My life has not been an easy one: ED

17 Sep, 2023 - 00:09 0 Views
My life has not been an easy one: ED President Mnangagwa, First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa, their children, daughters in-law and grandchildren cut a cake to mark the 81st birthday celebration of President Mnangagwa at State House on Friday night. (Picture by Presidential Photographer John Manzongo)

The Sunday News

Zvamaida Murwira and Tendai Rupapa

PRESIDENT MNANGAGWA cheated death thrice in his life, including the infamous poisoning in Gwanda six years ago and escaping the death sentence on a technicality before Independence.

Recounting his life experiences during his 81st birthday celebrations held at State House on Friday night, the President said he has endured countless challenges in his life but he had managed to overcome them because of God’s grace.

The dinner was organised by the First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and members of the First Family.

He said the most recent attempt on his life took place in 2017 when he was poisoned in Gwanda, Matabeleland South province, at a Zanu-PF rally when he was still Vice President.

He said he only survived after he was swiftly airlifted to Harare, via Gweru, before being whisked off to South Africa while he was unconscious.

In his address, President Mnangagwa reminisced on his life, which he said was characterised by hardships and sacrifice.

“My life history has not been an easy one,” he said. 

“I joined UNIP (United National Independence Party) in Zambia in 1959 when I was at college in Lusaka. So they had broken away from the ANC of Harry Nkumbula: that is (Simon Mwanza) Kapwepwe and Kenneth Kaunda, so they came to the college and recruited us. The blowing of a train that you know about was not the first thing. My first arson was burning of a school, then I was expelled in 1959.”

He said as a UNIP youth cadre, he helped Zimbabwean nationalists, such as Willie Musarurwa, who came to the party’s offices to make photocopies of their documents since he was the only person among the youths conversant in both Shona and Ndebele.

He then left UNIP to join ZAPU, before leaving for Tanganyika (now Tanzania), where he met nationalists such as the late Herbert Chitepo and former President Robert Mugabe.

He later left for Egypt to undergo military training.

He said upon leaving for Egypt, he and 13 colleagues were jailed by authorities for siding with Zimbabwean nationalists who were referred back home as “rebels “ for deserting Dr Joshua Nkomo after a split in the liberation movement around 1963.

The “rebels” were led by Ndabaningi Sithole and also included Cde Mugabe and Enos Nkala, among others.

He said he was the only survivor among the 13 cadres he operated with, including the group that faced the death penalty for blowing up a locomotive.

“During my time, (the) age of majority was 21; that is why I survived (the death sentence) … my colleagues got hanged,” he said. 

“I was the only survivor. I then spent 10 years at Khami Prison in a dark room. God has been very kind with me. None of my colleagues, the 13 … we were together in Egypt in 1962 and 1963… none survived.

“In China, when we trained we were only five; no one else is alive… my colleagues again were hanged here … I am the only survivor, even members of the Crocodile Gang,                                                                                                                 I am the only survivor. I had taste of death three times. 

“First in Iringa (Tanzania), but that is a story for another day; second, when I was captured and I got my ten years (imprisonment) because I was underage, I survived.


“The third one is very recent, in 2017, when I was poisoned there. I am here because of this young man (Vice-President Constantino) Chiwenga. 

“He and the First Lady were able to rush me to South Africa, where I survived. They tell me how I travelled, but I don’t know. 

“They tell me from Gwanda (we went to) Gweru (then) to Harare; I was sleeping on Chiwenga’s lap while I was unconscious. 

“So I want my family to know that this young man saved me. He took me to South Africa. It has been a challenging journey.”

He also explained how he used two names — Dambudzo and Emmerson — at home and at school, respectively.

He said he later abandoned the name “Dambudzo” for “Emmerson” without his parents’ knowledge.

He got the name Emmerson from a book he read in a school library.

“So in the 40s, when we went to school, results would be announced on a weekend and parents would come,” he continued. 

“So class teachers would announce results class by class. At home I was called Dambudzo but at school I was Emmerson, because I had never told my parents that I had changed (my name). 

“So the teacher said ‘Emmerson, you did well in English and Arithmetic, stand up’, while pointing at me.

“But I could not stand up because I was sitting with my mother.  When I then stood, my mother said: ‘Hezvo! Hezvo! Ko wavakunzi ani?”

He had his audience in stitches when he told them that the dinner came as a huge surprise as he had anticipated a low-key and brief gathering of family members, only to see the grand arrival of his Vice Presidents,                                                           Cabinet Ministers, the First Lady, friends and relatives.

He, however, said he felt humbled by the huge attendance. Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga said President Mnangagwa’s birthday should rejuvenate him to continue leading the country towards attainment of Vision 2030.

“For me, it’s a special day for my war-time commander,” said Dr Chiwenga. 

“What makes this day special is that it comes against a background of your resounding electoral victory and subsequent inauguration. 

“This electoral victory was a deserved recompense for the servant leadership which has become your second nature, right from the days of the liberation struggle. May this day give you renewed energy as you resume leading Zimbabwe to Vision 2030.”

He commended the First Lady for her love and tender care that she continues to show to President Mnangagwa and the nation as a whole.

VP Kembo Mohadi described President Mnangagwa as an inspiration.

“You are an inspiration to us all.  Your wisdom, human kindness has touched so many lives. We are grateful for every moment we get to spend with you. 

“We want you to know that you are loved beyond measure.  It’s my wish that the Lord grants you many more years.”

President Mnangagwa was treated to a massive 81st birthday dinner that attracted members his family, the Presidium, traditional chiefs, politicians, diplomats and the clergy, among a host of delegates. 

Guests at the glitzy event were treated to a combination of sumptuous Western and traditional dishes, which are famed for their high nutritional value and medicinal properties.

The First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa explained that the dinner was organised by her children in honour of their father.

“I wish to thank you, first and foremost, for coming to be with us this evening as we celebrate the President’s 81st birthday,” said Dr Mnangagwa. 

“It is my honour to see you gathered here for this event. Today’s event has been organised by our children, varoora, vakwasha nevazukuru. 

“I told the children that I cannot continually hold an event of this magnitude for baba annually, hence I had to put the ball in their court. 

“As you see me here, I am now a grandmother, so a grandmother wants to see her daughters-in-law, children, sons-in-law and grandchildren honouring their grandfather. 

“We then see what their minds tell them to do.  I then tasked the children to hold the party to assess their minds. This is the Mnangagwa family; it is a big family.  Some have come from the rural areas and we welcome you tonight to celebrate with us.”

Amai Mnangagwa spoke about the need for women to play a leading role in building and uniting families to ensure children grow in a peaceful environment that is free from drug abuse and other vices bedevilling society today. 

“To all women here present and the grannies that I am seeing here, we say as women we are the ones who build our homes.

“To varoora vese, build the homes where you were married, be unifiers and peacemakers. See to it that you build homes and raise your families in happiness and enjoy sound relations. 

“Vana baba nanamai, please love one another. I urge you women who are married that you came for good and shall not go back wherever you came from. Vana baba, we love you,” she said.

Dr Mnangagwa, who is also the country’s health ambassador, stressed the need for people to embrace traditional dishes and outlined their benefits.

“I want you to get the food you want but there is a mixture of Western and traditional dishes.Do not leave traditional food as it is nutritious and has health benefits. It defends us from diseases and please do this at home and you introduce it little by little.”


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