Happy Birthday Lookout Masuku: Retracing his footsteps.

Happy Birthday Lookout Masuku: Retracing his footsteps.
Published: 06 April 2012 (14516 Views)
Just two days before his 46th birthday, the man of the time, succumbed to what many suspect to be slow poisoning inflicted on him whilst in prison. Lookout Mafela Masuku was born on Sunday, 7th April 1940 and died on Sunday, 5th April 1986. This year his birthday falls on Saturday a day before Sunday. It is befitting that we celebrate his life and birth on this day. Many might think that this gallant son of Mthwakazi was or had natural powers, but listen to his voice "I behaved like any other youth, the poor boy turned general, we wanted to vote and to be able to choose our own destiny, instead parties were banned, people were arrested & killed, and there was nothing left but to wage an armed struggle". These were the words of the General in his interview during the demobilisation process.

As it could be gleaned from his thinking process when he was a grown up many, it is clear that he was just a normal person like me and you, he did what other boys did, he behaved like any other boy of his age, it is safe to assume that he looked after his father's cattle, did home chores, went to school, chased after girls and fallen in love etc. One could accurately surmise that at his tender and formative years, the political and social circumstances of his time shaped and formed his character. As it would be seen in this article, it is evident that Lookout Masuku came from a cultured family and society.

Masuku belonged to a Ndebele nation, a nation founded by Mzilikazi Khumalo (Imbabala eyagxakaz‘ ematsheni, ibhidi elimnyama ngomlomo, elithethwa ngezinyembezi zamadoda), Robbert Moffat wrote as follows about Mzilikazi's character "From all i could learn from friends and foes, he is brave, and in seasons of real danger possesses great deliberation" These are the same characteristics which manifested in Lookout Masuku in his days when he became a fighter. The Matebele were a nation of high discipline, bravery and only feared abathakathi and their King. When Mzilikazi decided to part ways with Shaka Zulu, (Ilembe eleqa amanye amalembe ngokukhalipha), he told Shaka's emissaries to take the following message to him "...take these words to Shaka, say that, Mzilikazi has no King, in peace he will meet Shaka as a brother, and in war he will find in him an enemy whom he cannot and will not despise, depart!, tell your King it rests on him whether it be peace or war"(Dodds, 1998).

The values of Ubuntu, discipline and respect of human life as embodied in Ndebele (Mthwakazi) culture, were prominent in ZIPRA (Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army), which other people argue that the name of ZIPRA should have been MPRA (Mthwakazi or Matabeleland People's Revolutionary Army).

Marcus Garvey was right when he said a people without culture are like a tree without roots, arguably, one could say, a people with history are like a tree planted firmly on a fertile and adequately wet soil. Mthwakazi is a nation with an amazing history, which has stood the test of time and withstood the machinations of Rhodesians and Mugabe's government.

Lookout Masuku was a product of his nation's culture, values and aspirations. From an early age it is clear that he envisaged a situation whereby his people will enjoy equal treatment and respect as human being. Before he even knew or understood entirely the circumstances his people were subjected to by the racist regime, it is clear that he had already started thinking unconsciously on how to change the circumstances of his people. The poor boy, whose father was a carpenter, was soon to mould and carve one of the most formidable liberation army on the face of the earth. Lookout Masuku was one of the pioneer guerrilla fighters, due to his natural leadership skills he rose through the ranks of ZIPRA to Lieutenant General. Mr Masuku was not just a military leader, but he was a political leader as well, he is said to be the one who popularised the slogan “power to the people”.

Many who worked close to him testify that he was an unparalleled democrat, who introduced democracy in ZAPU and ZIPRA ranks during the trying times of the liberation struggle, when many others wanted to forget about fairness. In his interview with the Times Magazine, he reiterated as follows “If only you treat the population with respect do you find it easier to fight the enemy, we are fighting for the liberation of these people, if we kill them, whom are we going to rule?” Other Militias and rag tag armies like ZANLA terrorised civilians, without any respect for human life. ZIPRA, regardless of conditions, treatment from Rhodesian forces and ZANLA militia, always respected the sanctity of life, even the life of the enemy, there can not be democracy without first respecting the sanctity of human life. As Mzilikazi did by respecting and never despising his enemy, treating every human being as a human being, so did ZIPRA under the leadership of Lookout Masuku.

It is this lack of respect of life meted on people by ZANU PF, which brought destruction and genocide in Matebeleland which saw more than 30 000 innocent women and children perish. Even unborn babies were killed, what a shame. It is this lack of respect for human life, which saw people like Lookout Masuku imprisoned in 1982 for a crime he did not commit, he died a broken man, he died in ZANU PF chains, just two days before his 46th birthday.

Masuku was never a person to let an injustice persist without attempting to pinpoint or correct it, in his letter to Robert Mugabe, the then New Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, he said “..it has come to our attention that ZIPRA has not been treated fairly and equally with other forces; the radio broadcasts give an impression that our full and well known participation in the struggle to liberate our country is neither appreciated nor recognised”

What Masuku did not know then was that ZANU PF was to engage in wanton killings of ZAPU supporters, fuelled by tribal hatred and with intentions of wiping the Matebeles from the face of the earth, and he did not realise that ZANU had stomach to commit genocide on a people who helped to liberate the country. The radio broadcasts and print media which was used to demonise ZIPRA, ZAPU and Matebeles in general was a prelude or psychological conditioning of Shona people to hate Ndebeles with a passion, which still persist to this very day. He did not realise then, that ZANU PF was upto no good, wanted to annihilate the Matebeles; I am sure, had he known this, he was not going to allow ZIPRA to disarm and become lame ducks; whilst it was known that ZANLA dissidents were roaming the whole of MaShonaland fully armed and in direct breach of the Lancaster House agreement. Masuku told Mugabe that on the 22 June 1980, ZANLA dissidents at Marenga Business Centre fired two bullets destroying the fuel tank which was driven by Sgt Gava of Zvimba Police Post, but Mugabe pretended that there were no ZANLA dissidents.

Little did the General know that 32years later, after the so called Independence of the country that people would still not have tasted freedom, would not have chosen their own destiny as he said it was the reason of the liberation struggle, and would not have enjoyed what he termed “power to the people”. It seems the wheels of justice and freedom turn very slowly, 32 years later, people are starting to see what Masuku saw years ago, devolution of power has become the only talk in town, even the staunchest opponents of devolution are said to be yearning to be liberated by devolution, they will oppose it even with their lives, but deep down they know that it is only devolution which will liberate them and the people. Power to the people, the gallant general said. On your 72nd Birthday, we are witnessing the re-birth of your idea, Power to the people through the principle of devolution of power, which will enable people to fully attain and enjoy their destiny.

Bunju Banton sang, “I wanna rule my destiny”, the people of Zimbabwe want to rule their destiny. Happy Birthday mfoka Mafela, wena Mlondo kaNdaba.


- Thulani Nkala

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