The Sunday News
Mkhululi Sibanda, Assistant Editor
ONE of the country’s longest serving traditional leaders, Chief Vezi Maduna Mafu, is recovering from a stroke he suffered in August last year, but when one mentions the Heroes Day, which the country will commemorate tomorrow, his face lights up with nostalgia.
Chief Maduna, now 85, is one of the unsung heroes of the country’s liberation struggle having been detained for a number of years for his involvement in the nationalist movement in the 60s and 70s. Sunday News caught up with Chief Maduna at his homestead in the Avoca area of Insiza District on Thursday last week and he took the news crew down memory lane with an untiring narration of the country’s liberation history against the racist Ian Smith regime. Although his speech is impaired as a result of the stroke he suffered, the veteran nationalist still remembers vividly the journey he took in the fight against the colonial government.
“I started politics in 1960 during the time of the National Democratic Party (NDP). It was the first political party that I joined and its leader was the now late Vice-President, Dr Joshua Nkomo. During that period the spirit of African nationalism was at its peak,” recalls Chief Maduna in the presence of his wife, Mrs Lizzie Maduna Mafu (nee Mpala).
He spoke of the need for the country’s unity as the nation marks the 40th anniversary of the Heroes Day, saying when Zimbabweans fought the Smith regime they were united regardless of tribe.
“During that time the African people of Zimbabwe were united for the single purpose, the purpose of liberating the people of Zimbabwe from the yoke of colonialism and imperialism,” said Chief Maduna.
He said his involvement in the nationalist movement, resulted in him being hunted down by the Smith regime. He was to be detained in various prisons in the country.
“Following my political activities at that time I was arrested and brought before a magistrate at Filabusi. I was being charged under the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act (LOMA). When the trial began I denied all the charges that were laid against me,” said the traditional leader.
“State witnesses were brought in to give evidence against me. At the end of the trial I was acquitted because of the manner in which I had defended myself, as I had chosen to defend myself, I was a self-actor. It was the first time I had been arrested and brought to court for my political activities. Arrested with me was Msenki Moyo, a veteran politician at that time. This was during the time of the NDP, which was banned in December 1961 and Zapu was immediately formed after that.”
Chief Maduna continued with his political activities until Zapu was banned in September 1962. In October 1962 he then crossed the border to Zambia and lived in Kitwe where he continued with his political activities until 1964, after, which he returned home.
During the Pearce Commission of 1972 an attempt by both the British and Ian Smith to legitimise Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence, Chief Maduna says he led his people in Insiza District to reject the Commission.
“As I continued with my political activities in 1976 I was arrested and detained at Gwanda Prison. After spending a number of months there I was transferred to Colleen Bawn Prison. My arrest followed a frantic search carried out by the Member-In-Charge of Filabusi, Morris,” said Chief Maduna.
“He turned everything inside out at my home, he even looked inside the pots and tins as well as books. He told me that I was a security threat to his government. Morris accused me of communicating with nationalists who were in exile. He asked me about the meeting I had with other nationalists, the now late Vote Moyo and Norman Mabhena. I told him to his face that I would not make a statement.”
In his stint at Colleen Bawn Prison, Chief Maduna said he was kept in solitary confinement for a long time. From there he was taken to West Nicholson before being moved to WhaWha Prison in the Midlands Province. He said frantic efforts by his people to visit him at the prisons were blocked by the authorities.
“It was at WhaWha where I met detainees from all over the country. I was in Camp Four. Those with me in detention just to mention a few were Elliot Maphenduka, Welshman Mabhena, Makhathini Guduza, Walter Mbambo and Thengani Guduza. The prosecutor of Filabusi came to WhaWha and took me to Filabusi where I was further detained. The following morning I was taken to court and again charged under LOMA. After pleading not guilty I told the magistrate that I wanted to engage a lawyer. At the end I was represented by Mr Greenfield of Bulawayo,” said Chief Maduna.
“The court sat after a week and I was acquitted. Mr Greenfield told me that I had put up a good show during the trial. However, after my acquittal I was taken back to Filabusi Prison and the following day I was taken back to WhaWha for further detention.”
Chief Maduna said he remained in detention until the ceasefire period and when he was released he was given a hero’s welcome by his people with 13 cattle donated by his subjects for the celebrations. Of the 13, 10 were slaughtered for the celebration party.
“People came from all over Insiza District and neighbouring district of Mberengwa. In fact from Bulawayo I was escorted by many people who were members of Zapu. It was one of the red letter days in my life,” he reminisces.
In 1981 he was elected a Zapu councillor and became the first chairman of the Insiza Rural District Council. Chief Maduna was also elected the party’s vice-chairmen for Matabeleland South Provincial Authority.
In 1984 at PF-Zapu Congress he was elected into the Central Committee and was to remain a member of the Central Committee until the signing of the Unity Accord between Zanu-PF and PF-Zapu on 22 December 1987.
After the unity of the two liberation movements, Chief Maduna served the party in various capacities including being a member of the National Assembly.
However, of late Chief Maduna has courted controversy as he has been viewed as advancing the cause of some anti-Government groups, but he flatly refused that he is anti-Government, a sentiment also shared by his wife.
“I support the Government of President Mnangagwa, the problem is that maybe I am too accommodative, people of different political persuasions visit me here at my home. When they leave they go and make political capital out of meeting me,” said Chief Maduna, who has a huge portrait featuring Vice-President Chiwenga and himself flanking President Mnangagwa.
“That picture was taken in 2018 I think when I visited the President in Harare. The sentiment is shared by his wife who said: “Ubaba supports the Government and the current leadership. He is not against the current establishment at all.”
Mrs Maduna also said the chief had recovered after suffering the stroke on 18 August last year.
“As you can see he is now better, he was in hospital from August until November last year.
“The only thing is that his speech is still a bit impaired as you heard for yourself. However, his illness was not that publicised because we kept it within the family, so we cannot say we did not receive support from the authorities because we never engaged them,” she said.