Patson Dzamara: An indelible force gone but never forgotten
By Chenayi Mutambasere
My dear friend Patson here is my attempt at writing a befitting tribute, it has been hard mate to say goodbye instead of come back. Even as I write it all seems extraordinarily surreal. Indeed a great lesson on the preciousness of time and relationships take nothing for granted instead make moments count .
I first encountered Patson on my Facebook timeline (so those that say social media achieves nothing think again). I was at that point very much neutral/oblivious to the goings on of the mother country. I was aware but not as bothered and definitely not ‘woke’.
I was easily coasting. Until this young man awoke my consciousness just through his photo stood right there in front of Mugabe with the words ‘Independent But Not free’, where is my brother Itai?
I can’t imagine the shock – horror that went through Mugabe and his ‘minions’ (if you know you know) confronted in broad daylight by this young man no armour, no shield just a strong conviction , a piece of cardboard and very neat writing.
I easily put myself in his and the whole Dzamara’s family’s shoes what that must have been like to just have someone disappear without a trace in broad daylight.
To face his young wife and kids daily without an answer of what became of their beloved dad and husband. Immediately I knew I was now at a point of no return I would stand with Itai and I would stand with Patson and all others who dared to fight for a better Zimbabwe.
As I joined the quest for better we found each other as young activists across the world. We forged our way around spending most of 2016 strategising Evan Mawarire with #ThisFlag movement was also strongly on the scene at the time. Most of us had never met but we were united by cause. Uniquely we brought varying strengths and it kind of worked .
Patson was very insightful if the train was going to crash believe me he would be the one to have seen that coming . Not perfect by any means but strongly convicted. He was clear on whom we stood against and as he constantly reminded us ‘Leadership was his mainstay’. To be around Patson you were literally a lesson away from a leadership lecture.
He would be quick to identify leadership talent, those folks he would learn much from he did . He would openly respect and accord them the praise. From memory I remember how much he looked upto Nelson Chamisa, he respected Bishop Tudor Bismark and Bishop Magaya amongst others but them I distinctly remember.
Patson gleaned life lessons from most situations. I sometimes wondered if it was the disappearance of his brother that made him receptive to the pursuit of purpose so much that he never wanted to miss an opportunity.
Amongst the life teachers was his love for the sungura music from Zhakata to Macheso on a good day in his whatsapp group he would send us lyrics or the actual songs … At times he would be out of data and request CM please post the lyrics of this song on the group. A great teacher and a great student in equal measure. I encourage readers to listen intently to Zhakata’s mugove in tribute to Patson make a note of the lyrics.
Even from his time in India he would share his lessons generously, I remember when he started typing Namaste literally everytime. I was irritated to the point where I had to ask him privately what on earth does that even mean . When he explained that it was about acknowledging greatness in both himself and the receptor I thought fair enough you can Namaste all you like and he did …
Patson as a friend was extremely loyal I remember an incident whereby one of the fellow activists was dicing with the truth . They had fabricated an attack on themselves claiming it was done by CIOs when infact it had been as a result of a domestic dispute. Said activist ended up hospitalised following the incident .
As we pieced this tale together I knew if anyone knew the whole truth it would be Patson. Mainly because he had his way with people. So I asked him what really happened. Patson said give me sometime in that time he went and asked the activist in question to by herself come clean before he would have to do it . When she refused he was to tell her before telling us that this would be his action and he did just that.
Patson sadly became victim to the Zimbabwean Messiah syndrome- the Zimbabwean public in my experience demand more from the activists/ human right defenders than from those afflicting them with their daily struggles. To be an activist in Zimbabwe you must walk, talk and sing exactly like Jesus. You must be a perfect human being a very tall order for doing a job none else wants to do.
There is an idea too that most activists are in it for the money which is beyond fallacious as quite literally activism really has barely any funds … Infact activism for most is a thankless task, a dangerous sport that is likely to leave you incomeless, homeless and at best D.E.A.D dead or maimed for dead. I would seriously suggest a hug a human rights defenders day for Zimbabwe’s human rights defenders twice a month by golly they sure has hell deserve it.
I remember after Patson had been abducted and tortured with his car burnt to pieces . Zanu PF propaganda were quick to claim he had faked it.
Much to the advantage of the propagandist activism was slightly new so defending activists amongst the propaganda was as yet unchartered territory. In our small club we knew the truth but how to get this out to the public who chanted crucify him,crucify him?
Patson from that moment was reduced to hardly any income and no car. One day as we talked and he mentioned to me his Emergency taxi ride home I suggested to him do me a favour tomorrow when you are in the taxi take a photo. He did and I asked that he post it.
