A humble carpenter with the amazing ability to join together all sorts of groups into one coherent body, a veteran freedom fighter, a father figure and a cultural icon, this best characterises the celebrated life of the soul of the nation, Dr Simon Vengai Mzenda, who died on the 20th of September 2003.
Born on 28 October 1922 inÂ Gutu District of what was then the Victoria Province of Southern Rhodesia, Cde Mzenda attended Nyamande Primary School before proceeding to Gokomere Mission and later to Domboshava where he trained as a teacher.
In 1945, Cde Mzee demonstrated a high degree of political consciousness when he turned down a farming scholarship to train as an agricultural administrator, arguing that such a career will lead him to a collision course with his own people as the job required him to supervise the killing of cattle belonging to fellow African people.
Cde Muzenda then went to teach at Empandeni Mission where he met Cde Robert Mugabe. The two became friends.
His passion for education made him to enroll at Marianhill College in South Africa for a three year Diploma in Capentry.
After completing the course, he worked in Durban, South Africa before returning home in 1950.
It was then that he married his childhood sweetheart, Maud Matsikidze.
Armed with the political experience that he earned from his sojourn in South Africa, Cde Muzenda became involved in trade unionism in Bulawayo, becoming prominent in 1953 when he was elected Secretary General of the African Voice.
He became a mentor to many who went on to become prominent nationalists.
Dr Mzenda was also one of the guiding personalities who were instrumental in the formation of National Development Party (NDP) in 1960.Â
He was later elected to be the NDP Organising Secretary for the then Victoria Province (now Masvingo).
When the NDP was banned, Dr Mzee became the administrative secretary for ZAPU in the then Fort Victoria.
Cde Mzenda was a renowned poet. Such a path however landed him in trouble in 1962 when he recited the famous Nehanda Nyakasikana poem.
He was banned from entering the tribal trust lands.
Represented by the late firebrand barrister and later Zanu PF Chairman, Cde Hebert Chitepo in court, Cde Muzenda successfully challenged the ban.
However, he was again arrested in Shabani (now Zvishavane) for an alleged seditious speech blamed for igniting riots in the town.
He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment but served only two years which he described as a time of study.
Upon his release, he attended ZANUâ€™s first congress in Gweru in 1964 where he was elected Deputy Organizing Secretary.Â
Soon after his election, he was arrested for possessing a pistol and was sent to Sikombela where he reunited with Cde Robert Mugabe.
Upon his release, he moved to Zambia then to Mozambique.
Cde Mzenda suffered a personal tragedy as he lost one of his children during the Chimoio attack.
He became Vice President of ZANU at its congress in exile held in Chomoio in 1977. On the diplomatic front, he attended the Geneva Conference in 1976, Lancaster House as well as the Malta and Dare salaam talks.Â Â Â
In recognition of his selfless and unparallel contribution to the liberation struggle, Cde Muzenda was appointed Zimbabweâ€™s first Deputy Prime Minster and Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1980.Â
In 1988, he was appointed Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
Dr Simon Vengai Muzenda died on September 20, 2003 and was buried at the National Heroes Acre.