By Nompumelelo Sibanda
ZIMBABWE liberation war fighter and former Minister Jane Lungile Ngwenya has died.
She was 86.
The former Deputy Minister of Labour, Manpower and Social Welfare passed on at Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo where she was on treatment for an undisclosed ailment.
A family member confirmed her death to Zimbabwe Voice in a telephone conversation.
According to her former party PF-ZAPU, Ngwenya was born in the communal lands of Buhera on June 15 1935. She was the first-born child of Gerald Ngwenya, a Suthu from South Africa, who had come to Rhodesia as a Methodist Church missionary. She was raised by her maternal parents as her mother remarried after her father died in 1938.
Growing up, she saw her grandfather being lashed by the white settlers.“I was still a toddler when I first witnessed the White men’ s brutality as they harassed my grandfather who had a lot of cattle by then, and it instilled in us hatred of the white man. That pushed me to hate those dehumanizing acts by the Rhodesians,” narrated Jane Ngwenya in a recollection published by the party in 2019.
Ngwenya attended Gwebu Primary School in Buhera, where she began to have problems with the education delivery system.
“I remember when we were made to speak English at school which was literally the commencement of brainwashing, we were taught to like and love everything white and hate all things black,” she said.
After standard 2, she went to Charles Wraith, an African School. Jane Ngwenya was to be briefly expelled at the school after she asked about the injustices practiced at the school by the white leaders until some respected members at the school, Henry Kachidza and Va Samukange intervened and begged the school authorities to let her back.
“We were being told at assembly point that we should not worry about earthly riches and I asked the priest called Duncan Manhanga if that heaven was only for blacks. I told him if it was for everyone, why was it that the blacks were only allowed to be in the Whitemen’s lawn when manicuring but after cutting, it was an offense to trespass on that premise you would have worked on,” she said.
Jane Ngwenya got married to George Tinarwo, a driver, in 1953. Her husband wanted her to be a full time housewife but political activism was within her. She attended meetings with her babies strapped on her back. She got arrested for the first time in February 1959, after John Stonehouse came to Zimbabwe and addressed a rally organized by the nationalist leaders at Stanley Hall. Ngwenya spent three weeks at Grey Prison with her three-year-old daughter Elizabeth.
“On being released my husband insisted that I quit politics, which meant, to me, abandoning the struggle for Zimbabwe. I was given very clear options by my husband and relatives; I had to choose between politics and marriage. I chose the struggle and left my husband,” narrated Jane Ngwenya.
In 1960 Jane was among the nationalists who formed the National Democratic Party following the ban of ANC in Northern and Southern Rhodesia in 1959.There were only two women Jane Ngwenya and Lizy Ngole in the structures of the party.
“When we chose our National Democratic Party leadership. That was the first time I saw President Mugabe as he had come from Ghana and we begged him to leave his better paying job in Ghana to be our leader. We used to hear about his works and to us; he was the best candidate to be part of that executive,” she said.
Jane Ngwenya was close friends with Mugabe’s wife Sally when she got married to President Mugabe. “Cde Sally invited me to visit her people in Ghana in 1962. We stayed at her parents’ home. I again stayed with her in Tanzania in 1963,” said Ngwenya in 2019.
During the All People’s Conference in 1961, which later gave birth to the Organization of African Unity Ngwenya rubbed shoulders with great African statesmen. She became one of the first nationalists to travel to Europe to seek support in order to dislodge the Ian Smith Regime. In Cairo she was part of the committee which worked on the constitution of the OAU. She also joined other African women in politics to form the Pan African Women Organization.
During her travels across the world, she met great people including Major Yuri Gagarin, the first human to journey into outer space. Back home in 1963 Jane was arrested again for influencing Africans to rebel against the Smith regime and spent three months at the then Gwelo Prison. She was again arrested for attending a gathering addressed by the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo in Bulawayo. She was sent to Wha Wha Prison and was later transferred to Gonakudzingwa Detention Camp. She was released from detention in 1975.
On January 22 1977 Jane Ngwenya was injured after an explosion of a parcel bomb that killed Jason Moyo in Lusaka, Zambia. She suffered from back pain all her life as a result of the incident.
At independence in 1980, Jane was elected into the House of Assembly for Bulawayo constituency and once served as a Deputy Minister of Labour, Manpower and Social Welfare.
Ngwenya had no kind words to upcoming leaders saying they lack discipline and dedication.
“They only want to enrich themselves; if that was what we had done, surely this country could not have been freed. We should do more to honor and respect our heroes,” lamented Jane Ngwenya in a 2019 interview.
Meanwhile, funeral arrangements will be announced. – Zimbabwe Voice ■