Tuesday, July 28, 2009
CHARLES Fungayi Pemhenayi was laid to rest at the Manicaland Provincial Heroes’ Acre on Tuesday. Weeks earlier he was part to a group of war veterans who embarked on a clean up exercise of the provincial heroes’ shrine as if he knew this was to be his final resting place.
During the clean up exercise of the heroes’ shrines Pemhenayi said it was important to always maintain the shrine because the heroes lying there were an integral part of Zimbabwe’s history which should always be cherished and celebrated.
Befitting a heroes’ send off thousands of people from all corners of the country and from different persuasions thronged the provincial shrine to pay their last respect to a man whose passion was to see the economic development of Zimbabwe.
Pemhenayi was tragically taken in a car accident last Friday five kilometers along the Troutbeck Nyanga road at a prime age of 48.
Pemhenayi was the MP for Mutare North. Admirers and foes alike agree Pemhenayi was endowed with an array of talents. He was a duke of all trades.
He played junior football with the likes of the late great players such as Joel Shambo and Stanley Ndunduma in Mufakose in Harare. Had he pursued a carrier in football Pemhenayi could easily have become a powerhouse in the sporting discipline but he chose to pursue academic studies. His first born child, Batsirayi is also a talented footballer. He is a utility player but like Father like Son Batsirayi has opted to pursue other interests at the expense of football.
Pemhenayi trained as a journalist but again did not pursue the profession. This explains his passion for journalism. He was an active member of the Mutare Press Club where he initiated debates on thorny issues affecting Mutare and Zimbabwe at large.
His presentations at the Press Club became popular not only with journalists but also with fellow politicians from Zanu PF and other political formations, business people, students, civic society and ordinary Zimbabweans.
He was frank and honest in his assessment of issues at hand. As a result Pemehanyi became a permanent feature at important media forums such as the World Press Freedom Day and media advocacy activities. He was an advocate of a free press and was working hard to ensure Mutare has its own community radio station.
During Press Club debates he would always castigate journalists whose works lacked depth and incisiveness. In the same vein, Pemhenayi was also critical of politicians and community leaders who loved to dominate news pages and radio and television news bulletins while their messages were bereft of substance.
“Journalists should resist individuals, irrespective of their status, who enjoy unfettered coverage when thy do not have any meaningful messages to the people,” Pemhenayi could always say.
Pemhenayi was a lecturer in marketing, sales and public relations. He was popular with students because of his lively presentations during lectures.
Some of his former students include Eddie Dube, now a prominent entrepreneur, Moses Maunze, a manager at the Rainbow Cinemas and Chengetai Murimwa, a senior journalist based in Mutare.
Dube once told me he derived a lot of inspiration from Pemhenayi’s lectures. Dube now runs a chain of companies and has asserted himselves as a captain of industry and commerce in Mutare.
“We enjoyed Pemhenayi’s lectures,” Dube said during a social gathering last year. “I drew a lot of inspiration from him.”
Pemhenayi also had his tentacles in farming - becoming one of the leading tobacco farmers in Manicaland within the five years he moved into Have Farm in the Odzi basin.
His exceptional farming skills gave credit to the land reform programme which was largely vilified by the Western World.
Pemhenayi was an excellent communicator. He vowed students at colleges around Mutare during motivational speaking sessions. During one of his motivational speaking sessions at Mutare Teachers’ College, Pemhenayi stole the hearts of hundreds of students in the lecturer theatre. His main message was that they should never give up hope in the face of economic, political and social challenges. His emphasis was to remain positive and hopeful.
Perhaps his major strength was to be able to communicate and interact with people from different persuasions from Cabinet Ministers, business executives, students, peasants and disadvantaged people in the communities.
He was involved in charity work. In 2006 he launched an education fund which paid school fees for orphaned children at Chikanga Primary School.
Then he said: “I grew up as an orphan so I understand the problems that orphaned children go through in their daily lives.”
His parents died in a car crash when he was still a raw teenage boy. In Dangamvura and Sakubva, Pemhenayi also assisted poor and disadvantaged families.
Pemhenayi was also endowed with entrepreneurial skills. He was managing director of several companies. Of note is labour broking concern, Clive Bruce and Charles, which employed several hundreds of people, especially youths.
During his days as a councilor for Ward 10 Pemhenayi distinguished himself as a dedicated city father with in-depth inputs during council debates.
“Every time he raised his hand to contribute during council debates you were sure to hear substance from him,” said Lovemore Chitima, the council’s deputy housing and community services director. During these days Chitima was a committee officer whose tasks also included recording minutes during council debates.
During the March 2008 harmonized elections Pemhenayi preached the word of peace and togetherness. He discouraged violence in Mutare North. At one of his campaign meetings in Nyamajura he told Zanu PF supporters that anybody who used violence as a campaign tool should not be part of his campaign team.
“I do not want anybody to spoil my victory by using violence as a campaign tool,” he told about 2000 cheering supporters. “I want a clean victory.”
There were minimal incidents of violence in Mutare North. He proceeded to win the constituency.
To many especially his colleagues in Zanu PF his victory appeared easy but contrary to that somewhat misplaced belief Pemhenayi worked round the clock to achieve victory.
“Pemhenayi made things look very easy because he had his own unique way of doing things,” one senior Zanu PF politician told me during his burial on Tuesday. “But what appeared so easy could be very difficult to achieve.”
In the constituency he initiated several projects that were benefitting small holder tobacco farmers.
After the June 27 presidential run-off Pemhenayi was one of the first politicians to suggest the need for the need for a poltical settlement between Zanu PF and the two MDC poltical parties.
To drive his point home Pemhenayi wrote a series of articles which were published in the Financial Gazette encouraging Zimbabwe’s poltical leaders to find common ground for the benefit of the nation. His aspirations were realized when President Mugabe and the leaders of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai and Authur Mutambara signed the Global Political Agreement that ushered in a government of national unity.
Pemhenayi was an avid fan of Chimurenga music guru, Thomas Mapfumo and Dynamos Football Club. But he had a soft spot for Jazz and blues.
He served on several boards and also led industrial bodies such as Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries and Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe.
In Parliament he was a member of the media, information and technologies portifolio committee. He met his untimely death when his poltical carrier was bossoloming.
During his funeral wake speaker after speaker described Pemhenayi as a affable person whose motivation was to improve the socio-economic status of Mutare and Zimbabwe at large.
He lives behind a young family - his wife, Bridgette and four children. His burning desire was to see his first born child, Batsirayi become an entrepreneur. He always spoke of his strong wish to see her daughter Nangisayi succeed in her studies at Africa University and help him run the farm and his business activities.
Sadily he never lived to see his dreams come true. But he can get solace in that both Batsirayi and Nangisayi have vowed never to let their father down.
Batsirayi’s declaration at the heroes’ shrine that , at the appropriate time, he will fulfill his father’s aspirations of developing Mutare North were touching just as the passionate promise by Nangisayi that she would thrive to succeed in her studies and take charge at Have Farm. We wish them success. In Pemhenayi, the people of Mutare and Zimbabwe have lost a true hero in every respect.
Chirandu, we will always remember you. Rest in eternal peace.