- A tribute to the life of Dr Patson Dzamara who died on 26 August 2020
By Pride Mkono
Life. A bubble. A fragile little thing, a toy in the hands of gods. A sojourn on earth!
How does one tell the life story of a friend, a brother, a comrade? Is it ever possible to compress a bigger than life relationship into sentences and paragraphs? Can a panorama of memories be compressed into a story? I can’t but I will tell all I can in my hour of grief.
On 9 March 2015, Itai Dzamara (brother to Patson Dzamara), was abducted by suspected state agents and has never been seen since.
This was one of the most heinous acts of cowardice and cruelty from the state, to abduct and disappear a person for simply exercising their freedom of expression.
Myself and other activists had a meeting and resolved to push the Dzamara case by amplifying calls for his return through the streets. We proceeded and made posters demanding his return and after a fortnight that’s when I had my first interaction with Dr. Patson Dzamara.
We met in the trenches and in our early engagements I was held in awe with his bravery and clarity of thought. He was very vocal on justice for his brother and from then on a strong bond was forged. A bond only those who have shared life and death situations can understand. A comradely bond.
As fate would have it, in the winter of 2016, myself, Patson Dzamara, Makomborero Haruzivishe, Tatenda Mombeyarara and other activists were arrested while on a protest at Africa Unity Square and charged with frivolous robbery and assault charges.
The protest which we called “occupy Africa Unity Square” had part of it’s demands, the call for the return of Itai Dzamara who then had been missing for over a year. We were arraigned before the courts and a shocking bail of US$5000 was granted. None of us could raise that astronomical figure. We were remanded in custody at Harare remand prison.
Like all relationships, the perils of prison life brought us closer together. It is in hardships that true friendship is forged and my time with Dr Dzamara at Harare remand worked as magic. It was then that I understood him more, knew his family especially his adorable sister, Gamu and the grieving but always lively Shefra (wife to Itai Dzamara).
Eventually, bail was varied to US$500 and we were released but the struggle continued. Outside prison we worked together on various struggles and also at personal level. I became close to his family and would spend time with Patson at his Glenorah house and also with Itai’s family. He shared with me his hopes fears and even love life. At times he would host me into the night buying drinks. He neither drank alcohol nor smoked but he would savour a good glass of wine once in a while.
We listened to good music and thus when I named him ‘mopao mokodzi’ after the popular clinche by Tongai Moyo and later his son Peter Moyo. Ever enterprising, Dzamara would assist me with rentals and even fees for my degree programme when I was down and out. He was always a friend available to help, a pity that in his hour of greatest need I could not help. How could I, a mere mortal? When death visits it destroys!
During the 2018 campaign we again worked together with Patson under the ambit of Generational Consensus as we pushed for the Nelson Chamisa candidature.
It was a history making moment as we collectively mobilised millions of young people to vote for Chamisa. Dzamara’s energy was always handy as we crisscrossed the country canvasing for votes which ultimately culminated in over 1 million youths voting for Nelson Chamisa in the 2018 elections.
Selfless as always, Dzamara was appointed into the MDC Alliance National Executive, a post he held till his untimely death.
Once, after his abduction and torture in 2016, Patson opened up to me as we drove to Highfield, after a soccer match between Highlanders and Dynamos and Rufaro stadium, that he was not feeling too well.
“Those people poisoned me with that injection, Cde” he said. I told him he was strong and would last the distance and win the fight. I was wrong.
Earlier this year, I learnt through Makomborero Haruziviishe that Patson had been diagnosed with colon cancer. I was shocked but was hopeful that the fighter in him would win the battle. Having witnessed first hand his fighting spirit, I was sure of his victory. The folly of hope!
This morning (26 August 2020) I learnt with devastation his passing on. Hot tears streamed down my bony cheeks.
I cried. As fate would have it, I was appearing in court for a frivolous treason charge. I stood in that dock where many moons ago I stood with a gallant brother and comrade.
I missed his smile and laugh, those little gossips we shared about how magistrates and prosecutors look like overzealous school masters. How they, with cheap suits and ties, enforce injustice on behalf of an uncaring dictator.
I missed a brother who I know would have been there in solidarity. I missed a comrade with whom we would have continued to prosecute the struggle for a better country. ‘A great Zimbabwe’ he called it.
Now that he is gone, I wonder how Itai’s family will cope. Those young kids and Shefra had in Patson shoulder to lean on. Even though Itai was gone, they had a father in Patson, a warm embrace that filled the void. Now that too has been taken away from them. What tragedy!
The best honour I and all others can do for Dzamara is to keep fighting for justice, for a better Zimbabwe. Nothing would be more fitting than to one day breathe an air of freedom. That would what Dr Patson Dzamara would have wanted and done in our stead.
To Maiguru Shefra, Mbuya Dzamara, the Dzamara family and indeed his broader family in the struggle, I pass by sincere condolences. May we all find strength and consolation in the fact that Patson lived his short life to the fullest. He fought hard and died with honour. To those who in intricate ways are responsible for his untimely death, I say we will never give up. Your brutality and ruthlessness will never break us. We will fight on.
It’s impossible to put an amazing story of a life well lived in words. A story of goodness fighting evil. A story of a struggle well fought. I have no words, no I can’t put everything into perspective. My brother is gone, what’s left are lingering memories of times gone by. I will hold on to them, I will let then guide me as I fight on. Even to live is an act of courage. It is this courage I learnt from the life of Dzamara.
Go well my friend, my brother, my comrade. You have left us with a huge void, one we can’t fill. Go well mopao mokodzi! It was a life well lived!!
Pride Mkono is a social justice activist and worked with Dr. Patson Dzamara during his life in the struggle