The Sunday News
FOR soccer lovers, the combined talent of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar which became known MSN saw the trio terrorising defences across Europe.
Working together in perfect harmony, the almost telepathic understanding between the South American threesome produced hundreds of goals and trophies for their team, Barcelona, on top of numerous individual accolades. It was a fearsome attack which will probably be remembered as one of the greatest combination a soccer team has possessed in modern football.
The mention of the names was enough to send shivers among defenders. Who do you mark was the question, as any of the three possessed talents of chasing and shooting that round ball.
But in in 2017, the MSN combination was finally ended after PSG signed Neymar and although as individuals, the players have continued to shine, their time together is still regarded as one of the most memorable soccer moments the world has witnessed.
If Zimbabwe was a soccer team, then one of the moments we had our own deadly attacking trident was soon after the signing of the Unity Accord in December 1987. The country was being captained by our own famous three. Three men whose history is so rich and their nationalist credentials so impeccable had Zimbabwe, just like Barcelona of the MSN under total control.
In President Robert Mugabe, Vice President Joshua Nkomo, Vice President Simon Muzenda, Zimbabwe was probably a version of Barcelona during the MSN era.
Only that instead of MSN we had and MMN combination, a combination of probably the greatest nationalists that this country has seen. Over the years, just like what happened to the great combination of Barcelona when Neymar moved to PSG, Zimbabwe has over the years seen members of the MMN combination moving to rest with the Angels in heaven.
Sadly, on Friday morning last week, the last member of the MMN trio, Cde Robert Mugabe kissed goodbye to this earth while surrounded by his family in Singapore. Below is a brief look at the lives of the formidable trident.
Dr Joshua Nkomo (1917-1999)
Dr Nkomo was the first of the trio to die. He died on 1 July 1999. If there was a death that touched the whole country, it was probably that of Dr Nkomo. As the news filtered across the country that Dr Nkomo had died, even those who did not know him personally or who had not interacted with him personally could not afford not to shed tears. It was probably one rare moment where you could feel that this was not just a death of a person but a whole part of the country. It was like everyone had lost some part of their day to day living. People revered Dr Nkomo. They had seen how selfless the man was. His history is that of sacrifice not for himself but for the emancipation of the whole country before and after independence.
His character earned him numerous names, all meant to praise his work. Some called him Father Zimbabwe, Umdala Wethu, Umafukufuku, Chibwechitedza, among many other monikers but one thing that history will always tell you is that here was a man whose heart and soul was Zimbabwean.
Dr Nkomo was born on 19 June 1917, in the Semokwe in Matabeleland South. He spent his formative years being educated in South Africa at Adams College in Natal and at the Jan Hofmeyer School in Johannesburg. He returned home in 1945 and was employed as a welfare officer with Rhodesian Railways while practicing as a lay preacher on most Sundays. In 1951 he completed a correspondence Bachelor of Arts degree in social science from the University of South Africa. That same year Nkomo became general secretary of the Rhodesian Railways African Employees’ Association, and he soon built up one of the best organised unions in central Africa. From there the rest would need a whole issue to articulate the journey that Dr Nkomo took until that sad July in 1999.
Dr Simon Muzenda (1922-2003)
The second member of MMN trident to leave us poorer was Vice President Simon Muzenda. He died at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare on 20 September 2003. He was 80 years old. He was probably the simplest of the famous trio. Easy going, funny but always with that sharp vision to ensure that everything is executed to detail. VaMuzenda oozed confidence and was also seen as the man who calmed the other members when they strayed offside. He was a fountain of wisdom, most which he gained during and after the liberation struggles. Like Dr Nkomo, it will need a whole day to talk about Dr Muzenda. He was born in Gutu, in Masvingo. He trained as a teacher and taught in Bulawayo, the second largest city. Later he trained as a carpenter at Marianhill in Natal, South Africa.
He became involved in nationalist politics in the 1940s. In the 1950s and 60s he was imprisoned on various occasions by the colonial powers in what was then Southern Rhodesia. He later became involved in organising Zimbabwean independence fighters stationed in Tanzania and Mozambique. At independence in 1980 he was appointed deputy prime minister.
Cde Robert Mugabe (1924-2019)
Well, depending on your view, this could be the Messi among the trident. Many a times, even analysts and soccer commentators ran out of superlatives and the best way to describe Messi. Mercurial, talented, ridiculous just to mention a few.
Like Messi, Cde Mugabe’s time since liberation struggle always attracted local and global attention. It might need a team of writers to fully tell the story of this man.
Just like Messi, there are those who hated him for his talents or lack of depending on which side and topic, and those who liked him no matter what. And like Messi, there are those who are called neutrals who could not just resist Mugabe the man. During his heydays, the world would listen in awe every time the man took to the podium at international fora. Eloquent, firm and unwavering was his daily bread.
The man could just articulate issues, he would make non-believers even like him. Elsewhere acres and acres of space have been dedicated to tell the life of this man. He was born at Kutama Village in Zvimba District. He was Zimbabwe Prime Minister from 1980 to 1987 when he became the President until he resigned on 21 November 2017.
In African culture when a great leader dies, the heavens open. Just like in 1999, in 2003 and yesterday, the weather is cool signifying the demise of a great man, the last of the formidable trio. The good is that we all learnt one or two things from these great men and as they reunite in Heaven they must be proud of what they have done for this country and the world at large.