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Mnangagwa's former schoolmates in their late 80s share memories

by Staff reporter
19 Apr 2022 at 09:56hrs | Views
TO outsiders, perhaps Mapanzure in Zvishavane in the Midlands province is just a name of a random cluster of villages located along the mineral-rich Great Dyke.

Chrome, diamonds, platinum and gold are just some of the treasures found on this rich belt.

However, it is here in Mapanzure at a humble homestead where President Mnangagwa grew up and, just like all the other boys in the area, tended to his family's goats and cattle.

Mapanzure's Lundi Primary School is part of the country's collective memory as it is one of the places which is connected to President Mnangagwa's life. It is here where he did his primary education and where some of the happiest boyhood years were spent.

Deep in Mapanzure there are some treasures in the form of three wise old men, whose memories are a goldmine for anyone seeking an understanding of the country's most eminent son as they are President Mnangagwa's former schoolmates.

Since his inauguration on November 24, 2017, many stories have been written about his life, but apparently nothing much had been interrogated about his childhood.

On Thursday last week, a news crew traced the President's roots in Tafireyi Village in Mapanzure area to interact with the three old men who are some of the President's surviving former school mates.

Sharing memories from their time at Lundi Primary School some 75 years ago, the former schoolmates provided a good introduction to this remarkable man who has defied odds to become Zimbabwe's second Executive President.

Remarkably, all the three who are in their 80s are also now traditional leaders.

Village head David Chengeta (88) said President Mnangagwa was born a leader.

He said the President was an intelligent and articulate teenager who preferred to go directly to the point when he was talking.

"He was intelligent and he presented himself well at school. It didn't surprise me when he became President because at school, he was also a head boy," recalled Mr Chengeta.

While at school, Mr Chengeta vividly recalls taking orders from President Mnangagwa as he was the head boy.

"As a head boy he was responsible for setting an example for other pupils at the school and for serving as a leader in school activities. Remember the position of a head boy is granted to a student who exemplifies good behaviour, grades and attendance.

"He was always showing up to school on time, participating in school events, maintaining good grades and showing school spirit at sporting events.

I can say his strength was his ability to see a challenge and approach it in a different way. He was always helping others and resolved issues quickly," said Mr Chengeta.

"I was two streams ahead of him and after completing my Standard Six I became a teacher at the same school, and guess what, I was always reaching him for help and he would give me all sorts of tips.

One of my memories of that time is how we were enjoying ourselves as boys after school through hunting, roasting maize on the cob, drinking milk straight from the cows' udders and swimming in the pools."

Another former schoolmate, Mr Maphios Maromo (84) who played football with President Mnangagwa also described him as someone who was resilient and good at turning things around.

"At school nobody ever spoke badly about him then, and he was liked. A lot of us were fooling around, played around, and he was more business-minded than a lot of us. You had to admire that," recounted Mr Maromo also known as headman Chigwindiri.

He said he never imagined that one of their own would become the country's first Citizen.

"Of course, now I do take great pride in having gone to school with him but when we went to school, I didn't see him as a politician. I saw him maybe as a lawyer or doctor," recalled Mr Maromo.

A "humble and disciplined boy" is also how another former school mate, village head Jimias Pavari (87) described President Mnangagwa's early years at school.

Mr Pavari said although President Mnangagwa's leadership qualities were on display none of his former schoolmates recalls discussing what he wanted to do after school.

"He is a people person now and it's really amazing because during our days at school he was a quiet and soft boy. He certainly didn't go around saying anything that was showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks.

"He was a quiet boy, not the kind who would run around blowing his own horn, even though he was getting compliments from teachers that he was intelligent," recalled Mr Pavari.

According to Mr Pavari, President Mnangagwa's political achievements read like an extract from one of the renowned English playwrights, William Shakespeare's quotes: "Some are born great; some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them".

"He was the guy who achieved greatness and it clearly took a lot of hard work to do that," he said. "I'm overwhelmed by what he has achieved and I'm very, very proud of him," he added.

"Politically, he's now a big shot, but I still see the same Dambudzo I first met 75 years ago. As a former schoolmate we used to talk always but given the position that he now holds in the country, I understand that it's not possible for me to have him here always as he has national duties to fulfil as a President of the country."

In recognition of the work that President Mnangagwa did during the liberation struggle one of the schools in the area: Dambudzo Secondary School was named after him. The President is the patron of the school.

Source - The Chronicle