For only one fleeting moment in this 16-day period in which progressive Zimbabweans commit us men to bettering the lives of abused and disadvantaged women, I can’t help but ponder over the influence of one almost forgotten Zimbabwean woman: Lupi Mushayakarara, the late.
If you sought rational thinking, provocative analysis and objective criticism tinged with courageous cynical confrontation, you could not have looked any further than writer, publisher, political activist, mother, businessperson, daughter, sister and scholar Lupi.
She was an amazing oasis of literary and activist innovation.
For those like me who met her late in our lives, we were amazed and inspired by the depth with which she perceived and defended liberty, willing to confront and contradict with her former liberation comrades in pursuit of the simple truth.
The power of women was at the core of her activism, preaching their virtues in her monthly magazine, Everyhome, with unyielding consistency.
As if that was not enough, Lupi established the Institute for the Advancement of Freedom (IAF) that became the local centre of liberal excellence and the cradle of student activism.
By the time she was co-opted into the “journalistic hall of fame”, millions of Zimbabwe Independent readers had already put their seal of approval on her candidature in part because of her insightful, tell-it- all weekly column. Yet this is only half the story about Lupi.
In one way, I am happy that her journey to Harvard and eventual passing on in the US protected her from witnessing Zimbabwe’s disappearance in the plughole of political and economic mismanagement.
It is hard to see how she would have been kept out of President Robert Mugabe’s prisons, for I know, although the late national hero Edison Zvobgo lured her to Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku’s fateful Constitutional Commission from the National Constitutional Assembly, Lupi would have continued to agitate for a perfect liberal democracy.
Although I had been involved in protest art and writing since the mid-1980s, I myself was a beneficiary of IAF’s progressive brand of liberal critiques, a journey that took me from Lupi’s humble Eastlea base to the glitzy capitals of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Cologne, Casablanca and Washington DC.
It was her who told me that the difference between a good and bad writer is one thing, the truth.
It was Lupi who warned me the President Mugabe-inspired Zanu PF rule would eventually degenerate into an unforgiving, vengeful dictatorship that would leave no stone unturned in pursuit of lustful political power.
My encounter with Lupi’s readers in Everyhome magazine offered me a rare perspective of how women think and why they should be respected.
She gave me one responsibility, to plan, coordinate and run the Everyhome “readers forum”, a monthly gathering of women opinion and policy makers to share challenges and solutions to life’s issues.
I harbour lasting memories on great women I either met during my work with Lupi, or later in life as my political activism gathered critical momentum.
Women are but a great gift to mankind by God. Their beauty, charm and intelligence are forever etched in the depth of the conscience of my mind.
They have to be protected, nurtured, loved, respected and given a chance to lead. I know what I mean.
I have a wife, mother and five older sisters. It was Lupi who taught me to respect the choice of a woman, that when she says no, she means no.
I have learnt not to do anything for, about or to a woman until I am sure there is one hundred and one percent consent on her part.
I have also known, spoken, worked and shared moments with great Zimbabwean ladies in my life, some who I met through Lupi. Ruth Chinamano, Grace Kwinje, Trudy Stevenson, Gloria Mukombachoto, Beatrice Mtetwa, Hilda Sibanda, Everjoy Win, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Margaret Dongo, Joyce Kazembe, Tracey Coventry, Monica Mutsvangwa, Busi Ncube, Ennie Chipembere, Amy Tsanga, Joyce Makwenda, Charity Manyeruke, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Betty Makoni, Yvonne Mahlunge, Amanda Atwood, Bertha Jambaya, Mildred Sandi, Jana Ncube, Edwina Spicer, Brenda Moyo, Marah Hativagone, Jenni Williams . . . and of course Zinzile, the mother of our four – and the (very, very!) last and “controversial” crèche-to-12-year-generation-gap boys!
I do not for one day advance a purist theory that all women are as perfect as they are born. Like any other human, Lupi had her points in life.
Her family disintegrated in a fireball of acrimony, losing a property in Waterfalls, the other in Eastlea and, of course, a failed marriage.
My everyday encounter with her mother, sisters, brothers and children portrayed a collage of interpersonal contradictions that at times resulted in me playing a calculated mediation role. Not everyone agreed with her life’s solutions, not least her “political” competitors.
Those that loathed her probably had good reason, yet those like me who knew her motives were always overwhelmed by her sense of forgiveness.
She was a woman of influence, defining the course of every funeral, celebration or ceremony in her family.
Lupi had an eternal depth of sarcasm, and I now know one needs it to contend with forces of Zanu PF political machinations.
I remember when she was meant to moderate a high-level political meeting.
Temperatures were heightening because she was late.
The politicians requested that she apologise for keeping them waiting, but she snapped back: “Ladies and gentlemen, I had a nobler task to do, picking up my daughter from school!”
Love her or loathe her, Lupi meant a lot to thousands, if not millions, of Zimbabwean women.
It is during these 16 days that I believe those of us who were touched by her life must consider a monument in her honour.