THE usually sleepy chrome mining town of Mutorashanga came alive on Tuesday morning as powerful engines mounted on expensive and luxurious four-wheel-drive vehicles snaked into the area, for many a rare occasion and an unforgettable sight.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
Top government officials in expensive suits, permanent secretaries, most of whom had never been to that sleepy village, came in their numbers to mourn together with one of Zimbabwe’s most powerful voices — President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba, who lost his wife, Idaishe Olivia Chengu-Charamba, last Sunday.
Charamba, who hails from Buhera, did what many thought was unusual in African culture, laying to rest his wife at his in-laws’ homestead, next to her father who died 10 years ago and buried on the same day as his daughter side-by-side.
In doing that, Charamba managed to bring the government machinery to the Chengu homestead, a powerful delegation behind the politics and power of Zimbabwe paying last their respects to little-known Olivia.
In doing that, he also got people talking and questions were raised, with one such being: Was everything well between the Charambas and the Chengus?
Notebooks and pens were out in an effort to sniff out what had made Charamba — a powerful personality, who speaks on behalf of longtime veteran ruler and obviously has his ear — ditch cultural tradition.
Being the spokesperson he is, Charamba knew the question would come and quickly answered it before it was asked.
Outside his proximity to power, the brave voice that defends Zanu PF’s ruinous policies sometimes with high-sounding words best understood after use of a dictionary, is just human after all.
Charamba, feared by political foes, the giant that towers over the media industry and is trusted by Zimbabwe’s Commander-in-Chief, showed that he has a heart somewhere in his large frame.
“So, it was my personal decision that Idaishe should come and be buried here, so that it’s easier to all children.
I really wanted to maintain the unity of the family and that is basically the decision,” he said.
The death of his wife, apart from exposing Charamba, who is seen mostly in his official capacities, also revealed the power behind the man.
On a day Mugabe was supposedly addressing Cabinet, he released Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo to be the government representative at the funeral.
Accompanied by deputy ministers, Chombo appeared to be the loftiest personality in Mutorashanga, until just hours before the burial, the sound of military helicopters hovering about brought mourners to a temporary standstill.
Led by Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander-General Constantino Guveya Chiwenga, the country’s service chiefs arrived to pay their condolences.
Central Intelligence Organisation Director-General Happyton Bonyongwe, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Air Force Commander Perrance Shiri, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services head Paradzai Zimondi and other top military men accompanied by Psychomotor minister Josaya Hungwe, stole the show when they arrived.
This group of men is normally seen together in public as they attend burials of national heroes or national events.
Charamba acknowledged this rare visit by the securocrats in Mutorashanga as nothing, but a humbling moment in his life, yet beneath it showed that he was in the inner circle of the mighty and powerful.
“Idaishe was not a member of the military, but she was saluted by army generals at Nyaradzo funeral parlour as if she was one of them. I am humbled. Top army generals came to the funeral of mere George’s wife. Uuhmm, I am humbled,” he said.
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, spent the better part of Sunday evening at the Charambas homestead, along with several ministers. Mnangagwa visited the Charambas twice within two days, while VP Phelekezela Mphoko also came to pay his condolences. Other top government officials at the burial included Priscah Mupfumira, Faber Chidarikire, Thokozile Mathuthu and Martin Dinha.
Those aligned to G40, the unde-fire Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, only made “cameo” appearances and left immediately after arriving.
Away from the grieving, pupils at Great Dyke School had an opportunity to get closer and view army helicopters, which landed on their football pitch.
Some of the kids sat by the roadside marvelling as top sport utility vehicles, most of them brand new, passed, belying the fact that Zimbabwe is reported to be hit hard by sanctions illegally imposed by Western countries.
The story of the dead speaks more about the living, that of Charamba’s wife invoked emotion, displaying the power matrix in government and Zanu PF.