some will say those that denied you victory in life should not preside over your corpse and claim victory over your death. But you will have a different view. Even though you lost your battles, those you fought speak highly of your name. It says a lot about your victory that in death, those that denied you your rightful place should see think its right that you be placed at their table for eternity.
You fought all the way until your opponents made you their equal. When news of your death was reported, one of Zimbabwe’s living heroes, Vice President Chiwenga, called you ‘a son of the soil’. No greater honour will ever be bestowed on a man than to be called ‘mwana wenhu’ by people that fought all the way for the same ‘soil’.
I am reminded of that day in Johannesburg, when you laughed with so much mirth at my poor attempt at humour. And by the way, I finally found that ‘talent’ I was looking for, you would have approved. As I imagine Robert Mugabe watching you being interred at Heroes Acre, as you must, his face contorted with anger for his prophecy come to nought, I imagine you laughing once again.
For a victory in death, for fighting until they regarded you not an equal, but a hero. God might have been on vacation when we prayed for your recovery, but his sense of humour is unparalleled. You will enjoy it, now that you have decided to vacation with Him.
I did not support you in the end (will forever be haunted by your text – munombondisiyireiko nhai vakomana?) but in the end I thought you were cut from better cloth than the rest of us, your instinct to forgive, your love for Zimbabwe, your capacity to not harbour grudges, pure decency.
You fought all the way, right to the last. You sir, definitely left way too early, but you will never truly depart. Because you fought all the way.
And by the way Save, musacheuka muridzo……..
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is a Zimbabwean lawyer based in Gweru.