Dr Alex Magaisa is Gone? What A Tragedy!!!
It is on a Sunday afternoon, l’m feeling hungry as l’m trudging my way home from church. I have just been talking to an acquaintance so l’m now alone. As l’m walking slowly, l just think of checking my Instagram account for any updates.
When l open, l first see Hopewell Chin’ono’s new post but l see Dr Alex Magaisa’s picture. Sometimes, l say to myself, Hopewell Chin’ono writes some items eulogizing Dr Magaisa as his great friend. I just think that this one is probably one of those posts.
But l then scroll down to read the message which accompanies the post. The news reads, “Zimbabwean public intellectual Dr Alex Magaisa has died”. I immediately stop reading because l think that l’m day-dreaming, maybe it’s an optical illusion . I wipe my eyes with my fingers. I read the news again and l find that indeed it’s true. I further read where the post says, ” he suffered a cardiac arrest this morning at 10am at Margate Hospital”.
I begin to talk to myself. So l say to myself, “Magaisa? Dr Magaisa? Alex?” My hunger immediately goes away. I’m no longer hungry. I’m now hungry to know if l’m not daydreaming. I then quickly check my Twitter. The first news l see is the same sad news l have just read.
So l begin to think that, recently Mukoma Dewa Mavhinga died and Dr Alex Magaisa sent me a voice note expressing his grief after l send him my condolences on the passing on of Dewa Mavhinga, whom l happened to share a good relationship with.
On the 18th of November, human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga had left me a parcel of 5 books after visiting Zimbabwe. On the 4th of December 2021, l hear very sad news that he is no more. I used to talk to Dewa Mavhinga a lot and on the 27th of November 2021, l was asking Dewa why his father named him after their totem “Dehwa”. He says to me, “l’m a royal Rozvi prince, my father wanted that to be a reminder always”.
I reply to him and both of us laugh about it. On the 3rd of December 2021, l sent Dewa Mavhinga a message, “Hello Mukoma Dewa”, as l used to call him. Dewa Mavhinga used to reply almost all of my messages but this one is just blueticked.
On the 5th of December, l wake up thinking that he has replied but there’s no reply. I say to myself, “let me go to work first and l will send him a message again in the evening”. After work, l then check my WhatsApp and l open a certain group.
Someone has posted Mukoma Dewa Mavhinga’s picture accompanied by a question, “is it true that he’s no more?”. I immediately visit some news groups that l have and the first message l see reads, “Renowned Human Rights Lawyer Dewa Mavhinga Dies”.
So l was really pained by the death of Dewa Mavhinga. I send Dr Alex Magaisa a message and we mourn Dewa Mavhinga.
Now, hearing of Dr Magaisa’s untimely death, l then say to myself, “Recently we lost Dewa Mavhinga, now it’s Dr Alex Magaisa!!! Zvakaoma”.
Hearing About Dr Alex Magaisa For The First Time
In 2017, when l was 16 years old, l used to read the Standard Newspaper every Sunday. The English that they used would sometimes appear difficult to understand but l would read with my dictionary with me.
As l often read the newspaper, l used to see Dr Alex Magaisa’s articles on the column titled, “The Big Saturday Read”. They would not publish the whole article but they supplied a website where readers could find the whole article. So l would read Dr Magaisa’s articles. Slowly, l began to love his writings. I was really amazed by the man’s intelligence. By then, l was doing form 3.
But my love for his analysis grew when he commented on BBC and Aljazeera during the days when Robert Mugabe was removed from office. Whilst many people were gripped by a wave of euphoria, Magaisa commented “a coup is not a picnic”. I never stopped following his analysis.
After the death of veteran opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, whom Magaisa had an opportunity to be his advisor, Dr Magaisa wrote a very befitting eulogy to the fallen giant.
In 2019, l would read his articles about constitutional amendments which he vehemently opposed. He actually pointed out that Zanu PF was amending the constitution to centralize power and was at times doing it just because it had two thirds majority in parliament.
