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Obituary: A Bad Sunday Rendition: Dr Alex Magaisa – Citizen Hero and Public Intellectual par excellence


Dr Tapiwa Shumba
There are no big shoes to fill. Dr Alex Magaisa was not wearing any shoes when he left us. He did not leave any shoes. It was him, his talent was natural and his quality bestowed at birth. You cannot replace such a man. He is gone. He has gone with everything he had and everything he was. There can only be one Dr Magaisa – a solar eclipse – rare phenomenon – once in a lifetime. We say we lived in the time of Dr Alex Magaisa.

Yet the struggle continues and from our deep slumber we have to awaken to the reality that it will soon be another Saturday. Some Saturday without the Big Saturday Read.

No wonder the agents of darkness celebrate – they have to, a shining candle has been dimmed. Dimmed, not snuffed out, because the light shone by Dr Magaisa will forever remain.

When they say a man is a public intellectual they don’t mean he carried books with him on the bus. Certainly, they don’t mean he spoke to the rural folk with gigantic English words -threatening our little minds with unbridled verbosity. Certainly they don’t mean a man who strung together a series of English words to say his name.

We have some among us who went to English universities during the war when they were supposedly fighting the British colonial system. Some went soon thereafter. They spent a year or two – almost just studying the Oxford English Dictionary. You see them in their evil press conferences and state paper columns of slandering and maligning citizens. They never leant true English, the love language. No they didn’t.

Unlike our dear comrades, the monopolists of vulgar and vitriol, Dr Magaisa was an eminent scholar – very balanced in his approach to any discourse and able to juggle issues for the common spectator.

When they say he was a great public intellectual, they look at how one man took on a dictatorship with all the tools of repression at its disposal. With his single mouth and one pen, he managed to fight propaganda, protect the poor from lies and deceit, inform the nation and most importantly, resist the temptation of abusing his own people with his intellect.

Although perhaps now famously known for his BSR, Mukoma Alex, as he was affectionately known, was a fountain of knowledge from which we all quenched our thirst. It was not only you who waited for Mukoma Alex to speak first. When there was a hot topic, we all waited for VaMagaisa to come out first. We all needed him to establish the market confidence and give intellectual direction. Now for his sake, we have to start – thrust right at the deep end with a blink of his heart.

We have been exposed. Bango remba radzurwa. Some say we must now step up. Such wickedness and evil expectation. Dr Magaisa was a level above the level – a nonpareil. His ability to feed the hungry nation with accurate, well researched and simplified information is something we may not see for generations.

They read the BSR deep down in Chendambuya, Nembudziya, Bocha, Jeka as they did in Borrowdale, Sandton and New York. How he managed to communicate to university graduates and peasants in the same sentence is the hallmark of his greatness.

A public intellectual is someone who is able to understand the workings of his society and apply his knowledge in a form that responds to the needs of his people where they are and as who they are.

Like a mother cools down a spoonful of hot porridge for her baby, Dr Magaisa broke down complex legal, economic, political and social subjects to chewable pieces. That motherly intellectual brilliance and love epitomizes his contribution to a suffering society, deprived of honest education and suffocated by spin-doctors doing the bidding for a crumbling but vicious regime.

To say he has left a big gap is failing to comprehend the distance between the standard he set and where we are. Indeed, it is to fail to understand the expectation of the 5000 he fed with 5 loaves of bread.

To start with, there will be seven Zimbabwe Herald papers this week, but there will be no BSR this weekend to fumigate our minds. There will be thirty Herald papers this month, but no single BSR to decontaminate our wellbeing. I am engulfed by the flame of fear and sadness of what lies ahead.

Our torchbearer is gone. President Nelson Chamisa says “tawarurirwa jira mashambanzou”. Our single blanket has been snatched away at the deadliest hour of the morning cold. This is some months before an election. Citizens have neither a printing house nor television of their own. For so long they have depended on VaMagaisa. How do we cross this Red Sea ahead without that stick?

Beloved, cry not, Mukoma Alex was a mentor. We all took a sip from his spring. We dare not let his spirit die with him. He cannot die. He will not die. We will live for him. We can never be him. NEVER. But we can always emulate.

Yes, with his eyes he will not see the new Great Zimbabwe upon us. But his work will lead us there. He is a Citizen Hero.

What a force, a giant – What a human being – What an intelligent man – What a gigabytes of intellect – What a fine great man – What a sober mind – What a cool character – What a lovely brother!

Go well Save. Go well VaMagaisa. Go well Dr Alex Magaisa. Go well Mukoma Alex. Go well Thought Champion.

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