An honest person who did not trade her beliefs for gain

Heroine Thenjiwe Lesabe (MaKhumalo) has left this world, but her vision — works and deeds — will forever be remembered and cherished.

It is important that this generation and that coming after it, know the life and history of Lesabe.

Books should be written about her and other gallant women who fought to liberate this country from all forms of oppression.

This is indeed a challenge for historians and writers, whose works will not be complete without the documentation of the role Lesabe played in the emancipation of the people of Zimbabwe.

I have known Lesabe from my youth days at Inyathi Mission, Bubi district where I was responsible within our student union for gathering information about Zapu leaders.

There is a lot I can write about this visionary and courageous Zapu leader, but I would like to confine myself on her beliefs for “empowerment of communities through devolution of power”.

On various occasions Lesabe addressed the need for communities to empower themselves through use of natural resources found within their communities.

She questioned why people remained poor when they had so much natural resources within their communities.

The mines of Bubi, teak and mahogany trees of Nkayi, Lupane and Tsholotsho, for whose benefit are these, she would ask.

Lesabe believed that true empowerment and freedom comes from economic empowerment; when women and young people found in the villages do not fall prey to “political vultures” who buy their allegiance with money and food.

She challenged especially women to be in the lead for community empowerment, by demanding from local leadership funds for economic empowerment projects.

Last year in July, at a gathering I also witnessed in the Gwelutshena area of Nkayi district, Lesabe said communities should ensure that the new Zimbabwe constitution addresses devolution of power to village/community level.

This she said was the only way to guarantee community-directed policies and local control of political and economic decisions.

She mentioned that Nkayi was rich in natural resources, especially hard wood, and asked the people and leadership at the meeting if they had any say regarding the cutting and sale of such wood. A loud “No” came from the gathering.

The dialogue with community members also revealed the leadership qualities Lesabe possessed.

Before talking to the people she allowed them to first address her with their concerns, after which she entered into a very lively discussion on devolution of power and its benefit to community advancement.

She told the meeting never to sell their birthrights for individual material gain, but to support programmes and activities that collectively empower them and their families.

On local leadership she said communities should identify women and men with vision; who have the interest of the community at heart.

Such leadership she said should be able to mobilise and motivate communities to participate in local empowerment programmes and not wait for hand-outs.

She also said leaders should have regular meetings with their communities and explain the benefit of devolution of power in relation to political and economic development.

The atmosphere at the meeting was jovial, as Lesabe would at intervals crack political jokes — jokes that moved young people at the meeting to open up and contribute to the discussions.

Such was MaKhumalo — a teacher, an entertainer, a visionary and above all an honest person who would not trade her beliefs for individual gain.

I will always cherish what I learnt from her visionary leadership.

May her dear soul rest in eternal peace!

Obadiah T Moyo is a rural development activist

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