BY DR MASIMBA MAVAZA
Zimbabwe’s Independence has seen the blood of thousands of Zimbabweans who came out to fight the British rule and gave their lives to break the shackles of oppression. Even though we know a lot of names of these brave people, there are many names which got lost over the years.
While we all know how cde Robert Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Tongogara Chitepo Takawira Joshua Nkomo and many others paved the way for Zimbabwe’s Independence, there are several others who were equally valorous freedom fighters.
There are many lesser-known brave fighters who were a part in marking Zimbabwe’s history. Some belonged to the parties or factions which lost. As human nature is always selfish their names have been forgotten very fast
Zimbabwe is a place where cultural heritage and diversity is explicit. What makes Zimbabwe so unique is that millions of people living in different atmospheres and surroundings make big names for themselves and for the nation. I take pride to say that every Zimbabwean citizen is a fighter.
Someone or something that provides a great benefit, has done very good work, has performed some heroic deed or function, to see Zimbabwe free but has not received the credit or recognition they deserve.
It’s the volunteers who are the real unsung heroes of this country. They’re the ones who put in countless hours without pay to ensure that everything runs smoothly from beginning to end.
Such Individuals not famous or celebrated as they deserve to be lie in the cold earth their families suffering they are our unsung heroes.
Penia Mavaza was a revolutionary, who became actively interested in Zimbabwe’s independence movement as a nationalist and patriot. In the 1960s he took part in the Civil Disobedience movement and was arrested for destroying dip tank and voicing against the white minority.
Penia Mavaza joined hands with Sydney Mukuya and many others to fight the white minority. He did not care which party he belonged to as long as it was fighting colonialism. . To much of his families anger there are no plans to honour ‘unsung’ freedom fighters.
All what the families ask is to showcase unsung heros and little-known groups and events of the freedom struggle.
Zimbabwe needs several events and lectures to be organised to underline their contribution. Zimbabwe in the last four decades has missed some opportunities to celebrate those who did not get any acknowledgment yet for their role in Zimbabwe’s freedom struggle.
My brother remembers vaguely when Penia was arrested. There were three black officers and one white one the white officer was called Mujonhi. Penia was taken to Goromonnzi Police station. He was tortured and was accused of leading a group of people to destroy dip tanks. That time the colonialists used blacks against blacks. Black police officers were taken from different provinces and they used to be very cruel on their brethren.
Penia was then moved from Goromonzi police to Gonakudzingwa. That time his pregnant wife gave birth to a son and he was called Gonakudzingwa. Unfortunately the wife left while Penia was still in prison. The other wife Madube waited patiently for her husband.
My brother who was older at the time Taunus Mavaza remembers going to Hwahwa where Penia was finally transferred.
He narrated how it was freezing cold in Gweru. He would remember when he set his eyes on Penia, he said he started crying, Penia cried too. The Jail guards were not sympathetic but mocked him asking him if he came the whole journey just to cry. Penia suffered and all that was for Zimbabwe.
During the war in 1978 Penia Mavaza who has been in Prison for over ten years for fighting the colonial rule was released. He was released together with dozens of other black freedom fighters who were jailed without trial. In Prison Penia met cde Robert Mugabe Joshua Nkomo and many nationalists who were celebrated ahead of Mavaza.
The irony of the matter is that Penia Mavaza was tortured by the freedom fighters and killed by his own people.
After his release from Prison the people viewed him as a traitor. They wondered how was he released and others were left behind. But unknown to those who judged him his release was not engineered by him. The colonisers wanted to show that they are committed to negotiations. So they released a number of these detainees to pave way for discussions.
Penia Mavaza was a forceful fearless man. He would call a spade a spade. One day after his release from Prison a group of militias who were then called the DAs came to our village. They gathered the villagers at St Judes Mavaza primary School. They started threatening people but Penia stood up.
He confronted them and told them that they are fighting their own people by supporting the white regime. He lectured them on nationalist politics. We were so scared that they will kill him. But they did not.
Four days later Penia was taken at night and taken to a nearby village Chikodzonga village. The comrades as they were known were camping there. He was interrogated the whole night and he was freed in the morning. During the interrogation Penia emphasised on the unity of purpose in order to defeat the enemy of the people. He was a political lecturer.
Again after few days the comrades came to camp at Mavaza village Penia was summoned to a pungwe which was a nightly ritual. The comrades asked if anyone knew them. The unspoken rule was that you must say I don’t know you. But Penia said he knew them and he had met them at Chikodzonga village. That standing for the truth could have sealed his fate.
Four days latter he was taken from his home at night. He was tortured then he was led to a bush where they planned to kill him. Penia fought the captors and escaped. But as a loving father he hid in the bush for sometime and he decided to go to his wife and Children. The wife had waited for him when he was in Prison. He could not just let her to be tortured by the comrades. He had small children at home. He had to save them from the jaws of death.
He sacrificed his life for his family. Family was everything to him. He was a true Mavaza a family man.
As he tiptoed home he did not know that his captors had laid siege at his house. This time the captors included his brother’s children and one uncle. He was captured again for the second time.
Penia was led to another village called Mabhureza village. The comrades ordered that Penia be released but monitored. However his own people turned against him. One of his maternal uncle hit him with a pick head in the head on the forehead. This crushed his scull. With a pick in his head Penia fought like a lion but he was over powered. He died a painful death few days after his release from prison.
From a frying pan to fire.
The following morning the news spread that Penia was killed by the comrades. People were told not to cry. If you were caught crying you were going to be killed. Joyce and Juliet Penia’s daughters were distraught. They were thirteen and fourteen when their father was killed
The captors were not done, they dumped him in a shallow grave.
They decided to go and take his wife. But by the time they arrived at Penias house the wife had escaped. They followed her in hot pursuit but God protected her. She made it to Bhora shopping centre and caught a lift to Harare. She took her children with her Pine, Janet and Jenifa, Percy and Pardon Joyce and Juliet and Nduna to Bulawayo.
Petros and Gonakudzingwa were left home were their life was hell. They were tortured and lived a horrible life. Gonakudzingwa was born when Penia was incarcerated at Gonakudzingwa prison.
Penia’s brother Josiah Mavaza who was the first born in their family sat together with his siblings and agreed to preserve Penias body for burial after the war.
They agreed the only way to preserve his body was to protect his head. So his skull was taken and was to be hidden in Josiah’s sugarcane garden.
The hero was gone Penia was killed by those who were freed by his blood. Those who gained an interest in his blood.
His killers aside Penia’s colleagues in prison looked the other way. His children did not benefit their lives were altered for the worse and yet the name of their father has become insignificant.
Praises can be heaped on the living but Penia Mavaza is the unsung hero. I remember after independence a proper funeral was held. He was to be buried at his house up the hill at the borders with Nhau Village.
Pennia Mavaza is survived by five Children and several grandchildren.