I was hedging on that for as many as they were wrongly crucifying him they would be more who would feel and understand his pain… Thankfully I hedged correctly a well wisher set up a go fund to support him. Though shortly after the naysayers voices took over it had to be shut down. But I can tell you to that lady who started that gofund a bigThank You he was so glad and for a short while felt vindicated.
My friend Patson inspite of his strong convictions to stand up against the vicious Zanu Pf would be just as normal as the next guy . He too would pursue that girl he met once in the ‘combi’ and was convinced was the one till eventually he would speak to her and realise perhaps not.
He too would feel the pain of a break up when his then girlfriend became overwhelmed with the politics . In the same way he would believe he met his true partner whom he would one day marry.
But he would say CM I should be able to provide so much more for my wife more and more reasons he would fight for a better Zimbabwe. He fought that his brother would be found and that he would realise his full potential infact that we all would!!
And fight he did I would say 2017 was especially difficult for Patson his adverse encounters with the regime were far too many. ‘CM I have been to those jails and I really don’t want to go there ever again.’ He would become regular in those ZRP trucks sometimes being beaten first then put in remand . One specific time he was beaten badly across his back he also said he had been given sewage smelling water to drink.
It would be shortly after this incident that Patson Dzamara would be admitted into hospital . As usual messiah crucifiers would be the first to shout he is faking it when pictures of him in hospital emerged. And just like I did last Saturday I would text him, what is going on PD.
He explained they don’t know they have done several tests but I am having blood in my stool and it has become difficult for me to have a bowel movement . You see when you are talking to one of the very few people who will believe you you tend to tell it like it is.
He explained more tests including biopsies would be required subject of course to funding. It escapes my mind the precise details of what happened next but funding was withdrawn and a partial diagnosis given he was subsequently discharged.
When I chatted with him on Saturday last week I would ask him ‘mate do you remember those issues with your bowels?’. He would text back ‘Yes exactly, in 2017 right?’ Yes I would reply back…. Neither of us would choose to focus on the ‘what if ‘ statement instead focussing on what needed to be done to help him in the present.
Inspite of it all and resilient as he was the one attack that hurt him deeply was when some folk implied that he was involved in or out to benefit from his brother’s abduction. That cut him deep and as a result there was one journalist he despised most of all.
Infact it would become the true test of our friendship when I would ask him to come on a show with said journalist . This journalist would be the only one willing to cover our show. Right up until we called him on the live Patson hadn’t yet agreed he texted me only to say I only did this because it was you.
It would be in time that I would get my own baptism of fire from said journalist – you see I told you Patson would laugh away. It’s unfortunate that even in my second last conversation with Patson this journalist name would come up again as I needed to fix something he had published which would impact adversely on Patson’s fundraiser for the operation.
My first deepest regret would be that as we progressed in activism and started towing the line of politics our friendship would be forgotten as each focussed on their personal journey.
My slightest silver lining would be that the announcement of his illness would mean I would reach out and be granted the opportunity to once again be there for a dear friend … Infact in my bid to instruct him to get better I promised him a dose of the comic Pastor’s ‘shamhu’ another way of saying why didn’t you tell me you were ill … ‘Kkk.Amana ndaita sei’ he would joke back …
My second regret would be November 2017- you see in the journey of the coup plot Patson had refused to be hoodwinked by the military generals . Right up until the 11th hour he would go about his daily business as though nothing was happening.
I would take it upon myself on consultation with other activists to try to convince him … Solid 4 hour conversation Patson was immovable on the matter . His consciousness refused to accept that the army generals would reform. They had asked for him to take to the podium on the day of the people’s March he really didn’t want to . In the end I gave in and retired.
It was to be in the morning of the same day he would text to say I have decided to attend the March. But in his heart and mind he knew that that we as a nation were being hoodwinked. A couple of months later I would write him a public apology to say you were right I was wrong and I wished to have paid more attention to what he was saying .
So Patson Dzamara my friend a great leader is always a great teacher and if I could impart some teachings from knowing you I would say,
1- Be true to your convictions never ignore them don’t take them to the grave with you. Tomorrow is not promised.
2- standing up for what you believe in is never futile . That one person you may convert may well be worth it.
3- Know your talents and let them bring opportunity
4- Hug a Human rights defenders and if you can’t at least don’t take part in pulling them down. It’s a hard enough life.
5- treasure your friends tomorrow is never promised
Rest in Peace my friend wakarwa kurwa kwakanaka …. We too will not rest until Itai is accounted for.