‘Music was your gun timeless commissar’

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LAST Saturday I woke up to the news that Comrade Chinx was no more.
I felt very sad that such an inspiring image of the liberation struggle had left us. Not for the first time had I mourned Cde Chinx.
During my time at the University of Zimbabwe in the mid-1980s, I also briefly mourned Cde Chinx.
My roommate had delivered the sad news one evening.
It was only after reading the following morning newspaper that I learnt the person who had died was Comrade Jinx Ndongwe.
My friend had mixed up the names; Jinx and Chinx. So while commiserating with the Ndongwe family, I was glad to know that my Chimurenga music hero was still alive.
Cde Chinx popularised the ZANLA choir song ‘Maruza Imi’.
It was a song that attained near National Anthem status in post-independent Zimbabwe.
I had grown up on this song menu as I went through my Form Two to Form Four at Dangamvura in Mutare.
To and from school I would hum the song.
Where I stopped, the various stereos along the way sang it for me. Soon I mastered the lyrics.
The lyrics pleaded the Zimbabwe history case with authority and conviction.
Sadly, this history was not examinable in our school syllabi then.
Neither was this history taught in the kupamba perspective, which is in terms of the capture of Zimbabwe.
With time I, however, developed a liking for Cde Chinx’s version of ‘Maruza Imi’, with its mocking of agents of colonialism.
Cde Chinx, in 1980 video footage from Dzapasi Assembly Point, had added colour and laughter to the original history lesson.
His version was full of graphic description of the Western vice; murderers, plunders, stinking Western villages, farting forests and peanut butter grinding foreheads…. all in search for our honey and milk! The laugh lasted longer than the history lesson in the original version.
Years later, I became a history teacher at Mutambara High School in Cashel Valley, Chimanimani.
I was also pursuing a distance teaching course, Graduate Certificate in Education (Grad CE), with the University of Zimbabwe.
The area was a war zone as a result of RENAMO activities.
Every other day there was an incident somewhere within the vicinity.
My friends and I chose to drown our insecurities at the nearby Gonzoni shops.
We became daily drinking patrons and struck close friendship with soldiers camped nearby.
We shared drinks, dinners and dart games every evening.
When the bottle store closed down, they would accompany us to the footbridge.
We walked singing the Chinx version…kumusha kunonhuwa nhamo….kune masango anosura nzara…..mazimhanza anokuya dovi. The comrades always assured us they would be patrolling the school grounds all night.
With that assurance and the beer, we always slept soundly.
It so happened that one Saturday morning I woke up from a nightmare. I shared it with my fellow Grad CE students; our university lecturers had come and found us poorly prepared and we had all failed the teaching practice assessments.
My friends roundly dismissed my mischievous dream.
So it happened that the weekend was again spent at Gonzoni and not in preparing our teaching practice files.
The next Monday morning I started with a Form Two history lesson on the colonisation of Zimbabwe.
Before I could settle down, I saw a white Mazda 323 hatchback written University of Zimbabwe drive into the car park.
I froze and started sweating and sank into my chair.
After what looked like ages, and with my class confused, I calmed myself and in a low voice I asked them if they knew the lyrics of the song ‘Maruza Imi’.
One of my favourite students, Simba, stood and started singing…
‘Kwakanga kune mumwe murume, zita rake Chaminuka…’ with the rest of the class chorusing ‘maruza imi’. I was relieved. I had feared they would only know the Chinx version which on this occasion would have been a bit impolite!
I prematurely stopped them, advising them to be ready to belt it out later in the lesson.
I quickly gave them a summary of events leading to the 1884 Berlin Congress to partition Africa.
Just as I was concluding my introductory remarks, my headmaster walked in with a gentleman in tow.
The gentleman introduced himself as Nondo from the UZ Faculty of Education and took a seat at the back of the classroom.
He asked me to continue with my lesson.
Nondo later became Vice-Chancellor of the Catholic University.
I did a quick question and answer session on the Berlin Congress with my class. My confidence had returned. I was prepared. I told them the rest of the colonial story was in the song ‘Maruza Imi’.
I started the ‘Maruza Imi’ song, to the best of my ability, and soon Simba and company took over with the whole class taking to their feet.
Nondo was smiling and nodding. The headmaster and fellow staff took turns to steal some confused enjoyment of these war memories.
I had to stop the song after a couple of repeats to conclude the lesson. In conclusion I highlighted from the song the colonial story… 1887 Grobler Treaty, 1888 Moffat Treaty and Rudd Concession, 1889 Lippert Concession and Royal Charter, 1890 Pioneer Column via Fort Tuli, Fort Victoria, Fort Charter until Fort Salisbury and the Union Jack.
I dismissed the class and took my seat in front of Nondo.
He was generous with his assessment and mark until the devil visited him and he asked for my Teaching Practice file to check the lesson plan. I had none and struggled to bring RENAMO into the equation.
He gave me a tongue lashing, reminding me that ‘no lesson plan’ meant a straight fail.
Still he passed me marginally. When he left my class room I had a chuckle as I recalled Cde Chinx’s ‘Maruza Imi’ version.
Cde Chinx grew to become an accomplished musician.
I abandoned the Grad CE course for a different career the same year my heart pleaded against Cde Chinx’s ‘Maruza Imi’ version.
Chinx remained a Chimurenga musician with a strong sense of humour that appealed to friends and foe alike.
Indeed music was his gun.
Go well timeless commissar!

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