mafree moyo.jpgBy Ishmael Ndlovu

We buried Freedom Moyo, popularly known among his friends as MaFree, at Emkhayeni Cemetery, just a few kilometres outside his Habane township home in Esigodini, about 45 kilometres east of Bulawayo on Thursday, the 19th of January.


Hundreds of people turned out to say farewell to a journalist described by many as a man of the people and a unifier who transcended tribal and regional boundaries, and who was also a “colourful” personality full of humour. He had succumbed to injuries sustained in a horrific car accident early on Saturday the 14th.


It was the who’s who of the journalism fraternity, with journalists from both the public and private media mixing and mingling, united in mourning one of their own. Political heavyweights also came in their numbers to bid farewell to the former ZBC Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North Bureau Chief and Manager Current Affairs and Research.


There was Zanu PF Matabeleland South provincial chairman, Andrew Langa, Governor and Resident Minister for Matabeleland South, Cde Angeline Masuku, former Matabeleland North Governor, now Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Cde Obert Mpofu, Cde Rido Mpofu and Cde Abigail Damasane among others. They all testified to the fact that Freedom Moyo was a hard worker who used the power of the pen skilfully.


MaFree had worked with all of them, covering their areas as a reporter and Bureau Chief.


When the ZBC team from Harare arrived in the small, sleepy town of Habane, the residents were awoken by music and dancing from the vociferous crowd of colleagues and friends of Freedom. The music and dancing continued throughout most of the night, with residents also joining in.


The trip took me down memory lane, as it reminded me of the days when I was at Mzingwane High School in the early 80s where Habane was our town and after examinations the boys would, at the risk of being suspended or at worst, being expelled from school, go to Habane beer garden for a drink. It also brought back memories of all the people I went to school with – the boys who hailed from Habane township who were good footballers. People like my classmate and friend John “Farrar” Nyoni, who used to provide me with James Hardley Chase novels and with whom I shared a passion for reggae music and reading novels.  John’s ‘hommies’ Toddy Ntombi who had an infectious smile, and Philip Johns Jeranje whom I was pleasantly surprised to find very much alive and talked to briefly, before returning to Harare.


Memories of Mzingwane High School, formerly Essexvale, came flooding down to me – remembering all the good old days – 27 years ago, when we were students and referred to our school as “ejele”, meaning “jail”, a reference to the fact that once we were on school campus, we would not be allowed to leave the school grounds until the end of term or exeat weekend.

Those were days of discovering things and ourselves – days of study, work and play. It was also a time to meet boys from all corners of the country. There was Mutarisi Nyaku from Chivhu, Macdonald Mazvizvo from Shurugwi, Vulindlela Mguni and Thokozani Hobane from Gwanda, myself and my homeboys from Plumtree and several others from Bulawayo, Harare, Beitbridge and elsewhere.


And so it was with a sense of nostalgia that I returned to the area I had made my second home for four years. It was also with a sense of sadness that I reminded myself that I might not be able to meet or recognise anyone from my school days since 27 years is a long time. I was therefore pleasantly surprised on the last day when I discovered after making some enquiries, that one of my former school mates, Philip was still alive. I then sought to locate him without success at first, which gave way to frustration, before I finally located him. We then exchanged notes, reminding each other of the “good old days” and updating each other on where everyone was.


The discussion had some sad moments when we discovered that most of our old friends and teachers had passed on. However I was happy to learn that my friend John was still alive and working in Bulawayo. We talked of “Why Not?” disco bar, which still exists and I saw on my way back to Bulawayo. I was surprised that the joint was still operating as I used to know it during my school days. Its owner, Mr Rick Andersby, was a Commerce teacher at Mzingwane. I remember him trying to make us choose his subject when we were in Form Three. “Commerce, boys, is a serious subject with a serious teacher,” he would say. However, some of us were hooked to History which was taught by Mr. Jamela, a big, tall, friendly fatherly man with a deep voice and a graying beard.


I also remembered many other things. The cross country, soccer at the lower fields, house improvement on Saturdays, evening studies, the dining hall, the common room, the headboy, Vusumuzi Silonda, popularly known as ‘Shereni’, the caretaker, Mr Murinda, Western movies on Saturdays and all the other things we used to do. I remembered too our housemaster, Mr Kemp, a disciplinarian who did not hesitate to use the cane when he deemed it necessary, especially on bigger boys. However to us smaller boys he was really nice and would take us early in the morning for a swim and to his house on weekends to watch big league soccer, which is now the English Premier League.


Reflecting on all these things got me seriously thinking on how short our life is and how grateful I am to be still alive. Mixing and mingling with journalists from all media houses in Zimbabwe, starting with a big turnout at Nyaradzo Funeral Parlour, a day earlier, made me think how important it is to know and appreciate people because at the end it will be people who will be with you in your last moments. Many a speaker at the funeral said the number one lesson in celebrating the life of Freedom was that life is short and we need to love one another and not waste time hating each other.


Everyone who knew Freedom testified that he was indeed a man of the people, always willing to assist his fellowmen. It was therefore not surprising to see the huge turnout at his funeral. Which reminded me of what my old friend Ish Mafundikwa said at the funeral parlour the day before – that good people do not live long. Zimbabwe Union of Journalists President, Dumisani Sibanda in fact suggested that if there was a heroes acre for journalists, Freedom Moyo was a fitting candidate to be buried there. I could not agree with him more.

In the end we can only hope his remaining family and children will remember him as a man who not only made a difference to them but to many other people too, not the least the journalism fraternity.