Goodbye Alex Magaisa: A tribute by Tapiwa Kapurura
In Africa we have a proverb that says when an elderly citizen dies, we have lost a moving library. This is because wise people (also known as Griots) inspire social and political change in people’s lives but sadly, when they die, they take most of their lived experience wisdom with them to the grave.
All we are left with are lasting memories and impressions on their epitaphs reflecting the work they did and the hearts and souls they touched. Griots move mountains and activate social change. While Magaisa was young, in my humble opinion, he walked a path and earned the stripes to qualify him as a Griot.
The sudden death of Dr. Alex Magaisa took many by shock, grief, and disbelief. I had to come up with this eulogy just to celebrate his works and to acknowledge some past eulogies that he crafted for some of our departed but esteemed heroes.
It was customary that whenever big guns fell in Zimbabwe, a thoughtful Dr. Alex Magaisa devised a moving obituary to alert the people of who that person was and how relevant his works were to the people of Zimbabwe.
Magaisa would do that for several heroes including the late MDC President Save, Tuku, Chimbetu and others.
I personally knew Magaisa from law school at the University of Zimbabwe in the 90s. I am also sure those who lived in Baghdad around that time do remember him so well. That was way before the now famous BSR.
Back in the late 80s and early 90s, there was a be-spectacled young professor in the political science department at the University of Zimbabwe whose name was Dr. Masipula Sithole. He was an adjunct polished columnist for the Financial Gazette.
The man wrote reality and even made several politicians uncomfortable with facts. He at times wrote in riddles combined with satire and yet he consistently stayed on point through his writings on the wall.
Known for his brevity in writing style, the Professor moved mountains and woke Zimbabwe up as the euphoria of independence was slowly fading to be replaced by reality on the ground. When he died at 56 in 2003, the Financial Gazette editorial described him as, “a responsible critic in the sense that his criticism was not aimless or reckless.”
After the professor departed, a few other columnists and political commentators stayed in the arena. We would continue getting fed by academics like Dr. John Makumbe, Professor Jonathan Moyo, Professor Welshman Ncube and Dr. Lovemore Madhuku.
Dr. Alex Magaisa would eventually emerge from the academic circles followed by others like Tinomudaishe Chinyoka, Raymond Majongwe, Brian Kagoro and a few more to register their own views on the political commentary stage.
While the stand carried diverse mindsets, opinions, and perceptions about the political climate in one Zimbabwe, the conversations stayed enlightening, vibrant, civil, and respectful.
Those who knew Magaisa during his student days at the UZ in the mid-90s can testify that he was soft-spoken, calm, humble and yet had a thoughtful approach to issues. He fared well in his class and went on to the UK for post-graduation education winding up with a PhD and lectureship position.
He would then play two other significant roles, teaching law at Kent and at the University of Zimbabwe, participating in the Constitutional drafting committee, as well as serving as an advisor to the late Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
In between the striking roles that he performed for national service, he penned newspaper articles that touched on politics, governance, rule of law, public policy, and the law. He eventually garnered so much traction through the BSR, a gripping weekly piece that eventually became a household name.
In my opinion, Magaisa became a compelling source of Zimbabwean political updates. When most of his followers sought some connection with the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe, they searched for his works that kept some conversations alive on the social media.
The BSR touched diverse political topics as it covered some historical facts in the background to an issue, outlined the current affairs and provided some interpretation on various sensitive topics that made many politicians feel uncomfortable.
Many were left emotionally bruised with hard facts and developed an urge to fire back or falsify facts to discredit him as unpatriotic. He got his own portion of threats and social media attacks. Through his pen, Magaisa earned himself great loyalty among millions of followers as well as a relentlessly angry readership that regarded him as a sellout advocating for more punitive sanctions by the western block nations.
There was so much said about him and yet many forgot to get the message and not the messenger. He was just against corruption and bad governance and through that role, he spoke reality. There was no other way to make the news sweeter especially as corruption rose amid related poor governance issues in Zimbabwe.
Even as the economy tumbled, Magaisa had some pointers to highlight on causes and effects. He covered diverse topics and would intermittently feel proud to share some stories about his childhood and related experiences from his village to the city and back.
As an avid storyteller as well as a lawyer, teacher and writer, the connection of topics became both entertaining and educational.
Every week he published some political content as his following on social media multiplied. Those who appreciated his writings became addicted to the works as those who opposed him simply read and hit back with scorn.
An undeterred Magaisa kept going and would write without apology, fears, or favors. As he wrote truth to power, he simply delivered raw messages that left objective Zimbabweans debating reality. Others simply rejected Magaisa’s works as unpatriotic or disingenuous but that did not affect his enthusiasm to keep writing.
Whatever the case was, Magaisa was a young living library. He based his works on facts on the ground and used his legal skills to analyze facts and interpret reality. Speaking like a biblical prophet he did not bring good news to everyone every week. We normally say a murderer feels uncomfortable once traces of blood are mentioned. That was the way Magaisa made many politicians to hate him and his followers.
Now that Dr. Magaisa is gone, we truly feel his absence. Depending on his legacy plans, the weekly BSR could be no more. Writing to feed the public with relevant content on weekly basis is a full-time job that takes in quality research and thorough fact checking.
One must cope with a plethora of dynamics to stay afloat. Sources should be reliable and there are resources expended to hit the targets. We lost an academic national hero in our own cause. Some heroes in Zimbabwe go to the Heroes Acre for interment.
Others like Jairos Jiri (disabled people’s rights) did not go there because in Zimbabwe, a hero is someone who held a gun in the 60s and 70s. Magaisa is our own hero as an advocate for free speech, freedom, and justice. He woke up many and educated a thousand.
He ran his mile, declared his philosophy, and fought his struggle consistently until the end. He left an indelible footprint and shoes so big that many will find hard to fill. We shall forever miss him.
To his dear wife and surviving dependents, I pray that they find space to mourn and heal. Until we meet in the next life, your works will forever stay relevant and applicable in the history of Zimbabwe. The change that you died fighting for is not a myth. We shall overcome. Rest in power Musaigwa.
Tapiwa Kapurura writes in his personal capacity. He wears many hats. Lawyer. Celebrity comedy writer. Author. Speaker. You can follow him on Twitter @TKalerts or email him: [email protected]