LAST weekend, an eerie of silence hung in the air as we approached Humanikwa Village, Buhera, the rural home of the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who, at that time, was in hospital in South Africa receiving treatment for colon cancer.
BY TAPIWA ZIVIRA
The only sound breaking the silence was from the occasional drizzle of rain. Whether or not it was because of the rainy weather, the village looked deserted and it was only when we were a few hundred metres into the village that we met an old man.
“We are looking for Tsvangirai’s homestead,” we asked for directions.
He looked at us anxiously, before asking us if we were not bearers of bad news about the veteran politician.
“Kwakanaka (Is everything alright)?,” he asked, openly adding that he, like many other villagers, was on the edge, fearing that their fellow villager and hero of the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe could have passed on.
We assured him that we were in the village to speak to people like him.
Still not satisfied, he asked again, this time walking away: “Ko, iye makambonzwa kuti ari sei? (Have you heard how he is feeling?)”
As we proceeded to Tsvangirai’s homestead, the tension engulfing the village was now visible. Neighbours, who we later learnt belong to the Tsvangirai clan, could be seen peeping through windows to get a glimpse of the strangers who were going towards their icon’s homestead.
At the well-built homestead, which has five houses, all painted in a reddish colour – perhaps to depict the MDC-T party’s signature colours — a middle-aged man, Ereck Munhanga came to meet us, and told us he was employed by Tsvangirai to look after the homestead.
He welcomed us and led us to the garage, where he offered us seats before disappearing for a minute, after which he emerged with a bowl full of mangoes, which he offered us.
“You know, whenever President Tsvangirai visits home, he sits right here and admires his homestead and crops,” he said as we started the conversation.
“Until recently, when his situation deteriorated, he always came home regularly and when he did, he made it a point to do general tasks like tending to his crops, just like any other villager.”
So passionate about Tsvangirai was he, that he referred him as “our president” at every turn and point.
“I am very hopeful that he will come back and do like he used to do whenever he visited home,” he said.
“We miss him, the entire village misses him, how he would visit Nyazvidzi River and visited every homestead to pay courtesy calls.”
As we discussed, a young woman appeared. The 19-year-old Gertrude, daughter to Tsvangirai’s younger brother, Collins, said she was sure her uncle would walk out of his hospital bed a healed man.
“I pray for him every day whenever I get a chance. I believe that God will rescue him,” she said, with teardrops flowing down her cheeks.
Gertrude’s mother joined us in the conversation, and added that she too, believed that her husband’s brother was going to make it.
Several hundreds of metres away from the homestead, at Makanga Primary School, a teacher, who refused to be identified, said he was mortified by the news of Tsvangirai’s illness.
“This man has served his community well, the school and the whole area have electricity and this is all owed to him,” he said.
“He is so humble and he always comes to the school to talk to the teachers about their problems. He is like one of us here in the village and to think that he is a national icon, yet he is so humble, is touching to me. I only pray to God that he comes out of this illness,” the teacher said.
But it was not only the teachers and the adult relatives and fellow villagers who were concerned about Tsvangira’s illness.
A Grade six pupil, Tawanda, told us he knew Tsvangirai.
“He is the father of this area. My father told me he has cancer. I have not seen in a long time. I hope he comes back, because when he does, there is always excitement in the village because he is popular in the newspapers and I want to have a chance to get a picture with him,” he said.
Further away from the Humanikwa, at Buhera Centre, the nearest peri-urban area to Tsvangirai’s village, he was the talk of the town.
“Amana mukuru wedu anopora here uyu,” (Guys, will our leader survive this?) one man said, in a beerhall conversation.
“Hatizive, zvave zvaMwari izvi,” (We don’t know. It is God’s case), another replied, before taking a long sip of the opaque Chibuku beer.
For them and many others, it was an illness that had come at a time when Tsvangirai had better chances of winning the country’s presidency.
“Why did he fall ill at this time when Canaan was around the corner?” another villager, Amon Makuvise, queried.
As another day ended in Humanikwa, and the drizzle continued, the silence held on, and for some it would be a peaceful situation, but in the hearts of the villagers, there was tension, and some kind of a hope.
A hope that they carried to the last day of Tsvangirai’s life.