In September 2019, when Mugabe died, Dr Alex Magaisa wrote a very objective article. He pointed out both sides of the Mugabe coin. I liked that powerful analysis.
I never stopped reading his articles. Fast forward to March 2020, schools are closed due to Covid-19.l can’t go to school and l’m always home. I decide to open a Twitter handle. I found myself falling in love with what Magaisa tweets.
I find him very sensible. He is very good at debating but he doesn’t insult people. I continue to read his articles. I like them very much. So l begin to think of finding this intellectual giant’s phone numbers.
Connecting With Dr Alex Magaisa
As a bright history student, l sometimes write short essays on Zimbabwean history which l sometimes share with a few friends.
So l hatch a plan. I can’t just look for Dr Alex Magaisa’s number without something tangible to talk to him about. I decide to use the short articles as the main reason why l write to him and that l need some mentorship because l would like to become a public intellectual just like him.
I ask for his number from someone whom l think has got his number. I’m given the number and l feel very happy. I immediately message Dr Magaisa on WhatsApp. Now l’m worried about whether he will reply or not. It’s in the evening. I tell him that l like his cutting-edge analysis and l indicate that l write some short articles which l’m not yet publishing.
I sleep late expecting that he’s going to respond but he does not respond. I then go to sleep and when l wake up, l check my WhatsApp to see if he has responded to my message. I notice that he has not yet responded but he’s online.
I begin to lose hope. I just say to myself, “maybe he’s not going to reply just like what some people do. Probably he’s one of them”. I then go offline.
Around midmorning, l open my WhatsApp. This time l’m not expecting Dr Alex Magaisa’s response because l have assured myself that he’s not going to respond. But to my surprise, l see he has responded. I immediately open to check what he says.
So his reply goes like, “Dear Clayton, thank you for writing to me and thank you for your kind words and for your passion. – – – – – – -. I’m glad to see you pursuing this path. I was once where you are so understand you and l’m happy to give some mentorship when l can. I will read your piece and give you my feedback. I’m impressed that some of your generation is already fully conscious of the issues affecting our country, well done”.
I was very happy to read his reply to my message. And he later on promised me that he would like to talk to me via a call on a Saturday because he is usually busy during the week. He said, “l will create time, so we can talk”. But he told me to keep on reminding him.
So one Friday evening, l sent him a message in the dead of the night. He is online and he immediately responds. He says, “munin’ina, let’s have a call tomorrow”. I feel very happy and l sleep knowing very well that after waking up, l will talk to Dr Alex Magaisa via a call. He is a man l highly regard and have always followed his analysis for more than a year without reaching him.
I’m now excited that l will talk to this renowned and esteemed constitutional lawyer. It is a well known fact that before the passing on of Magaisa, when you talk about constitutional law in Zimbabwe, Professor Lovemore Madhuku and Dr Alex Magaisa come to mind. Madhuku has always dominated the stage but now there’s someone who can dance like him and can challenge him.
So l send him a message that afternoon and he says to me, “munin’ina, l’m attending to something but l will call in a few minutes”. Now l make sure l don’t switch off my data. After a few minutes, my phone is ringing, Dr Magaisa is ringing via a WhatsApp call. I answer the call and we begin to talk.
He begins to ask me about my background. And l tell him that l’m currently doing A Level. He asks me the subjects that l’m doing and l tell him that l’m doing History, Literature and Religious Studies.
He then tells me the subjects he did at A Level. He says to me, “l did History, Literature in English and Geography”. When then joke about how difficult Literature in English can be for most students and we laugh about how most arts students avoid Literature in English at A Level. We laugh about the most difficult component of Literature in English called, “Practical Criticism”.
He encourages me to work hard at school. I ask him about scholarships but he says that that most UK scholarships are for postgraduate students.
But then he begins to tell me about how to become a good writer. He says to me, “you must avoid waffling”. Both of us begin to laugh when he says that. And he says to me, ” use simple language which everybody understands. You can use vocabulary here and there but don’t overuse it.
