by BRUCE MUTSVAIRO
FOR the most part, the sensation of suspense that comes with waiting for ‘O’ level results is unbearable.
It’s even worse for head boys, head girls and prefects, who can only save themselves from clumsy and embarrassing episodes of shame if they pass their exams. After serving as a head boy at Alheit Mission School in Gutu in 1996, and then at Mashoko High in Bikita two years later, I knew failure was no option.
A ‘plan B,’ had to be put in place just in case results did not go my way.
And while waiting for the ‘O’ level results, my friend Albert “Abbosi” Dzviti, and myself walked from home in Mbare to the city centre, with the go-getting ambition to meet a government minister.
Dreaming is no crime. So we thought.
We didn’t know which minister to approach, but we hatched a plan to visit Karigamombe Building after a policeman friend tipped us several ministers had their offices there.
Floors flew past as the elevator reached one of the top Karigamombe floors, where a bevy of security men clad in dapper black suits awaited us. “Morning boys, who are you here to see?”
On hearing this, my friend Abbosi simply sped back to the elevator and left, leaving me alone to face the music.
We were not dressed for the occasion. I had a Bob Marley T-shirt, grey shots and mismatching ‘pata pata’ slippers on while a pair of worn-out farmer shoes was an unusual choice for a man, who hoped to meet a minister, but Abbosi still put them on alongside his trademark green and white ‘kepe kepe bhora’ tracksuit.
“We are here to meet the minister,” I responded, my voice beaming with calculated confidence. “Which minister? Do you have an appointment?” one of the men replied with a serene smile.
Obviously, this whole scene was some kind of a January joke to him and his colleagues. Abbosi and I weren’t joking though even though we didn’t help matters by not knowing which minister we wanted to see.
I got stuck. Abbosi and I hadn’t done our homework. Out of nowhere though, as fortune may have it, Simon Khaya Moyo emerged on the corridor as I was being chased away and asserted his authority telling his men to “Leave the boy alone.”
He literally took me by hand and led me to his office. Stroke of Luck? Coincidence? Fate? I still have no answers to this day.
“How can I help you, young man?” he asked as he sat on his giant black leather chair. I replied in Shona “Ndabuda mustayera mudhara, ndandichidawo kumboonekwa.” (Things are tough. I was hoping you can somewhat help me). He laughed uncontrollably. He wasn’t laughing at me, but rather what I had said.
“Help you with what?” he asked.
“Any kind of help will be appreciated,” I hit back.
He then opened his drawer and pulled out a khaki envelope filled with cash. He handed it to me and said, “Be wise with it.” The amount will remain a secret between me and him. I was overwhelmed. I went to the ground and thanked him. After that I left his office and headed back home to tell my mother about my timely encounter with SK Moyo.
This incident typifies who SK Moyo was: simple, down-to-earth and open-minded.
In the intervening years, he moved from his role as minister of Mines, Environment and Tourism to become Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa in 2001. By that time, I had passed my “O” and “A” levels and moved from Russia to New Zealand before settling in the Netherlands in pursuit of a dream job in journalism.
One day, I called him in South Africa just before he was recalled to become Zanu PF chairman. That was around August 2009. I was surprised he still remembered me. He wanted to know where I was calling from and when I said “The Netherlands,” he barked back “Tell them to remove the sanctions.”
In my many encounters with him, he repeatedly told me sanctions were unmerited and illegal.
An ardent defender of Zimbabwe’s land reform programme, he told me Zimbabwe had been unfairly targeted by the West because of its decision to reclaim land.
Moyo is a hero in many respects. He was an unpretentious, principled man. His secretary once told me people came from all corners of the country reaching out to him because of his “open door” policy. If he could help you, he didn’t care what your skin colour or tribe was. He simply helped you.
From his humble beginnings in Plumtree, he became an active political campaigner after joining the liberation struggle in Zambia in 1968. He completed a degree in Social Sciences at Makerere University in Uganda in 1973, returning to Zambia two years later to become Dr Joshua Nkomo’s special assistant.
He will be remembered for his uncompromising defence of Zimbabwe’s sovereignty. He was entrusted with the responsibility of defending ZANU PF and Zimbabwe after becoming the Secretary for Information and Publicity in 2014 and Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services three years later. For an experienced politician, you always got the sense that he was always on top of his game
Until his death, he also vigorously defended the 1987 Unity Accord between Zanu PF and Zapu.
His political career could have taken a taxing turn when he announced then Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s expulsion from government only for the veteran politician to return as Zimbabwe‘s President a few days later. He returned to cabinet as Energy and Power Development Minister under President Mnangagwa before moving permanently to the party headquarters as information tsar in 2018.
I will always be thankful to SK Moyo for the trust he put in me and several other Zimbabweans that I know he helped. I enjoyed his mentorship, his jokes, his political stories and above all, his simplicity. When I told him I had become a Professor of Journalism in the United States he said “You should never forget you are just a boy from Mbare. Always remain grounded.”
I dressed in full Rastafarian regalia in all my meetings with him. He never judged.
“It’s not what you wear but what you say and what you do,” he told me in my last face-to- face meeting with him nearly three years ago. Rest in power sir. You will be missed by many Zimbabweans from all walks of life. One love!
Bruce Mutsvairo is a media studies professor based in the Netherlands. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org