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Mabvuku: A hotbed, cauldron of the democratic struggle

Opinion & Analysis
Masaya, a cleric and Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activist from Mabvuku, was abducted on Saturday while on a door-to-door campaign in the sprawling high-density suburb ahead of the contrived December 9 by-elections actuated by an imposter, one Sengezo Tshabangu.

IT was with a heavy heart that we all learnt early last week that the missing bishop, Tapfumaneyi Masaya, had been found dead; callously murdered by the known lot in Zimbabwe who have a strange and morbid affinity for human blood as a currency with which to purchase and retain political power.

Masaya, a cleric and Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activist from Mabvuku, was abducted on Saturday while on a door-to-door campaign in the sprawling high-density suburb ahead of the contrived December 9 by-elections actuated by an imposter, one Sengezo Tshabangu.

The pastor was found on Sunday lying dead at the intersection of Arcturus and Lobo roads in the Cleveland area.

Masaya’s needless death adds to the growing number of change stalwarts from Mabvuku who have in the past years been abducted, tortured and/or murdered by State security agents, further enhancing the credentials of the suburb 14km east of Harare as a hotbed and a boiling cauldron of the country’s democratic struggle.

Old Mabvuku dates back to the 1950s, with the oldest school in the suburb, Donnybrook Primary School, dating back to 1954.

New Mabvuku was built starting 1972 by the then Salisbury city council.

Before colonialism, Mabvuku was the home of the VaShawasha people. The Shawasha people of the Soko Murehwa clan settled in this area some 300 years ago.

Mabvuku is the native home of these people. The ancestors of the Shawasha people are commemorated in the street and road names of Old Mabvuku, namely, Tingini, Godzonga, Marembo, Chauruka, Nyamare, Nyahuni, Chaitezvi, Nzvere, Chinemaringa, Charumbira and Wafanenhombo.

These Vashawasha stalwarts, the Soko Murehwas, particularly Chaitezvi, Chinemaringa, Charumbira and Wafanenhombo, are an integral part of my maternal lineage, my mother’s direct family ancestors.

The origins of the name of the Harare township of Mabvuku is not known. It is assumed that it may have originated from the Shona word “bvuku”, the ideophone for “emerging”, probably to denote the emerging water sprouting out of the numerous swamps in the area. Therefore, reports say Ma (“place of”) and bvuku_ (“emerging waters”) is a plausible etymology from whence the name Mabvuku may have been derived.

But for me, “bvuku” is not necessarily an ideophone whose meaning ought to be confined to emerging or sprouting water. It is generally a Shona ideophone that may refer to the sudden emergence of a person, a group of people or any other phenomenon.

For purposes of this article, I will posit that the ideophone “bvuku” probably refers to the sudden emergence of a group of people, often in dark glasses and clad in cheap nylon suits who in the past decades have abducted opposition political activists in the sprawling town, including our Masaya. The victims have often been found either dead or alive, but brutally assaulted.

Only last month on October 23, former Mabvuku MP, James Chidhakwa, was abducted, brutally assaulted, tortured and left for dead. Chidhakwa was found prostate in Arcturus, Goromonzi, with his body badly injured and his dreadlocks clumsily shaved off by a sharp object.

Chidhakwa was also injected with an unknown substance.

The legendary Tonderai “Sergei” Ndira, also from Mabvuku, was abducted from his home on May 13, 2008 just after the lapse of the five weeks that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission withheld results after the late Morgan Tsvangirai had trounced Robert Mugabe in the historic plebiscite of March 29 that year.

Yet again, Tonderai’s body was later found at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, where passersby had taken it after they had found it dumped in rural Goromonzi.

When his brother Cosmas Ndira and his friend James Chidhakwa went to identify his body at Parirenyatwa, they had a petrifying sight when they realised that his eyes had been gouged out, his tongue chopped off and its remainder tied with a wire. Tonderai’s genitals were also tied with a wire and one could only imagine the pain that the mercurial activist had experienced in his last moments.

When they found him, he still had his trademark brown bangle around his right wrist.

I knew Tonderai well. He was a brave colleague in the struggle. I also got to know Chidhakwa very well, having spent a long time in D-Class prison with both of these Mabvuku cadres some 16 years ago.

In March 2007, I spent some three months in prison with the indefatigable Tonderai, then the secretary for security in the MDC’s youth assembly.

Together with other party officials and activists that included my friend Kudakwashe Matibiri, Ian Makone, Paul Madzore and many others, we were facing trumped-up charges of banditry and terrorism. Among our crew was also Tonderai’s younger brother Barnabas, later to be elected Harare city councillor.

These State-sanctioned abductions have been with us for quite some time. Matibiri, Makone, Madzore, Zebedia Juaba, the late Brighton Matimba, Shame Wakatama and I were abducted from right inside Avenues Clinic at midnight on Saturday March 31, 2007.