Most people think that writing means using big words. That’s not it. Know your targeted audience”. I’m one person who used to like using big words when writing. Even at school, l often liked to use big words when writing my English compositions when l was doing Ordinary Level.
My O Level English teacher told me to stop using big words but l remained intransigent, adamant obstinate and pertinacious.
At the school where l did my A Level, l used to deliver speeches at assembly times, mostly in Shona but whenever l chose to speak in English, the audience knew that they would be bombarded with bombastic language. Now, Dr Magaisa was telling me that it’s not wise for someone who wants to be a good writer to use big words.
He then tells me that he takes time to thoroughly revise his articles, correct mistakes and add more points before publishing them. He then tells me that he sometimes writes an article on Monday but he keeps on developing it throughout the whole week until he publishes it on Saturday.
We talked about a number of issues and l told him that l met some people in some rural area who share the same surname with him. He mentioned their names and those were indeed their true names. But he told me that he had lost their contacts and l had to try and get their contacts for him.
We talked about a number of issues, some of which l can’t disclose. But our call went for nearly an hour. It was so awesome and refreshing to talk to Dr Magaisa. He had a sense of humor and exhibited powerful intellectual prowess. During that call, he told me some stories about his school days in Chikomba.
After the call, l couldn’t believe that l had talked to the great Magaisa for nearly an hour. We remained in touch always. After l received my A Level results, l then sent him. I was not expecting to be given anything but l just expected a congratulatory message. After some time, l noticed that he had sent 30 pounds which was equivalent to 40 USD at the time. And he said, ” makorokoto ako ayo”. That was Dr Magaisa for you, a very generous man.
Sometime in 2021, l said to him, ” Mukoma, ko chimbonditsvagiraiwo basa kaaa ndimbowana twumadhora”. He then sent me a voice note, ” Eehh Clayton, l can find you a job at – – – – umbowana zvekuita Please send me your CV”. After some minutes, he then told me that l was needed for an interview the next day.
He then said to me, “Please be assertive, usanyare. Be honest with them that you have never worked before and tell them that you are willing to learn”. You see how this man valued honesty? I went for an interview and l got that job. Reader, l’m sure you now see that Dr Magaisa was a selfless man. He always wished others good.
I continue to be in touch with him. In early December 2021, he asks me to write something. He says, “Clayton, can you write an article encouraging youths to register to vote”. I tell him that yes l can write. I write it and send him.
But on the 4th of December, we receive the sad news that Mukoma Dewa Mavhinga has passed on. I’m really shocked. The day after, l send Dr Magaisa a message telling him that l’m really shocked by the untimely demise of Dewa Mavhinga. He then says, ” sorry for the late response munin’ina, l didn’t get an opportunity to read your piece after hearing of Dewa’s passing. I’m very devasted by the passing on of Dewa. He was a good man”.
I then tell him that Dewa had given me 5 books to read just about 14 days before his death. I then tell him that Dewa once told me that the future of Africa looks bright with focused young men like me. Dr Magaisa then says to me, “Dewa would have told every young person what he told you”.
And we always remain in touch. In May this year, l notice he is clashing with G40 guys a lot on Twitter. Around 1500hrs on the 14th of May, l call him. He answers the call but my network is breaking. He then sends me a voice note, ” munin’ina, ndiri kudriver. Ndatosenda voice note because ndamira patraffic light. You can send me a message. But it’s good to hear from you. Thanks”.
I switch off my data. Later on after switching on my data, l see a missed call and a message which reads, “l tried to ring”. My own network is too bad because electricity is gone, l don’t ring back.
I like Twitter very much. On the 3rd of June, l visit my Twitter. I notice that for the past 4 days, Dr Magaisa has not been tweeting. I silently say to myself, “Dr Alex Magaisa tweets habitually, what is happening?”.
I sent him a message on the 3rd of June which says, “Hie Mukoma. You have not been tweeting for the past 4 days. I have just thought of checking up on you. Are you okay?” But the message is not answered. On the 4th of June, l decide to call him. The phone rings but noone is answering.
