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The day I met Mike’s mother

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 THIS is the untold story of every mother who waited for her son to come back from the struggle after independence.
I sat across from this lady on a flight from Victoria Falls. 
I did not know her although we were part of the same Zimbabwe contingent of delegates hosting the conference on Early Childhood Education and Development which attracted renowned delegates from institutions all over the world, notable among them was the Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. 
The conference was held in Harare, Zimbabwe, at the University of Zimbabwe. It was funded mainly by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation. 
The year was 1982.
This lady was a Senator in the Parliament of Zimbabwe. 
She was chatting with some other ladies and I was paying attention to my own thoughts but something pricked my ears after a few moments. 
She was explaining to the other ladies that her son had left for the struggle and he had not come back, she did not know whether he was still alive, if she would ever see him again.
Her son’s name was Mike. 
Her name tag read ‘Mrs Munyati’. 
Something froze in me.
I could not believe it; this had to be Mike’s mother. 
The Mike I knew, Michael Munyati, Comrade Michael Munyati, was from the struggle, the very Mike who, as  ZANU’s recruitment officer based in Selebi-Pikwe, had processed my transit from Selebi-Pikwe, Botswana, to Zambia enroute to  Mozambique on May 19 1978. 
It was unbelievable. 
On that momentous day in my life, Mike and I hitchhiked to the airport at 5am; his office had neither money nor vehicles. We still made it to the airport by 8am, which is when I had to board my plane for Zambia. 
I had never met anyone so in love with Zimbabwe, so in love with the struggle. 
Mike could not stop talking about the struggle; what he hoped to do once he got to Mozambique, once Zimbabwe was liberated, how the nation’s vast resources could best be harnessed, the coal in Hwange, the gold and so much more. 
I was ever so totally amazed whenever he got so immersed in Zimbabwe’s prospects.
He would talk about nothing else.
My thoughts so lost in my brief encounter with Michael in Pikwe, I did not hear the rest of what mai Mike and friends were talking about but my heart was filled with joy. I could not wait for the private moment when I would tell her something about her son; I was happy a mother would soon be at peace.
Later on I had a moment with her. 
I explained to her that I had overheard her talk about her son who left for the struggle and had not yet come back. 
I told her I knew her son, Michael, Mike Munyati. 
Her excitement knew no bounds. She was overjoyed. 
I explained to her that when her son left the University of Lesotho for the struggle, the ZANU External Affairs Office in Francistown stationed him in Selebi-Pikwe to take care of recruits in transit to Mozambique thus I had met him in 1978 when I left for the armed struggle. 
I had been brought to Selebi-Pikwe by Comrades Munyoro and Chiweshe to catch my flight to Zambia. 
I was left in Mike’s care until my departure for Zambia. 
I told her I had spent a precious few days with a firebrand, a revolutionary who could not wait to get to Mozambique to train and take his gun to the front to liberate Zimbabwe.
Semuuto wese you have to follow orders, but it was not easy for him to remain in Pikwe, I told Mike’s mother.  
I told her of our adventure with Mike; that on the day I was to leave for Zambia, we hitchhiked to the airport at 5am to catch my 8am flight; we were penniless. 
Mike had followed soon after and he was assigned to the same department as I was, the ZANU Department of Education and Culture, and was also stationed at Matenje Base, the ZANU Education and Culture Headquarters which was also my station but I had left for Maputo when he came to Matenje.
Mike’s mother was speechless. 
I told her as at Independence, Mike was still alive but he was among comrades who remained behind for military training, after independence. 
Knowing Mike, the firebrand liberation fighter, he would not have been at peace to come back to Zimbabwe without military training, I told her. 
Mai Mike was shocked; she had been looking for her son all this time and all of a sudden she met someone who knew a lot about him.
It was too much … in the end she was at peace, she was happy but the journey was not over. She knew she had to start looking for him, but who knew how soon she could find him and, of course, the hope that he would be alive was there, there was anxiety too. The anxiety of a mother, vamwe vakadzoka, I hope Mike wangu uchadzoka, zvinoitika mumasango hazvizikanwi, it was now two years since independence and many others had already returned home.
From then on, she had the confidence to start tracing her son, she now knew he had been in the Education Department, and the head of that department, Dr Dzingai Mutumbuka, the ZANU Secretary for Education and Culture, was well-known and visible.
She got the reassurance she needed about her son — he was alive, and on a party mission. Soon after he came home, and the mother was consoled.
Mike came home.
He excelled in the media.
The young firebrand found a voice and platform for Zimbabwe which consumed his heart and soul.
It is not possible to be consoled about his untimely passing.
The story of mai Mike (Munyati) and her son is the story of thousands of mothers whose sons and daughters left for the struggle and came back later than most others or never came back at all.
No-one can know the heart of a mother, the hope mixed with anguish, knowing that in a war, so many will die and it could be your child. And then the war ends and you still hope, but fear grips your heart, what if….
It is a nightmare and sometimes the worst nightmare comes true and in some cases like mai Mike’s case, the nightmare doesn’t happen. 
It was a terrible journey for mothers of our liberation war heroes; the mothers contributed to the liberation of our land in the most excruciating ways. 
As we begin the month of April, the month in which the liberation fighters were honoured with the celebration of independence, let us remember and honour their mothers, the mothers of our liberation fighters.
Aluta continua!

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