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Book reveals Solomon Mujuru's dance with Bulawayo

by Staff Reporter
25 Feb 2020 at 18:47hrs | Views
The late former Zimbabwean army general and war hero Solomon Mujuru moved to Bulawayo at the age of 18 where he worked as a salesperson for tyre manufacturer Dunlop while he stayed at Mzilikazi suburb.

Mujuru, who died in a mysterious fire at his farm in Beatrice, Mashonaland East, also used the time to learn Ndebele, played soccer with his friends and loved to party.

This is contained in a biography for Mujuru titled "The Army and Politics in Zimbabwe: Mujuru, the Liberation Fighter and Kingmaker" by Oxford associate Professor Blessing Miles Tendi who further reveals that the late general supported Mashonaland United which was later changed to Zimbabwe Saints.

Below is an excerpt from the book where Tendi spoke to Mujuru's brother Joel:

In late 1963 the eighteen-year-old Solomon began drifting again. Bulawayo, located in Matabeleland province in the south-west of Rhodesia, was his next fleeting post. Bulawayo was the second-largest city after the capital Salisbury. It was traditionally the home of the Ndebele ethnic group but by 1963 it was increasingly mixed ethnically because of rapid urbanisation.

Bulawayo was an industrial manufacturing centre, which earned it the moniker konthuthu ziyathunqa (the place of rising smokes) among black Africans, for the rising industrial fumes that marked part of its skyline. Bulawayo's robust manufacturing sector was a pull factor for black job seekers from across Rhodesia and beyond national borders. Joel was attracted by employment opportunities in Bulawayo, like so many young men at the time. He now lived in Bulawayo's Magwegwe township, which was reserved for Africans.

According to Joel, "Solomon came there to live with me for a short time while he looked for work. He got a job as a salesman at Dunlop [a tyre manufacturing company] and lived in Mzilikazi," another African township in Bulawayo.

The place of rising smokes was a ZAPU stronghold. After the Joshua Nkomo-led NDP was banned in 1961, ZAPU emerged in its place, with Nkomo still at the helm. As mentioned before, in 1963 some ZAPU members broke away to form a smaller ZANU party. Up until the split, ZAPU was the only nationalist party in Rhodesia, hence ZANU's 1963 breakaway was markedly spiteful. There was ZAPU-ZANU physical 'fighting in the African townships of Salisbury. But Bulawayo remained solid for ZAPUandNkomo's leadership.'Solomon moved to Bulawayo in the year of this violent break-up. His arrival in a fiercely pro-Nkomo part of Rhodesia partly determined his choice to remain a ZAPU member in this divisive phase of nationalist politics. As already established, Solomon's ZAPU political educators at Zimuto school such as Kangai and graduates of the school like Gumbo switched sides. Solomon's moment of departure from ZAPU to ZANU would only come in 1971, subsequent to another round of ZAPU infighting and paralysis of the party's war effort.  Besides being a ZAPU fortress, Bulawayo was famed for its sizzling climate, African social gangs, township sports and mahobo parties that were 'held in the bush where skokiaan beer was brewed and often amid unwarranted romantic affairs'.

Bulawayo was also a habitat for joyous shebeens, tea parties, township jazz and transnational musical influences (South African Mbaqanga; the West African Highlife; and the Cha-ChaCha from the DRC).
The salaried Solomon partook in this rich cultural melting pot:

"He learned to speak some Ndebele and loved Bulawayo music and dancing. Ah, he enjoyed himself! He also played football with other youth. But in Bulawayo Solomon did not drink heavily ,unless he hid it from me.

"When he came back from the[independence]war he had changed. He now drank too much. What I clashed with Solomon over in Bulawayo was smoking [cigarettes]. He started smoking a lot. I used to say to him, 'Do you know that you are only alive because of the Christians in Kwenda who prayed for you when you were living with Lucia as a boy? Whyare you smoking? Be a good Christian. It isthe only way you will stay alive. Stay close to what saved you from death.' Solomon did not change his behaviour. He continued to enjoy Bulawayo"

One of Solomon's partners in revelry was Herbert Ushewokunze, a black medical doctor who began practising in Bulawayo in 1965.52 Ushewokunze was a graduate of the University of Natal (South Africa), where he partook in the anti-apartheid struggle as a Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) member and as the Black Medical Students Union (BMSU) chairperson.53 Solomon and Ushewokunze shared a passion for football. They both supported Bulawayo's Mashonaland United Football Club, the leading local rival of Matabeleland Highlanders Football Club. The names of these intensely competitive Bulawayo clubs reflected one of the city's social divisions. Mashonaland, where Solomon and Ushewokunze originated,was a province dominated by the Shona-speaking Shona ethnic group and Matabeleland was identified with the Ndebele-speaking Ndebele ethnic group. The two football clubs' names suggested that Matabeleland Highlanders was for the Ndebele and Mashonaland United for the Shona inhabitants of Matabeleland who migrated to Bulawayo in search of jobs. This resulted in social 'tension among supporters of the two teams from the same locality. Before the Bulawayo derby, running street battles would start as early as Wednesday before the match on the weekend.' There is no evidence that Solomon took part in the derby street fights but his support for Mashonaland United meant that he was exposed to the social strains and violence with Matabeleland Highlanders supporters. In 1975, when Solomon had long since left Bulawayo for the war, the ZAPU leader Nkomo and Ushewokunze (who now coached and later acquired ownership of Mashonaland United) took a public stand against the continued existence of both clubs' names because they fanned social division in Bulawayo for years. Matabeleland Highlanders was subsequently renamed Highlanders and Mashonaland United became known as Zimbabwe Saints.

Source - Byo24News