And the following day in the afternoon, l hear very sad news, Dr Alex Magaisa has passed away. For me, it’s difficult to accept the horrible news. I begin to think about the man’s generosity, kindness, love and intellectual prowess. What a loss!! I begin to think about Twitter without Dr Magaisa and Zimbabwe without him. What a big loss!!! A tragedy.
His Legacy Of Intellectual Prowess And Astuteness
For those who didn’t know much about him, they should know that Dr Alex Magaisa was a renowned and esteemed constitutional lawyer. He graduated from the University of Zimbabwe and did his postgraduate studies at Warwick University in the United Kingdom where he graduated with a PhD in Law in 2003 at the age of 28.
Inspired by other public intellectuals like Professor Masipula Sithole and Professor John Makumbe, Dr Magaisa also took that route. His articles were published in newspapers like Daily News and that brought his name into fame.
His style of writing was simple but the analysis was deep. He always dissected complex issues to make the public understand what would be obtaining. Most Zimbabweans are not acquainted with what the law says because they probably think that law is for lawyers only.
When court judgements are passed, it is difficult for quite a number of people to understand the legal jargon that is used. Having noticed that, Dr Magaisa would simplify, interpret and critically examine those court judgements for the public to read and understand.
When you have information, you should not be stingy with it. He understood that very well. His generosity is exhibited here because he shared that information with the public for free. What you only needed was to buy a newspaper or to visit his website to read his cutting-edge analysis.
Due to his profound understanding of legal issues and academic prowess, the man was appointed an adviser to the team that was crafting the Zimbabwean constitution in 2009.
Those who worked with him will tell you that the man was learned and educated but was humble. A man whose hand helped to write the national constitution is undoubtedly a hero. This shows that one doesn’t need anyone to confer hero status on them but their works depict heroism. You make yourself a hero.
To inspire is to lead, to lead is to give direction, to give direction is to create a legacy, to create a legacy is to leave an indelible mark in the annals of history. Dr Magaisa managed to inspire millions of people with his sharp mind and analysis.
This is a man who understood the importance of loyalty. Many people think that you only have to become loyal others. You must become loyal to yourself first. Alex Magaisa was a man of probity. He remained loyal to his principles.
That’s why it was easy for him to remain loyal to the idea of democracy and to his colleagues because he became loyal to himself first. When others switched sides due to their voracious and avaricious appetite for material benefits, this man never went backwards. He is indeed an embodiment and epitome of greatness. He was a paragon of virtue.
A great man, who inspires me so much, the late Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said on the 28th of August 1963, ” l have a dream that one day my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”.
Magaisa will not be judged by the colour of his skin, his height, his complexion and his physical features but his character will speak for him. The same Martin Luther King Jr once wrote, “character plus intelligence is the goal of true education”.
We live in a society where some educated people don’t inspire in terms of their character. But the wise doctor chose character on top of his intelligence.
He changed the way a number of people look at the world. A great man, former late South African President Nelson Mandela once said, ” education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
Indeed, Magaisa proved Mandela correct. He used his education to change the way some people think. To change the way people think is to also change the world. To truly change the world, you need to change the mindset first. That’s what this great man did.
Tsime rinowonekwa kukosha kwaro musi warinopwa(the importance of a person is realised after their departure). When we read Dr Alex Magaisa’s articles, we never thought he would leave us soon. At the age of 46, he was still young. His demise is the last thing l have ever expected.
Toubvunza mubvunzo uya kumatenga kuti mwari sei muchitipa nguva yakawoma. Ko hama dzedu dzinotisiya dziripiko? Imi munovaisa nyika yipi iri kure uko kwavanogara vasigone kutaura nesu. Uko kwavanosvika vasingagone kunyora tsamba kuti hama dzangu ndakafamba zvakanaka.
A granary and citadel of love, generosity, intellect, character and knowledge. A selfless, unassuming and altruistic man who shared his knowledge with young people because he wanted them to follow in his footsteps.
But who will provide that cutting edge analysis for us? Who will write those interesting and humorous village stories for us?
Rest In Peace Son Of The Soil