By Takura Zhangazha*
I first encountered the late Cde Freedom Nyamubaya (Cde Freedom as we affectionately called her) via the poetry section of the Waterfalls District library. It was her collection of poems and short stories, On the Road Again, that won me over to her clarity of thought and particular ability to explain her anguish through the pen. At that time, I was naively keen on writing poetry and needed a Zimbabwean writer to learn from. And learn I did, though I never took my passion for poetry and prose to the sky high levels that Cde Freedom did.
I was to encounter Cde Freedom again at the turn of the millennium in Marondera, and this time in person, where an organization she helped found, Management Outreach Training Services for Rural and Urban Development (MOTSRUD) was part of broader civil society activities on the campaign for a new constitution. While we never actually conversed, seeing her at meetings and explaining her passion for rural development and farming was inspiring. Moreso because it was my first time to have seen her, a famous Zimbabwean writer and also activist (a side to her character I had thought was confined to her role in our liberation struggle) in person.
It would be a while before I talked to her directly, much to my delight, at the Quill Club in Harare. And it is there that we talked about her writing, including her published 1995 collection of poems and short stories, The Dusk of Dawn. I was also fortunate to get signed copies of both her English books!
In our conversations, she was always consistent in narrating that the liberation struggle was not only tough but its ideals were increasingly betrayed in the post independence era. And that in part, she found solace in expressing her views through her writings.
And these views were most ably expressed in some of her poems including one of her most stellar ones, ‘A Mysterious Marriage’ in which she laments,
But Freedom was not there
An old woman saw Freedom’s passing shadow
Walking through the crowd, Freedom to the gate
All the same, they celebrated for Independence’
(From “On the Road Again” by Freedom Nyamubaya, 1986, Zimbabwe Publishing House)
These sentiments that she expressed were however not left to her writing alone. She was involved as far as she thought practically possible with the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association and the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform. She said she got involved in order to at least ensure that her comrades from the struggle days were not forgotten. And that her fear was that most of the political leaders had forgotten those that were at the frontlines of the struggle.
After also taking a brief political role in the Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn movement she confided in 2010 kubatana.net Inside/Out Interview that ,
“I've decided to concentrate on things that I can achieve. Politics is no longer about any ideologies, or policies, it's not about building the country. I would like to be remembered as somebody who contributed to the development of the youth, or the development of Zimbabwe. Or even as someone who contributed to the literature on the war.”
Her assertions, to me at least, continue to ring true when one examines the political parties that our country is saddled with.
She however had a keen interest in pursuing her own activism and two weeks before her passing had gone on a training programme to Switzerland under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Peace and Security Trust (she was also a trustee of the same organization). In her narration to me of the visit, she joked about how once they were on an electric tram ride through one of the hills, a fellow Zimbabwean delegate had said ominously, if this was in Zimbabwe and there was a power outage they would all be in serious trouble due the inefficiency of ZESA!
She was however very excited about her role with ZPST and the peace building initiatives she was involved in.
She however had not negated her passion for writing and farming. This despite the hectic pressure she always expressed to be undergoing in ensuring that her son would begin his university education. She would still show me poems that she wrote and was to recite a great one at the funeral of one of her dear departed commanders the late Wilfred Mhanda, aka, Dzinashe Machingura.
The one thing I will however cherish the most in my limited personal interaction with her is the realistic optimism she always exhibited. And the seriousness with which she took the task of talking to and building the consciousness of the younger generations that never went to war.
It is this realistic optimism and continuing political consciousness that I will remember Cde Freedom by. And I know that her struggle to go on, goes on through her contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe, her conscientious writing and her work in agriculture. As she says in her poem, On the Road Again’,
Schools have holidays,
Workers days off,
Dogs rest too,
But struggles to go on, go on.
Still on the road,
One endless journey.
Thank you for the consciousness Cde Freedom.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)