We had spent three days of incessant assault and torture at Harare Central Police Station, without food and with no access to visitors, lawyers and medication.

When we appeared before magistrate Gloria Takundwa mid-morning on Saturday March 31, 2007 after three days of brutal assault  and torture, we could hardly sit or stand in court.

Wakatama was barely alive!

When magistrate Takundwa saw our brutalised and emaciated bodies, she ordered that we be taken to hospital and be brought back to court the following Monday on April 2, 2007 after receiving medical attention.

In short, she remanded us in hospital pending our reappearance in court the following Monday.

But around midnight that day while admitted to the Avenues Clinic, heavily armed State security agents barged into our hospital ward, pulled out our intravenous tubes and their plugs from the wall sockets and ordered the seven of us out.

We were all astounded by the sheer audacity of these then unknown armed men who could dare abduct people remanded in hospital by a competent court of law.

When a visibly perturbed sister-in-charge in our ward asked the gun-toting State security agents what was happening, she was violently accosted into her office with a gun pointed to her head.

We left her crying out and shouting for her mother to come and save her.

Meanwhile, while clutching hospital medical tubes and needles and other medical paraphernalia in our hands, we were driven at gunpoint at midnight to the D-class section, where we were “distributed” to the various cells by the officer-in-charge, one Musonza, around 1am.

That is how cell C6 in the D-class section of Harare Remand Prison became my home for almost 100 days.

I will never forget cell C6, with the optimistic inscription on its door that was probably written by a homesick inmate: “Zvichapera Boyz Dzangu.

So, we were taken from hospital in the middle of the night to prison, not at the court’s orders but through abduction by armed State security agents.

It was at this prison that I spent some three months with Tonderai and Chidhakwa, among many other opposition party activists.

Dear reader, there is a pattern and a striking similarity not just in the way we were dramatically abducted from hospital that eerie night in 2007, but also in the manner of the abduction and brutal assault of Masaya, Chidhakwa, Tonderai, Womberai Nhende, Takudzwa Ngadziore and many others who have suffered at the hands of State Security agents over the years.

The meticulous finesse and the callous, mafia-style execution with unmarked vehicles has State imprints all over it such that there is no prize for guessing the abductors.

It is the State, stupid!

I had known Tondarai and others well before that episode.  But it was in prison that I first met Chidhakwa and his other crew from Mabvuku.

And for all our three months of trumped-up terrorism and banditry charges that later collapsed like a deck of cards, Chidhakwa and his team were conspicuous by their lunchboxes that were conspicuously inscribed “Ostensibly” to induce some fear in this section of hardened criminals that included murderers, rapists and armed robbers.

We were all free spirits then and we deliberately chose, for the sake of our sanity given the grave charges we were facing, to laugh away the whole sordid predicament.

With the legendary musician, then MP and ardent change activist Madzore among us, we would find time to drown the whole D-class section with soft gospel tunes that seemed to touch the very soul of the heavens to which we chorally petitioned for our freedom and salvation.

I remember one day in prison, a fellow innate who also happened to be a prophet (yes, a detainee prophet) came to join us on our daily prayer vigil that we held exclusively as MDC cadres.

We now numbered about 30 inmates from the then MDC and we had a daily morning prayer session to ask Jehovah to deliver us from our tenuous predicament.

The early morning chorus Mangwanani, mangwanani_gwayana that we sang every morning around 4am in our cells will forever remain etched in my memory.

Then this prophet guy came and prayed with us. He then started to prophesy and asked my friends Matibiri, Makone, Better Chokururama, Tonderai and Dennis Murira to stand aside.

He said as soon as we walked out of prison, he saw in the realm of the spirit a black dog following these five cadres. By a black dog, he meant death.

We didn’t take him seriously then, but in a matter of months after being discharged from prison, two of the five, Tonderai and Chokururama were abducted and brutally slain by State security agents

To date, I am not sure if their lives would have been spared but the prophet had assured them life if, as soon as we were released from prison, the five would make it a point to visit a named prophet at the Johanne Masowe eChishamu shrine at a place popularly known as paCoca-Cola just outside Harare CBD along the Chitungwiza road.

It was Mabvuku that gave us the Ndira brothers — Tonderai and Barnabas — as my fellow detainees with whom I had the occasion to spend many months in prison for the democratic cause.

It was Mabvuku that gave us Chidhakwa and his Black Mafia team, committed democrats whose only wish was to see positive change in the country of their birth.

Barely a month after Tonderai’s death, the regime was not done yet with its murderous antics.

I was director for information and publicity at the MDC at the time, when that party was still a legitimate opposition to Zanu PF tyranny.

