By Dr. Phillan Zamchiya (PhD)
Dear Reader. Just before 1545 hrs on 28 July 2018, I wrote, ‘I have traversed the country with him [President Nelson Chamisa]. His mother is close to his heart.’ Now her heart stopped beating forever on 06 July 2020 at 66 years. Mama [also Gogo] collapsed at 1600hrs in her beautiful garden in the serenity of Gutu in Masvingo.
I thought the medical doctors would resuscitate her. However, the village elders insisted she was dead. Many were in denial for hours. Somehow rejecting the village wisdom. I also insisted on waiting for the medical confirmation. I kept hoping Mama was not dead. When we finally got the confirmation, I was deeply hurt. I could only imagine how heartbroken Nelson Chamisa was.
I went down memory lane. During the electric 2018 Presidential campaign, Chamisa would always tell me how he loved his mother and how special she was in his life. Gogo had also become the heart of Mai Ashlee that is Chamisa’s wife. Even on the day Gogo died, Mai Ashlee had spent the afternoon on the phone talking to her and she sounded very fine.
Actually, she wanted Mai Ashlee to drive her on Friday 9 July 2020 to Harare. An earthly journey replaced by a heavenly journey. Perhaps a motherly way to say goodbye ‘mwanangu’ [my child].
Gogo shaped Chamisa’s policy IDEAS about emancipation of women living in the marginalised rural areas. These big IDEAS do not always emanate from the esoteric libraries.
Real life experience informs them. For one day, when we were in Mangwa, I asked Nelson’s father whether he inherited these IDEAS from him. ‘Nelson is far ahead and he takes from his mother’, replied Chamisa’s father.
Nelson understands the pain and the battle that women are going through in the rural areas through the prism of his mother. Reader, I remember very well when he took to the podium at Nhedziwa in Chimanimani West on 12 July 2018. It was 1718hrs as the sun set in the beautiful mountains of Manicaland. He told the audience how his mother used to toil in the village.
Working hard in the gardens, fetching firewood from faraway lands, doing laundry to keep the kids clean, walking kilometres to fetch water and selling all that she could so that she could raise what is now a globally recognised politician. I remember Chamisa at that rally passionately saying, ‘women, women, women…I love you!’, as he narrated the story of his mother.
Reader, his heart spoke. He went further to emphasise the need to lessen the burden for rural women. This was not a once off. Even on the following day, at a rally at Hauna Growth point on 14 July 2018, he was consistent.
He still spoke about the need to lighten the burden of women in the rural areas. ‘Every hero is born of a woman…’ he roared passionately. Now and again, he referred to his mother with much love. The crowd was always charmed.
During the campaign, at times Chamisa would order the motorcade to stop by the roadside when he saw informal traders who were mainly women. He would buy bananas, avocado pears and sugar cane by the roadside from the struggling women.
I remember one woman in Mutasa North constituency shouting, ‘keep strong mwanangu’ [be strong my child] after he had bought sugarcane. Chamisa would say ‘some people did this to my mother and I should do the same’.
However, many also loved Nelson’s late mother. I do remember very well on 18 July 2018 in Basera. The crowd went wild just at the mention of Gogo Chamisa’s name.
I realised how Gogo, the woman from Muzondo, a princess of the Masarire chieftainship in Bikita, a mother of four boys and two women and a devout Christian full of love was so dear to many in society. The Matesvas and Jesekis all loved her. I can only imagine how heartbroken the entire society is. No doubt that many are feeling the pain nationally and overseas.
Can we say Chamisa had outgrown Mama’s love? Reader, on 18 July 2018 we left Gutu with Chamisa and by the time we approached Harare at 1925hrs, people waved at the motorcade as if Chamisa was home again. Women by the roadside shouted ‘our boy, our boy!’.
Reader, I ended up writing in my notebook, ‘this man is now everyone’s child’. However, Gogo was the natural bearer. Gogo was the natural love. How do you replace motherly love?
The meal [sadza ne nyama yehuku] he used to enjoy in that serene hut by his mother’s side in the village will never taste the same again. The retreat to the village to reload after fierce political fights will never be the same for him without Mama.
I hope it does not break his spirit. For the nation needs him more than ever. I wish him, Sithokozile, Ashlee, the entire Chamisa family and the nation total strength.
Reader, we can only take joy in the days the Lord gave her to us. Joy in the vision she bestowed on her beloved son. With that joy, we can say:
Go well Gogo!
Stay well Nero!
By Dr. Phillan Zamchiya (PhD, Oxford University, Former ZINASU President).
Author is the Southern Africa Coordinator at PLAAS. He studies politics of post-colonial states in democratic transitions and contemporary trajectories of land & agrarian change in Southern Africa. You can email him on [email protected]