The Sunday News
Richard Runyararo Mahomva
ON Wednesday the 30th of December, I woke up to a string of missed phone calls and messages — my friend, brother and beloved comrade Munya was no more.
I sobbed and my heart still weeps as I finally concede that a brother so close to my heart is now somewhere beyond the blue. Indeed, my buddy is gone, but his illustrious contribution to the struggle for epistemic justice will not be forgotten.
Evidently, Tererai Obey Sithole a former student activist exclaimed through a mournful soliloquy on his Facebook timeline ‘‘Gone too soon my brother, our story at MSU can’t be told without your name’’. A close friend Mlondolozi Ndlovu also remarked ‘‘We can all learn a lot about leadership and humanity by following Munya’s example’’.
There is no doubt Munya was a leader whose role cut across the partisan divide of my days in student politics.
Munya was never a political essentialist, he was dedicated to serving at the mercy of the plight of students. In as much he had his political persuasion — which was initially mutual with mine, he (Munya) made sure that our Student Representative Council (SRC) at the Midlands State University (MSU) served all students in even-handedness. That alone proves the element inclusivity in his leadership qualities.
Throughout his tenure as the SRC’s secretary-general, he ensured that our policy advocacy cohort represented the interests of every student. As such, he was an authentic prototype of servant leadership. In remembering this champion of student politics, I submit that leadership credentials demonstrated in student politics are a microcosm of national politics. Consequently, Munya’s untimely departure has deferred the Zimbabwean dream for organic grassroots-centred mainstreaming of leadership talents.
Starting from the nationalist generation the university produced academic reformists to the colonial status quo. The University of Rhodesia became a hub of anti-colonial radicalisation which produced manpower for the armed struggle in the form of Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa (Zanu-PF Secretary for Science and Technology), Lieutenant-Colonel Boniface Guwa Chidyausiku (Zimbabwean Diplomat), Sobusa Gula Ndebele (former Attorney General), Victor Mhizha Murira (Wartime Veteran Broadcaster).
Later, this group was joined by Dr Ibbo Mandaza (Academic). In the formative years of his career, Mandaza had taught young Christopher Mutsvangwa and Lovemore Mazivisa at St Augustine Mission. Other liberation fighters directly produced from the classroom and are still in our midst include Cde Munyaradzi Machacha (Principal of the Chitepo School of Ideology), Grey Tichatonga (Secretary in the Ministry of Defence and War Veterans Affairs).
The University of Zimbabwe also produced significant post-independence policymakers like Cde Paul Mangwana, Dr Michael Bimha, Honourable Minister Winston Chitando among others.
I refer to these figures to substantiate the link between student politics and the construction of power at a national level. With my late friend being credited for being a character who exuded leadership virtues of service to the student community at MSU, it is befitting to argue that Zimbabwe has lost a hero of academic freedom. His strategic place of influence within student politics made him a key decision-maker at MSU — a fast grown university.
It was during our time that MSU initiated massive infrastructure development projects which saw the construction of several student residence facilities under the visionary and charismatic stewardship of Professor Ngwabi Bhebe.
During this decisive period, the SRC became a progressive confluent to engaging the economic sensitive modalities of the institution’s immediate infrastructure development policy versus long-term welfare interests of the student community.
As the Secretary-General, Munya applied sober, calm and thoughtful inputs whenever the SRC was invited by the university’s administration to the negotiation table.
I can safely say, as the then president of the SRC I benefited a lot from Munya’s wisdom. He always had a way to neutralise tension with his diplomatic input in almost every discussion. His calmness helped to switch our approach from raw activism to cordial interaction with the institutional bureaucracies and hierarchies of the university.
We had a constituency to account to and on the other hand, we had to grapple with some very decisive administrative realities. My extremist approach would have not made compromise possible. Munya made it easy for our SRC to navigate between populist correctness and the university’s apt service delivery ambitions.
In as much as I was deputised by an equally brilliant character Ilet Chirimangombe, Munya was somehow the de facto vice-president of the SRC. We exchanged notes on issues more often, I would not do any SRC business without consulting Munya first.
In as much as there was the entire SRC team, Munya stood out as that one person who was closer to me than everyone else in the group. His stand-alone character also made him a comrade so close to my heart even up to the time of his passing on. I am saddened I lost a brother.
But how did we meet?
During the holiday of the first semester in 2012, I had started mobilising support to run for the SRC presidency. I had even engaged a few colleagues who were going to make up my full SRC Cabinet. While in the preparation process, I was told there was a guy from the Media and Society Studies Department who was also preparing to run for the same post. I was told that apart from the fame in his department, this person (Munya) had a huge following from Roman Catholic church-affiliated students. Alas, and here I was, from the then newly established Department of Politics and Public Management.
Being Rastafari by faith also meant that I didn’t have a religious fellowship community to back my candidature. Moreover, I was from ‘‘Matebeleland’’ and it was rumoured that the top SRC post was not for ‘‘Ndebele’’ students. Based on this unsubstantiated trend, I had no chances of winning the SRC presidency.
Noticing that the bomb was ticking way too fast, I looked for Munya’s contact and sought a conversation with him.
To my surprise, Munya was easy-going more than I had ever anticipated. Within a few minutes of our discussion, he agreed that he would give up his interests to run for presidency.
He then pledged himself to the secretary-general post. Meanwhile, I had used my tuition fees, accommodation and grocery stipend on election campaign material. I was broke, the next favour to ask for from Munya was to be an illicit resident in his room (45 Rusununguko Hostel). At the time, both of us were quite broke.
We could not afford to buy basic meals sold at the university’s dining hall, the little money we had was channelled towards financing our respective SRC election campaigns. During the run-down to the SRC presidential election, I and Munya survived on a 1 kg pack of a strawberry flavoured Ace instant porridge, bread and baked beans.
We both made it into the SRC and in the process, our bond got even much more firm. We related at a brotherly level more than anything else. Our conviction to national interest remained mutual.
In as much as taking a national partisan position was forbidden in student politics, our bona fide support to Zanu-PF for its propensity to nationalism and pan-Africanism remained intact. However, after university, we developed divergent political views in terms of our partisan preferences, but that did not decimate our shared love for Zimbabwe.
The divergence in our views proved the fluidity of our intellectual rationality. Though we chose to be worlds apart in life in as much as death has forced us to be even much more apart, Munya will always be my brother! I know he is resting easy now, but he will be sincerely remembered for being a true friend of undoubted loyalty, self-sacrifice, wit and extreme intelligence.
He is that hero who became a comrade!
Richard Runyararo Mahomva (BSc-MSU, MSc-AU, MSc-UZ) is a Political-Scientist with an avid interest in political theory, liberation memory and architecture of governance in Africa. He is also a creative literature aficionado. Feedback: [email protected]