Tonderai’s widow, Plaxedes, had come to the office to say that she felt traumatised by continuing to live in the Mabvuku house where her husband was abducted in his underclothes in the presence of his traumatised children, Raphael, then aged 12 and Linnet aged seven.

At the party headquarters at Harvest House, we arranged for a driver at the office, Joshua Bakacheza, to go and ferry Plaxedes and the children as the party assisted them to move to another safer township in Harare.

Little did we know that we were sending the party driver, Bakacheza, to his death.

On June 25, 2008, as Bakacheza drove Tonderai’s family and household property from Mabvuku in a labelled party truck, they were blocked by three unmarked vehicles in Harare’s Msasa area.

Sixteen armed men disembarked from the three vehicles, forcibly pulled Plaxedes and the children out of the vehicle and hijacked the car, abducting Bakacheza, together with Tendai Chidzivo who had assisted Tonderai’s family to load the property into the party vehicle.

Plaxedes and her two children, Raphael and Linnet, were left petrified on the roadside as the State security agents sped away with their abductees

Bakacheza and Chidzivo were taken to some bush in Beatrice, where they were shot. Bakacheza was shot three times while John was shot once on the right side of the head.

Bakacheza’s decomposing body was discovered in Beatrice almost a month later on July 5, 2008. John had managed to drag himself for 50 metres to a dusty road, where passersby assisted him to get to Harare for medical attention.

Dear reader, it had all begun in Masasa as they drove out of Mabvuku; that cradle and hotbed of blood, violence, murder.

Yet the same Mabvuku township remained a fortress of people where ordinary citizens continued to showcase unparalleled audacity and tenacity, even in the wake of constant danger and the smell of death.

It is the same Mabvuku that gave us Masaya, who today lies still and motionless in the dark rictus of death, callously murdered for no other crime but his desire to protect the citizens’ vote as expressed on August 23, 2023.

It is Mabvuku that has bred thousands of committed male and female change activists in this sprawling town who for years have fought the Zanu PF dictatorship and who remain determined to stop Mnangagwa’s gold runner, Pedzisai “Scott” Sakupwanya, in this contrived poll of December 9, 2023.

Indeed, there is honour in being associated with the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe and the sprawling town of Mabvuku, together with other areas in Harare and elsewhere in the country, have carved for themselves quite a reputation for breeding and churning out in large numbers these tenacious citizens who are so determined and have met with death for simply desiring positive change in their country.

Thank you, Mabvuku, for breeding committed and tenacious change champions who have all shown they are prepared to die for the chastity of their cause.

Personally, I hold one Tshabangu culpable for the brutal abduction, torture and death of Masaya.

If only the Zanu PF surrogate Tshabangu had not engineered the recalls that are now causing these needless by-elections on December 9, the good bishop would not have died.

Indeed, Tshabangu, the impostor secretary-general, has not just needlessly recalled the elected MPs. He has also recalled the innocent life of a committed cleric who was tenacious about democracy and change in his country of birth.

Tshabangu’s first gripe was with Bulawayo candidates. Then it turned out the first by-election he caused outside Bulawayo was in Mabvuku, where Zanu PF is so keen to have Mnangagwa’s acolyte Sakupwanya as MP.

It was certainly not by coincidence that the first constituency he gunned for outside Bulawayo was the constituency Zanu PF so much wanted.

That alone was a dead giveaway that betrayed his handlers.

Now Sakupwanya, with the help and collusion of Tshabangu and the State, appears so keen to destroy even human life for the sake of political power. 

And Sakupwanya’s name exposes that he is the human embodiment of annihilation and destruction. 

Pedzisai is a Shona name which means “finish off”, while Sakupwanya is a moniker from the Manyika dialect which refers to “one who destroys”.

The question remains: If Mnangagwa truly won the last election, why is he gung-ho against the citizens, attacking, abducting and brutalising everyone including even pastors?

Why is he so desperate to kill the same citizens that he must lead and that purportedly voted for him?

It is astounding why any politician truly voted for by the people would have the guts to brutalise the same citizens who voted for them!

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, as English playwright William Shakespeare would say.

To my dear brother, the Mabvuku MP, Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi, I say remain fortified by the avowed multitudes of Mabvuku who are determined to achieve change in this country.

The only tribute we can give to the murdered bishop, to Tonderai and to the multitudes who were killed and brutalised by this regime, is to win Mabvuku for change.

As your name suggests, my dear brother, do not run away from these contrived deaths:  Please don’t run away, as your name says, kufa hakutizwe.

We owe it to the slain pastor, to all our dear departed and to the resolute people of Mabvuku to run out of town this ED scoundrel called Sakupwanya.

We owe it to the audacious people of Mabvuku, the dedicated citizens of this celebrated hotbed; this sizzling cauldron of the democratic struggle in Zimbabwe.

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